As the country begins to reopen, the question becomes, how do people keep their children safe, according to Linda Inmon, Extension associate-family and consumer sciences at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

The first thing to do is ensure the child is in the best health possible, said Dr. Stephanie Hanson, a pediatrician at Sanford Children’s Hospital at Fargo, N.D.

She recommends sticking with scheduled well-child visits and immunization schedules to keep healthy children healthy and to protect them from infections.

Children should also have outdoor time because it is critical for their physical, mental and emotional health, according to Dr. Keshia Pollack Porter, professor of health policy and management and associate dean for faculty development at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Considering COVID-19, Porter recommends embracing solo play such as jumping rope, riding a bike or scooter, playing hopscotch, painting or drawing on the sidewalk. If they are playing around other children, she said parents should monitor the distance between them.

Other things parents can do to ensure the safety of children is teach them about proper handwashing, how to wear face coverings and how to social distance when they are not at home, Inmon said.

“Remind children they are to wash their hands after touching high traffic areas such as doorknobs, light switches and electronic devices,” Inmon said. “Hands should be washed before and after using the bathroom to eliminate the spread of germs and virus to other parts of the body and surfaces.”

Inmon suggests that parents should practice with their child on how to wear a face covering properly. She says the masks should cover both the nose and mouth.

“It is highly recommended that children under 2 years of age not wear a mask because a lack of oxygen could result in death,” Inmon said. “If older children voice a concern of not being able to breath with the mask, try a cloth mask.”

Children should only wear masks when entering places where others are present, she said. Children should always practice social distancing when they are in public places.

“As businesses and industries follow the recommended guidelines for reopening, we should also slowly come out of our safety nets (homes),” Inmon said. “Try to find a time when it is less crowded when taking your children out.

“Remind them it is not safe to pick up or touch things that have not been sanitized,” she said. “Use antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer often when away from home. A vaccine has not been discovered, so we are not out of the woods yet.”

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers all of its Extension and Research programs and services without discrimination.

— Debbie Archer is an Extension associate-communications at the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.