Tips For Safely Visiting Playgrounds & Parks During COVID-19

playground with caution tape around it

One of the “silver linings” of the COVID-19 pandemic for many people was a rediscovery of the outdoors. With indoor movies, bowling areas, play areas, bounce houses, and other sources of entertainment closed down indefinitely, families returned to parks, trails, open spaces, and playgrounds as a way to stay active and relieve stress. 

By observing some basic public health measures, people felt comfortable getting outdoors. Now that in many areas the number of cases of COVID-19 are decreasing, it is still as important as ever to protect you, your family, and others from spreading or contracting the disease. When visiting outdoor recreational facilities including playgrounds, the “big three” things you can do to protect yourself and others continue to be: practice social distancing, wash your hands often, and cover coughs and sneezes with a handkerchief or elbow. 

In addition, here are a few more things you can do to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19:

Visit playgrounds that are close to your home.

The virus that causes COVID-19, the coronavirus, is a novel—or new—virus about which we knew very little prior to its arrival in the U.S. earlier this year. However, research is indicating that traveling long distances to visit a park may contribute to the spread of COVID-19. This may be because travel often means stopping along the way for food, gas, and restrooms, which may put you in close contact with people you would not have encountered otherwise, or expose you to surfaces contaminated with the coronavirus.

Check with the playground or recreation area in advance. 

Whether a playground is open depends on the individual jurisdiction it is located within. Check with the federal, state, or local office that manages the recreational area or playground before you visit to be sure that it is open. In some cases, limited services may be available. You may find visitors’ centers, bathroom facilities, and concessions either closed or operating with abbreviated hours, so bring what you need with you whenever possible, including hand sanitizer to maintain proper hygiene.

Use social distancing and avoid crowded areas.

This can be a tough one, given the social nature of children—especially when they haven’t physically been at school, day care, or the usual places they enjoy the company of others. Communicate with your little ones in advance that you will still need to stay six feet away from those you do not live with, and acknowledge how hard that might be. Make things just a little easier for everyone by visiting playgrounds during less crowded days and times, and try to get off the beaten track a bit.

Wear a mask.

When your adventures take you into an area that is unexpectedly crowded, have your mask at the ready. Masks provide an extra measure of safety when physical distance is difficult. They should not be placed on children under 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or someone who is unable to remove the mask without assistance.

Clean hands often.

At this point, everyone should be fully aware of the importance of good hand hygiene. Use hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol if soap and water is not available, rubbing your hands together until they are dry. If at all possible, however, opt for hot water and old-fashioned soap. Rub vigorously for at least 20 seconds. 

Stay home if you are sick.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s harder than you might think. So many of us have been indoctrinated to keep going when we feel ill, especially if our symptoms are not severe. But now is the time to rethink the wisdom of that approach. Even if you only have a mild sore throat or respiratory symptoms, just stay home. Don’t risk spreading what could be a potentially serious virus to someone else, even if you feel only mildly ill. Again, this can be harder than you think. 

We urge you to consider which playgrounds to visit carefully, taking into account the recommendations  above. Having fun is important, but staying safe and healthy is, too!