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Backyard summer camps an 'excellent idea,' pediatrician says

Pediatrician weighs in on idea
Posted at 8:21 AM, Jun 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-22 09:30:33-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — It seems like all of us as parents have so many questions about our children and the risks of COVID. Is it safe to let them play with friends? How do you even go about that?

Lisa Cullom is a mom of four kids and a local principal She's now also a camp counselor of sorts.

"They (children) lost all their socialization through school, and i think it’s time," she said referring to finding a safe way to play.

She's trying to find out how to get her children to safely socialize with other kids.

"Yes, I have four kids, so they have each other, but we all got to a point the six of us in a house for three months," she said.

Now, she is doing a rotating backyard camp with other like-minded families. Sprinklers, pool time, obstacle courses.

"We met with other families that we are close with," said Cullom. "We know they are not traveling, we know who they are hanging out with, where they are going. We made a decision for the small group of families to allow the kids to play in the safest way possible."

"That’s an excellent idea, because if you put families together. Two, three, four families in a neighborhood or your close friends together. If everyone has been safe, the risk of passing the virus to other families is definitely minimal," said Dr. Lynda Bideau, who also went on to say sticking outdoors is the safer option.

"Swim, put up a sprinkler, play on the swing set in your back yard," she said. "So if they are playing outdoors, they are less likely, even if they get close together, to spread the virus."

But that comes with a big caveat, nothing every parent has to make their own decisions about what is safe for their children.

"First of all, who are they playing with? Are these families generally staying home, being safe in the stay-at-home orders? Or are these families out in the world going to the mall, running to the park, and meeting up with a lot of other children?" she said.

Bideau said if you are playing with other families, make sure to disinfect and wipe down shared equipment, like swing sets.

"They need to wash their hands, keep disinfectant available as they are playing," she said.

"Just having the one or two friends over, it just brightened their day. Just happier and excited," said Cullom.

Professional also note there is a mental health component at play here as well.

"I’ve counseled children, who are having a really difficult time being at home," said Sharron Frederick, a psychotherapist. "They want to see their friends, but I think it’s for such a short period of time, I don’t feel that there is any..it’s detrimental to the child over a period of time."

"We have to realize are children are feeling, maybe you need to keep their mental health good and include socialization and play," said Dr. Bideau." The safest thing to do, have playdates with close friends that you trust that they have been home, have been generally safe, have been following the guidelines."