New Research shines a spotlight on child's play during pandemic

7 Mar 2021, 8:43 a.m.

GOSH patient Charlie plays a game with his dad

More than half of parents say play has boosted family bonds, but they raise the alarm about the loss of kids’ freedom, shows new research from Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity.

More than half of UK parents (61%) say that the pandemic has gifted them more time to play with their children and the same proportion say it has helped boost family bonds, reveals a new ‘State of Play’ report released by Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity (GOSH Charity) today.

At a time when kids face huge levels of uncertainty, three-quarters (74%) of parents say that play has “helped their child cope” as the world around them has changed beyond recognition. But more than a year on from the start of the pandemic, parents say the loss of their kid’s freedom to play with friends and wider family is taking its toll, with two thirds (66%) voicing concern about the long term impact this will have on their child’s wellbeing.

To understand the impact of the pandemic on children and how they play, GOSH Charity and Savanta ComRes polled 2,543 parents of children aged between five – 11 years old, from across the UK.

3 out of 5 parents have found more time to play with their kids during the pandemic.

The research reveals the impact of the pandemic has been acutely felt by children and families. COVID-19 tops the list of topics parents say their child worries about, with parents to children as young as five reporting “[my child is] worried about the virus and being unwell,” and “[my child] has a lot of anxiety about people dying.”

In a year where many of choices for children have been taken away for their safety and the safety of those around them, the space and time to play has never been more important to protect. But children’s connectivity and relationships are being impacted through the restrictions to play; two thirds (64%) of parents say their child misses playing with their friends because of different lockdowns and restrictions.

Danielle McCrossan, mum to five-year-old Jake who was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour in January 2020, agrees that missing out on time with friends has had an impact on her son. Jake spent time in isolation at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) and at home recovering from his treatment. Danielle says: “I know he misses playing with children his own age. The hardest was the second lockdown, he had just started to be well enough to enjoy the ‘rule of six’ and see his family and people of his own age. As he’d been in hospital since early 2020, he hadn’t seen his friends since 2019.

Through our experience of working with the play team at GOSH, I now realise and appreciate the vital role play can have during difficult experiences, like being in hospital, or being stuck at home in lockdown. Even though it can be a dark time, play offers you some light, allows the child to express themselves and gives them the opportunity to be a child.

Danielle, GOSH mum

Commenting on the research, Laura Walsh, Head of Play Services at Great Ormond Street Hospital said: “Play is fundamentally important to all children, it’s a super power to help them cope with the changing world around them and to enable them to make sense of their worries. We know that play helps children to deal with the here and now, but there are growing concerns about what the longer-term impacts of the pandemic will be for children, particularly on their mental health and wellbeing.

“One of the best ways to support children’s wellbeing is giving them the freedom to play. This is not only relevant in a hospital setting such as GOSH, but for all children as they look to cope with whatever challenges they face, including during a global pandemic.”

For more information, you can download our full report below.

Findings from our research

Contact Information

Melissa Shelley, GOSH Charity press office

020 3841 3185 /

Notes to Editors

Savanta ComRes interviewed 2,543 parents of children aged 5-11 online between 10th and 29th December 2020. Data tables can be found at

About Great Ormond Street Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity:

Great Ormond Street Hospital is one of the world’s leading children’s hospitals with the broadest range of dedicated, children’s healthcare specialists under one roof in the UK. The hospital’s pioneering research and treatment gives hope to children from across the UK with the rarest, most complex and often life-threatening conditions. Our patients and families are central to everything we do – from the moment they come through the door and for as long as they need us.

Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity needs to raise money to support the hospital to give seriously ill children, the best chance for life. The charity funds research into pioneering new treatments for children, provides the most up to date medical equipment, funds support services for children and their families and supports the essential rebuilding and refurbishment of the hospital. You can help us to provide world class care for our patients and families. For more information visit