How to help children thrive at school post-lockdown

August 18, 2020

By Dr Amanda Gummer, Founder and CEO of Dr Gummer’s Good Play Guide


Going back to school in September, post lockdown, can be unsettling at the best of times – new class, new teacher, often new school, or even the first experience of school. With lockdown and the ongoing uncertainty surrounding us at the moment, children may well struggle more than normal during this time. This is likely to manifest in behaviour issues – from withdrawal and reluctance to engage, to acting out and even bullying (a coping mechanism for some children). 

child's face with sad expression
Young children may experience separation anxiety after having been at home with just their immediate family for the last few months. While older children may have anxieties around friendships if they haven’t seen their friends for a while – especially if those friends have been meeting up with each other and your child has been isolating or quarantining.

Other children may have lost confidence in their learning due to the amount of time they have been out of a formal learning environment. They could be worried that they will be behind their peers, or that they won’t understand the work after such a long period at home.. 


It really is good to talk

As parents, we still have time to address some of these issues and help reduce the challenges children will face when returning to school. First, and most importantly, talk to your child. Let them know that it’s OK for them to feel a bit uncomfortable about going back to school. Try and find out what specifically is bothering them and find ways of helping them deal with that – smaller challenges feel much less scary. 


Re-building friendships

Play dates can be a great way to ease children in before the return to school and ease worries about the social side of school. Meeting up in the park is a good option and can help children re-establish their friendships. If you can arrange to meet up with them on the way to school on the first day back, they can walk in together and will already feel less anxious. 


Act it out

Playing make-believe with younger children is a great way to prepare them for school. Either dressing up and role playing schools, or using small world playsets such as Playmobil or Sylvanian Families to explore how school will be and what may be different to the last time your child was in a classroom. 



Old school

Child sitting down, reading a bookTo lessen fears about learning in general, it’s a good idea to get out some of their old school books and go through them. Giving your child a chance to go over some of the work they’ve done previously, and ask questions about anything that may have been forgotten, will boost confidence and remind them of some of the subject matter. You can do this as part of the role play, or as part of having a sort out of clothes, books etc in preparation for going back to school. 

Try not to overload children with too much information and let them lead the conversation – making sure you leave the door open for them to ask follow up questions if they have them at a later date. 


Play Thrive Learn

The huge range in children’s social and educational experiences over the last few months is what is causing a lot of concern for parents and educators alike. As a result of this, and to support families and schools, our team is in the process of developing a play-based programme to support children in getting back into school life successfully. The Play Thrive Learn Programme is being designed specifically to support children’s social and emotional development and help them become ‘classroom ready’. 


For more information on the Play Thrive Learn Programme, please email

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This post was written by Katie Roberts-Mason

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