If all kids seem healthy, you’ll still want to limit the spread of germs, because people may be contagious before they show symptoms. As soon as a play date starts, have the kids use hand sanitizer or wash their hands (and oversee the hand washing to make sure they’re doing it correctly). Perhaps even schedule regular hand-washing breaks during the get-together and be sure everyone washes hands before snack time or lunch.
Ask the other family to keep you informed if their child develops any respiratory symptoms later that week, too, so you can know to be on the lookout for symptoms in your kids.
Where a play date takes place is important, too. Homes work well, because hosting parents can clean and disinfect play areas before and after, Dr. Popescu said. Consider wiping down the toys or items that kids gravitate toward — video game controllers, swords, favorite trucks or dolls, as well as doorknobs and light switches. If possible, get kids to play outside in the yard, where germs are less likely to collect on surfaces and be transmitted to others.
Dr. Perencevich recommended organizing play dates around an isolated outdoor activity. Invite another child to come along on a family hike. Or have the kids run around in a big, uncrowded park, which will be less germy than a popular local playground.
Spending time outside could also calm your and your kids’ nerves, which, if you have all been cooped up together for days, could be helpful. The experts I consulted advised against visiting indoor playgrounds and museums right now because they could harbor so many germs.
What about birthday parties? Again, it depends on the location and the size. If it’s a birthday party with a few kids in an uncrowded outdoor space, that will be pretty low risk. But “a birthday party at a home with lots of people over, that’s not going to be a great idea,” Dr. Popescu said.
Same goes for parties held at indoor playgrounds and trampoline parks — those are best avoided. If you’re throwing your kid a small birthday party and you don’t want to cancel, at least send out a note or text beforehand asking parents to keep kids home if they have any flulike symptoms or a bad cough.