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Has Children’s play changed due to Covid-19?

Has children’s play changed during these (what I call) weird times called Coronavirus? Do they play differently? Has their play taken on a new ‘tone’ or manner of play?

Some Background

Early into this, around the end of March, the majority of the families attending my program decided to hunker down at home. We were being told to stay home, limit our exposure to people outside our bubble. As everyone well remembers schools were closed, many business were closed or greatly changing the way they did business, and people were embracing this call to action and we were flattening the curve in Manitoba. I was happy and relieved to be operating a small program.

I was able to stay open and with discussion with my husband who is in the EMS field, I decided to offer care to essential service workers. I had very few children needing care which was interesting as we were told so many families were in desperate need. By June we were pretty much back up to full capacity, spending the vast majority of our time outside enjoying being back together. We did all this while helping to flatten our curve, maintaining quality and not having to wear a mask as we were told we were low risk. All was happy in my world until September hit!

We have to WHAT?

Our province now had raising covid numbers, many people seemed to be not following the rules, and the curve was very far from flat! Word came down that staff in child care programs and children 9 years and older are to wear a mask inside.

To say I took this news with grace would be incorrect. Oh, I had a hissy fit, I swore, I ranted and raved, I cried, I swore some more… and I put on the darn mask. It has taken a few days (actually weeks) but I am adjusting more and more. I still have some tough times like when trying to get shoes on a child, I have an age related heat surge and I work up a sweat and get all hot inside that mask! It’s a challenge to keep the frustration at bay.  I am glad this didn’t come into effect in the heat of the summer.

Has Play Changed?

So… back to my original question; has children’s play changed due to Covid-19? I really have not seen any here. They are still playing the same types of games and pretend play they engaged in before; horses, puppies, science type experiments, caring for babies, Zombies, catch the bad guys, etc. The themes have not included talk or play around ‘the virus’ and it hasn’t involved wearing masks. The kids have just seemed to take it all in stride. They left on a Friday with everything the same as they have always know it here and returned after the weekend with us greeting them in masks and they just walked in and carried on like usual.

I am sure they have been seeing others wearing masks in public places long before we had to here so this would not be completely unknown to them. Lunch time talk sometimes includes asking if “the virus’ is gone yet. The information and language the kids use has always been “bang on”! They are obviously listening to family members, siblings, the news, or others. There is never a feeling of fear or uncertainly in the conversations. They are all very matter of fact about it.

As a strong supporter of sitting back and observing children, I am actually surprised by some of this. My adult brain thought there would more covid play or uncertainly of us in masks but the kids have not displayed this at all. This includes the infants we care for. I am sure this might be a different conversation if we had to put masks on preschool children and I certainly hope it does not come to that here. We talk often about how resilient children are. There are a few out there who want to challenge that. There are some who suggest children need to see ALL of our face. I don’t disagree but I also know from being in a mask for the few weeks now that kids still can understand our feelings with them on. The see our eyes, they know when we’re smiling or when we are displaying that “what are you doing?” look. They can still hear our voices. Children are capable! They are handling it! (with more grace than me somedays)

I feel like the adults are the ones who are struggling. Maybe it is because we are more set in our ways, we know how much we are missing (all those plans we had) and the kids are just glad to be slowing down and able to spend more time with family rather than having to run from this activity to the next.  There are more movie nights at home, snuggles, books being read, games being played, walks being taken, and just a general slowing of the pace.

Try to enjoy this slower pace and remember all the joy that was shared when things ‘get back to normal”.

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