As lockdown number two hit on November 5th, parents all over the country breathed a sigh of relief on hearing that children under the age of five are exempt from the limits on two people meeting outdoors during this month-long period to halt the continued spread of Covid-19.

But why is this? Why children under five only? Of course, we don’t have the exact reasoning behind the government’s legislation, but given that Montessori principles believe that children have the largest capacity to learn between birth and age six, I’m wholeheartedly behind this decision.

There have been some terrifying stories of children who have suffered major setbacks in their development this year, with Ofsted sharing reports of children severely regressing with potty training, saying fewer words and even harming themselves as a direct result of the trauma they’ve encountered. This is simply heartbreaking and if there is any opportunity to stop this happening to even more children, we should take it.

It’s critical that pre-schoolers maintain some level of normality during this very testing time, in order to protect that window of learning before the age of six and ultimately, their futures. Without this exemption, we run the risk of raising children who aren’t socialised and who are under confident and overly introverted. Isolation could have a massive long term impact. In our house we’re lucky. We have two older children so there’s is always a buzz about the place and my one-year old is rarely without attention for more than a few minutes, but not all households are like that.

First born children or only children run the risk of missing out on so much social interaction that they may not be able to make up for, not to mention their parents becoming lonely and isolated. It’s such a worrying thought.

I’d urge all parents of little ones to make the most of this exemption and for those times when being at home alone with a pre-schooler is inevitable, here are a few things that might help with the little ones’ development (and their parents’ sanity too);

  • Wherever possible, maintain your usual routine. You might not be going out as much but eat, sleep and play at the same times and in the same order as you usually would to give the children that sense of structure and security
  • Less socialising means less exposure to language, which could have a huge impact, depending on what stage your child is at in their development. To get round this, especially with the younger children, simply narrate your day. Explain what you’re doing, when, and why. Even if they’re too little to repeat words back to you, they’ll pick them up, store them in their memory banks and are less likely to suffer from missing out on those conversations they are exposed to as a result of mixing with more people
  • This one is tough – but in front of the children, try and stay positive. If you withdraw, they’ll do the same but won’t understand why you are both feeling the way you are. It’s why getting out and making the most of this exemption to the rule of meeting outside is so very important – it’ll help to keep us all sane

 If you’re particularly worried about your children’s mental health during this time, there are a number of charities which can help.