If your family went into quarantine right as COVID-19 hit your area, the pandemic probably feels like it’s stretched on for an eternity. And although many students were initially excited to see the school year end so early, even the most introverted kids will eventually need to socialize for the sake of their mental health.
Unfortunately, playdates remain a risk as long as coronavirus particles are present in your community. Particles can remain in the air for several minutes and can sit on surfaces for several days. If you share space with another family, there’s a good chance you’ll spread the virus – even if you wash your hands and wear a mask.
But while your kids can’t see their friends in person, they can still stay in touch through the use of modern technology. Try a few of these ideas to help your kids play together online.
Choose an Online Game
Online gaming is the best way to help your kids maintain a social life while there is a COVID-19 outbreak in your area. Many digital spaces have been designed with children in mind; no matter what your family’s values are, you have plenty of options to choose from.
Expect to spend a small amount of money to ensure that your kids have a safe and enjoyable digital space. Games like Minecraft let you pay for Realms, private worlds to which your kids can invite their friends. Other games may come with a high initial price tag but will provide password-protected rooms or invite-only multiplayer.
Always check ratings and test gameplay yourself before you give a game to your kids. Don’t make a purchase unless you know that it will work on your child’s computer or console and that their friends will have access to multiplayer; you may need to coordinate with other parents to ensure that everyone is on a compatible platform.
Schedule a Video Call
Group video calls let you create virtual playdates. You can use Skype, Zoom, Discord, or any other software; the important thing is that your kids can see and hear each other. Set up a time for two friends to chat, or get the whole gang together for a weekly hangout.
While the call is going, consider providing digital activities for your kids to do together. They could press “play” on a movie at the same time, work on different versions of the same digital coloring page, or even play one of the many in-browser multiplayer games that exist on the modern internet. Remember to test tech before the call starts; kids get bored when setting up takes too long.
Encourage Letter Writing
The best pen pals are the ones you’ll get to see at the start of the school year. If your kids start missing their friends, encourage them to write letters or type out emails. Even a few sentences are sure to make their playmate smile. You can also help them make cards or put together care packages.
Having a pen pal opens up a variety of fun ways for your kids to connect. They can send photos, work on a stamp collection, or even complete a drawing together in multiple stages. Encourage your child to brainstorm ideas, and coordinate with the other set of parents to make their dreams a reality.
Be Responsible if Contact Happens
It’s summer, and your kids might have a hard time keeping social distancing in place. What happens when another kid goes for a bike ride at the same time? If contact with another family does occur, your best course as a parent is to remain calm and reduce the risk of viral exposure.
Make sure your kids don’t leave the house without a mask or another face covering. Coach them on staying away from high-contact surfaces like park benches or playgrounds. Younger children shouldn’t leave the house without adult supervision; it’s the best way to make sure they are not approached by other families. And when you return home, remember to change clothes and take a shower to remove any viral particles you picked up while outside.
There’s nothing easy about being a kid in 2020. Since they can’t see their friends, make sure to spend as much time with them as possible. Family movie and game nights will provide one type of contact, and virtual playdates will fill in the gaps. Remember, sleepovers will be a thing again in the future; but for right now, everyone needs to stay at home.