Fun in the Age of Coronavirus: Playground Safety Reminders

After a dismally empty three months, NYC’s beloved playgrounds are once again up and running—but in the Covid era, even typically carefree activities like swinging from the monkey bars require an extra level of caution. These top tips can help keep your kids safe and keep you sane.

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 What we know: COVID-19 and kids

  • Children make up >2% of Covid cases.

  • 13% are asymptomatic, and 84% experience mild to moderate symptoms.

  • Kids under 3 years old and kids with heart disease are at the highest risk. 


Assessing risk at the playground

Unfortunately, playgrounds are high-risk spaces for a few reasons:

  • They’re super fun, so they attract large crowds.

  • The equipment creates a lot of high-touch surfaces.

  • There’s no screening process for entry.

  • There’s an unlimited number of attendees on any given day.


On the bright side, Covid spread is much less likely outdoors, and it’s also less likely to occur between kids than between adults.


Picking the safest time to visit

  • Windy days may be safest because the virus dissipates more quickly.

  • Go during off-peak hours to avoid crowds.

    • First thing in the morning

    • Later in the evening

    • During lunchtime

    • During popular nap times

  • Go during the week to bypass big weekend crowds.

  • Monitor whether the Parks Department is cleaning your local playground, and head there right afterward when it’s in its freshest state. (According to the Parks website, playgrounds are cleaned daily, but play equipment is not sterilized.)


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Packing and preparation

  • Hand sanitizer

  • Sanitizing wipes

  • Water bottle

  • Apply sunscreen before you go so that you don’t have to touch your skin with unsanitized hands.

  • Consider keeping toys to a minimum, as the virus can live on surfaces.


Playground safety DOs

  • Stay six feet away from others, especially adults.

  • Wear a cloth face covering at all times for adults and children over two, and make sure it’s covering mouths and noses.

  • Clean hands frequently using alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

    • Use enough to coat both hands fully, rub together ("fronts and backs and in-between"), then let air-dry.

    • Make sure kids don’t ingest it, as it can cause alcohol poisoning in young children.

    • If hands are visibly soiled, rinse with a water bottle before applying sanitizer.

  • Wipe down surfaces like swings before use.

  • Stay hydrated, but be careful not to transfer anything from unsanitized hands to the mouthpiece of the bottle.

  • Enjoy socially distanced games and sports with others. The PSP Guide to Socially Distanced Summer Fun has lots of inspiration!

  • Wash hands and change clothes as soon as you get home, and throw the old clothes in the wash.


Playground safety DON’Ts

  • Touch eyes, mouths, or noses.

  • Have kids wear a mask if it’s going to cause a significant increase in face touching.

  • Snack.

  • Blow bubbles/balloons.

  • Play any contact games or sports with others.

  • Share toys with others.


Final thoughts: Seeing others failing to abide by face-covering and social-distancing guidelines is frustrating, but it’s likely not worth trying to engage. If your playground is crawling with maskless folks, you can always leave and come back later. Take a deep breath (through your mask), and remember that you can only control what YOU do and how YOU react.


Now, go forth and enjoy!


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