Springtime is upon us; however, the COVID-19 crisis is preventing many from enjoying the warm weather and beautiful scenery the way they ordinarily would. Spring trips to the park aren’t so easy this year, as authorities across the country close public parks to comply with social distancing. In some cases, parents have even been hit with fines and arrests for taking their kids to the playground or park.
Despite this emphasis on staying in, experts are warning that it’s still essential for kids to play outdoors when they can.
COVID-19 Playground Arrest, Fines
Last month, Ontario dad Todd Nelson took his three sons rollerblading at a community center parking lot. The decision ended up being a costly one, as a police officer quickly told Nelson that he and his sons had to leave.
“I just said, ‘Who are we hurting?’,” Nelson said, per Global News. “He said, ‘Oh, you’re not going to be like that, are you?’ And I said, ‘I’m just asking a question.’ And that was it. He said, ‘Give me your ID,’ and the next thing you know we got a ticket.” Nelson’s ticket reportedly totaled $880 for violating an emergency order.
Meanwhile, a former police officer in Colorado was cuffed in front of his family after taking them to a park. “[We were] just having a good time, not near anybody else,” Matt Mooney told ABC News. “The next closest person [was] at least 15 feet away from me and my daughter.”
Mooney said police told them to leave the park. In response, he told them his family was practicing safe social distancing, and declined to show identification.
“They ten proceeded to make a threat against me saying, ‘If you don’t give us your identification, if you don’t identify yourself, we’re going to put you in handcuffs in front of your 6-year-old daughter.’” Mooney was then reportedly cuffed and placed in a patrol car for 10 to 15 minutes. The Brighton Police Department has since apologized for the incident.
Importance of Outdoor Play
Wendy Glauser, a health and science writer from Toronto, says police actions like these can give parents the impression that their kids shouldn’t play outside.
“I wouldn’t want to suggest that we don’t need to exercise physical distancing outside,” Glauser wrote in Canadian publication Maclean’s, citing the high communicability of COVID-19 in crowds. However, she maintains that outdoor play remains crucial for children regardless.
“Now that recreational programming has been cancelled, most kids will get their dose of physical activity though active play – kicking a ball on grass, shooting hoops, or playing hide and seek,” Glauser wrote. “We don’t think of it as exercise the same way we do jogging or walking, but that’s their version of it, and it’s highly effective.”
In this time of social isolation, Glauser says medical officials should continue to emphasize the importance of outdoor play for children. “Medical authorities should not just allow, but recommend, daily outdoor exercise, especially for children,” Glauser wrote, “and they should reassure parents it can be done safely, no matter where they live.”