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If your kids are anything like ours, they’re getting pretty desperate for normal social interactions at this point. (To be fair, we all are.) Unfortunately, “normal” is still a ways off. But we know a lot more than we did last spring and summer about how Covid-19 spreads, and what kinds of precautions can keep us safe. Here are 5 ideas for giving your kids some much-needed social interaction while minimizing everyone’s risk:

1. Play low-to-no-contact sports. It goes without saying that interacting outdoors is safer than interacting indoors. And we know now that we don’t have to be too worried about spreading the virus via surfaces, as long as we’re washing hands. Anything involving throwing or kicking—think passing a soccer ball back and forth, games of HORSE and Around the World with a basketball, frisbee, badminton or ping pong—naturally enforces distance between the kids.


2. Dust off the bikes, scooters, skateboards, and other wheels. Like throwing a ball back and forth, wheeled activities force some distance between kids, while still allowing them to chat and enjoy each other’s company.


3. Take the arts outdoors. There are plenty of artsy and literary activities to do outside, too. Check out local art installations or tour the sculptures and monuments in your local parks that you might not even have noticed before. Your library might offer “StoryWalks,” which are fun for the younger set. With a couple plastic tarps or old sheets and some art supplies, you can set up an outdoor craft area for your kid and a friend—right on your sidewalk, in the driveway, or in the yard. They can each sit on their own blanket or tarp, but close enough to enjoy being creative together.


4. Add walkie-talkies. Here’s a non-screen device that can make socially distanced interactions more fun. Real walkie-talkies can be found on the internet for under $20, but an old-fashioned tin can telephone is a neat (and cheaper) DIY activity, too.


5. Try a mixed-age gathering. Your kids might want to get away from you (and vice versa), but sometimes it’s actually helpful to have grown-ups and kids socialize together. As we start to emerge from isolation and socialize a bit more, your kids might feel more comfortable if you’re modeling the new practices for safe socializing. Try meeting up in a park or someone’s yard with a blanket for each family group. Food and drinks stay on the blanket and masks go on anytime you get up. (Pro tip: Forget filling a picnic basket; pizza makes for the world’s easiest outdoor dinner.)

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