How to Stay Safe During Summer Activities With Your Children

Family hiking in woods

As we approach a second summer under pandemic restrictions, how do we keep our kids busy—and safe? Anita Juvvadi, MD, a pediatrician at Juvvadi Pediatrics, has some answers for families who are wondering about the best ways to keep kids active this summer.

While virtual learning is one way to help keep kids safe, it also means that many of them are logging in several hours in front of a computer or tablet each day. To help counter the effect of all the extra screen time, Dr. Juvvadi encourages families to work on creating safe social experiences with peers. “We want the stimulation, we want the exercise, we want the sun exposure,” she said. “So much of their socialization has been limited. We don’t want to lose any more time.”

Getting kids outdoors can also keep them healthy. Dr. Juvvadi has noticed an increase in vitamin D deficiency in children since the start of the pandemic. Fortunately, enjoying the summer sun (safely) is a good way to boost vitamin D levels.

Making time to have quality family experiences is another way to fill the summer days. After families have been cooped up at home together, it is important to find ways to connect outside of work and school. “We want these families to spend time with each other doing fun activities and not be restricted to the home classroom,” Dr. Juvvadi said. “We’ve always had our home as our safe place, where we come home from work or we come home from school, but that’s been converted into a classroom or into a work environment.”

With the summer break coming, children who have spent the last several months learning from home will suddenly be left without the structure of the school day. Filling that void is a big task for parents to undertake. For those parents wondering if summer camp is a safe option, Dr. Juvvadi said, “Go for it!”

She explained that camps are safe as long as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines are being followed. “As long as everybody’s tested, overnight camps should be completely safe,” she said.

Another effect of the virtual school year is that many kids have been relatively isolated without a classroom of other students learning alongside them. Summer will give kids the opportunity to reconnect in person and build the social skills they missed out on this year. Dr. Juvvadi encourages parents to find ways to have safe peer interactions for their children.

“Make sure you teach the child that mask wearing is associated with fun activities,” she said. “In spite of all the loosening of precautions, we still want to make sure that the kids are wearing masks when they’re in a group activity.”

Keeping visits short and sweet is one way to limit exposure. “If we’re going to have them spend more than three or four hours together, there is likely to be a snack break in between where the masks come off,” Dr. Juvvadi explained.

“The biggest thing is talking to the children in an age-appropriate way so that they understand that, yes, you still need to wear masks to prevent infections, but also not going overboard with giving them too much information and making them overly paranoid,” she said.

Most children will be eager to have a break from school to play outside and meet up with friends. But if a child feels anxious, has lost interest in things he or she used to enjoy, or has any developmental delays, parents should talk to their child’s pediatrician right away. “We want to make sure that if the parents have a question, we answer it right away rather than letting it fester,” Dr. Juvvadi said.

Parents should also be on the lookout for signs of an eating disorder, which warrants a call to the doctor as well. Dr. Juvvadi explained that the increased time on video calls and social media may be a trigger for teens and tweens. “I’m so self-critical of myself when I’m on the screen. . .. If I can be like that as a grown adult, I can’t imagine a teen who’s just learning to be confident and be comfortable in their skin,” she said.

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