▶ Watch Video: How to navigate activities with kids this summer if not everyone is vaccinated

In our week-long series, “Spring Into Summer,” we are looking at how parents can give their kids a safe and fun summer.

With days getting warmer and COVID-19 cases decreasing across the country, Americans are looking for ways to get back to normal life — for parents, that means navigating getting their kids back to normalcy after over a year of pandemic-forced restrictions.

“For each family, it’s going to be a family-by-family, case-by-case decision,” Dr. Tara Narula said on “CBS This Morning” Tuesday. 

Bestselling author Gretchen Rubin, host of the “Happiness” podcast, said this summer would force parents to get “more creative and adaptable.”

“We want to design our summer so that we make sure we really do figure out what we want,” she said. “We may not be able to do the things that we would typically do. You know, the days are long, but the summer is short. And we really want to make sure that we fill the time with the things that are going to give us the essence of summer.”

Know the risks

Americans over age 12 are now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Narula is encouraging parents with younger children to be aware of their family’s “level of risk tolerance or aversion” before planning activities.

“What are the particular health issues of your children? Are they children that may be at higher risk for complications from COVID? And what are your goals as a family?” she said.

However, that should not stop them from having summer fun.

“This is the bright spot of this summer — with parents being vaccinated, we know that our kids are way more protected than they were last summer because most of their transmission to kids have come from household contacts,” Narula said. “So the risk to our kids is much lower.”

Outdoor activities

Small, outdoor playdates are encouraged for children who are not vaccinated, as well as avoiding crowds and indoor dining. CDC data has shown that the rate of COVID-19 transmission is much lower outdoors than inside.

Hiking, camping, outdoor sports without close contact are also options for parents hoping to socialize their kids while keeping risks low.

“Camp is a great option,” Narula said. “Camp was on last summer, and it worked very well with the majority of camps. So call up your camps and find out what protocols they’re taking.” 

CBS News correspondent Meg Oliver says amusement parks are a great outdoor option — to test it out, she went to New Jersey’s Six Flags Great Adventure park, where COVID-19 safety protocols include needing to make a reservation, face mask requirements and temperature checks at the front gate.

Each Six Flags location also has varying cleaning protocols. In New Jersey, high-traffic rides are sanitized every 15 minutes.

Most of Six Flags’ restaurants also offer outdoor seating, but tables cannot be shared with another group. Families can minimize contact by ordering food on a specialized app.

What changes to expect at amusement parks


Travel safely

“You want to think about travel, mostly on road trips — think Wally World. Road travel is going to be the safest,” Narula suggested.

Listen to your kids

“So many of us haven’t really focused on our own stresses and struggles as parents and we haven’t actually taken the time to ask our kids what is going on in your mind,” Narula said. “For so many of us who’ve had kids, we’ve heard them and we’ve watched them talk about being anxious, depressed, lonely, isolated, stressed.”

The best way to find out what your kids want to do this summer, she suggested, is to ask them.

“We should be talking to them and asking them, how do they want their summer to be, what is important to them? Listening to them and acknowledging how they feel,” she said, adding that it was also important to ask them if they are “nervous about re-engaging with kids in camp or even next year in school.”

With so many upheavals over the past year, Rubin says parents should be aware of not only how their kids are feeling, but encouraging everyone to be aware of others as well.

“As we’re navigating being in different circumstances with people who might have different practices, different systems — we need to just think about having good manners,” she said. “And trying to make people feel as comfortable and as confident as they can with whatever the conditions are.”

Narula said an emphasis on social activities would help kids re-engage, and as a doctor offered a “prescription pad” for the coming season.

“Play and fun — I think those need to be the two words for this year’s summer.”