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Playtime during a pandemic

By Ana Niculae April 09, 2021

How the pandemic has affected children on playtime/screen time

These are not normal times. We are more inside, there is barely any social contact and things are just not as it used to be. In this article I will be focusing on the negative impact the pandemic has had on children, with a focus on playtime. 

With barely any social contact it has been a hard time for the children. Extracurricular activities are not possible, and the majority of schools around the world are closed. Meaning that there is barely any chance or not a chance at all to socialize with the other children. This can have negative effects on their social behaviour development. There are many skills and behaviour you develop during playtime with the other children. Such as sharing, teamwork, solution solving, and many more. Furthermore, children also learn who they are as a person during playtime. This can result in introversion or extraversion and from there on it can branch out. Character development during playtime will be shown very quickly, especially when playing together with a group. This can result in showing that a child can be a leader, or a follower and many more things. Playtime is also important to show the interests children have. Are they creative, athletic, or into music and so on. However, in a time like this where curricular activities are not open or cannot be played, it is difficult for children to know what they like and dislike. 

Credit:' Kids vector created by pikisuperstar -

How can we stimulate children to still have playtime even during a difficult time like this? The first one is to make use of your everyday surroundings and the people in it. Since every country is different with their regulations regarding COVID-19, this can mean for some parents that children still have school physically, and just lead their lives as usual, just without the curricular activities. However, the majority of the world right now is at home, meaning that a lot of parents are homeschooling their children. Of course there is some help from the teachers online but the pressure is on at home. With a completely new routine that has been going on for a year already, it is still not an easy task to get used to. Children get restless and annoyed by staying behind a laptop all day. Without the interaction of their classmates and seeing the same environment every day it gets boring very fast. Children of a young age still need to be inspired, stimulated and challenged every day to get the best out of their development. To make sure this happens every day even with the pandemic right now it can be challenging for parents to make sure their children are indeed getting the most out of their development every day. 

Before COVID-19 parents relied on school or the other extracurricular activities they had to keep the children entertained and busy. However, now that everybody is at home, there is not much that keeps the children busy. Research has shown that keeping a stable routine every day is what helps the children more with their development as well as keeping life as normal as possible. Of course, this goes without saying that the parents should be more involved and have to do more as well. With everybody at home, it will be easier for the parents to be more involved. It takes creative thinking to engage the children more instead of just letting them in front of an ipad. For example, set up a home theatre, and pretend you are at the cinema. Or redecorate their room, the list is endless of all the possibilities that parents can do with their children during the pandemic. It does take more energy from the parents and that they have to be more involved. However, if you let the children be in front of a laptop all day and then let them play with the ipad, in the long run this will not help with their development. Study has shown that children who are more online and have an increased screen time tend to be more self-involved, meaning that the child can shut everyone out and is just busy with being in the online world. Therefore, it is important to have a scheduled routine so everybody knows what they should be doing at what times. These routines should still consist of playtime, whether that is outside or inside and a time slot for screen time. This will give the children a sense of normality, structure and a space for their development. A routine is not only beneficial for the children, but for the parents as well. Not only will it create a better bond between the parents and children, but there is more quality time as well. 

In conclusion, playtime should still be there even during a pandemic. Playtime has a more positive outcome instead of an increased screen time. This does require more creativity and engagement of the parents. However, in the end everybody will gain more from having a routine. 



Children’s Social Behaviour for Learning (SBL): reported and observed social behaviours in contexts of school and home by Laura Fischer and Fiona Spencer

Children’s Play In The COVID-19 Pandemic by Chiel van der Veen, Mireille Smits-van der Nat, Femke van der Wilt and Elizabeth Wynberg 

Digital Screen Time During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Risk for a Further Myopia Boom? By Chee Wai Wong, Andrew Tsai, Jost B. Jonas, Kyoko Ohno-Matsui, James Chen, Marcus Ang, Daniel Shu Wei Ting

Healthy movement behaviours in children and youth during the COVID-19 pandemic: Exploring the role of the neighbourhood environment by Raktim Mitra, Sara A. Moore, Meredith Gillespie, Guy Faulkner, Leigh M. Vanderloo, Tala Chulak-Bozzer, Ryan E. Rhodes, Mariana Brussoni, Mark S. Tremblay

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