Has the COVID-19 Pandemic Affected Childhood Development?

The past almost two and a half years have been full of unexpected challenges. One of the biggest being lockdown due to COVID-19. With thousands of children staying home instead of participating in playdates, daycare and school, it’s only natural that questions about the possible impact would arise. 

 

Are Children Experiencing Development Delays?

Several studies have been conducted since the start of the pandemic attempting to answer this question. While it is still far too soon to have definitive data, some development delays may have been seen in certain groups of young children. For example, one study conducted concluded that “the COVID-19 pandemic and related public health strategies might be associated with a higher risk of delay in the development of fine motor and communication in 1-year-old children”, but only in first born children (Peiyuan, et al, 2021).  Many other studies have been in progress but have not received proper peer review yet. 

 

Possible reasons for delays

  • Less social interaction due to being at home
  • Busy/frazzled parents with less time to interact with small children
  • Fewer opportunities to practice speech
  • Limited exposure to language and vocabulary
  • Virtual interactions replacing in person interactions
  • More stress on pregnant mothers

 

This may all seem very frightening if you are the parent of a pandemic born baby, but it must be made clear. We are still far too close to the pandemic to see any long term effects. Some other encouraging news is that children are incredibly resilient and many experts who have been conducting these studies and carefully watching kids through this time do not expect any current downward trajectory in development to continue. We currently have every reason to believe this generation of kids will catch up (Moyer, 2022).

 

What Role Does Masking Wear Play in Childhood Development?

Many children who have been able to resume in person interactions are still met with the ongoing challenge of mask wearing. Parents are asking the question, “Does my child’s teacher wearing a mask, affect how well my child can learn and grow?” and that’s a valid question. While you may notice that babies and kids initially react with confusion when interacting with a masked adult, they quickly recover and begin to respond as a normal child would.

 

Wearing mask only limits one piece of communication: visual. We also know that “visually impaired children develop speech and language skills at the same rate as their peers. In fact, when one sense is taken away, the others may be heightened. Young children will use other clues provided to them to understand and learn language. They will watch gestures, hear changes in tone of voice, see eyes convey emotions, and listen to words” (American Academy of Pediatrics and American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2021).

 

How Can I Help My Child?

Amazingly lockdown had positive effects on some children. Babies and children at home who were able to spend more time interacting with siblings and parents kept more on track developmentally. 

 

Play with them and interact with them as much as you can at home. As it’s safe, schedule time for your kid’s to play with other children. Kids learn SO MUCH from each other, so these strategic playdates make a huge difference in childhood development. Have a support team of family, friends, and professionals if needed. This pandemic lockdown has been hard on kids and parents alike. Don’t be afraid to call for help when you’re stressed and overwhelmed. 

 

Remember, kids are resilient. Don’t panic. Get help when you need it. Here at Colorado Springs Therapy Center, we help parents and kids walk through developmental challenges both pandemic related and not pandemic related. We are here for you and your family.

 

Resources:

 

Peiyuan, Huang,et al. “Association Between the COVID-19 Pandemic and Infant Neurodevelopment: A Comparison Before and During COVID-19”, Frontiers in Pediatrics Vol. 9, 2021, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fped.2021.662165

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