Post-Pandemic Preschoolers - Starting school

May 23, 2023

The global pandemic was a momentous time for everybody, whether you experienced loss, illness or isolation. A monumental moment in history for so many. For those of school age and over, children who were in education settings will remember masks, limited socialisation, the physical distance between one another, ‘bubbles,’ a lot of screen time learning and perhaps some fear. 

However, there are children who were born just before and during the pandemic who won’t remember the chaos that Coronovairus gifted us but who will have been impacted in different ways. Anecdotally, those working within Team TICS, parents, education providers and early years teams have all noted the following themes emerging within this unique group of school starters.

Social Adaptation

Having spent extended periods of time, compared to pre-pandemic years, limited to one or two parental figures, these children unknowingly missed out on new experiences, group social situations and more varied scenarios within their communities. 

Those with the added luxury of older siblings will have interacted at home with other children, but for those without, the novelty of multiple-child play may still be something they’re getting used to.

Many parents have shared concerns that their children, toddlers in particular, had become ‘very clingy’, not wanting to 'go and play' with others without the support of their Mum or Dad. This has also been connected to educational settings whereby separation anxiety, at least initially, became more common and went beyond usual observations around seperation during this developmental period.

Speech and Language delays

At this early, yet exponential growth stage of child development, a child is learning speech, socialisation, confidence, physicality and emotional intelligence. Children learn and adapt within the available relationships and experiences and although parents will have done their best during these challenging times, many will have felt unable to provide the range of learning opportunities that were previously available to them. 

One parent commented to a member of Team TICS the following concern: 

“I think it's stumped her development in talking because when you're at home with just your family, you don't need to talk as much. … You can get everything you want. You don't have to communicate with people. Also, we were using the TV as a babysitter quite a lot because there might be times when we're all on a Zoom call, which isn't ideal … I think that that did affect her that she just didn't need to talk much…”

Screen time and technology were no doubt a blessing for connection with family and friends, online education and working from home purposes. Providing parents with a well-earned break from the constant need to entertain, educate and stimulate their little ones will have no doubt been appreciated too. Screentime increased by 52%, and there were even mentions of American children gaining British accents from watching an excessive amount of Peppa Pig!

Although we are ‘lucky’ enough to have access to a vast array of TV Channels and online resources, nothing can replace human connection. Essential to healthy child development is the need for emotionally available and attuned adults, not least to develop their own regulation capabilities. 

Physical development

With decreased time spent in early years settings such as nurseries, baby and toddler groups or playdates, the physical development of babies and toddlers has since been noted to be less than what would be previously expected. 

Time spent outdoors was also limited, especially for those without access to a garden or outside space at home. Outdoor play is a significant element of early years institutions with initiatives such as forest schools, vegetable gardens and mud kitchens. This variety of educational environments is extremely beneficial for a child’s physical development, as well as their mental health and well-being. The Pandemic highlighted that not all children have access to outdoor spaces rendering education settings vital for connecting with nature through play.

Some early learning facilities have now expanded their outdoor facilities, because they had to during the pandemic to reduce contamination risks which might well be considered as a silver lining! 

Moving Forward

How can we address these developmental differences when entering school settings? Education settings are aware of the evolving challenges children are encountering in a post-covid era, and are now beginning to experience it in their classrooms. 

Teachers and schools have adapted their working norms to address the post-covid era in many respects. Areas that have been particularly highlighted are:

  • Creating new routines with parents to help children know what to expect
  • Allow additional communication streams with parents to be more aware of their child’s day-to-day activities
  • Reinforcing the message that parents are not alone in this, it’s a shared experience 

The post-covid era will continue to evolve, reverberate and fascinate for many years to come.


Implications for children

Teacher/Parent support

*We hope this article has been helpful and if you’re looking for any training or consultancy in your setting on anything mentioned in this article or on related areas on trauma informed practice, please do contact Lyndsay, our Working Together Lead, on and she will help to support you on your journey.

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