Even though the nation’s young are unlikely to get seriously ill with Covid, we do not know what potential impact this pandemic has had on our young children.
Early years are a key time for learning and developing, and in normal circumstances young children will have been going to libraries, accessing recreational facilities, pre school classes, and visiting friends and family. All these opportunities have been put on hold for a year to help control the virus and protect us, but ultimately our little people have missed certain experiences and interactions which may, in turn have had a potential impact not only on their wellbeing but on their language, communication and social skills.
If we stop to think for a moment how young children actually learn, we realise their opportunities to learn have been reduced. Children learn by watching and experiencing what we consider to be everyday things.
For the past year here have been no invitations to birthday parties, trips to cafes or restaurants, shops or libraries. So young children will either never have experienced these things, or because they were so young when the pandemic started, will no longer be able to remember them, and so not have had the chance to learn fundamental social skills.
They will not have learnt how shops or restaurants work, they won’t have learnt to wait in a queue or for their turn. They will not have seen their parents interact with different sorts of people, the cashier at the supermarket, friends, strangers, policemen or indeed other children.
But do we really need to worry? As parents don’t we already carry around enough guilt about our kids. I think it’s really important to remember that children are resilient and amazingly adaptive to change, far more than adults and there’s nothing that can’t be rescued.
So here are a few of our thoughts on what you could do to help.
As we have said a million times before here at Little People’s, children learn best through play, so set up a cafe in your kitchen, create a basic menu, (or better still get those older siblings on board to make them) explain the concept of waiters, chefs and customers and have fun! Not only will they be learning new things, you will be broadening their language skills too.
Set up a shop, with the tins of beans and soup from your cupboard, talk about what food they would like to buy from the shop and make a list together. Then take it in turns to be the shopkeeper and customer. Throw a party for their favourite teddy or pretend to be farmers cleaning out the animals, collecting eggs, feeding the pigs and milking the cows!
It really can be as simple as getting on the floor with your child, playing, sharing stories and communicating with them. Use play and conversation to broaden their experiences and language skills. And remember, when they do start to interact with other children again, there may be some social skills to learn but they are still young, everyone is in the same boat and they will get there.
The truth is none of us really know what extent the lockdown has had on our children but what I do know is play, patience, communication and love go a long way.