Impact of COVID-19 restrictions on preschool children’s eating, activity and sleep behaviours: a qualitative study

Clarke, J., Kipping, R., Chambers, S. , Willis, K., Taylor, H., Brophy, R., Hannam, K., Simpson, S. A. and Langford, R. (2021) Impact of COVID-19 restrictions on preschool children’s eating, activity and sleep behaviours: a qualitative study. BMJ Open, 11(10), e051497. (doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-051497) (PMID:34663663) (PMCID:PMC8523958)

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Abstract

Objectives: In spring 2020, the first COVID-19 national lockdown placed unprecedented restrictions on the behaviour and movements of the UK population. Citizens were ordered to ‘stay at home’, only allowed to leave their houses to buy essential supplies, attend medical appointments or exercise once a day. We explored how lockdown and its subsequent easing changed young children’s everyday activities, eating and sleep habits to gain insight into the impact for health and well-being. Design: In-depth qualitative interviews; data analysed using thematic analysis. Setting: South West and West Midlands of England. Participants: Twenty parents (16 mothers; 4 fathers) of preschool-age children (3–5 years) due to start school in September 2020. Forty per cent of the sample were from Black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds and half lived in the most deprived areas. Results: Children’s activity, screen time, eating and sleep routines had been disrupted. Parents reported children ate more snacks, but families also spent more time preparing meals and eating together. Most parents reported a reduction in their children’s physical activity and an increase in screen time, which some linked to difficulties in getting their child to sleep. Parents sometimes expressed guilt about changes in activity, screen time and snacking over lockdown. Most felt these changes would be temporary, though others worried about re-establishing healthy routines. Conclusions: Parents reported that lockdown negatively impacted on preschool children’s eating, activity and sleep routines. While some positive changes were identified, many participants described lack of routines, habits and boundaries which may have been detrimental for child health and development. Guidance and support for families during COVID-19 restrictions could be valuable to help maintain healthy activity, eating, screen time and sleeping routines to protect child health and ensure unhealthy habits are not adopted.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This work was funded by the NIHR School for Public Health Research (SPHR-PROG-CYP-WP3) and NIHR funding for the NAP SACC UK trial (2019-3426).
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Simpson, Professor Sharon and Chambers, Dr Stephanie
Authors: Clarke, J., Kipping, R., Chambers, S., Willis, K., Taylor, H., Brophy, R., Hannam, K., Simpson, S. A., and Langford, R.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Journal Name:BMJ Open
Publisher:BMJ Publishing Group
ISSN:2044-6055
ISSN (Online):2044-6055
Published Online:18 October 2021
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2021 The Authors
First Published:First published in BMJ Open 11(10):e051497
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
Complexity in healthMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_00022/1HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit
Chief Scientist Office (CSO)SPHSU16