COVID 19: The Pandemics Impact on Children's Social Skills
The Covid-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the lives of everyone. Of the many different things that we have experienced throughout worldwide lockdowns, something that should not be underestimated is the effects that lockdowns have had on children’s social skills.
Our little ones spent the best part of 2 years isolated from their extended families, friends, school mates, teachers and people we meet on a day to day basis.
Unfortunately, this means that children have suffered hugely with the development of their own social skills, their access to education and other formative experiences that have been disrupted or suspended.
Children’s First Years – How Children Develop Socially
Social interactions are a crucial developmental aspect during childhood and being able to spend time with wider family, peers and people is normally a part of that process.
Our children typically start to develop socially and emotionally from birth, meeting different milestones at different ages. Different milestones could include smiling, laughing, talking, playing games and walking. Socially, we might anticipate the milestones to be similar but we could be looking out for other things as well, such as sharing, selflessness, listening skills and conversational skills.
Most babies start to develop a social smile by age 3 months. If we fast forward to around age 2, we may see children imitating others, looking forward to playing with other children and spending time with them. By 3 years old, we would hope that children should be able to play simple games, take turns and understand there is a difference between yours and mine and when they should use these.
A lot of babies born in lockdown and just before are likely to have missed out on a lot of social situations due to household’s being isolated.
Covid’s Impact on Children’s Social Skills
Without the ability to meet wider family, attend schools, parent and toddler groups and go to the playground, our children have missed out on meeting a lot of people and interacting in a range of different social situations.
This means that typically a lot of children between the ages of 0-4 currently have missed out on some crucial social developmental milestones. These children are not used to socialisation with both other children and other adults outside of home, which has an effect both emotionally and physically. Some examples are things like sharing, taking turns and struggling with speech (adults wearing masks and masking their mouths) and listening skills. Children will also have missed out a lot on understanding and determining attitudes from facial expressions due to the wearing of masks. In addition, the children have missed out considerably from activity groups and even if they attend nursery, nurseries have been operating in bubbles. Finally, with the continual changes and recurring lockdowns, studies have found that children are not used to structure and struggle to associate with it more than a typical child.
Luckily, naturally as humans we are “biologically wired to adapt” according to Dr. Jack Shonkoff, M.D, a pediatrician and early-childhood development expert at Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child. There are also things that parents can now do in order to propel their children through social development stages.
How Tots in Sport can help
At Tots in Sport, we teach children a range of sports to help them develop their motor skills but we also use our classes to excel children’s social skills. By playing with others consistently every week, encouraging them to play together, to share and to actively listen to those around them. This means we can help them catch up on social skills they may have missed out on.
We teach children from 18 months to 5 years, encouraging them to become strong, independent and to care for those around them. We teach them 7 different sports, playing with the parents, in teams and in partners. This means they cover a range of different types of socialisation with a range of different people in a very safe environment.
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A short story from our founder of an experience in one of our recent classes:
During one of my recent classes, I was privileged to be part of a very special ‘moment’ that I would not have missed for the world! Parents and children, along with myself, were taking a break and all sitting on the floor whilst I was about to address the class. Two toddlers independently stood up and slowly walked towards me. As they stood inches from me, the little girl looked at the boy as if, staring into his soul. She then took his hand and proceeded to cuddle him. He responded and started to cuddle her too. They kissed in front of their enthralled audience and then entered into a magical embrace to what felt like several minutes. As their embrace tightened, they fell over, still intact. It was only when they hit the floor that they finally disbursed from their embrace. Their audience were both shocked and delighted to have been a part of this magical moment. I wonder if these lockdown children were enjoying the childhood socialisation that they have grown up without for most of their lifetime. If only someone had videoed this moment, I’m sure that it would have gone viral! It reminded me of the hundreds of reasons why I do what I do. Working with children is priceless and giving that back in some small way is very humbling.