Schools, kindergartens and children's leisure time

When should the child stay at home and how many playmates can a child now have? Advice for parents related to school, kindergarten and the children's leisure time.

School playground

Illustration: Mostphotos

The information will be updated.

Children and the coronavirus

Children in primary school and younger seem to be less affected by the coronavirus than grown-ups. If they do turn ill, they typically experience a mild form of the COVID-19 disease with mild and transient symptoms. Children and adults with symptoms primarily are contagious, with the highest risk of transmission at onset and one-to-two days before the symptoms appear. As children display less symptoms than adults, they also seem to transmit the disease to a lesser extent to others.

Read more about covid-19 infection in children and adolescents (FHI).

The Government presents relevant information for parents (in Norwegian).

Advice for infection control for schools and kindergarten

"How much snot is OK?"

An "ordinary", slightly runny nose, quite typical during autumn- and wintertime, is OK as long as the general condition of the child is otherwise good with no signs of a fever, cough or a sore throat. Children in kindergarten and primary school with a runny nose as the only symptom but who otherwise are in a good condition do not need to stay at home nor be tested. The same applies for familiar symptoms of an established allergy.

If your child wakes up in the morning with a fever and not feeling too well, the child must stay at home and should be tested for COVID-19. If the symptoms of a respiratory tract infection are only mild and no fever or cough is observed the symptoms can be assessed for two days at home. If the condition of the child does not improve, testing is recommended. If a speedy recovery is observed, the child can return to school / kindergarten without being tested.

Children who have had a respiratory infection (not COVID-19) can return to school / kindergarten once their general condition has improved. This applies even if some symptoms still linger, such as snot (irrespective of colour of the mucus) and occasional cough. Such lingering symptoms are common for younger children after recovering from a respiratory infection. This applies as long as the symptoms can be linked to the preceding respiratory infection and the symptoms are not new or increasing.

Flowchart

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health has built a flowchart to help parents assess whether or not a child with respiratory symptoms need to stay at home (in Norwegian).

Guidelines for infection control

The general advice for infection control still applies. For schools and kindergarten there are specific guidelines. You can read more here:

The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training provides information for parents and children. Here you will also find information in different languages. 

Based on the precautionary principle some children might be advised not to be physically present at school. The Norwegian Society of Paediatricians (Norsk barnelegeforening) have in consultation with Norwegian Institute of Public Health prepared an overview of different diagnoses in children and youth, and whether any special considerations need to be taken into account (in Norwegian).

Play and socialising during leisure time

Although a child can spend time with other children in kindergarten and at school, it is important that we continue to follow the advice for infection control and limit the number of people in their close circle of contact during leisure time. It is still important that both children, young people and adults limit the number of people with whom we are in close contact.

The children should preferably spend time mainly with those in their cohort (group) in kindergarten, school or organised leisure activities. Avoid playdates with numerous additional children. Spending time with other children outside of these groups should be limited to children from their own local community.

Children do not need to be told to keep a distance while playing. The same applies to children who attend school together or take part in the same sports activities, or others in their close circle of contact / close friends. Children can keep a distance to others who are not part of the groups mentioned.

Youth can also socialize more closely with a few selected friends/contacts to whom they do not need to keep a one metre distance and who is part of their close circle of contacts. This circle of close contacts should not include too many people, and they should keep a distance of at least one metre to others. We should still avoid hugging and shaking hands.

Siblings can socialise as they normally do – this also applies to children living in two homes after divorce.

Recommendations for play and socialising:

  • Outdoors activities are preferred, rather than indoor activities
  • Avoid playgrounds where many children meet at the same time
  • Wash your hands often - both before and after playdates - and maintain good cough etiquette
  • Avoid shaking hands, hugging and other physical contact
  • Children and youth with symptoms of a respiratory infection should stay at home and not be with other children or youth outside of the family. This also applies when only mild symptoms are observed.
  • A child living in two homes after divorce and who is ill should preferably stay in one of the homes until all symptoms are gone. The parents are advised to cooperate to ensure the general advice for infection control are followed.
  • Children / youth who are in isolation or quarantine at home should avoid contact with other children / youth outside the household.

Kids birthday parties

You can organize a birthday party if the recommendations for infection control are followed:

  • No one who is ill can be present, even if their symptoms of a respiratory infection are only mild. This also applies to children and youth who are in quarantine or isolation.
  • Washing of hands or hand disinfection should be easily accessible. Hands should be washed upon arrival, prior to eating and when the visit is over.
  • Those invited should preferably be from the child's own group (cohort) in school / kindergarten/leisure-time activity. For youth, it should be others in their group / class / cohort at school.
  • No more than 20 persons should be gathered when the birthday is hosted at home or another private location. This includes adults or others present. Please note that there may be local restrictions where a lower number of people is allowed in total.
  • If the event is hosted at rented premises or a public place, separate requirements apply. The number of guests can then be increased up to 200, but local restrictions may apply with a lower number of guests permitted.
  • Children can play and socialise as they normally do in kindergarten / school, but close contact such as hugging or shaking hands should be avoided.
  • Adults – both those organizing the party and any accompanying persons - should strive to keep a distance to other children and adults and follow the general advice for infection control.
  • If possible, the celebration should still preferably take place outdoors.
    When celebrating indoors, it is especially important to have enough space so that people outside the same group/cohort can keep the recommended distance.
  • Food - including cake - should be served in prepared portions. Remember to keep hands clean, both for those who serve and those who eat.

Sports and other organized leisure activities

Activities should primarily involve children from the same local community. It would be wise to limit the number of leisure activities if this involves participation in many different groups.

Exceptions from the one-metre distance requirement

Children and youth under the age of 20 can participate in sports activities as usual, both indoors and outdoors. Children and youth who participate in team sports or other sports activities that do not involve long-term close contact can engage in the activity with the normal level of contact between participants provided the recommendations on group size and fixed groups (maximum 20 persons) are followed. This means that sports activities with contact such as football and handball can be carried out for children and young people.

Sports that involve one-to-one contact between athletes, such as martial arts, wrestling, partner dance and similar activities can be resumed for children and youth provided the number of partners is limited to a minimal number of fixed partners.

The rule on keeping a physical distance of at least one metre is also eased for competitions with participants under the age of 20 where the activity cannot be performed while at all times keeping a distance of one metre. This means that matches and other competitive situations for children's and youth sports can be carried out, but only within respective sports districts or regions.

It is important to keep in mind that the exception from the one-metre distance requirement only applies during the actual sports activity such as training and matches. The recommendation on keeping distance of at least one meter applies in all other situations, such as during breaks and before or after the sports activity.

The recommendation on keeping a physical distance of at least one metre can be deviated for children and youth under the age of 20 who are attending activity camps, school camps, schools of culture, end-of-term celebrations, school-like sports / culture / leisure activities, including those organizing the event.

Groupe size and fixed groups

The group size recommendation is set at a maximum of 20 persons per group. Several such groups of 20 people can be gathered, provided that the groups are kept separate and that the general advice for infection control are followed both on an individual and group level.

The group size can be somewhat expanded for some team sports where training activities are difficult to carry out within a group limited to 20 people.

In situations with an increased risk of infection the Norwegian Directorate of Health and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health's may recommend strengthened measures for infection control (in Norwegian).

Sports teams/clubs/associations should, where possible, divide the participants into fixed groups preferably made up of individuals who also interact in other situations, such as the same local environment, school district etc. The organizer should keep track of participants in different groups to allow for potential contact tracking.

To avoid gathering of larger groups, children and youth should be encouraged to arrive just at the scheduled starting time and leave straight after the activity.

Changing rooms

All changing rooms can be used with a one metre distance between lockers. It is important to allow for a minimum of one metre distance between people in changing rooms and shower facilities, and that the toilet capacity is sufficient in terms of the number of people.

Social events

You might wonder whether social events that gather parents and pupils in school, kindergartens etc. can be carried out. The infection control guidelines for schools recommend that congestions and larger gatherings are avoided. If individual events are organised, these must be carried out in line with current guidelines from The Norwegian Institute of Public Health and The Norwegian Directorate of Health.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health has published specific advice for ceremonies and other events.

Being with grandparents

Can grandparents be with their grandchildren?

Some groups have an increased risk of a more severe progression of COVID-19. The level of risk is divided into a slightly increased risk and a moderate or high risk. Read more about who this applies to and what advice applies to those in risk groups in a separate article.

With a low level of infection in society, persons with a slightly increased risk can essentially go on vacation with or be with their grandchildren. You are, however, encouraged to be extra attentive to the general advice for infection control (hand and cough hygiene, social distancing, and to stay at home if you experience symptoms or illness).

If you belong to the category with a moderate or high level of risk, you need to assess on an individual basis who to spend time with and what precautions to take. When required, an individual assessment on the level of risk for a more severe progression of COVID-19 should be made in consultation with your doctor.