Researchers in the Department of Psychology in Mary Immaculate College (MIC), Limerick, have launched a new study to explore the impact of the COVID-19 restrictions on young children’s lives. The Play and Learning in the Early Years (PLEY) Survey examines how the current crisis is affecting the play and learning activities that young children engage in at home and the impact on their development (from birth to age 10). The anonymous online survey (available here) investigates the role of activities such as screen time, story time and outdoor play in child development and the factors that support or hinder it during the current restrictions. The survey is being conducted by members of the Cognition, Learning and Development Research Lab led by Dr Suzanne Egan.
Commenting on the impact of the COVID-19 restrictions Dr Egan noted that "Children’s social worlds have changed dramatically over the last two months since the closure of schools, preschools and crèches in mid-March. In addition to adapting to changes in their care and education, children have also had to adapt their play."
"Trips to the playground, visits to the library, break time in the yard or casually knocking in for a neighbourhood friend to play with out on the street are no longer possible. Restrictions have been placed on who children can physically interact with. These restrictions are both social, limiting contact to a small number of people, and physical, limiting movement to within a defined distance from home."
"The types of questions we’re aiming to answer with this survey include at what age children begin to understand the restrictions and social distancing, and the amount of time they are spending on screens and engaged in different types of play activities. We’ve been overwhelmed with the positive response to the survey so far from parents, early years professionals, schools and children’s organisations. We’re hoping to capture the experience of as many parents as possible, particularly those with very young children, infants and toddlers."
Dr Egan explained that this is not the first time the PLEY Survey has been run which is one of the strengths of the research. She said, "We also ran this online survey in 2019 and it was completed by nearly 300 parents. Comparisons between the play activities during the lockdown, with those who completed the survey last year, will provide a rich contrast and highlight the differences in play, learning and child development, before and during the crisis. We greatly appreciate the time and effort of parents in contributing to this research and we hope the findings of the survey will be of interest to parents, educators and policy makers."
Additional information about supporting well-being in infants and young children during these challenging times, including information about the Let’s Play Ireland initiative and a link to the PLEY Survey, are also available from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs website.
If you have a child aged 10 or under and would like to find out more about the research, or participate in the anonymous online survey, it can be accessed here.