What were children’s experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic? An OMEP Australia History project. -Dr Helen Logan, Charles Sturt University, and Associate Professor Kym Simoncini University of Canberra, OMEP Australia Members

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Since the beginning of the pandemic, COVID-19 has been a daily focus for news and conversation. Across the globe accounts of COVID have been both overwhelming and emotional. Children have been exposed to news reports escalating feelings of anxiety within families as well as the constraints experienced by lockdowns. Very few news reports detailed children’s experiences of COVID. Rarely, if ever, did we hear from children, especially young children who are not yet in schools. 

The OMEP Australia History group wanted to explore young children’s experiences of living in a pandemic. We wanted to understand how the pandemic impacted children’s lives. We also wanted to know if there was anything children missed or if there was anything they enjoyed during this time. 

To gather children’s views about the pandemic the history group sought help from the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector and OMEP Australia networks. Children were encouraged to contribute artwork representing their experience of the pandemic. An invitation to participate in the project was emailed to Australian ECEC services and parents in mid-2020. The invitation encouraged children to contribute artwork in response to three prompts:

  • How I feel about COVID-19
  • Something I enjoyed during COVID-19
  • Something I missed during COVID-19 

Over 60 drawings from children aged five years or younger, living in cities, towns, and rural locations Australia-wide were received by the end of 2020 and early 2021. Most drawings were accompanied by children’s comments about their work. Despite a broad request for artwork, our history group received drawings only – rather than other forms of artwork. Some possible reasons for a focus on drawings was assumed to be related to the ease of submitting scanned copies of drawings via email or the convenience of using this medium (drawing) with young children. 

The drawings and comments were loosely compiled into themes based on the children’s comments about their artwork. Themes of new faces, feelings, the lockdown, our families, and our holiday shed light on some key challenges that children faced, along with a few surprises. Many children said that they missed their friends, and they were worried about catching the virus. Some children were particularly concerned because they couldn’t see the virus and wondered if it was chasing them. Because children stayed home for long periods of time, participating in some daily group activities was difficult. However, for other children there was great pleasure in staying home with their families, at least for a little while. What was interesting was the resilience that children demonstrated throughout such a challenging and unpredictable time.

Funding was sought from OMEP Australia to engage the services of a graphic designer to collate the artwork into a book. The designer worked with history group members to scan copies of children’s drawings and include children’s first names only for reasons of confidentiality. The book was then uploaded to the OMEP Australia website. It can be viewed here. 

This project was an opportunity to record a major turning point in children’s lives and contribute knowledge about how children might best be supported in future. We acknowledge this project reflects the experiences of some young children’s experiences of living in a pandemic. However, to gain a more comprehensive understanding of children’s experiences would require a much larger project to be undertaken.

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