Families are once again facing a September of uncertainty as their children return to school. Anxiety and depressive symptoms in children and adolescents have risen in the last 18 months, adding to this concern.
The previous school year was marked by COVID-19 lockdowns, restrictions, and school closures, exposing children to a whirlwind of changes. There were also interruptions in regular family life, as many parents juggled being both a teacher and an entertainer for their children. We're part of a growing global team of cross-disciplinary academics looking into how the pandemic impacts play and children's lives. While parents were concerned about their children missing school, we discovered that children aged six to twelve were using virtual sleepovers and Zoom neighborhood ukulele lessons to restore their old wild play lives.
Resilience is one of the vital aspects of childhood development since it is a reservoir of emotional strength that kids can tap into throughout their lives. The importance of play in the development of children's resilience is well understood. Children use to play to experiment with and engage with the world. It's how they digest what they learn at school and home, and it's an essential aspect of their mental and social development. Children's play has been recognized as a source of creativity, exploration, and sociability due to the pandemic. However, it has highlighted how children dealt with the stress and trauma of the pandemic — and how play may help them cope.
The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the world of school, children's activities, and playgrounds, as children and their families have watched. Concerts and graduations, for example, were held digitally in socially separated classrooms. Teachers and parents were both saddened by the loss of their children's "red-carpet" experiences.
While some educators may argue that academic recovery should come first after breaks in face-to-face schooling, we believe that academic recovery should not — and does not have to — arrive at the price of children's mental and emotional well-being through play. In terms of children's socio-emotional management and the development of motor skills and conceptual thinking, play is also crucial in establishing the framework for academic learning.
Parents who took part in our study said that online schooling gave them a new perspective on teaching issues. One parent expressed concern that their child might lose focus, but the teacher worked hard to keep the students focused by assigning scavenger hunts for objects from the book they were reading or timed exercises to give their bodies a break. As they return to in-person schooling, such sensitivity to children's routines and needs will be required.
During COVID-19, researchers, educators, and policymakers must collaborate globally to understand and promote children's play. We think that our global research efforts will contribute to a better understanding of play's function in fostering resilience, renewal, and recovery in various circumstances and cultures. This information will help alleviate many of the negative societal repercussions that children and families face during times of crisis, such as the epidemic. It can also magnify children's voices, which are often unheard.
Regardless of the difficulties, they have faced in the preceding year; children will thrive if play provides them with the opportunity to develop resiliency and emotional health. Children's resiliency is developed through play, their best defense mechanism in times of stress, confusion, and catastrophe. Opportunities to play will be critical in regaining lost ground in a new world as we move beyond COVID-19.