Play expert Amanda Gummer advises parents to play imaginatively with toddlers and not to pass on their own pandemic anxieties to their child.

My three-year-old daughter hasn't been on any play dates during the pandemic and, as she's an only child, I'm really worried not playing with other children will harm her development.

Am I right to be worried, and what can I do to help her until restrictions ease?

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Child psychologist Dr Amanda Gummer, founder of the Good Play Guide (, says: "It's natural to be worried - and you're not alone. Recent research from Nick Jr. UK for Blue's Clues & You! found 66 per cent of parents had noticed signs of regression in their child due to the impact the pandemic restrictions have had on them, and 35 per cent worried their children won't know how to interact with other children due to pandemic restrictions.

"Children are really resilient though, and I'm sure that as soon as things open up again your daughter will catch up on her social skills. When coping with child regression, don't pressure your daughter to achieve - even if you know she could do certain tasks before. Try to meet her where she's at, and support her in moving on to her next milestone naturally.

"In the meantime, you can help her by arranging video calls with friends and family - doing playful things like a virtual dance party or having someone read a story and the children act it out.

"You can also help her play imaginatively with teddies/dolls or small world play sets so the story in the play involves the toys interacting with each other. This will give her an opportunity to create pretend conversations and activities similar to those she may be missing with her friends.

"If you're playing with her in these imaginative games, let her lead and occasionally try asking questions such as, 'How do you think this toy feels?' or 'What game do you think the characters would like to play?'.

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"One of the best things you can give your child during any periods of uncertainty is a calm, relaxed home, where she feels valued and loved - it's the safe harbour from which she will explore the world when things open up again.

"Make sure you're not transferring your anxieties around the situation to your child, and from the research we know 55 per cent of parents have enjoyed spending quality time together as a family and 44 per cent enjoyed seeing their child learn new things.

"So make the most of the time you're spending together with lots of playful activities and you'll find your child is able to re-establish her friendships and develop those social skills with peers when the time comes."