Pandemic and Play

IPA USA Presents:

Play Choice Boards for Children During the COVID-19 Pandemic – To go directly to the Play Choice Website click here

Children who have been isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic may have had more screen time paired with less stimulation for creative play and fewer children (and perhaps no children) with whom to play. These changes may have had a negative effect on their social, physical, and emotional development as well as their creativity, imagination, and ability to get along with children and adults. Whether children return to school in person, continue to learn virtually, or are part of a hybrid model, play, including social play, needs to be an important part of their day.

A large body of research indicates that play is critical to the social-emotional, as well as the academic, development of children. According to Klugman and Fasoli (1995), play includes many of the following characteristics: intrinsically motivated, freely chosen, fun, actively engaging, mind involving, and non-literal (pretend).  When children learn academically in a playful way, they not only learn, they also experience joy!

Play is so important that the right to play is included in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 31 of the Convention states:

States Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.

The IPA USA established a committee in June 2020 to develop indoor and outdoor play activities for children in a pandemic.  Committee member Lisa Latimer and her staff at iLEAD Agua Dulce developed a series of play activities for children called “Play Choice Boards” for use during the COVID-19 pandemic that can be accessed virtually by children and caregivers.  Even though the Play Choice Boards were developed for use in an established school/day care environment, they can also be used at home and at local parks.

The Play Choice Boards offer a variety of indoor and outdoor play activities for children of all ages and abilities that are fun and spark imagination and discovery.  They were designed for children to choose the play activities they want to experience rather than being forced to participate in a specific assigned play activity.  Parents and other caregivers can find ideas in each Play Choice Board for children to use in a playful way in a variety of settings, and teachers can find ideas to use for socially distanced programs, whether virtually or at school. These ideas are built on the assumption that children learn better when they are having fun and that interactions with friends are critical whether they are in person or on ZOOM or another platform.

The Play Choice Boards are approved by the IPA USA.  The IPA USA also supports diversity and inclusion, and encourages children, parents, teachers, and caregivers to play together.  The IPA USA believes that it is important for parents as well as teachers and caregivers to play with their children, whether they are playing in person or virtually. Such play benefits both the children and the adults who interact with them.  Please consider engaging in play together with your children.

The link below accesses the Play Choice Boards, which share ideas for nature study, art, science, and imaginative play. Where the play activity category is underlined, clicking on the title opens instructions for play or additional play activities. These play activities attempt to address play equity that includes families whose financial, logistical, and physical barriers prevent easy access to indoor spaces and the outdoors. Many of the play materials are readily available in homes, backyards, and parks. Also, many of the play activities can be modified for children who have a variety of disabilities, with various levels of assistance and adaptations.  Even though the children that appear in the Play Choice Boards are primarily Caucasian and able-bodied, the Play Choice Boards were developed for ALL children including children of color, children from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and children of all abilities.

The Play Choice Boards are a work in progress and some of them, particularly the ones that are not underlined, may not open.  Please know that we are aware of this, and we are working hard to correct this issue.  We are also planning to provide new Play Choice Boards each month.

We hope that you find the Play Choice Boards to be a valuable play resource for you and your children during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.  Please click on the link below to access the Play Choice Boards:

The IPA USA promotes safe play for children in a pandemic and recommends that families and caregivers follow the requirements, guidelines, and recommendations for safe play provided by their local or state health organizations, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO).


Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic began, it became clear that children throughout the world and their ability to play safely would become significantly impacted by the virus.  The IPA USA proactively established a committee of experts in child welfare, education, inclusive play, and playground safety that dedicated themselves to develop indoor and outdoor play activities for children in a pandemic.  It is with joy and gratitude that we say thank you to each of the committee members.  The IPA USA acknowledges these extraordinary contributors for their efforts:

Bradley Roberts – for serving as committee Chair, and for propelling the committee forward with his passion for playground safety, inclusive play and play equity.

Summer Belloni – for serving as Secretary for the committee and for her expertise in child education and advocacy.

Director Lisa Latimer and her staff at iLEAD Agua Dulce – for creating the Play Choice Boards for caregivers and children.

Professor Olga Jarrett – for her extensive knowledge and many years of experience in child education.