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Research Update: COVID’s Impact on Early Learning and Development

There is growing evidence that children born during or shortly before the pandemic are experiencing developmental delays at a higher frequency than among pre-pandemic early learners. Initial research studies point to concerns in the areas of verbal, motor, and social-emotional development:

  1. A study conducted through a partnership between Rhode Island Hospital and the nonprofit LENA Foundation found that babies born during the pandemic vocalize and engage in verbal interaction less frequently than was the case for babies born in the years prior to the pandemic. The researchers note that pandemic babies interacted with fewer adults and that these interactions occurred for less time each day.

  2. According to a few small studies, children born during the pandemic score lower, on average, on motor skill tests than those born pre-pandemic.   A pandemic baby is, for example, less likely to meet some developmental milestones for 6-month-olds, like getting into a crawling position or smiling at herself in the mirror.

  3. Surveys of parents and child care providers indicate that children born just prior to or during the pandemic are more likely to act out with behaviors like biting or hitting.  They also tend to be less comfortable in group settings.  Child development experts point to pandemic isolation and absorption by young children of their parent’s pandemic-related stress as contributing factors.

You can find more details about the impact of the pandemic on very young children in an excellent article that recently appeared in USA Today.

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