Bear wearing a mask. COVID-19 protection.

Parenting in the pandemic. What’s changed?

How has parenting in the pandemic affected us?

From Monday, 15 June, we see toy shops reopen as the UK lockdown continues to ease. But over 12 weeks in lockdown has created quite an adjustment for us all. And a massive change for kids and their parents. But what has parenting in the pandemic led to?

Let’s first start with the obvious. What a knackered bunch they all are!

Many are taking on full-time cook, cleaner and teacher roles with an added entertainer thrown in. Plus turning up to Zoom meetings every day. Work and quiz related. All while trying to avert a similar BBC News disaster happening in the background.

Kid interrupts video call
via giphy

The rise of screen time

All this pressure has meant something has to give. You only need a quick look through the memes and twitter to see that kid’s screen time has gone up.

Adapting to educational tech

Increasingly parenting in a pandemic has also lead to more parents relying on educational tech during this time.

The World Economic Forum suggests that we ask the right questions around this including: “does the technology have a strong educational foundation and encourage creativity?” and “Is the technology inclusive, fair and unbiased?”.

This is definitely something to consider, but in “unprecedented times”, we need to remember it’s okay to adjust. Let’s take some comfort from a study that a BBC article shed light on that stated: “children who spent one to two hours a day with technology showed higher levels of wellbeing than those who had no access at all”.

Kids and reading

Although screen time can be a great distraction, we also know that a great story can immerse a child also.  Books can transport kids to far-flung places, and introduce them to diverse and inspiring role models. At a time when meeting others and travel is restricted – this feels incredibly important.

However, worryingly recent studies have shown that the gender gap in children’s reading has grown during lockdown – with boys falling behind girls in the amount they read. In fact, the research shows the gap between boys and girls has increased five-fold – ‘from just over a two percentage point difference at the start of 2020 to an 11.5 percentage point difference during lockdown’.

Engaging reads that can be enjoyed by both boys and girls, therefore remain incredibly important.  At not only pink and blue we love the Hot Air Balloon series, which sees a group of friends go on adventures in a hot air balloon – that has bravery, resilience and fun all in the mix.  Younger readers can also enjoy Buster Finds His Beat from Just Like Me. A story about a charming little boy who is autistic. It’s a book for all kids, to encourage empathy, and show how much joy Buster gets from his music.

Toys, Toys, Toys

In lockdown, Google searches for “children’s toys” almost grew to levels seen typically in the build-up to Xmas. Something usually unseen at this time of year. “Educational toys” searches also shot up unlike what has been seen during this time.

At a time where kids have no access to their friends, is this surprising? Play England tells us that play has “frequently been described as ‘what children and young people do when they are not being told what to do by adults'”. With fewer people to play with, kids are reliant on themselves and objects (aka toys) to inspire their play.

And our pick? We like toys that help stir imaginations like our open-ended toy – Curvy Board from Young & Learning. It can be a boat, bridge, slide. Whatever the child imagines it to be.

A boy doll playing with One Dear World's Positive Parth
Doll playing with One Dear World’s Positive Parth

Dolls further encourage imagination, improve social skills, and also empathy. So often associated with only girls’ play, and not unisex, this seems a shame. But One Dear World, with their inclusive soft dolls, allows all kids – including boys – to enjoy the benefits of doll playing, by enabling children to see themselves represented – which is also a thumbs up for positive self-image.

Parenting in a pandemic – the impact on stereotypes

Then there is the subject of stereotyping in this period – how has this been affected? We’ve seen debates in the press and social concerning women taking on the brunt of childcare and housekeeping. Whereas their male counterparts concentrate on work.

There have also been murmurs from parent groups that this newly controlled environment has been beneficial. It’s enabled them to deliver the “right” messages to their kids. Without the harmful stereotypes creeping in.

This situation is so nuanced and sensitive to each family. But as explored in an earlier blog, kids are like sponges, and they learn behaviour quickly. Therefore what do we want them to learn?

Kid’s wellbeing

Parenting in a pandemic is not ideal, and the wellbeing of our kids is weighing heavy on a lot of parents’ mind. We see that our kids miss their friends too. Schools give our kids their formal education (currently being delivered in kitchens across the UK), but it also lets them see and play with other kids every day. While this makes them happy, it also develops their social skills and improves confidence.

Then there have been some strict lockdown rules to juggle and adapt to as well. “Stay Home”, “Stay Alert”, stay two metres away from people, consider wearing a mask. Things that our kids have never experienced before. So much so, it spurred Psychologist Prof. Wiseman, from the University of Hertfordshire, to create the kid’s computer game “Can You Save the World?”. The aim is to keep your avatar away from people in a busy street, collect masks and avoid sneezes. I must admit I gave it a go. Let’s just say that 5-year-olds are probably much better than I am!

Kids’ mental health will be impacted by these changes too. Our not only pink and blue founder, Clare Willetts, met child psychologist, Hannah Abrahams, to discuss this. Hannah explained: “Children are experiencing significant losses at the moment, loss of the daily interactions and play with their friends and the experience of being at school which in itself is a much-needed experience for all aspects of their development….”.

Supporting our kids

Child hand prints on paper

In terms of what parents can do, Hannah stressed the importance of the arts in this period. “Creativity helps develop cognitive ability and can also help with emotional regulation.” It could be while playing with slime or distracted by drawing, that your children start to open up, and by exploring their feelings with them, you can begin to help them process their ever-changing emotions. Hannah also explains “if children are worried and scared then they cannot learn” which throws increased importance on these moments.

So you see, occasionally giving up on the curriculum for colouring in might not have been so bad! And for encouraging a creative outlet in the older children? 2LittleBoys’ “I’m going to be a change the world and this is my plan” doodle pad provides the perfect place for them to sketch out their thoughts and capture their stories.

Looking forward

As our kids return to school – will we really see all the soft toys removed from classrooms? And what will playtime look like then? Are we going to see the rise of some classic games that let us keep our distance – while also bonding? Football and hide (at least 2 metres away) and seek. Twinkle has some more suggestions if you need them.

Yes, there will be some adjustments. But we will emerge from Covid-19. And with imagination, the outdoors, and the joyous return of teachers (!) we will have our path back – and hopefully a bit more rest too.

Photo credits:

Cover photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels. Gif via giphy.

Boy and doll photo courtesy of One Dear World.

Paint hands photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash.

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