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Pandemic Play - with Judy McKinty

Where there are children, there is play. It is a universal impulse, as old as humanity. Physical play, verbal play, friendship play, solitary play – it is the exercise of body and imagination, marked by humour, challenge, invention and exploration. As essential to childhood as food and drink.

Dr. June Factor


The Pandemic Play project came about because of this moment in history that we all share, and the recognition of the importance of play in the lives of children. The project was created by a group of independent researchers and academics, including Play Australia member Judy McKinty, to document and research the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children's play.  Judy and Ruth Hazleton are coordinating the project, with the support of colleagues from three states.

As Dr Factor states, play is fundamental to children's health and wellbeing.  So the researchers want to know how living through the current disruption to children's lives, the social distancing, isolation from school and friends, and lockdowns, has impacted how children play. Play is a child's expression of how they are feeling. They play out what their interpretation of the world is through their play. In order to understand how they are feeling and dealing with this unusual experience, this special research project has been developed. 

Pandemic Play follows closely on the heels of a personal undertaking Judy started outside her home in Victoria. Creating a community space for people to connect and offering a moment of playfulness for all that pass her door, Judy created a changing chalk Hopscotch court on the footpath for chidlren and adults to stop, play and enjoy. 

Hopscotch is a traditional game played by generations of children, and there are many adults who remember playing it as well!

Hopscotch is a universal game

Playing Hopscotch with Japanese numbers. Source: Museums Victoria

In these times of social distancing and not being able to touch each other, Hopscotch is perfect.  You can play with a group of friends, you take it in turns, each person has their own playing piece or 'taw', no personal touching required. It’s one of those games that gets embedded in you. There are many adults that had a surreptitious little hop as they are passing, so then Judy created a bigger Hopscotch court one for adult jumpers and a smaller one for the little legs. 



A key part of drawing the Hopscotch on the footpath is that it is common space, the Hopscotch belongs to the community, everyone owns it, and anyone has permission to play, children and adults alike.  

So it's not only Hopscotch. Judy decided to offer ideas of other games children could play. Attached to the tree at the front gate were games, riddles and jokes. People need a laugh right now. They leave the space smiling and laughing out loud.  


Now Judy is calling for your participation and contributions

You are the people with the knowledge and the information! 

  • How has not being able to play as much affected children?
  • Did they miss the school yard games and time with friends?
  • How have they adapted games they play? Any COVID-19 themed games?
  • Have you observed any changes in children's behaviour during play? 

It's such an important thing to understand. It has not happened in our lifetime, and it is a unique experience to capture and learn from.  

Please take the time to contribute to Pandemic Play. If you are at home with your children, sit down and talk with them about what they've been playing, or answer the questions on the website, and send your information in my email or via Facebook. Your participation can assist research for the future and how to support our children's play. 

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Read more about Judy McKinty's contribution to Play here, as a Joan Matheson Distingushed Service Award winner. This award recognises significant contribution to the development, promotion and advocacy of play in Australia.

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