Everything we know (so far) about how states reopening will affect families

When can we have playdates? When can we use child care? For families, reopening is complicated.

what reopening means for families

Since the federal stay-at-home order was allowed to expire on April 30, a growing number of state and local governments have moved to allow businesses to reopen their doors (with capacity limits in place), while phasing out some of the restrictions that have largely kept Americans in their homes since March.

Decisions about how and when to lift restrictions on businesses deemed non-essential, social gatherings, shopping, religious services and other aspects of daily life have been left completely up to the states, resulting in a hodgepodge patchwork of regulations from coast to coast.

Some states, such as North Carolina, are allowing some businesses to open while others stay closed. Some states, including Nebraska, are allowing restrictions to expire in some areas while not in others. Wisconsin and others, have "safer at home" regulations in place until the end of May. And in some areas, such as in parts of Georgia, local governments are maintaining restrictions that have been lifted at the state level. And in Rhode Island, the stay-at-home order ends this weekend.

Meanwhile, it's important to note that the daily number of cases and deaths in the U.S. continues to climb. This pandemic is far from over.

All this has left people left wondering what's "reopen," what's "okay" and what's not—especially families, on whom the financial and emotional impacts of shutdowns, school closures and social distancing have taken a particularly heavy toll. American families are facing an unprecedented childcare crisis. One in 5 American households with young children don't have enough food. Kids are out of school until the fall in almost all states. And yes, the kids (and grownups) are all bored with no one to socialize with.

Here are answers to parents' most-asked questions about what "reopening" really means.


Are playdates okay now?

are playdates okay now?

Officially, no. Most states are still advising people to practice social distancing as a way to slow the spread of disease, referring individuals to the CDC's guidelines. Those guidelines are pretty straightforward—and disappointing—when it comes to playdates:

"Limit time with other children...The key to slowing the spread of COVID-19 is to limit contact as much as possible. 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."

In areas where social distancing regulations have become less strict, many families are already quietly arranging playdates with masks or with limited personal contact. (Actually, this is the case even in areas where local authorities suggest maintaining strict social distancing measures—looking at you, my home neighborhood in Brooklyn.)

While we're all stir-crazy and anxious to return to normal, social distancing practices remain the best way to contain the outbreak, according to health experts, at least until a vaccine is developed.

Should children still wear masks?

According to CDC guidelines, children under two should not wear masks. Children over the age of two (and adults, of course) should still wear cloth masks whenever they are in "a community setting," in other words, anyplace there might be other people around, whether that's a grocery store, a park or a neighborhood sidewalk. The guidelines go on to say that masks should be worn in public even if you're keeping 6 feet of distance between yourself and others.

Some local governments, in municipalities from New York City to Birmingham, Alabama, have passed ordinances that actually require wearing masks in public places, although not all these local ordinances apply equally to children and adults. And most states—even the ones that are reopening businesses and phasing out restrictions against large gatherings—are still recommending masks and social distancing.

So, the general recommendation for now remains: Masks on, anywhere there are other people outside the family, even if you're six feet apart. And of course that goes double in areas where masks in public are actually the law.

Do we need to wear masks while we're playing outside?

In some ways, the answer to this depends less on where you live and more on where you're playing. If your kids are playing in your yard or in an area where there are no other people around, masks are not needed.

In public parks, beaches or other public recreation spots, masks are recommended as part of social distancing measures intended to slow the spread of the virus. And in some areas, masks are required by law whenever you are out in public.

Can I see my friends or family if we stay 6 feet apart?

visit family 6 feet apart

Jessica Petersen/Getty

Here's where things get complicated. Even in states that are reopening their economies and public spaces, individuals are largely asked to follow the CDC's social distancing recommendations to help contain the spread of the disease—and again, those recommendations are pretty straightforward: Please don't hang out with other people, and when you do go out, wear a mask and maintain six feet of separation.

In Indiana, for example, "Hoosiers are still encouraged to continue wearing face masks in public and to maintain social distancing," but meanwhile, state Governor Eric Holcomb has announced a phased plan for retailers, restaurants and religious services to reopen at half capacity. Tennessee's reopening plans from Governor Bill Lee strongly recommend that people "stay at home whenever possible," while reopening restaurants and retail stores at half capacity.

What this contradiction means in practice is confusing at best and sort of heartless at worst: Why is it okay for me to interact with the server at a restaurant or the cashier at a store #becausetheeconomy, but it's still not recommended for us to see my kids' grandmother?

Without straightforward or consistent guidance at either the local or national level, families are left to interpret social distancing guidelines as best they can, for their particular situation.

Especially with older or immunocompromised family members, you'll want to observe social distancing guidelines as closely as possible, even when strict social distancing measures are replaced by what some states, such as Pennsylvania, are calling "aggressive mitigation" in their reopening plans.

In many states, gathering in groups larger than 10 people is considered a violation of local ordinances or public health advisories—so make sure you're familiar with what your local authorities allow. USA Today, the New York Times, the Kaiser Foundation and the Wall Street Journal are maintaining detailed lists of reopening regulations by state with links, although you may need to drill down further to find the regulations that apply in your specific area.

Can I send my child back to childcare or day care now?

In many areas, the answer to this all-important question is a heartbreaking no for working parents. Recent reports suggest that 60% of childcare providers across the country are currently closed, either because of state or local mandates, or due to low attendance and enrollment.

The Hunt Institute, a nonprofit education policy research organization, maintains a detailed list of childcare closings, reopenings and regulations by state. As of the first week of May, childcare facilities in about one-third of states (including Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts and Maryland, as well as New York City) remain closed, with the option to provide care just for children of emergency and essential workers, at a capacity of no more than 10-12 children. Childcare providers in most other states have the "option to remain open" but under capacity restrictions and with strict regulations in place regarding cleaning, staffing and physical distancing.

What this has meant in practice for many day cares—already operating on a razor-thin margin—is that they cannot reopen, or that they face significant financial challenges in reopening after an extended closure. The National Association for the Education of Young Children has reported that 30% of childcare providers are operating on budgets so lean that a closure of more than 2 weeks would mean shutting their doors permanently, and an additional 16% would not survive longer than a month.

Childcare providers across the country are struggling. And parents now face an impossible choice: Continue to pay tuition while not getting childcare, or risk the possibility that their day care might not reopen at all. It has been estimated that the pandemic may result in the permanent loss of 4.5 million childcare slots across the country.

What if your neighbors or friends aren't taking social distancing seriously right now?

If, despite everything, it seems like everybody you know is scheduling secret playdates and heading to the park without masks on, you're probably not imagining things. We're two months into the greatest change in American public life in decades, and people are definitely bending "the rules," out of need or desperation or boredom or all three.

311 operators in New York City have reported over 14,000 complaints about social distancing violations in recent weeks, which are punishable by fines up to $1000. It's worth noting, too, that enforcement of social distancing guidelines and ordinances is unevenly applied. In some communities of color, authorities have responded to reports of social distancing violations with what legal experts say may be excessive force. Keeping people safe isn't an excuse to let racism or intolerance win.


We're all trying our best to be good citizens and keep ourselves and our families safe. But despite our concerns for our loved ones and our country, the fact is, taking on the task of monitoring and enforcing "the rules" for others is only going to add to your stress, not relieve it. Now may be a good time to focus on controlling what you can control—that is, your own actions and your own feelings—and letting go of what you can't.

Stay safe. We'll get through this.

<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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15 vegetarian school lunch ideas kids will gobble up

Need some plant-free lunch ideas to take to school? We got you, mama.

Tom Werner / Getty

Have your kids stopped eating meat? Is your family just trying to cut back? One trend I'm intrigued by is eating vegetarian on the weekdays, then going omnivore Saturday through Sunday. For health, happiness and environmental reasons, more and more families are simply opting out of anything that's not grown from the ground—and that includes two of my daughters.

With school starting back up, you may be needing some more school lunch ideas for kids that don't include meat to keep those cute lunch boxes—and little bellies—full!

Here are our favorite ways to pack lunch boxes that are hearty, satisfying, full of protein yet vegetarian all the way through.

Simplified Focaccia Bread

When we lived in Italy, we learned that focaccia bread was originally made for fishermen who needed a fast lunch that would stick with them until dinner. Olive oil not only packs a flavorful punch but adds enough (good) fats to keep fishermen full. Turns out, it works for kids at school too and this easy recipe is the best way to make it!

Cheddar Cheese and Apple Muffins

Think of these savory baked goods as a twist on a biscuit--one that's packed with tart apples and creamy, salty cheddar cheese.

Whole-Wheat Mini Tomato Galettes

Start with pie crust (use our easy recipe or take a shortcut with something from the store) then layer on the freshly sliced tomatoes (or potatoes!), sprinkle with cheese and bake. These make-ahead lunches will be the hit of your bento boxes (Tip: measure the size of your container and adjust your galettes before baking!)

Spicy Black Bean Enchilada Cups

Of all the ways to eat enchiladas, I bet you've never thought of this one. Fold tortillas into muffin pans and fill with all the gorgeous flavors of enchiladas. If your kids aren't into spicy, simply skip the adobe sauce and use mild enchilada sauce instead. (P.S. If you like the idea of using your muffin pan for another lunch special, try lasagna cups too.)

Veggie Nuggets

Served at room temp, this vegetarian spin on every kid's favorite food is a tasty treat. Don't forget to pack dipping sauce! (Bonus: Make a big batch and store in the freezer to simply pull out when you're ready to pack lunches.)

Fruit & Nut Butter Wraps

Begin with a tortilla or wrap, then slather on a thick layer of your chosen nut butter and top with freshly sliced fruit: strawberries, peaches, blueberries… Almost any combination works deliciously.

Puff Pastry Pizza

Talk about a happy meal. This one combines pizza with the buttery, flaky texture of puff pastry. Add any toppings your kids love, from plain cheese to tomatoes, mushrooms, olives and more.

Crispy Tofu Nuggets

If you've got an air fryer and a vegetarian kid, these tofu nuggets are your new best dish. Their perfectly crisp texture will remind you of a popular dish served in packs of six at a restaurant that rhymes with Schmic-donalds.

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

"But how do you get enough protein?" For every parent of a vegetarian has heard this about a zillion times too many, here's your one-word reply: quinoa! This golden grain is packed with the stuff, plus fiber to keep kids full. Fill a colorful pepper with quinoa, plus a handful of other tasty flavors, and you've got a protein-rich lunch to send to school on repeat.

Tiny Tomato Pies

My daughter asks me to make these pies for her birthday every year. And when her friends come over for dinner. And when it's her turn to choose a meal. There's something about a flaky crust topped with cheese and fresh tomato slices all grilled together that even elementary school kids can't resist. (Psst: Since it starts with store-bought biscuit dough, these tiny pies come together in a snap.)

Quiche Cups

One of the best things about quiche is how versatile it is: add cheese, grilled veggies, roasted broccoli, fresh herbs...or none of the above. Since you use a muffin pan to make a dozen at a time, you can even change up the combinations to suit your kids' tastes.

Simple Sushi Rolls

Don't let the name fool you. Making sushi is not only easier than you think, but a fun way for kids to try their hand in the kitchen with you.

Toasted Bagel Bites with Hummus

Slice up a store-bought bagel and give it a minute under the broiler and you'll have the crispy bites kids devour at lunch. My kids like a little hummus, marinara sauce or nut butter and jelly for dipping.

Very Pickle-y Egg Salad

The secret to this egg salad is simple: tons of dill pickles. The salty, sweet and crunchy texture makes the perfect bite with all those rich and creamy boiled eggs. (Tip: Save time with dill pickle relish.)

Taco Pop Tarts

What started as a cheeky way to use up taco filling has turned into one of my kids' most-requested lunches. Just fill pie crust with your favorite taco filling (using beans or a veggie substitute for ground beef) and bake. Again, word to the wise, do measure your lunch box compartment ahead of time so you don't make mammoth pop tarts like someone I know. Me, it's me. Of course it's me.

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