Pandemic Play

Submissions to this project have now closed. We would like to thank everyone who has participated. We are now working to finalise the project archive, and access details will be posted here in due course.

Capturing children’s experiences for future generations

The Covid-19 pandemic has hugely affected all of our day-to-day lives. Beginning in February children started to be taught songs to help them to wash their hands for 20 seconds and from the 23rd March they stopped being able to play at playgrounds, at school or nursery, or with their friends.

One of the ways that children cope in challenging situations is through their play. We have heard stories of children making up new games that are virus-related, playing in a way that reflects their feelings about the virus, and finding new ways to play with their friends with social distancing in place.

Because this is a unique moment in history, we want to create a collection of memories of how children’s play changed during the pandemic. We are therefore looking for adults who can share with us descriptions, drawings or photographs of children’s play during the Covid-19 pandemic that will together form the Pandemic Play Archive. The aim is to preserve this archive for a long time so that future generations can learn about children’s experiences of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic.

We would particularly like written descriptions, drawings and/or photographs of play where the theme of the play is related to the pandemic (e.g. virus, social distancing, lockdown, medical procedures etc.) or where the circumstances have led children to play in novel or unique ways. The written descriptions, drawings and/or photographs can be created by adults who have observed children’s play or by children themselves.

Below you will find a form where you can upload photographs, drawings and/or a written descriptions. Please read this form carefully before submitting your description and/or photographs.

  • Please only submit photographs if you are the parent or guardian of all children who are featured in the photographs.
  • Please do not include any identifiable information in the written description.
  • Please only upload materials created by a child if you are the parent or guardian of that child.

This application has been reviewed by the University Research Ethics Committee and has been given a favourable ethical opinion for conduct.

If you have any questions about the research please email


Who is doing the research?

The Pandemic Play project is being conducted by Professor Helen Dodd together with The MERL. Members of the research team working with Professor Dodd include Dr Rachel Nesbit, Ms Laura Maratchi and Dr Lily Fitzgibbon.

What will happen to the material I upload?

We will conduct initial checks to ensure that you have confirmed that you have the authority to upload the information/images. We can only accept information/images relating to children if you are the legal parent or guardian. Images or information relating to children other than your own should not be uploaded. If we have any questions we will contact you using the email address provided. Once your uploaded materials have passed these checks we will:

  • add your materials to the Pandemic Play Archive, which will form part of the digital archives of The MERL;
  • store your email address in a separate secure document with a unique reference number that allows your materials to be identified by the research team

Once the project is complete, the Pandemic Play Archive will be made accessible (see below).

Who will have access to the Pandemic Play archive?

The idea is to create a collection that captures children’s play during the pandemic and for this to be available for a long time so that researchers, historians and any interested members of the public or other groups, can access the collection. The aim is that the collection should be as open as possible and you should only upload materials that you are happy to be shared openly with a public audience.

Access to the MERL archives requires registration, although this is free and open to all. Users will be able to access this collection via both the physical and virtual reading rooms. Registration includes agreement to a data protection statement. See

Therefore anyone can request to see the archives and there will be limited controls regarding onward use. If you have a concern regarding your information or images you can contact us.

We are now working to finalise the project archive, and access details will be posted here in due course.

Do I have a right to withdraw?

Taking part in the research is entirely voluntary and you have a right to withdraw your materials up to the point where they are entered into the archive. If in the future you, or your child, request to have the materials removed from the archive we would endeavour to support this request but it may not be possible if the materials form an important part of the collection.

Consent to participate

I agree to participate in the Pandemic Play project being conducted by Professor Helen Dodd and the Museum of English Rural Life at The University of Reading. I have seen and read the Participants Information above and have been given the opportunity to ask questions about the study and these have been answered to my satisfaction. I understand that my email address will remain confidential to the research team and arrangements for the storage and eventual disposal of this information have been made clear to me. I understand that the materials shared by me in this study will be preserved and made available as part of the Pandemic Play archive at The MERL, so that they can be consulted and re-used by others. I understand that participation in this study is voluntary and that I can withdraw without having to give an explanation.