Socializing presents a little bit of a dilemma this summer. Although moms, dads, grandparents, and maybe even older siblings have had a chance to get the COVID-19 vaccine for months now, many small children remain vulnerable to the coronavirus. And although serious symptoms aren’t common for little ones, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that it’s still possible for kids to get seriously sick. (In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 3.9 million American children have tested positive for COVID-19 as of mid-May 2021).
So what’s a parent to do when it kinda feels safe to be socializing again this summer, but it still kinda doesn’t?
Just because your kids are unvaccinated doesn’t mean this summer has to be boring. The CDC lists outdoor playdates — where there’s plenty of airflow and kids can maintain a safe 6 feet from one another — as an activity that carries only medium risk, as opposed to high-risk activities like indoor playdates.
So let this be the summer of the ultimate outdoor hangout! Make a point of holding these kinds of celebrations often throughout the summer, potentially once or twice a week depending on how elaborate you want to make the gathering. To reduce the burden of hosting on any one household, you could even rotate and have a get-together at a different home within the friend group every time.
Here are some great ways to make sure the night is memorable:
Provide masks and sanitizer to keep it safe.
Some kids might show up without a mask, so make sure you have at least a few new ones available that you can set out on a table. If you get a set of inexpensive matching masks, it can make it fun because the kids feel as if they’re all united together. Companies like Oriental Trading (orientaltrading.com) offer bulk sales of children’s masks in fun patterns at reasonable prices. Have pump bottles of hand sanitizer out as well.
Break out the backyard games that don’t require close interaction.
Cornhole, bocce ball, and croquet are all great activities that don’t require you to get within 6 feet of your opponents, and with a little bit of carefulness, you don’t even have to touch any of the same gear. On the rare occasion you do have to touch someone else’s stuff (such as the pallino — the smaller ball you use as a target in bocce), you can simply reach for the hand sanitizer.
Set up an outdoor movie.
An outdoor movie is easier than you think! All you need is a large screen (even a solid white bedsheet stretched taut and pinned up to a wall will do the trick) plus a projector and speakers that can hook up to whatever device you’re using to stream the movie. Have everyone bring their own picnic blankets or beach chairs to set up a comfortable distance apart from others, and once it starts to get dark, let the viewing commence! Here are some tips to build your own outdoor movie theater.
Hire live entertainment.
This could potentially get a little pricier, but if you have the budget or if it’s a special occasion (such as a birthday), consider live entertainment in place of a movie screening. A clown, an illusionist, or even a kid-friendly band can perform while everyone watches from their socially distanced blanket or chair. The experience of watching the same live performance will be a great way to bond without needing to interact with one another up close. See our Party Directory for some party places that bring the fun to you.
Put out supplies for arts and crafts.
Pile a table with as many arts and craft supplies as you can — paint, markers, popsicle sticks, construction paper, glue sticks, glitter, scissors, and whatever else is available — and encourage the kids to get creative. They can take materials back to their socially distanced stations to work on their projects, then display the finished product for everyone to see at the end of the night. It will be a great way to conclude the party by giving everyone a chance to walk around and see what their friends have been working on. Check out some of our Craft ideas.
Feel free to serve food, but do it in a contact-free way.
Not only is it COVID-safe, but having individually packaged, some-assembly-required snacks or meals are way more fun for kids. They’ll love picking up plastic baggies of crackers or chips, individually wrapped string cheese, single-serve cups of yogurt or fruit, or whatever else you put out. If you want to create a heartier snack or even a full meal, consider packing a brown paper bag for each guest. Don’t want to go to the trouble of portioning out meals? See whether you can arrange to have a food truck stop by your neighborhood. Check out websites like foodtrucksin.com or roaminghunger.com to find a food truck available near you.
Remember — you’re limited only by your own creativity! Some activities might prove to be a hit with the kids, while others might need to be replaced when you hold your next get-together. Have fun and stay safe!