Summer is here! Usually this would mean that it’s time to go to our favorite amusement parks, crowded boardwalks, or vacation homes with extended family and friends. As we all know, this summer looks very different from those of the past. We probably shouldn’t be renting Citi Bikes or public paddle boats. We probably shouldn’t be heading to theaters and public pools. We probably shouldn’t take the subway to Coney Island or Rockaway Beach. So what can we do? It is vitally important for our mental and physical health that we venture out of our homes and soak up some vitamin D. Some of us may be driving to secluded places in the woods or the suburbs, but what about those times when we are confined to our beloved city? With people everywhere we look, it may seem intimidating to brave public spaces. Here are some tips on how to safely get some outdoor time with your family during the pandemic: The risk of infection is at its highest in confined spaces. Open, outdoor areas significantly lower the risk of passing on the virus. It is advised that we stay at least six feet away from those outside of our quarantine bubble whenever possible, even when outdoors. Prolonged exposure is also a major factor. This is why sitting in a windowless theater for the duration of a movie is a bad idea but momentarily passing by a jogger or a biker in a park poses little threat. I know that we’ve all heard this next piece of advice more times than we can count, but it is important enough to repeat: Wear a mask. This is the simplest and most effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19. The CDCrecommends everyone over the age of two wears a face mask when outside of their home. This acts as a barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people. Be very careful when interacting with frequently touched areas, such as playgrounds, water fountains and public restrooms. Avoid these areas whenever possible. Hand sanitizer should become your best friend. Carry it with you always, and apply it often. It is recommended to keep trips to the park short and close to home so that you can avoid public restroom use. As much as your child may miss public playgrounds, it may be in your best interest to find safer outdoor activities. So what can we do outside if we shouldn’t be headed to public playgrounds, pools, or crowded events? This is a wonderful opportunity to explore the quieter corners of the city. New York City has 1,700 parks to explore. It is recommended to go to the park(s) that are closest to your home to cut down on travel time. My personal favorite (and the one closest to me) is Prospect Park. Whereas I once may have gravitated toward the crowded fields or the populated biking/walking trails, I have been trying to explore the smaller, more secluded paths through the woods. Not only does this make social distancing easier, but it brings me closer to nature. I have created an “NYC Tree Bingo” card to use as a fun, engaging activity to do during these nature walks. I have attached this card to this blog post for your enjoyment. This is just one game or activity that you and your child can engage with during a socially distanced nature walk, but there are so many more. How many different seeds can you find? How many different birds can you see? Can you explore areas of your favorite park that you’ve never found before? The possibilities are endless. In this uncertain time, it may seem scary to go out and experience the city. It is important to remember that as long as we follow the CDC’s safety guidelines, we can still enjoy the outdoors this summer. If we continue to stay informed, we can all have a safe and healthy summer that will lead us to a safe and healthy ‘20-’21 school year! Have fun!