74% of Parents Use Play to Help Kids Fight Loneliness During Pandemic


February 15, 2021 | With the pandemic continuing to limit children’s social interactions with friends and family, new research commissioned by The Genius of Play and conducted by OnePoll revealed seven out of 10 parents are concerned COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on their children’s social and emotional growth and development.

The survey of 2,000 parents with children ages 2-18 found that one of parents’ biggest concerns was whether their children would be able to develop the critical social skills necessary to form relationships:

  • 68 percent believe that their child's social skills will be stunted as a result of spending so much time in isolation.

  • 52 percent worried their child will have trouble connecting with people in-person in the future.

  • 44 percent worried their child would have more difficulty playing with their peers.

  • 44 percent worried their child would have more difficulty making friends in the future.

“Children have felt the emotional weight of being isolated from family and friends for almost a year,” said Anna Yudina, senior director of marketing initiatives at The Toy Association, which spearheads The Genius of Play. “The good news is that this time of social distancing has also brought families closer together, with play serving as a key tool to connect, build memories, and relieve stress.”

Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) said they believed during 2020 their child was lonelier than ever before a feeling that carried over into their own lives (64 percent reported they, too, felt lonelier than ever). And with mental health continuing to remain a focus both for their children and themselves, the survey showed many parents have taken active steps to help their children combat these feelings of isolation through play:

  • 74 percent have encouraged their child to play more to balance out their feelings of loneliness.

  • 49 percent said they are spending more time outside.

  • 48 percent set up virtual playdates for their kids with friends.

  • 50 percent are ensuring their kids spend time virtually with other family members.

The survey also highlighted the overall difficulties and challenges of parenting during the pandemic, and the emotional toll it has taken on parents’ lives. While 65 percent said it was harder to parent in 2020 than in any other year, 76 percent of parents said playing with their child has been a positive escape from the reality of the pandemic.

To help families play through their feelings and stay connected, The Genius of Play continues to update its website with new play ideas that specifically benefit social and emotional health. To learn more, visit thegeniusofplay.org.