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Changes to physical distancing for children

We know it’s been a long and sometimes difficult journey so far, and children will have found it especially hard without spending time with their friends in the same way they used to. However, the good news for you and your children is, the guidance for physical distancing has changed for children. 

It’s important to remember that these changes have been made based on the latest scientific evidence. It’s hoped that, with summer holidays starting, these changes will help children’s emotional wellbeing by making it easier for them to spend time with their friends. 

The information below shows the restrictions at a national level, however, there are now additional restrictions in place in Aberdeen City.  If you live in Aberdeen, please visit gov.scot for up to date information on local restrictions.

If you do not live in Aberdeen, please note that you should avoid travelling to Aberdeen at this time.

What are the changes to physical distancing for children under 12?

Children under 12 are no longer being asked to keep 2 metres from each other when playing together outside. This means that they can play with their friends without keeping 2 metres apart. In addition, they do not need to keep 2 metres apart from older children or adults. If the older children and adults in this group are in the increased risk category (that is, are over 70, pregnant or receive the flu jab annually for medical reasons) they should be extra careful about following hygiene measures such as handwashing.

Children can meet up to 15 friends from up to 4 households outdoors, or up to 8 friends from up to 2 households indoors. However, there is no maximum number of households children can meet with in a day. This means that children can meet their friends separately from meetings that the rest of the household may be having. You can find out more about meeting other people outdoors and indoors here.

What are the changes to physical distancing for children aged 12-17?

If your children are over the age of 12, the rules are different. This is because older children have a greater risk of transmission of the virus – that is, they are more likely to pass the virus onto others. Children age 12 and over still need to maintain physical distancing from all other children of 12 or over and adults. 

Children can meet up to 15 friends from up to 4 households outdoors, or up to 8 friends from up to 2 households indoors. However, there is no maximum number of households children can meet with in a day. This means that children can meet their friends separately from meetings that the rest of the household may be having. You can find out more about meeting other people outdoors and indoors here.

It’s important to remember that restrictions are being eased carefully because the virus is not yet fully contained, so there’s still a risk of it spreading. Make sure you encourage everyone in the family to keep up good hygiene practice.

FAQs

To help you understand what these changes means for you and your family, we've put together a handy list of FAQs to help you out.

Why are there different guidelines for children over the age of 12?

Scientific research suggests that children aged 11 and under seem to be at a lower risk of catching and passing on the virus, which is why we are lifting some restrictions in this age group. However, good hygiene practice is really important and they should still make sure to wash their hands regularly and not touch surfaces.

We know this will be difficult for children aged 12 and over, but they are still considered to have a higher risk of catching and passing on the virus, so must continue to follow the same physical distancing measures as adults and need to stay 2 metres apart from every outside their household or extended household.

My child is 12, but their friends are younger, can they still play together?

Children can still meet up and play, but those aged 12 and over should stay 2 metres away from other children of 12 or over and adults they don’t live with. Children under 12 do not have to stay 2 metres apart so can play with older children, as long as children over 12 keep 2 metres from each other. This is because children aged 12 and over have a higher risk of catching and passing on the virus. We know it's difficult, but it's important children 12 and over continue following physical distancing until there is further progress in suppressing the virus. 

Does this mean that children are now able to play indoors together or have sleepovers?

Yes, children can play indoors together and have sleepovers, with some restrictions. Our page on meeting indoors has more information.

I have a child over the age of 12 with a learning disability who normally plays with younger children, is this ok?

Children with learning disabilities should follow the physical distancing guidelines appropriate to their physical age where possible. 

I have a child under 12 but someone in our household has been shielding, is my child still allowed to play with others outdoors?

Yes. On 1 August, shielding was paused altogether, so people who were shielding can now follow the same rules as everyone else, provided they feel comfortable doing so. However, to stay safe, it’s important to strictly follow physical distancing and hygiene measures. You can find out more about shielding at the gov.scot website

I have children from both age groups, how am I supposed to get them to follow different rules when we are out together?

We know that this will be difficult to follow and will be particularly difficult for children aged 12 or older if they are seeing younger siblings being able to play with their friends. Talk to your older children and explain to them why it is so important that they follow physical distancing rules. It may help them to know that, while they are unlikely to get seriously ill themselves, children ages 12 and older are at higher risk of passing on the virus to other people.

Do I have to know the children my kids are playing with or can they mix with any other children, for example, at a park?

At a play park your child may end up playing with children they don’t know. While this is okay, it’s best for them to try to stick to playing with children within their group of up to 5 households and up to 15 people.

If my child is playing with children they don’t know at the park, do I need to get their parents' details?

No, this won’t be necessary. However, while it’s ok for children to play with other kids they don’t know at the play park, it’s best for them to try to stick to playing with children within their group of up to 5 households and up to 15 people.

Are my children allowed to share their toys?

Children under 12 can share toys and play equipment but must continue with current hygiene measures when possible. It’s very important when looking after children to encourage them to wash their hands and not touch surfaces. 

Are children now able to share food or eat together?

As with adults, children of any age can eat together, but they shouldn’t share food or utensils. If eating together, each household should prepare food separately.

If children under 12 can now share toys, can they use our trampoline or slide in the garden?

Yes, children can share play equipment such as trampolines and slides, but it’s important to keep them clean and make sure the kids wash their hands before and after using the equipment.

If my children are not staying 2 metres from their friends, why do I have to stay 2 metres from my parents/friends?

Children ages 12 and over and adults are considered to be at higher risk of catching and passing on the virus than children aged 11 and under. This is why it’s important for everyone aged 12 and above to continue to maintain current physical distancing measures. 

We know that this will be difficult, but it is for the safety of everyone until there is further progress in suppressing the virus.

Is hand washing still important, and what else can I do to stay safe?

Hand washing is still incredibly important and maintaining good hygiene practices should remain a priority. When looking after children, encourage them to wash their hands and not to touch surfaces and remember the need for physical distancing from other groups of children and adults.

If my children can play with other children, does that mean I can look after my friends' children?

You can now look after someone else’s child, or ask someone else to look after yours, indoors or outdoors. Our page on childcare has more information.

If children are having a playdate in the garden, is it ok for them use the toilet?

Yes, however, they should avoid touching surfaces where possible and wipe any surfaces that they do touch with antibacterial wipes and wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds afterwards. If you can, provide either a hand towel for each visiting household or paper towels.

Can children under 12 hug each other? Can they hug their grandparents, aunties and other adults?

Technically, yes – as children under 12 don’t need to physically distance, they can hug their friends and other adults. However, to be on the safe side it’s best not to encourage hugging or any other extended contact, such as holding hands, at this stage.  

My child's been shielding, can they meet up with other people?

Yes. On 1 August, shielding was paused altogether, so people who were shielding can now follow the same rules as everyone else, provided they feel comfortable doing so. However, to stay safe, it’s important to strictly follow physical distancing and hygiene measures. You can find a guide to how safe different activities here, so you can make an informed decision. You can also get advice on how to stay safe doing different activities here. You can find out more about shielding at the gov.scot website.