COVID-19 and Children’s Play

12 July 2021

This latest statement outlines key facts about Covid-19 and children’s play, and argues for a balanced approach to decision-making.

It builds on two previous statements on this topic issued by the Play Safety Forum.

Download Covid-19 and Children’s Play: July 2021 statement

2 September 2020 – an update 

Robin Sutcliffe, Chair of the Play Safety Forum commented:

I am really grateful to Professor David Ball, Tim Gill and Laurence Ball for all the work they have done to update and extend the note of June 17th and that all the facts and issues raised in that report are confirmed and reinforced. Whilst I believe that some progress has been made for children, I remain very concerned that the positive role of play has not been properly recognised and supported, particularly in England. For the sake of children’s wellbeing and recovery from this pandemic I would urgently request our UK and National Government in Westminster to recognise the value of children’s play and support its implementation.”

Download updated Covid 19 and Children’s Play

17 June 2020

A new research paper commissioned by the Play Safety Forum and written by Professor David Ball, Tim Gill and Andy Yates.

The purpose of the COVID-19 and Children’s Play research paper is to summarise emerging evidence on the effects of play restrictions in terms of a) reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the population and b) the detriments to children resulting from the restrictions.

It is concluded that the current UK interventions need to be urgently reviewed because:

  • the benefits to children of playing outside bring a host of social, emotional and physical rewards. These have long been undervalued and at this time appear to have been completely ignored. Consequently, children are suffering harm;
  • the evidence is that the risks posed by COVID-19 to children playing in outdoor spaces is very low;
  • proportionate decision making requires that trade-offs between the risks and benefits of safety interventions are part of the decision process. The evidence summarised below is that current UK policy is much more harmful to children than beneficial.

Its other purpose is to provide factual information in so far as there are known facts to help decision makers responsible for play provision. This paper has been written partly to counter myths and misinformation but also to support more rational, evidence-informed decision making.

During the present crisis measures have been applied which severely restrict the freedom of children and adolescents. Little consideration appears to have been given to children’s welfare outside of the impact on education. Play, as has often been the case, has been forgotten or side-lined, yet there is copious scientific evidence of its importance for development. In contrast, there is little evidence that permitting children to play outside will increase risk in any significant way providing common sense measures are maintained.

Download COVID-19 and Children’s Play