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Play in the Pandemic: The impact of quarantine and restrictive environments on children’s play

Kelsey Graber, Elizabeth Byrne, Emily Goodacre, Natalie Kirby, Krishna Kulkarni, Christine O'Farrelly, and Paul Ramchandani.

Why did we do this research?

As the UK went into its first lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a key thing on our minds was how this might impact children’s health, wellbeing and play experiences – something we know is a fundamental part of childhood.

To get a clearer idea about what the potential effects of this extraordinary situation might be in children’s lives, we set out to analyse existing information on the impact of quarantine, isolation, and environmental restrictions on children’s play.

How did we do it?

We carried out what’s called a ‘rapid review’. It involved us searching through almost 6,000 research papers to find studies that connected restrictive circumstances (like time in hospitals and refugee camps) and children’s play. This information helped us to better understand the possible effects of the current pandemic’s lockdown regulations on children’s lives.

What did we find?

The 15 key papers we found on this topic showed us that there can be substantial changes to children’s access to play in times of crisis and quarantine. But none of these studies looked at the impact of an infectious disease outbreak on children’s play.

This means that there’s a research gap in this area. The studies that are currently looking into this will be really important in helping us to understand the value of play for children’s health and wellbeing during moments of crisis.


To find out more about this study, browse our resources below.

Research paper

Read the full open-access research paper, published in Child: Care, Health and Development.

Blog post

You can read more about this work in this blog post by Kelsey.