The social impact of the coronavirus crisis on pre-school children

Missing out on key social contact affects young pre-school children, but they are resilient and will bounce back when they return to nursery next month, according to a director at Children 1st Day Nurseries.

Schools and nurseries are getting ready to re-open for more children from June 1 for the parents that choose to use them.

There is currently no access to nursery or children’s groups, other than for vulnerable children and those of critical workers.

Just how pivotal will this enforced break at home be on their social development?

Emma Goodall is the Director of Quality Assurance for Children 1st Day Nurseries and oversees the three facilities in Lincoln and one in Grantham.

As well as caring for 58 children across their Lincolnshire sites, the firm have maintained contact with parents and also uploaded activities and stories on social media that can be done at home.

Children 1st Day Nurseries on Rosemary Lane in Lincoln

Emma told The Lincolnite there might be some slight changes in the daily routine and children will stay in smaller groups, with more outdoor play encouraged.

She said “I think, particularly for young children, it is incredibly important that they have social contact with friends and people outside the family home.

“People learn by repetition and watching others, it supports the whole development. Social contact isn’t just about their personal development skills, but about their own learning and spacial awareness.

“Young children are resilient though. Many children will have had a positive experience from being at home.

“Sometimes when children are not in a routine it can be unsettling, but it doesn’t take them long to get back into a routine.

Emma Goodall is the Director of Quality Assurance for Children 1st Day Nurseries

“I think there’s a balance. There is a benefit of being able to spend time with the family at home which they might not normally have had, but I do think it can cause a lack of confidence not being outside the home.

“We will try and build that confidence back up. As long as they feel safe and secure, children are resilient and will settle back in quickly.”

Parents’ perspective

Emmie Withers and her daughter Olivia.

Emmie Withers’ daughter Olivia, who turns two next week, usually attends Lincoln Abbey Children’s Centre and is due to start nursery in September.

Emmie said her daughter’s routine has completely changed and not being able to socialise with other children is proving difficult.

She said: “Olivia was a happy little girl, going out and socialising with other children and she would always try to play with them.

“Now she doesn’t have the children’s centre. Her friendships, at this age, are obviously impossible to keep if you can’t go and meet for playdates etc.

“I feel she has taken a big step back in her learning of sharing and social skills. We are having to tell her she can’t go near other kids on our exercise walk, and she isn’t allowed into parks to interact, so she has become very unsettled and stressed.

“She also hasn’t seen her grandparents or other family members in weeks and this has affected her as she asks for them and doesn’t understand why they are not seeing her. Video calls have been a godsend, but again she doesn’t understand they are on a screen and can’t touch them or play.”

Paige Philpot with her partner Rob and daughter Isla.

Paige Philpot’s daughter Isla, who turns two on Sunday, is missing out on nursery, but she said “her talking has come on rapidly with using the materials we have in the house such as books.”

Paige, along with her partner Rob, has used educational apps such as shape sorting and letter and numbers games to help Isla during lockdown. Along with other family members who live in the house, they have devised a routine of activities to keep Isla busy.

Paige, who is a care assistant, said: “She is struggling with no space to run around as she is used to soft play on a weekly basis and going to nursery with friends.

“Isla asks often to see her key worker at nursery reading a book on the videos (on social media) or singing a song. She cries when she sees family on video chat or when they drop things off for us. She is watching from the window or the back gate and can’t understand why she can’t go to them.”

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