Pandemic Playdate Tips from a Confused Mom


So, you want to have a playdate. The kids deserve it, why not? It’s been many long months of ‘stay home’, ‘stay away from others’, ‘don’t hug’, ‘don’t blow kisses’, etc, but now what? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have guidelines for how to proceed with COVID-prevention regulations. Individual states have developed their own guidelines for COVID public health and safety. Even individual stores have their own regulations and requirements for how to proceed.

Where is the website with tips for pandemic playdates? This confused mom has a lot of questions.

Before pandemic normal, I was confused about playdate protocol in general. My two kids are almost in school, and I’ve only been a stay-at-home mom for 22 months. I never really considered my kids hanging out with other kids as “playdates”, usually because it was with our family friends. The term “playdate” makes it feel official and formal. Almost like a parenting version of courting, but for our kids to make new friends. But now that we’re finally getting out of the house and meeting up with people, we also have to figure out how to safely navigate pandemic playdates for the kids. I have so many questions. I need a dummy how-to guide and stat. 

For starters, where do you go for a pandemic playdate? 

I feel like it used to be kosher to go to another person’s house, especially if they had the “play room”, or outdoor gear for the kids to play with. It was quick, easy, cheap, and convenient- depending on location, of course. Heading over to another person’s house seemed like the go-to method for playdates.

boy on playground slide
Pandemic Playdate Slide Edition

What about now? Sure, if we reference rules and guidelines, they tell you what you can and can’t do while you may or may not be vaccinated, but what about the toddlers? Sure, mine wear their masks no problem, but then there’s the other family we might be meeting with. Not to mention the rules and guidelines are and will be changing. Again, confused mom here.

So, maybe you’re not comfortable going to someone’s house, and you’re also dreading a conversation about masking because you have questions and don’t want to step on a social landmine depending on parental preference. So, outdoors it is! 

Hopefully, you live in an amazing community like we do, with bike paths, playgrounds, rec fields, and river access. If you don’t, do some online research. Send out that social media request for ideas or suggestions from others that have access to those outdoor rec areas. Maybe even network a little bit. There really are lots of safe options for the outdoor explorers for a pandemic playdate.

young girl climbing a structure at a playground
Pandemic Playdate at the Climbing Wall

Okay, now that we have location- let’s talk about the when.

This should seem fairly easy, but now that some parents are returning to in-person work- those midday lunch breaks with friends are not so easy. So, let’s focus on the weekends. Well, what about that long lost family time? Schedules seem to be filling up faster, but by choice, which is great. Family yard sale at mom and dads? Absolutely- I’m there! Whether we’re selling something or not, I want that family time. Sure, playdates are important- but family time takes priority. So, maybe a weekend afternoon? Fingers crossed the kids are well fed, take a car nap, and cooperate for some pandemic playground fun.

boy and girl eating goldfish crackers
Pandemic Playdate Goldfish Snack

How about food?

I typically make sure to have snacks for my kids, but do you pack enough to share? That seems like the logical nice thing to do, but then what about allergies? Or, COVID considerations? Do parents feel safe having their little kids maskless with my maskless kids, as they munch goldfish? Well, this could potentially be the beginning of a beautiful friendship- so maybe pack a variety of snacks and hope your kid wants to share.

Lastly, the hot topic button I wish I could avoid, but I can’t- masks.

Do you have the kids wear masks while outside? My almost school-aged kids have not been vaccinated. The State of Vermont says that all unvaccinated kids older than 2 wear a mask when inside. That makes sense. But what about outside? Again, I’m not saying what is right or wrong- I’m focused on the actual nature of trying to navigate this pandemic playdate life. Talking about masking is the COVID equivalent of the safer sex talk, but you’re doing it with a stranger, or with strangers, and it’s not always comfortable to be so open about health needs and motivations. 

I have so many questions. Pandemic playdates highlight an area where some may have strong opinions, not just for themselves but for their family. Gone are the days of assuming, and now almost everything is worth at least a considerate ask, despite any potential awkwardness.

Hopefully, you didn’t read this looking for answers. I have more questions than solutions these days when it comes to pandemic playdate life.

At the end of the day, I want my kids to have fun with other kids and to be safe. I want them to make friends, experience new things, live life- safely of course. We try to be considerate of other family’s rules for playdates, and respect space as much as we can. Then, at the end of the day, if it doesn’t work out- it’s okay! You tried! Just like courtship in the 1950s, or dating anytime, not everyone is a match. There is no reason to force friendships or pandemic playdates unless everyone is comfortable and ready for fun. It’s not a bad thing to find out how other families communicate either.

So, sit back, talk to new people and let the playdate fun commence!



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Kelli Hier Pike
A born and raised Vermonter, Kelli got her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Vermont, then joined the Vermont Air National Guard, where she met her husband. After that, she got her Master’s Degree in Digital Forensic Science from Champlain College. She and her husband and bought a house in the woods with 30+ acres of land to raise their two kids (4 and 2), three dogs, two cats, six chickens, and three guinea hens. Kelli stays home with her kids and pets while running her own wood crafting business, Tabor Ridge Designs, during nap-times. Kelli occasionally writes for her own mom blog, Calm Collected Mom, because we can all dream. She doesn't always think of herself as a writer, but she often has conversations with people over similar life frustrations and wants everyone to know that they're not alone. Life is full of irritations and annoyances, but Kelli thinks that we’ll get through it with a great story to tell afterward!


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