Bulletin #4103, Social Distancing: What is it? Why Do it? And How to Make the Time at Home with Your Kids Fun!

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Developed by Extension Professor, Human Development Specialist Leslie A. Forstadt, and Extension Professor, 4-H Youth Development Kristy Ouellette, University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

For information about UMaine Extension programs and resources, visit extension.umaine.edu.
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Given the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation in Maine, UMaine Extension is making the decision to cancel indoor events of more than 20 attendees happening through April 6. One suggestion to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 is social distancing.

What is it?

Social distancing is recommended in communities where the virus is actively spreading to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus. It is recommended in your community right now.

The practice of social distancing slows down the rate in which people get sick. It is one of the most effective strategies to prevent community spread of coronavirus. This means sticking close to home and doing fewer activities where there are lots of people around. It also means staying a distance of six feet from other people when possible. This can mean avoiding playgrounds, birthday parties, movie theaters, shopping areas, and other typical activities families do on a regular basis.

Why should my family practice social distancing? 

We all live in community and enjoy being around others. Even if you are not sick, or don’t know anyone who is, social distancing helps slow the spread of disease. Slowing the spread of coronavirus can help health care systems cope with the strain of the outbreak, which translates into saving lives.

Practice good hygiene

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, outside, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. Don’t feel like counting? Why not sing a favorite family song, or slowly say your ABCs. (See Bulletin #4067, The ABCs of Hand Washing for more information.)
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Clean and disinfect

  • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
  • If surfaces are dirty, clean them: Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.

Visit Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations for more information on disinfecting the COVID-19 virus.

Right now, scientists are suggesting that kids are less affected by this virus than adults. For most people this virus presents like the common cold. Older adults, especially those who have compromised immune systems, may not want to travel, so interaction time may want to be reduced.

Here are some ideas of what you can do with your children.

9 Things to Do with Your Kids When You Choose to “Social Distance”

  1. Cooking. Kids in the kitchen! Follow recipes to practice reading and explore math and science concepts.
  2. Outside Dance Party! Choose some tunes and have a family dance party. This is a great way to move your bodies and soak up the sunshine.
  3. Board games and puzzles. Take the time to play a new game, learn a new skill or start a puzzle together as a family.
  4. Go outside and explore! There are countless opportunities to connect to our natural world. Observe the birds, build boats and try to float them in newly melted snow. Encourage independent play and family time together.
  5. Playgrounds. Even if you live in a place where the virus does not appear to be actively spreading, you can’t be sure that popular public spaces like playgrounds are risk-free. It’s not a bad idea to wipe down the equipment with antimicrobial wipes before your children play and practice good hand washing hygiene after playing.
  6. Read as a family! Choose a family book and read it together every day. Older children can take turns reading out loud. This is a great way to introduce chapter books to younger readers.
  7. Start a photo project. Have your kids pick a theme and tour the neighborhood with phones, cameras, or tablets (camera of choice). Put the pictures together in a photo album.
  8. Cards for neighbors. Work together to make cards for people in your neighborhood just to say hello.
  9. Spring cleaning. Have each family member sort through clothes, toys, and games. Clean and disinfect all items, then donate to those in your community who may be in need.

As parents and caregivers it is important to stay informed about the COVID-19 virus, but try not to panic. You can help children decipher between reality and rumors.

Social distancing is not social isolation, so stay connected with friends and family. Check in with your neighbors. Be creative and find ways to connect while practicing social distancing.

UMaine Extension has created a list of readings and websites you can visit for more information.

For the most up to date information on the COVID-19 virus in Maine visit Novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19).

Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

© 2020

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