Lockdown researchers splash out on waterproofs after learning children are missing out on play

Researchers investigating the effects of lockdown on children’s early development have paid for wet weather gear for 28 disadvantaged Leeds families after survey data showed toddlers were missing out

The researchers, from the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies at the University of Leeds raised £425 for padded rain suits and wellies after Home-Start Leeds, a charity supporting young families in difficulty, told them an important barrier to outdoor play was not having the kit to wrap toddlers up warm and dry.

Children’s clothing shop Wet Wednesdays offered a discount on items, meaning the charity was able to provide rain sets to dozens of families in need through its regular doorstep drops, along with an outdoor mini-adventures ideas sheet developed by the research team.

Dr Catherine Davies, co-investigator on the project said: “Exploring in the fresh air is hugely important for children’s development. This kind of play is key to good mental and physical health, with many benefits for learning.

“Our early findings show that disadvantaged families were hit hardest by the lockdown. When playgrounds were shut last spring, families without their own garden had limited options. So far this winter it looks like most playgrounds will stay open but finding the extra cash for warm outdoor children’s clothes is difficult for many families.

“Lockdown restrictions also mean that parents have to find extra ways to take care of their mental health. In this period of heightened isolation and stress, seeing their little ones play in different surroundings has never been so important.

“The aim of our research is to help children thrive and we also wanted to do something practical to help. I knew my colleagues would want to support that, but I was blown away by how quickly and generously they responded.

“Our community is so important to us – without them, we wouldn’t be able to continue our research at the Leeds Child Development Unit. This is our way of saying thank you.”

Home-Start Leeds Chief Executive Officer Jane Li said: “We are thrilled by the generosity of the research team and friends at the University of Leeds in supporting our work with families, many of whom were already struggling with loneliness and isolation before the pandemic.

“The researchers were determined to make sure their findings led to real change for local families, and their support will enable families with young children to go out in all weathers, which is particularly important in these present times.”

One parent said: “The suits are absolutely great and such good quality. My son has really enjoyed playing in the park even the weather wasn’t that brilliant, I knew he was warm.”

Georgia Williams, Wet Wednesdays’ Business Development Manager, said: “Our mission at Wet Wednesdays is to provide high quality outdoor clothing that children can play and learn in no matter what the weather. We believe that every child should be able to access nature’s playground, and we are delighted to support this wonderful initiative.”

Home-Start Leeds continue to take referrals for families needing support. For details visit Home Start or call 0113 244 2419.

Further information

Pictures: Spencer and his dad Jamie with the waterproofs paid for with donations by University of Leeds researchers. Credit: Home-Start Leeds

Contact University of Leeds press officer Lauren Ballinger for media enquiries via l.ballinger@leeds.ac.uk.

University of Leeds

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Home-Start Leeds

Home-Start Leeds has been supporting young families in the local area for more than 30 years. Through a team of trained local volunteers, Home-Start provides emotional and practical support to young families who are going through tough times. The team at Home-Start Leeds is there for parents when they need help most, and strives to make the early years count – so no child’s future is limited.