Maintain play for young children in era of social distancing

Keeping the distance: Children playing on the grounds of a primary school in Britain where some schools have reopened amid the Covid-19 outbreak. — Reuters

OUR school-going children have been stuck at home for more than three months now and there is still no definite date for when all schools would reopen.Even though they are doing their lessons online, there is no face-to-face socialising or playing with their peers and friends. Without doubt, this isolation has a negative impact on many children’s emotional health and well-being.

Returning to school after such a long break may also pose certain challenges for some children, especially the younger ones, if they are expected to follow social distancing.

Parents and teachers would also be anxious about their children’s ability to catch up with their school syllabus, hence it is understandable that a lot of attention and resources would be placed on the academic aspects.

However, we need to acknowledge the stress and anxiety our young children are experiencing due to the restrictions on their movement in the past few months.

So, while we recognise the importance of social distancing for our children’s safety, we also need to acknowledge the emotional benefits of play and socialising with their peers for their mental health.

Poor emotional health in children could lead to long-term mental health problems. Schools should therefore be given the necessary resources and guidance to support children’s emotional health and well-being during this challenging time rather than emphasising academic progress.

The importance of providing younger children with activities that promote play, imagination, creativity and fun should not be overlooked. It is our responsibility to balance the need to protect our children from exposure to health risks with the need to prioritise their play and socialising.

Perhaps we could consider allowing them to have physical contact when playing with their peers in pairs or small groups who are in regular contact with one another. This will certainly go a long way in relieving their stress and anxiety when it comes to adapting to the new normal in school.


Play therapist

Petaling Jaya

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Childcare; mental health


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