March 16, 2022 COVID Impacts the Youngest Head Start News How taking an early lead in supporting children and families through the pandemic can have lasting effects. Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers around the world have suffered from the isolation and other negative effects of COVID-19 in ways both similar to, and markedly different from, school-age children and adults. In the spring of 2020, millions of young children across the globe saw their childcare facilities and preschools shut down, literally overnight, which was the first of many blows to their social and emotional development and mental wellbeing. Depending on the child and the circumstance, they returned to their center-based settings, anywhere from three months to six months later, to find them drastically altered by sweeping changes in public health protocols compounded by staffing shortages. Play has an important role in children’s emotional growth. As they lift, drop, jump, hide, knock down and get back up, children are learning. They gain skills in language, scientific concepts, math concepts and more. When they play with others, they are also creating social and emotional connections that build self-esteem and self-confidence. “We moved to VT during the beginning of the pandemic. Head start and our Family Support Worker (FSW) provided the necessary support to assist me with my children’s basic needs. The FSW provided connections to community resources. The Head Start program provided necessary childcare for me to return to work. Without the help of the Head Start program I would not have been able to return to work during the pandemic.”– Preschool Parent A 2021 study of schoolchildren in Ireland by Christina O’Keeffe and Sinéad McNally found that, after just five months of being at home, children needed to relearn social skills and learn how to play and interact with their peers all over again. Their social development, including making connections, sharing conversations, and taking turns, was also impeded by only a few months of relative isolation. The study further showed that, since the start of the pandemic, even in school- and center-based settings, children’s play has been hampered by stringent health and sanitizing protocols. Regular (and seemingly constant) cleaning schedules, not being able to play cooperatively or share materials (due to social distancing and hygiene vigilance), and reductions in time allowed for play resulting from the extra protocols have severely impacted young children’s development. Studies in other countries and the United States have borne out similar observations.” …Read full article.