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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

'We are talking 4- and 5-year-olds who are throwing chairs, biting, hitting ... '

Covid toddlers are now in school, and teachers say many are not doing very well, report Claire Cain Miller and Sarah Mervosh in the New York Times. Compared to pre-pandemic preschoolers and kindergarteners, they are "less likely to have age-appropriate skills — to be able to hold a pencil, communicate their needs, identify shapes and letters, manage their emotions or solve problems with peers."

“They’re coming in and they don’t know how to play,” says Brook Allen, a veteran kindergarten teacher in Tennessee. This year, for the first time, she had students who could barely speak, students who were not toilet trained and others who "did not have the fine motor skills to hold a pencil."

Behavior is much worse. "We are talking 4- and 5-year-olds who are throwing chairs, biting, hitting, without the self-regulation," says Tommy Sheridan, deputy director of the National Head Start Association.

"Researchers said several aspects of the pandemic affected young children," write Miller and Mervosh. Parental stress was high. Children played less with other children. Child care centers and preschools closed. Remember when parks closed their playgrounds? Unlike the policy in every other country, U.S. parents were told to put their young children in masks if they ventured outside. Children "spent less time overhearing adult interactions that exposed them to new language, like at the grocery store or the library," they write.

And, of course, kids of all ages spent more time on screens.

Time on screens also spiked during the pandemic — as parents juggled work and children cooped up at home — and screen time stayed up after lockdowns ended. Many teachers and early childhood experts believe this affected children’s attention spans and fine motor skills. Long periods of screen time have been associated with developmental delays.

Heidi Tringali, an occupational therapist in North Carolina, is seeing “visual problems, core strength, social skills, attention — all the deficits.” Children aren't outside playing enough, she says.

“They don’t have the muscle strength because everything they are doing at home is screen time. They are just swiping,” says Sarrah Hovis, preschool teacher in Michigan.

Academically, children from low-income and black or Hispanic communities are doing worse than others and boys are doing worse than girls, concludes a Curriculum Associates report. What's most alarming, write Miller and Mervosh, is that "the students who are the furthest behind are making the least progress catching up." The gaps are widening.

That may be due to poor attendance. Low-income parents, in particular, were persuaded that schools are unsafe, germ-laden places and that their kids are "safer at home." If the neighborhood school tolerates kids who throw chairs, bite and hit others, they're not likely to change their minds.


Jul 04

It's heartbreaking to see the long-term impact the pandemic has had on our youngest children. It seems like a perfect storm of reduced social interaction, increased screen time, and heightened stress levels for both parents and children. geometry dash


Jul 02

Boys and minorities hardest hit. Thanks, Fauci and Co.


Jul 02

My friends and I didn't get vaccinated, spent lots of time together (taking obvious precautions like cancelling if any of us was sick), played with their kids, and none of their kids have any issues whatsoever with delayed development. Their screen time is limited to the occasional movie (which they often ignore and play with toys and each other instead of watching) and tablets while commuting in the car. I know it's anecdotal, but collect enough anecdotes and they become data. 😊

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