Second-year BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies students conducted research during their Work Based Learning module under the guidance of researchers in the Institute of Education. They interviewed young children to find out about children’s perspectives of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Extracts from the reports of Tia Pickering and Katie Sussman
"Throughout the time of the pandemic, we have heard the voices and perspectives of adults, the vulnerable, workers and the government and their views of the pandemic. However, we have not heard from the children of today’s society, whose voices are just as important, if not more so. To remedy this, a research project was put together by the University of Plymouth looking into ‘Children’s perspectives on living with COVID-19’. This project investigated children’s thoughts and feelings, their experiences, and their life during the pandemic."
"My research focused primarily on a four-year-old child who has made the transition from nursery to reception during the COVID-19 pandemic. I found that all the children were aware of what COVID-19 was but not in as much depth as adults. They said that their parents had referred to it as a ‘nasty cold’ rather than a virus or pandemic, showing that parents tend to change how they talk about serious topics when children are around. Adults are often unaware of how much children understand, they often see children as ‘not-knowing’ and ‘naive’ to the world around them when things do not concern them. This project is beneficial as it gives us a chance to see how much children know about the world they are living in. They know a lot more than we realise."
"I found out that the child was unaware of the ‘coronavirus’; however, they knew about the ‘nasty germs when mum and dad are talking about it’, proving to me that adults censor language that may seem frightening to a child. The child also explained that when you have the ‘nasty germs’, you are sick with a ‘cold and a cough’, making me aware of just how much they know. This is beneficial as adults are often unaware of how much children know and understand, so this now gives us an idea of how aware they are of current events."
The students used video calls and drawing as methods for collecting data.
"Another methodology that was used during the research was encouraging the children to draw pictures to explain their thoughts and feelings as some felt more comfortable communicating their emotions in a nonverbal way. Some of the pictures that were drawn included the children’s home-schooling space, what they were enjoying about being at home and what they were missing about not being in school."
"In our final meeting of the month, I asked the child to draw me the nasty germs. This drawing to the right provides a rich insight into how the child sees the virus – as she explained it was her name with scribbles over it, and those scribbles symbolise the ‘nasty germs’. This is beneficial to us as we can see that the child’s perspective of COVID-19 is that the germs are over and all around her, which is shown through the scribbles over her name. Aside from the picture, the child has an understanding that a lockdown means we have to stay at home as much as we can – but we are allowed to go on walks, which they enjoy doing."
Interviews with the children gave insight into the knowledge and understanding of very young children. This sharing of children's experiences forms part of the Plymouth Institute of Education's research into the effects of COVID-19 in the South West. By finding out how different groups respond to the challenges and opportunities of the pandemic, we hope to determine how to prepare for future disruptions.