Indoor play centre own says children's development during lockdown is concerning

Owner of Pickles Playhouse in Witham, Marie Downes said the impact of lockdown has been “evident” on children’s social development.

Having bought the business in 2020, Marie, who says it has been one of the “hardest hit industries”, has only been able to open the indoor soft play centre for just nine weeks since March last year.

Marie said: “The impact of the lockdown first time around was evident on the children when we opened in September and many parents shared with me their concerns about the social development and self-confidence of their little ones being locked down.

“This showed hugely as we saw the children’s confidence, social skills and self-esteem soar after just a couple of visits.

“It was lovely to see them coming out of themselves over such a short period of time.

Many children’s social activities and indoor play centres having been closed for the majority of the past 14 months meaning that some children have had very few to no opportunities to mix socially with other children the same age or with people outside of their family.

The concerns around this have been highlighted in a survey published by the Children’s Activity Association.

The survey reached out to 2236 parents across the country of which almost 90 per cent had children under the age of five.

A total of 67.5 per cent felt their child’s mental health suffered as a result of the lack of social interactions and 45 per cent of parents said their child displayed signs of increased agitation and a noticeable lack of self-confidence.

Parents comments included things such “unsure around other people”, “sad not being able to play with other children” and were noticeably “more wary of other people”

Mum-of-four Marie said: “It is not just the fact that this is my business and my livelihood it’s also the big impact it has had on parents and kids’ developments socially.