Children’s play and socialization with peers at school may seem like a mere supplement to core education, but experts claim that it is crucial for student well-being. With schools being shut down across the world, psychologists urge that later reopening must prioritize play activities above catching up on core learning. Moreover, mental health experts suggest that in-school restrictions such as keeping a 2-metre distance between students should be eased as soon as possible, as this would allow students face-face contact with their peers. Face to face contact facilitates the kind of sociable play that is important for student mental health.
Developmental psychologists claim that isolation from friends is already impacting children: they may be suffering from loneliness, boredom, and anxiety. The social and emotional benefits of play for children will be an important remedy for the negative impact of isolation on their mental health. The human interaction afforded by periods of social play lessens anxiety and feelings of loneliness and sadness. Ignoring the emotional health of children can lead to long-term mental health problems and impact their ability to learn and benefit from education. Psychologists urge that play is a way for children to work through and cope with difficult emotions, and the pandemic has already been facilitating these tough emotions in children.
When it is safe for schools to reopen, educators will likely be eager to focus on academic progress and catching up on schoolwork. However, children cannot be expected to excel if the emotional problems created by isolation are not addressed. Long term stress and loneliness can impact motivation and focus. Researchers have shown that play is, in fact, essential for cognitive and emotional development, which makes it an appropriate solution for these emotional problems. A rapid systematic review of the impact of COVID-19 on child mental health showed that children will need mental health support both during lockdown and when they are back at school. Play is not just for fun: it is medicine for their struggles during the pandemic and a prerequisite for academic achievement.Tags: children, primary school, psychology, school, teaching
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This post was written by McKenzie Cline