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Mendo Lake Family Life

The Art of Socializing with Children in the Time of COVID

By Kerrie McLoughlin

The pandemic has delivered us a new normal. Bye-bye haircuts, dinner parties, and plane trips. Hello masks, temperature checks, and Wal-Mart battles over the last bottle of hand sanitizer. The dramatic change has been disorienting and frustrating—especially for kids, who have found themselves spending lots of lonely time at home. But there are ways for children to safely socialize.

1. Hold a drive-by birthday party. Is your child’s special day around the corner? Ask a group of her or his friends to secretly meet at a close-by location (like a mall parking lot), and then collectively cruise by your house. Let rowdiness rule as everyone honks, waves balloons and streamers, and yells out birthday greetings. To add to the festive mood, decorate your cars with crepe paper and signs. Friends and family can drop off presents or cards, too. But if you are hardcore about avoiding germs, ask them to give nonperishable gifts that can be set aside for up to 72 hours.

2. Stay together—apart. Unfold comfy camping chairs on the driveway or in the yard for some masked, six-feet-apart chat sessions. Need an occasion to gather? Consider a kid-friendly book club or sewing/knitting circle. Melissa R. says her family does meet-ups at nature spots. The kids use FaceTime so they don’t have to yell at each other while social distancing.

3. Get (video) chatty. Kids can still meet “face to face” thanks to video conferencing platforms, such as Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, and Facebook Messenger. Katie D.’s four kids craft, watch a show, or exercise, all via video chats.

4. Rediscover snail mail. Older folks, especially, love to receive packages and handwritten letters. Not sure what to do with that pillowcase made in a socially distanced sewing circle or the picture frame constructed during a video chat? Send them off to a relative. What Grandma doesn’t like a kid-creation in her mailbox?

5. Play with words. Texting, emailing, blogging, oh my! There are so many ways to stay in touch. And emailing and blogging hone kids’ reading, writing, and typing skills, too.

6. Visit Marco Polo. Check out the Marco Polo app for a FaceTime-meets-voicemail experience. Leave, receive, forward, and—here’s the cool part—save video messages.

7. Online activities. If there is a silver lining to the COIVD-19 madness, it’s that families have access to newly online activities across the country. Google “online activities for kids” and “virtual tours” for access to museums and performances you otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to see. I also know families who are continuing activities such as ballet, Irish dance, and karate online—and loving it. 

Kerrie McLoughlin’s special kind of chaos can be observed at