Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Child mental health crisis exacerbated by pandemic ‘can be tackled with play’

(Gareth Fuller/PA)
(Gareth Fuller/PA)

Experts are championing the benefits of childhood play amid a child and adolescent mental health crisis exacerbated by the pandemic.

Developmental psychologists from the University of Sussex have highlighted the social benefits of children having the opportunity to play – especially after two years of restrictions due to Covid-19 – ahead of national Playday on Wednesday.

Professor Robin Banerjee, head of the university’s School of Psychology, was one of a group of UK mental health experts to make headlines in May 2020 when they called on then education secretary Gavin Williamson to prioritise play after the first national lockdown.

He said: “As we continue to navigate the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, much has been said about the need to help children catch up on ‘lost learning’ in relation to academic skills. But we also need to support children’s development in a much broader sense.

“Evidence shows children’s mental health has been affected by the global pandemic, and we must provide ample opportunities for children to build and maintain positive social relationships.

“Play is crucial for the socio-emotional and socio-cognitive development of children and young people. It serves as a key context within which children establish and develop their peer relationships, which in turn are so important for the development of their social and emotional skills, mental health and wellbeing.”

Playday encourages families, communities and organisations of all sizes to consider how they can build better opportunities for children to play to support their physical and mental health, improve social skills and help them connect with their communities.

An Ofsted research report published last week concluded the pandemic put “specific pressures on the children’s social care sector, and exacerbated existing challenges”.

Play ability research
(Danny Lawson/PA)

During lockdown restrictions some children were less visible to professionals, which increased the risk that harm was not being identified, the report said.

It added that while children have returned to school and professionals have been able to see them again, some services are either not running again or are at a lower capacity than pre-pandemic levels.

The report added: “The mental health of some children and young people deteriorated during the pandemic, and we are seeing increasingly complex mental health needs among the children who require support.

“Health services are stretched and many local authorities and providers are organising their own mental health and wellbeing services as a result.

“This is transferring cost pressures to local authorities, providers and schools and such provision can lack the clinical governance of NHS services.

“Despite efforts to help children and young people to access support, there is concern in the sector that the deterioration in children’s mental health will be a lasting legacy of the pandemic, and that children’s services are likely to remain strained for years, with a rise in demand for adult mental health services in the future.”