What impact has COVID had on the social development of infants and toddlers?

Our nation’s youngest children have lived most, if not all, of their lives during a global pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the lives of parents and children in multiple ways: child care programs have been closed, stay-at-home orders have been issued in many states, and parents have had to struggling to care for their children while balancing work and other things. responsibilities. As a result, infants and toddlers spent most of their early years at home, with limited opportunities to socialize or learn essential relationship skills. Although many students have suffered academic ‘learning losses’, the impact on young children’s social development may be more severe in the long term than currently believed.

During the pandemic, infants and toddlers had limited social interactions and play-based learning, and many experienced high levels of stress. According medical research, young children who have experienced chronic pandemic-related stress and trauma without the buffer of a nurturing supportive relationship may face an increased risk of developing emotional, behavioral and cognitive problems. Additionally, recent academic research demonstrates that many young children have experienced delays in cognitive and motor skills, and programs have reported an increase in behavioral problems. According to a Columbia University Research study, babies born during the pandemic performed lower in gross motor, fine motor, and social-emotional development than babies born before the pandemic. Children with weak or underdeveloped social and emotional skills display more challenging behavior, including anger, withdrawal, anxiety, and aggression. Many skills are acquired and reinforced in interactions with others and in early learning contexts, and so they are also key predictors of school readiness, future academic success, and positive life outcomes. .

90% of brain developmentsyou occurs before kindergarten, however, there has been a sharp decline in pre-k enrollment and early intervention services since the pandemic began. This has potentially profound long-term effects, as overwhelming evidence shows that children who enter kindergarten late are more likely to stay there throughout their school careers. During the 2020-2021 school year, registration in the states, pre-k programs fell for the first time in two decades and declined in nearly every state, with a handful of states seeing declines of more than 30%. This means that more children than usual will enter the classroom learning framework for the first time this year, and possibly later. Moreover, since the start of the pandemic, fewer young children received early intervention services, and there has been a decline in benchmark rates. From 2019 to 2020, the number of children from birth to two years served by IDEA Part C decreases of 63,847 or 15%. All but 3 states (DC, SC, WY) reported a decrease in the percentage of children served. Under-identification could lead to increased referrals to elementary schools over the next few years. Additionally, children who were eligible but did not receive services due to the pandemic will likely need increased support.

There are many unknowns about the developmental, social, emotional and mental health impacts that the COVID-19 crisis has had on young children. These research findings underscore the need to ensure that COVID-induced harm is addressed and does not affect future development, learning, and success.

Read the full article below to learn more about the importance of social interaction skills and learning through play, how COVID-19 has likely increased toxic stress and exacerbated negative experiences. (ACE) for many children, as well as how states might consider using federal funding to implement, strengthen, and/or expand certain policies.

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Joel C. Hicks