Young V&A will show online photography, art, poetry and video made around the world during the pandemic
Cuddly toys in face masks, drawings of hand sanitizer and secret lairs under tables: a new academic study of children’s play during the pandemic has revealed the comforts and traumas of the past two years.
The research, carried out by University College London and the University of Sheffield, shows how young people have tried to cope with, and even control, the changing world around them.
“We were surprised by the variety of the game,” Professor John Potter of UCL told the Observer. “We’ve been able to compare the creative things kids did during previous national crises, like the Spanish flu pandemic and World War II. Many enduring traditional children’s games date from these times.”
The collected finds, including photographs and art, poetry and video that were submitted from around the world to the Play Observatory website, will now become part of an exhibition curated by Young Victoria and Albert, the new incarnation of the former Museum of the London childhood. in Bethnal Green. The exhibition will open online on March 23, the second anniversary of the first closure, with physical exhibits expected to move to the new museum site in 2023.
“We saw a strong desire from children to control their own spaces, with a lot of burrowing. Perhaps this is unexpected when children are already cooped up in confined spaces, but a den under a blanket or dining table can give a greater sense of security and power over their own environment.”
Other submissions include a seven-year-old girl’s “virus-free hairdressers” and Barbie dolls participating in Joe Wicks’ online exercise class. Rituals of disinfection and handwashing were also formalized in songs and games.
There was clear evidence that the first lockdown, which took place in the spring, had been easier for most children. “Getting outside allowed the kids to explore their neighborhood in new ways. The second lock-in was worse, but the children showed a great level of ingenuity,” said Potter.
Gaming specialists at Great Ormond Street Hospital advised on the project. “Not all the kids had such a good gaming experience, of course,” Potter said. “We must not forget that some were overcome with anxiety and felt very restricted.”
Related: ‘I understand my son more’: how the pandemic changed parenting
The submitted photos include chalked “No Trespassing” signs on the pavement and images of a virtual Minecraft funeral a child created when he couldn’t attend in person. There are also photos of young children with covid trying out their teddy bears and creating face coverings for hospital role play. Shown next to drawing Germs and hand sanitizer, by Cadi, aged four, from Pontarddulais, Swansea, is Young V&A’s Study of a Gas Mask, made between 1939 and 1942 by Byron Dun, who was then between 11 and 14 years old.
“This project has allowed us to advance the discussion of ‘learning loss’ as the only effect of the pandemic on children, and has given us the opportunity to reflect on how children can respond now and in the future to crises. and emergencies”, Potter. said.