Looking back on a year of play in the pandemic - Part 2, Summer 2020

Picking up in May 2020, Yinka Olusoga continues her review of a year of play during the pandemic with part 2, looking at the summer months.

In May there’s a burst of digital creativity in the house. Using small loose-parts play materials, some photo frames, LEGO mini-figures and an animator app on an iPad, my son works alone over several days to create a stop-motion animation called ‘Bumblebee versus Sinestro’. We WhatsApp it later to the family and he is very proud of the messages from his grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Storyboarding and set design for a stop-motion animation, May 2020

In June my daughter is very busy with online work from her high school. My son turns to Skype to replace his sibling play with cousin play. His cousin of the same age lives a hundred miles away and in non-pandemic times they see each other perhaps four times a year, during which they play intensely. Now they start spending long periods of each day on Skype, playing on the PS4 together, watching television together, even eating together with iPads on their respective tables at lunchtime as they eat and chat. My son decides that this would work better if he could create a robot body. It would have an iPad for a head so that when they Skype it would feel like his cousin was actually there playing in our home, so he draws up a plan for a prototype.

Design for a robot to make Skyping someone feel more like being with them in person, June 2020

July sees the end of shielding so I can join my husband and children on walks in the field and wood near our house. Inspired by a younger cousin, my children ask for a kite which we take out on my first walk since March. On the open field, to me the sky seems huge and a bit intimidating after so long in the confines of my back garden or standing on the driveway in our cul-de-sac. Together my children get to grips with kite-flying, particularly enjoying making their parents shriek and jump out of the way when the kite suddenly swoops down low.

Learning to fly a kite, July 2020

August begins with the children attending their cousin’s 10th birthday party in Canada via Zoom. We join in singing happy birthday to her with friends and family in Canada, the UK and Nigeria. By mid-August we are on holiday, staying in a cottage at the Yorkshire coast, and everything feels simultaneously familiar but different. Instead of spending all day at the beach, we go in the evenings when the crowds are leaving, as they make my children anxious. My son jumps over waves as usual, but insists on wearing his face mask to feel safe. We visit Whitby Abbey, booking in for a specific time. Last time we were there was in 2019, to meet up with their aunt and cousin and attend a crowded Viking festival. This time we have the Abbey virtually to ourselves. The children enjoy running around the ruins, listening to the echoes of their shrieks. As we walk around they point out where the busy Viking village was the previous year and attempt to re-enact the Viking battle demonstration we had watched. We remember squeezing our way through the crowd of onlookers then, which now seems unthinkable and makes us all shudder.

On holiday in the pandemic, August 2020

What memories of children’s play and leisure do you have from summer 2020? Please share them with us by contributing to the Play Observatory online survey.

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