How to Safely Spend Time Outdoors During the COVID-19 Pandemic
May 05, 2020
Lisa Beach

At this time, most of the country is still following “stay-at-home” mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic, only venturing out for essentials like grocery shopping and picking up medications. Throughout the US, local governments have temporarily closed beaches, playgrounds, parks, boat ramps, and other recreational areas. Our new reality involves social distancing, wearing masks in public, disinfecting our homes, and frequent handwashing.

With so much focus on mitigating the spread of COVID-19, you might be wondering if you and your kids can go outside to exercise or play. And even if you are able, is it safe to do so?

While every state sets its own guidelines, most shelter-in-place orders consider outdoor recreational time an essential activity. In fact, getting outside is good for your mental and physical health, and this holds true for both children and adults. With this in mind, what’s allowed and what’s considered safe?

According to CDC guidelines, it’s best to limit outdoor activity if possible, and only venture out with whomever lives in your household. If you must go outside, make sure to practice safe social distancing (avoid gathering in groups, keep six feet apart). That means the kids shouldn’t be having playdates with their friends and you shouldn’t be getting together for neighborhood barbecues. Even if you’re just going for a walk around the block, when you see your neighbors, maintain at least a six-foot distance from others.

Keep in mind that it's not illegal to visit nearby parks, bike trails, or similar outdoor recreational spaces unless they are closed. (Check your local community guidelines before you go.) Look for a public athletic field or large grassy area that is not crowded and provides enough space to move around while still remaining at least six feet apart. Stay away from playgrounds and refrain from touching water fountains, gate latches, fences, slides, or swings. Adopt the mentality of “bringing your own fun” to the space—whether that means throwing a Frisbee or kicking a ball that you brought from home. You can also go for a jog, take a walk, or go for a bike ride.

Remember: in most states, gathering in large groups is strictly prohibited. Even if you think it’s no big deal, playing sports or activities that involve multiple people, like a pick-up game of basketball or a game of tag with the neighborhood kids, can potentially spread the virus and be hazardous to your health and the health of those around you.

For latest COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And make sure to check out our Environmental Education at Home page with a plethora of resources for parents, caretakers, and educators to keep children educated and entertained during this difficult time.