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Everything You Need to Know About Going to New York Playgrounds this Summer

Everything You Need to Know About Going to New York Playgrounds this Summer

What parents should know before taking children to the playground this summer—plus which playgrounds are open.

UPDATED JUNE 18: In his press briefing on Thursday, June 11, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state is allowing local governments to make decisions about opening playgrounds. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that families carefully consider use of playgrounds and ensure children follow proper safety guidelines.

Understandably, there are a lot of concerns with having your children using playgrounds at this time. Will children be able to play while practicing proper social distancing? Will parks become overcrowded when they reopen? Will they be properly cleaned before, during, and after children are finished playing? When playgrounds do open, there are many ways your children can play safely at this time. But if you’re still exercising caution about where you take your kids post-quarantine, there are several alternatives to keep your children active. Here’s what you need to know to keep your children safe at the playground this summer.

What playgrounds in the New York metro area are open?

On Thursday, June 11, 2020, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced that 67 playgrounds in the county’s 35 public parks will open on Saturday, June 13 after inspection by the county’s parks department.

On Thursday, June 18, 2020, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that playgrounds will reopen as the city enters Phase 2 on Monday, adding that social distancing ambassadors will monitor crowding, distribute face masks to those who don't have them, and encourage hygiene. 

In Westchester County, the following playgrounds are open daily: Blue Mountain, Croton Gorge, Croton Point, George's Island, Kensico Dam Plaza, Ridge Road, Sprain Ridge, Saxon Woods, V.E. Macy, Tibbetts Brook, Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, and Willson's Woods.

Playgrounds in Rockland County and Suffolk County remain closed.

If you have a child with special needs or disabilities, there are numerous playgrounds in the New York metro area that are accessible and ADA-compliant, making them places children of all abilities can play together (as long as they are following COVID-19 safety precautions).

What to Keep in Mind When Deciding to Go to the Playground

Of course, you may not want to take your children back to playgrounds as soon as they open, and that’s understandable. Caroline Stockert, CPNP-PC, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Crystal Run Healthcare suggests considering the size of the playground before heading over to play.

Use good judgment and try to go to either a large playground where children can practice proper social distancing or choose a non-crowded playground, John B. Steever, M.D., who specializes in adolescent medicine at Mount Sinai, recommends, adding that your family stay home if you or your children feel unwell.

Staying Safe at the Playground

Telling your children to stay away from other children is hard, especially at a playground, but your children should not go to a playground without some form of a debriefing. Stocker advises parents tell their children to avoid sharing playground equipment, toys, or snacks with kids outside their families. It’s also a good idea to tell your children, in advance, that they may have to leave the playground if it becomes too crowded or if they cannot follow the rules. Kids may find this hard to grasp, but being honest with them about the possibilities will make it go down a little easier.

Everyone should wear masks, and it's important to remind kids to not touch their faces. Both Stocker and Dr. Steever urge parents to remember the importance of washing hands or using hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available. They recommend children use hand sanitizer when arriving to the playground, while they are playing, between using different equipment, and after leaving the playground. 

Dr. Steever urges parents to monitor their children at all times, since it’s easy for a child to wander off or get too close to someone else by accident. “I’d hope that parents would be understanding they are monitoring their own children to follow the rules,” Dr. Steever says.

One way parents can further help their kids remain socially distant is to talk to other parents there and make arrangements. “For example, one family may play on the slide while another family uses the swings,” Stocker says.

When it’s time to head home, families should leave the park quickly and wash their hands immediately when they get home.

How to Make Staying Safe Fun

Children are more likely to do something if you make it sound fun—like making a game of picking up their toys. Dr. Steever suggets taking the same approach when talking to and keeping your children engaged in staying safe. If you haven’t already, get masks with fun designs that your kids will want to wear.

Another fun idea from Dr. Steever incorporates superheroes. Suggest to your kids that they play on the playground as if they are a superhero, like Batwoman or Spider-Man, and they need to keep their mask on to hide their secret identity. And some heroes have a very powerful touch, so they have to avoid touching others to keep people safe.

Dr. Steever equates this to vegetables at dinner. If you give two vegetable options, rather than just offering them one and telling them to eat it, then they have a choice in the matter. Playing a game works in the same way. They are actively involved in the social distancing protocols and making a choice to play the game.

Playground Safety for Kids 2 and Younger

The CDC recommends children younger than 2 not wear face masks. Stocker says this is because children that young could suffocate while wearing a mask. She suggests children younger than 2 be put in a stroller and go in walks around the neighborhood to avoid crowds. If you choose to bring young kids to the playground, follow them carefully and help them wash their hands, Stocker says.

Dr. Steever adds that your young child should be fine if they are in an area where you can be socially distant. Maintaining social distance with kids this young is crucial. So that may mean waiting to bring them to the playground.

Fun Playground Alternatives

If you’re not comfortable heading to the playground just yet, there are still ways your children can be active. Dr. Steever suggests parents take their kids to parks and large fields where there is more space to move around. Also, walks around the neighborhood are appropriate.

Parents also have many options to keep their kids entertained in their own backyard. With a little time and effort, you can easily recreate some of your favorite classic summer activities right in your own backyard, like camping, the carnival, and water play. Your kids can burn off their extra energy with some fun, safe outdoor activities, such as rollerblading, going for a bike ride, or even playing a socially distant game of flashlight tag. Plus, you can deck out your yard with some of this season’s hottest toys and play equipment to make your backyard into your kids’ personal playground!

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Patrick Gunn

Author: Patrick Gunn is a summer intern at Davler Media Group/NYMetroParents and rising senior at Syracuse University. He also contributes regularly for the Yankee blogs Start Spreading the News and Pinstripe City and enjoys a good film. See More

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