What’s safe and what’s not this summer for families? Experts weigh in

Are playdates safe? What about the beach? Here's what experts say.

coronavirus what's safe this summer

Across the country, parents must rely on a patchwork of public health guidelines and local regulations to help guide decisions about everything from childcare to summer camp to play dates.

The question that's causing major decision fatigue for mamas right now: What's safe for my family to do this summer?

With 30 states now showing increasing rates of infection, there's a lot of gray area in how individuals choose to interpret what's "safe" right now—in fact, you could argue that the gray area is roughly the size of the entire country. Are socially distanced play dates okay? What about a picnic in the park with friends—masks on? Can we get sick if we take the kids to the beach?

Here's what the experts say about what summer activities are safest during the pandemic, and how to evaluate what's safe for your family.


First and foremost, know that you are the ultimate decision-maker for your family—and it’s okay if you don’t feel ready to take risks right now.

In the absence of clear national health guidelines for the weirdest summer in decades, it's up to individuals to decide what feels right and safe for them. If your family includes even a single immunocompromised or older individual, your tolerance for risk is probably going to remain low—or close to zero. Likewise, if you are pregnant or the parent of a newborn infant, you are probably going to want to remain cautious about what "reopening" means for you.

On the other hand, if you live in an area where cases are low and declining, hospitalizations are low and declining, the public health system is stable and social distancing is taken seriously—and no one in your family belongs to an at-risk group—you might decide that getting together with friends and family is a risk you are willing to take (with reasonable precautions for yourself and others) for the sake of your mental health and your children.

If this is the case, you're taking the position that's right for you. If you decide you're not ready, then that's what's right for your family. You know your family's particular situation best.

How to evaluate (and minimize) potential risks

Experts agree, there's no such thing as a zero-risk summer activity this year when it comes to coronavirus transmission. That said, the number one rule to live by (and make decisions by) right now, according to public health experts, is to keep track of overall trends in testing and positive cases where you live. If you live in in area where the rate of infection is rising, your tolerance for risk should be going down accordingly.

Epidemiologists identify the risk factors for coronavirus transmission in terms of "time, space, people, place."

The ideal combination for lowering risk is a short amount of time, with more space between fewer people in a larger place. So, a day at an uncrowded beach on a blanket 6 feet from other people is lower risk than a birthday party indoors with a group of families.

As Dr. Emily Landon, a hospital epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist at University of Chicago Medicine, puts it for ProPublica, "Always choose outdoors over indoor, always choose masking over not masking and always choose more space for fewer people over a smaller space."

As author and economist Emily Oster notes in her helpful guide to making tough decisions during the pandemic, "No decision is guaranteed to stop anyone from getting sick, and no decision will doom you...We have to accept some uncertainty to move forward."

With that in mind, here's a guide to specific activities and how experts evaluate them right now.

Is going to the beach or pool safe?

Risk level: Lower

Assuming 6 feet of social distancing between everybody's towels, the beach or pool is a relatively safe bet for a summer activity. Why? Wind, sunshine and heat all tend to dilute the virus, according to scientists interviewed in the New York Times, and the virus is also unlikely to spread through the water, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

"The sheer volume of water will dilute out the virus, making the water a highly unlikely source of infection," Dr. Andrew Janowski, a pediatric infectious diseases expert at Washington University in St. Louis, told ProPublica.

You can keep this activity low-risk by maintaining distance between yourself and others, going to the beach or pool for a limited period of time during off-peak hours (think about a morning at the lake, rather than an all-day hang) and by packing your own lunch, drinks and snacks. If you do need to use a public restroom or changing area, wear a mask and wash your hands well, especially after touching shared surfaces.

Is going camping safe?

Risk level: Lower

Camping is one of the great joys of summer—for some families, anyway—and it's relatively low risk in terms of coronavirus transmission. So if campgrounds have reopened in your area (check your state's Department of Natural Resources website for the latest status) and if sleeping outdoors and cooking meals over a campfire are your idea of summer fun, get out the tent.

Camping at an uncrowded campground with only your family members is the lowest-risk version of this activity. Adding other variables to the mix such as camping with another family or using busy common restrooms and facilities will layer on some additional risk of exposure.

Is renting a vacation house with another family safe? 

Risk level: Low

This is one that comes with a lot of conditions, unfortunately, but if both families have been limiting their exposure and observing stay-at-home restrictions, and can agree on certain safety considerations without damaging a valuable relationship, vacationing with another family could be an attractive alternative to climbing the walls at home.

In the best-case scenario, according to experts, both families have been quarantining and limiting their exposure to others, both families agree in advance about what constitutes safety precautions before and during the trip—and, crucially, both families keep to themselves and limit exposure beyond their "bubble" while they are vacationing together.

Choosing a vacation home in an area with low local transmission is key, too. "In vacation areas that have high community transmission of SARS-CoV-2 or in areas that will get a lot of visitor foot traffic from different areas, the risk of viral transmission could be significant and could lead to new viral hot spots in vacation towns," Jill Weatherhead, MD, an assistant professor of tropical medicine and infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine tells Health magazine.

Is a backyard gathering with another family safe?

Risk level: Low to medium

An outdoor gathering with one other conscientious family—with everybody wearing masks and keeping 6 feet apart—would meet the "time, space, people, place" criteria for a lower-risk activity right now, according to experts.

If food or drink is involved, make sure it's a BYOB potluck with no shared utensils. But since eating and drinking involve lowering masks (and vigilance, especially after a beer or two) consider getting together for some kind of shared activity like a lawn game, instead of a meal.

Is an outdoor playdate with another family safe?

Risk level: Low to medium

Kids at playdates don't observe social distancing rules—it's just not in their natures. But if your child's best friend comes from another family who has been reducing their exposure and closely observing social distancing, getting together for an hour-long outdoor playdate could fall under a similar level of risk as a backyard BYO gathering with another family. Making sure that kids don't touch their faces and minimizing physical contact (play soccer or no-touch hide-and-seek, rather than sharing Legos) helps reduce risk. Be sure to wash those hands, and keep in mind the "time, space, people, place" criteria for keeping the risk as low as possible.

It's worth noting that the official take on playdates still hasn't changed since the outset of the pandemic. CDC guidelines state pretty plainly that playdates are not recommended: "If children meet in groups, it can put everyone at risk. While school is out, children should not have in-person playdates with children from other households. If children are playing outside their own homes, it is essential that they remain 6 feet from anyone who is not in their own household."

The upshot on playdates right now: You alone can decide for your family whether the risks are worth the benefits.

Is staying at a hotel while traveling safe?

Risk level: Medium

Hotels are, by definition, full of other people you don't know (who come from all over the place) staying indoors for lengthy periods of time, so they definitely don't meet the optimal "time, space, people, place" criteria for lowering the risk of transmission.

That said if your family strictly limits time spent in public areas like the lobby, elevators, restaurant or an indoor pool, that can reduce your risk. Wearing masks and maintaining distance outside your room are also must-dos.

Send one person from the family to the lobby to check-in, ride the elevator with as few other people as possible (in some hotels, lobby waits may be long as elevators are restricted to one family unit per ride), wash hands as soon as you enter your room or touch any high-contact surfaces, wipe down high-touch surfaces in your room with disinfectant and ask that housekeeping be suspended during your stay in order to minimize the number of people entering your room.

Experts also suggest that if you must stay in a hotel right now, choose one that is transparent about its cleaning and distancing practices. "Stay at a reputable place that discloses their cleaning tactics," Dr. Neha Vyas, MD, a family medicine physician at Cleveland Clinic tells Health.

Is sleepaway camp or day camp safe?

Risk level: Medium

Detailed recommendations for camps and childcare programs released in late May by the CDC suggest that summer camp will look different this year than in years past—and in some parts of the country, including Minnesota, Kansas, and other states, sleepaway camps will not operate this summer at all.

Sleepaway camp directors who have committed to reopening are taking the responsibility seriously, with practices like quarantining counselors and campers for two weeks before and after arrival, daily temperature checks for campers and staffers, rearranging bunks and mess halls to improve physical spacing, dividing kids into small cohorts and minimizing exposure to environments outside of camp. Some camps have even proposed opening up for families to attend together as a kind of isolation vacation.

At summer day camps, where large numbers of children gather daily and then disperse to their homes, that kind of isolation isn't possible. But choosing a camp that meets outdoors and strictly follows recommendations for testing, cleaning supplies, community distancing, "cohorting" campers and maintaining hygiene may reduce risk.

Camp will be a lifeline for many parents who need to work this summer—and a welcome break from nonstop screen time for kids. But it's impossible for any summer camp to guarantee that no camper or staffer will get sick.

Is childcare safe?

Risk level: Medium

Childcare providers are facing an unprecedented crisis, and parents are desperate for a safe childcare solution that will enable them to work.

By definition, childcare is an environment where children and adults from all over the neighborhood gather together for hours at a time, and are often indoors by necessity. Plus, as we all know, little kids are just not great about maintaining social distance. So much for "time, space, people, place." It's easy to see why viruses found an easy foothold in daycares and schools, long before the coronavirus pandemic.

The CDC's guidelines for safely reopening childcare facilities, which are very similar to the guidelines for camps and schools, suggest daily temperature checks along with frequent cleaning, separating children's belongings, dividing children into small cohorts, lowering capacity and making sure staffers wear masks, among other recommendations. Following these guidelines will likely be a strain for many providers, but look for a childcare provider that is doing everything they can to minimize exposure.

As experts point out, keeping kids safe and healthy while in daycare will depend on more than just childcare providers following strict guidelines—parents will also need to participate actively in keeping their childcare facility safe, by communicating with their provider, maintaining healthy best practices at home and most importantly, by keeping kids home if anyone in the family is sick or exposed to the virus. "This is where participation of everyone within the community is required," Weatherhead notes.

Child Care Aware of America, a national resource and advocacy organization for childcare providers, is maintaining a state-by-state list of local regulations for childcare providers, as well as updates on where childcare facilities are allowed to open and where they're not.

The Hunt Institute, a nonprofit education policy research organization, also maintains a detailed list of childcare closings, reopenings and regulations by state. Guidelines and regulations for childcare providers reopening this summer will vary from state to state, so be sure to understand what's considered "safe" where you live.

The upshot: Whether it's safe to send your child to daycare in your area will depend greatly on local transmission levels, and on how closely your childcare community can adhere to the guidelines that help minimize risk. You alone can decide for your family whether the risks are worth the benefits.

Are amusement parks safe?

Risk level: Medium

Again, keeping in mind the "time, space, people, place" theory of reducing the risk of virus transmission, theme parks are a bit of a mixed bag. They're huge and mostly outside, but on the other hand, they're crowded full of people you don't know, and if you can find a way to ride a roller coaster without physically touching it you probably don't need to go to Hogwarts.

In areas where virus transmission levels are currently high, such as Florida and California, amusement parks may not be reopening any time soon. Where amusement parks are allowed to open, expect regulations and rules that aim to reduce risk as much as possible, from frequent deep-cleanings to requiring masks.

If you are lucky enough to snag a ticket to a reopened amusement park this summer, there are ways you can reduce your own risk of exposure as well. Bring your own hand sanitizer, wipes, drinks and food, touch as little as you can, go indoors as infrequently as you can and finally, try to go during less-busy times if possible—and for shorter periods of time. It may not be the epic family fun trip you envisioned, but a little bit of magic these days goes a long way.

[This was originally published May 29, 2020. It has been updated.]

<p> Siobhan Adcock is the Experts Editor at Motherly and the author of two novels about motherhood, <a href="https://www.siobhanadcock.com/" target="_blank">The Completionist</a> and <a href="https://www.siobhanadcock.com/the-barter" target="_blank">The Barter</a>. Her writing has also appeared in Romper, Bustle, Ms., McSweeney's, Slate, Salon, The Daily Beast, The Chicago Review of Books and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter. </p>

The HATCH Mama collection is everything your pregnant body needs right now

Their oil is the only thing that stopped my belly from itching as it grew bigger.

Conz Preti

Let me start by saying I'm not a fan of moisturizing. I hate being wet and sticky and after applying product to my body, I have to stand around awkwardly until I'm fully air-dried—a practice that is not compatible with having three kids under the age of 3. However, as someone who has carried three children in her body, I also know how much your belly needs hydration as the baby grows.

This was especially true with my second pregnancy. My belly popped way sooner (a thing that happens with subsequent pregnancies) and on top of that, I was carrying twins, which meant I became super pregnant super fast. My belly was itching constantly from the skin stretching (I checked with my doctor to make sure I didn't have Cholestasis) and there was no scratching in the world that could ease my discomfort. My doula recommended the HATCH Mama belly oil and changed my life. The oil is nourishing—but more important to me, quick-drying—so I could apply it all over my planet-sized twin belly and get dressed immediately after without having my clothes ruined nor stuck to my body. Because of how much I loved the oil, I tested other products, and let me tell you, they're all equally amazing.

Curious about the HATCH Mama collection? All of their products are non-toxic and mama-safe, designed to help pregnant people overcome the challenges unique to pregnancy. As their website claims, "from stretch marks to thinning hair, to sleepless nights, we're helping you tackle every prenatal and postnatal beauty issue head-on so you can continue to feel like the best version of you." I'm here for all of this. For the entire Hatch Beauty collection click here.


Here are my favorite products from HATCH Mama:


Belly oil

HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Oil

Intensely hydrating + fantastic at reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars, this will be your favorite through pregnancy + beyond.

$58

Belly mask

HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Mask Set

Not only does it help to minimize the appearance of stretch masks + scars during pregnancy + postpartum, but there is a little non-toxic wink (and that's to you, mama.)

$42

Nipple + lip ointment 

HATCH COLLECTION  Nipple + Lip

Calming + soothing, this magic sauce is lanolin-free & made of tropical butters and super fruits. I'm not lying when I say you will not want to stop using this, even way after birth.

$28

Belly tattoos

HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Tattoos

A very rock and roll way to honor your bump. And non-toxic + plant-based at that!

$18

This article was originally published in March 2021. It has been updated.

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Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

We know new parents are busy (hello, understatement of the year). Between diaper changes, pediatrician appointments, healing from birth and the general adjustment to #newparentlife, the days can fill up quickly. But a lot of people are caught off guard by how busy pregnancy can be, too! That first trimester is so often full of symptoms—like nausea and fatigue—that can make previously easy or simple tasks exhausting. The second trimester begins and (usually) we start to feel better. But then our days get filled with planning out baby registries and deciding on questions like, "Where will this tiny new human sleep?" And before you know it, it's the third trimester—and, well, then you're in the home stretch. Plus there are so many appointments!

All this to say that we get how busy you are—and how hard that might make it to fit in a birth class.

And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.


Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

Due date's next week and you need the option to take a birth class very quickly? No problem!

Like everything at Motherly, we designed this class with you in mind.

Taught by Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding (who also wrote "The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama"), this class is broken into 12 lessons—and you get to control how and when you watch them. We'll teach you about what your (amazing) body is up to in labor, how to decide when it's time to head to the hospital or birth center (or when to call your home birth midwife), what your options are for coping with pain and so much more.

When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

You've got this.

Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

The Motherly Birth Class

pregnant-woman-looking-at-her-belly

Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.

$79

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14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


Secret Agent play set

Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Stepping Stones

Stepping-stones

Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

$99.99

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Sensory play set

kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$19.95

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Foam pogo stick

Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

$16.99

Dumptruck 

green-toys-dump-truck

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

$22

Hopper ball

Hopper ball

Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

$14.99

Pull-along ducks

janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$16.99

Rocking chair seesaw

Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

$79.99

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$79.99

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

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Extended breastfeeding just happened for me—and I'm in no rush to end it

My son is two and a half and still nursing, and it's what makes sense for us.

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When I became pregnant with my first child, I assumed that I would breastfeed. I also assumed that I would pump and give bottles. I even had all the bottles, a bottle warmer, and a bottle drying rack all ready to go. I made sure I got my pump before the baby came, so I was ready. But then, I actually tried pumping a couple of times and hated it. It was tedious, time-consuming, and not as effective, so nursing was the standard between my two children. It came naturally for me, and I found it the easier of the two options since I stayed home with them anyway. I was always there when they needed it.

I was able to breastfeed my first until she was two and a half, at which point, I was seven months pregnant with her brother. Between the hormones, being touched out, and being uncomfortable, I decided to fully wean her. It had been coming for some time because the clock was ticking on getting her to sleep on her own before the new baby came since we had been co-sleeping up to this point.

I cut night feedings first, moved her to her own bed, and then weaned her completely as I went along in my pregnancy. She still wanted to nurse to sleep, but I had to stop eventually because I was so uncomfortable. My body and brain could not take it anymore, but I'm proud I made it that far with her and that I nursed that far into pregnancy.

When my second child came around, my son, breastfeeding was not only easier, but I found myself here: extended breastfeeding.


He recently passed two and a half, which is where my daughter stopped, and he is still co-sleeping. He still nurses quite a bit, because his tummy hurts because of constipation issues. He still uses it to soothe and help him go back to sleep at night. He's getting too big to stay in our bed much longer, but I'm in no rush to wean him completely until he's ready.

Being able to stay home with them has definitely fostered the breastfeeding relationship. Cuddling is a huge part of it, too, and I'll continue to breastfeed until it makes sense to stop.

While my husband doesn't always agree with that philosophy and tells him that he's a big boy and can be done having milk, it's ultimately not up to him. I told my son that we would work through it together.

It is still an emotional connection thing, and at the same time, it still has benefits for him. He's still getting nutrients especially designed for him. He's still getting supplemental nutrition while he doesn't want to eat as much otherwise if his stomach is hurting.

My body has been doing this for a long time. I'm used to it. While I get touched out some days, I also know how helpful breastfeeding still is to help him settle down and how much he still appreciates it. I don't feel the need to cut him off quickly—both for his sake and mine.

I'm also painfully aware that this is probably my last baby. My breastfeeding journey, over five years in the making, will soon be over. As long as he is still getting the benefits and I'm not stressed over it, I'll let it continue on a limited basis. I know it will end soon—it has to. He will be growing up and entering the next stage before I know it. But until then, I'm going to cuddle my baby boy a bit longer. I'm going to let him nurse at certain times and in certain situations.

I never intended to do extended breastfeeding with either of them, but it just happened naturally. And that's okay. You need to do what makes the most sense and do what your intuition tells you is right for your family.

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