With the UK in a second national lockdown, returning to life as we once knew it seems even further away. Apart from our day-to-day routine being interrupted, the pandemic has also taken its toll on children’s development.
Although my son’s school and many others have remained open during the second lockdown, the BBC published a very upsetting Ofsted report which suggests that children’s basic social skills, such as being able to use a knife and fork, have been impacted over the past few months. Among other things, the article stated that lockdown children have forgetten how to use a knife and fork.
This has sparked a very interesting conversation amongst parents and teachers alike, analysing the importance of child development during lockdown and how the previous school closures etc may have had a dangerous impact on children of the UK.
The Ofsted examination of 900 schools found that children have taken steps backwards when it comes to potty training.
Ensuring that you recognise the signs that suggest your toddler is ready to progress from nappies is vital. This usually starts when their nappy is dry for two or more hours. This shows they are now capable of holding urine in their bladder. Another clue is if they appear to acknowledge and take interest in other people using the toilet. This is a sign to suggest they are ready to learn the same. Or if before, during, or after they have soiled a nappy they tell you they have done so, this might mean they are ready to begin potty training. So, spotting the signs that they are ready to ditch the nappy is vital for development to take place.
The Ofsted report also suggested that children’s academic learning skills have slipped which is a worry. Although not every child had the advantage being homeschooled during lockdown, we took it upon ourselves as parents to support C’s academic development.
This included testing his basic counting and reading abilities. For example, asking him to point out a number of objects in the house and count them out loud, or count the ingredients needed to make meals. This is a great way to embed fun into their academic development at home.
Now that schools have reopened, we’re keeping up-to-date with his homework assignments. To help recognise if he’s struggling. We regularly ask him if he needs help.
A big part of what we do on the home front is reading books and stories to C because we know it’s an effective way to encourage his interest in reading and writing.
Andrew Leech, owner at BabyThingz, said: “It is apparent that the lockdown has had consequences across our society, and a lack of routine for toddlers and schoolchildren is going to impact their mental health, as well as their cognitive learning behaviours.
“It doesn’t come as a surprise that concentration levels are dipping among children after such a long period outside of the classroom. A routine makes learning easier for young people, and when that is removed, it becomes difficult for them to engage with their previously learned behaviour.
“Although COVID-secure measures need to be adopted, we know that having children in nursery and back in the classroom as soon as possible will only aid their development.”
As previously mentioned, Ofsted suggests that children are struggling with basic skills such as being able to use a knife and fork. By the age of five, children should have begun learning how to cut and spread food with a knife. By seven, children should be able to use a knife and fork together to cut up food without assistance. If your child seems to be struggling with these skills over lockdown, there are ways you can help.
Using a knife and fork
When they are holding cutlery, ensure their index finger is pointing down the back of the knife or fork. Give them as many opportunities to use cutlery as they can. Practising this skill daily will help them learn.
Although it is often thought that using a fork in your non-dominant hand and your knife in the other is easier, allow them to explore what they feel is the most comfortable. Break down each step of the cutting process by getting them to hold down the food with a fork while you cut it for them.
Although learning how to use cutlery correctly doesn’t appear to be a main attribute of their socialisation, basic skills like this are the catalyst for more complex tasks they will face as they grow up.
Developing your child’s social and communications skills with others is a key aspect of their socialisation. Playing outside with their friends might not be possible during lockdown, so finding alternative ways to put their social skills to use is vital.
According to Ofsted, their report suggests that older children in particular may have their social abilities and concentrations spans affected over lockdown. The report suggests that online social media arguments are being taken back to the classroom now that schools have reopened. This negatively impacts both their academic learning and positive social communications.
If you feel your child is lacking some important social skills, there are ways you can improve this whilst at home: Role play conversations: Whether you have a young or older child, role playing conversations and acting different roles will help your child prepare for socialising in real scenarios. Set an example: Be conscious about how you interact and socialise with friends and family around you.
For younger children, while being pushed around in their baby pushchairs they notice everything happening around them. So how you talk will impact how they do too. Pick up on their interests: As children grow and develop their own personalities, they will learn where their interests lie. Whether this is in sport, toys, or instruments, encourage them to talk about it and join a social club of some sort once things re-open again.
It’s important to remember that life will return to normal within the coming months. When it does, your child must be prepared to renter the world that is outside the comfort of their own home. To ensure they have the basic skills required, finding ways to support your child’s development to the best of your ability is something that will pay off in the long run.