By Pop-Up’s Zan

The last few weeks have been very strange, and children have been processing this weirdness in their play. As the person who has been keeping our social media ticking along, I’ve also been keeping our eyes out for coronavirus-inspired play. And it’s been truly fascinating. Children’s creativity in the face of adversity is something to admire. It’s also a reminder that this lockdown that I’m experiencing can’t be so bad if awesome play moments can be happening, everywhere.

As morbid as the subject might be, children are using this pandemic as the subject of their own play to great effect. Who knew that the pandemic as a very real but abstract concept to children, could be used as a loose part?! I’ve gathered some of these stories together below and hope that you can see some joy and lightness in this sad and heavy time. Remember, play is the thing that will get us through this confusing time so find some time to play, no matter what.


Coronavirus Tag: a variation on the classic chase game

“‘You breathe on people and they have to be locked in the zone’ – that’s the climbing frame at the school playground – ‘for the rest of lunchtime with no human rights’”

This story comes from a news piece before the coronavirus became a pandemic. Even then, the children show a keen sense of what was happening in terms of freedoms and rights. They play out within a frame that they were comfortable in. Check out the whole piece here.


Corona Virus: the role-playing game

Nephew to his Dad: “How about you be a B cell and I’ll be a white blood cell.”
Mum: “What are you playing?”
Dad: “Coronavirus”
Nephew: “You tell me where to go and I’ll attack the Coronavirus!”

My 4-year-old nephew lives miles and miles away from me, so I haven’t seen his sweet little face since January. I was highly amused to read that he has been inventing his own way of fighting coronavirus, by literally attacking it during his role-playing games. His parents are playing along too, giving him a chance to process all this confusion in his play.


Coronavirus: a portrait

Games to play

My nephew is currently really interested in drawing. He calls me almost every day to ask “Auntie Zan, would you like to do some drawing?” and then we proceed to draw together, using video chat. This is “a coronavirus” according to him. I particularly enjoy the expression he chose for his drawing, and the size of the nucleus compared to the “legs”.


Coronavirus Goo: a variation on dodgeball

“We have a potion-making master on our adventure playground and last week she made coronavirus. She mixed glue with sand, filling half a bucket with the concoction, then ran towards other children, throwing the goo while scream-singing, ‘you are infected!’”

This is from a reflective story was written by our friends at Bayou City Play and was written just before everything was locked down in Houston, Texas . You can find our how grossed out the adults were by this kind of play, but how they let the play continue because these amazing playworkers knew that it was important to the children.


Coronavirus Keep Away: a Piggie in the Middle variation

“Anytime someone coughed or sneezed or yawned or stared off into space… “You’ve got Coronavirus!” which led to a restart of a “keep away” or “monkey in the middle” type of game that has been dominating our space…”

This reflective story is part of a post from KOOP Adventure Play before their community went into lockdown. Children have such an ability to creatively make a game out of anything – here is a classic example. Kelsey of KOOP Adventure Play is continuing to provide play cues on their facebook page, despite being stuck at home – check out their page here and be inspired.


Coronavirus App: the invention we all wish was real

“I’ve got an app that can detect germs. I just scan and it beeps if there are germs. Then I use the hose to sanitize everything,”

This reflective story is from our friend Chelsey who is a nanny to three awesome kids. Here she observes children at play, coming up with ways to overcome the nasties that are plaguing us right now – let’s hope this app gets invented soon!