With social distancing rules loosening up in most provinces, it's time to see which parents are (and are not) taking precautions to continue to stop the spread. "We've already had invites to pool parties," said a friend who wasn't sure how to respond to the request. As parents, we only want the best for our kids and a party with their friends would make them SO happy. BUT is it safe? It's definitely a tricky situation.
As of this writing (mid June), Ontario has allowed 10 person bubbles, which allow the same 10 people to be in close contact. For example, two families can be together, but ONLY those two families, making for an awkward social situation on who to 'bubble' with. You are also allowed to interact socially with 10 people, meaning you can be in the same place, but it must be at a safe distance of 6ft apart. So what does this mean for birthday parties? What should you do to throw a "Covid-friendly" party? And more importantly, how do you approach the conversation with other parents to find out how they're enforcing the rules?
Well, it definitely doesn't mean you can have 10+ kids together, jumping all over each other. But as more and more people become increasingly jaded by being cooped up, it might start to feel like many think that's okay. Trust me, it's a slippery slope and I myself am even torn between balancing Covid-precautions with my own sanity and mental health. However, to strike the equilibrium between the rules and some party fun, here's a list of ways that party hosts and attendees can be safe.
Things to consider if you're the Party Host:
1. Childcare: If you're hosting a birthday party for anyone over the age of 4, you're likely responsible for supervising the children yourself as that's the typical age when parents drop kids off rather than stay. This means you're liable for their safety while they're in your care. In the time of Covid, those responsibilities might feel a little heightened. To mitigate that risk, you might have parents stay and have them help enforce the rules - while taking the pressure off yourself. But just remember, for every spot a parent takes up, you miss out on having another friend attend.
2. Party size: Since provincial rules state you cannot have more than 10 people together or else you could be fined up to $800 per person (!!), you'll likely want to keep party sizes small. One thing you might want to consider is having party "shifts" where groups of 5 kids (plus or minus their parents) come to greet the party kid, participate in an activity or two and leave 30 minutes to an hour later - just in time for the next party crew to arrive.
3. Games & Activities: Keep the party outside with some easy activities to entertain the kids. A simple obstacle course made with painters tape, chalk and balls/bean bags can create endless fun. Place a piñata at the end of the course for them to whack before looping back and doing the course all over again! Another fun activity is having "minute to win it" stations where kids have 60 seconds to complete a simple task, such as placing 20 cheerios on a pipe cleaner using one hand.
4. Food: You can minimize contact by pre-portioning food out ahead of time rather than having it on platters. For example, you can use cups to make individual veggies and dip, cheese and crackers or chips. This minimizes contact. It's also a good idea to have hand sanitizer beside the food to gently remind people to wash often.
5. Be clear & transparent: Think about how you're going to maintain social distancing rules and include that information with the invitation. This eliminates any discomfort other parents might feel when the invite arrives. It also demonstrates where you stand on the matter and outlines what will (or will not) have in place at the party, which might ease any fears parents may have.
Things to consider if you're a party guest:
1. Check your health: This seems obvious, but don't go to the party if you are feeling ill, if a family member has been ill or if someone within your bubble has travelled outside the country within the last 14 days. You might want to, but just don't.
2. Do what is comfortable for you: Everyone has different comfort levels at this time. Don't compromise yours for a party. If you'd prefer your child wore a mask, then despite how bizarre that may have seemed months ago, they should wear a mask. If you want to don a hand sanitizing contraption where it shoots out a la Spiderman styles, then go for it! Our 'new normal' is whatever your sense of safety is (+ that of what health officials tell us!)
3. BYO-"single-use" items: Limit the amount of things you need to touch at the party by bringing your own items you know you'll need. Think: reusable water bottles + diapers, sunscreen, wipes, clothes, etc.
4. Have fun! It is a party after all. It has been an uncertain time for all of us, especially our children who have been away from their friends for months. We're finally able to slowly and thoughtfully open up our immediate world so let's celebrate that by bringing people together to smile, laugh and eat cake!