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Coronavirus guidelines for children and young people

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, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

As you may know, the number of households you and your children can meet with and where you can meet them now depends on the COVID-19 protection level your area is in. You can find out which level you’re in using the checker here.

What are the rules for under 12s?

Whatever level your area is in, children under 12 don’t count towards the number of people who can meet up. Outdoors, they don’t count towards the number of households that can meet either. Indoors, they do count towards the number of households.

At all levels, children under 12 do not need to keep 2 metres from each other when playing together either. 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.

In some circumstances (for example, when taking part in organised activities) they may need to keep 2 metres apart. This is to keep everyone safe.

What are the rules for young people aged 12-17?

If your children are aged 12-17, the rules are different. This is because older children are more likely to pass the virus onto others than younger children. Young people aged 12+ must follow the same rules on meeting up and physical distancing as adults. You can use the dropdown list above to check the rules in your area. Our page on meeting up with other households also has more information.

If your teen is struggling with the restrictions, our pages on supporting older children and teens during coronavirus and parenting a teen during coronavirus offer advice on how you can help and support them.

Do young people aged 12-17 have to maintain physical distancing?

Young people should follow the same rules as adults on physical distancing.

Levels 0-2

In level 0-2, if you’re meeting friends or family in a private garden or home, you no longer need to maintain physical distancing. However, you should still be very careful, especially with friends or family members who are on the shielding list. Remember that close contact increases the chance of catching or passing on COVID-19, so try to limit the number of people you have close contact with.
When you’re out and about in indoor or outdoor public spaces, it’s really important to still maintain physical distancing.

Levels 3-4

In levels 3 and 4, you must maintain physical distancing from anyone aged 12 and over who isn’t part of your household or extended household.

What are the rules around childcare?

Again this depends on the level your area is in. Our guide to childcare explains the rules around babysitters and nannies and informal childcare.


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?

Current scientific evidence suggests that children aged 11 and under seem to be at a lower risk of catching and passing on the virus, which is why some restrictions are different for 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.

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

An unrestricted number of children aged 0-11 can play together outdoors as long as any adults with them stick to the rules on meeting up for their area. So for example in level 3, only 6 adults or young people aged 12-17 from up to 6 households can be present. However, this shouldn’t be seen as an excuse to get lots of children together – try to limit it to a few close friends.

Can children and young people meet indoors in public places?

Children and young people can meet up indoors in public places as long as they follow the level guidelines for the area you’re in. You can use the dropdown list above to check the rules in your area. Remember that indoors, children don’t count towards the number of people meeting but they do count towards the number of households.

Can children play indoors together or have sleepovers?

Level 0-2

In areas in level 0-2, children can play indoors together as long as you follow the rules on numbers and households. Remember, indoors children don’t count towards the number of people but they do count towards the number of households. Our page on meeting other households has advice on staying safe when you’re meeting indoors.

Levels 3-4

In levels 3-4, you can't go into other people’s homes, so your child should not be having a sleepover with a friend. However, in some limited situations where you rely on another household for informal childcare, your child may stay the night in another household.  Our guide on childcare 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. 

What if my child or someone in our household has been shielding?

At the beginning of the pandemic, people who are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus were advised to shield, to minimise the chance of catching the virus. Shielding was paused from 1 August. However, the Scottish Government is advising people who were shielding to take extra precautions. You can find out more about this at the Scottish Government website.

Therefore although your child can still play with others you should be extra careful around hygiene, to ensure everyone stays safe. If your child has been shielding and you live in a level 4 area it’s a good idea to minimise the amount of contact they have with others where possible.

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 they know and it is important to follow good hygiene practice.  If you feel the play park is too crowded, it is best to either wait until it is less busy or avoid it for the time being.

Are my children allowed to share their toys or equipment like trampolines and slides?

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. 

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

If you live in an area in level 3 or 4, children from other households aren’t allowed into your home to play.

However, if kids are playing in another household’s garden they can go into the house to use the toilet. They should avoid touching surfaces with their hands as much as possible. They should also wipe any surfaces they touch with antibacterial wipes, wash their hands thoroughly, dry their hands with a freshly laundered towel or a paper towel and dispose of it in a closed bin. We understand this may be a lot to ask for under 12s, so you may want to go with them.

If members of another household are going to visit you and might need to use your toilet, you should ensure appropriate cleaning materials are available. You should also provide either a hand towel for each visiting household or paper towels and a safe disposal option.