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Developmental psychologists at University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes University have raised enough money to provide outdoor baby and toddler weather gear for 70 local families. The rain-sets, provided at discount by Wet Wednesdays, have been distributed by volunteers from Home-Start Oxford to disadvantaged families struggling this winter.

Young child wearing wellington boots splashes in a puddle

The researchers were inspired to act when preliminary data from an ongoing study into the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on early development showed that babies and toddlers from disadvantaged backgrounds missed out on outside play during the spring 2020 lockdown. Dr Alex Hendry from the Department of Experimental Psychology came up with the fundraising idea and contacted Home-Start Oxford to see what she and her colleagues could do to help.

Dr Hendry said, 'Outdoor play is hugely important for early development. Exercising and exploring in the fresh air helps to promote thinking skills, and is key to good mental and physical health. When playgrounds and many other communal spaces were shut last spring, families without their own garden had limited options. This winter it looks like playgrounds and parks will stay open, but instead, families who are struggling financially are facing other barriers to outdoor play. Finding the extra cash for warm outdoor children’s clothes is difficult when money is tight – especially when you know they'll have outgrown it by next year.

'Lockdown restrictions also mean that most of the usual ways for parents to build and maintain support networks are unavailable. In this period of heightened isolation and stress, meeting up with another parent outside whilst little ones play has never been so important. We wanted to do something practical to help families make the most of the outdoors this winter.'

The full story is available on the Department of Experimental Psychology website

It is also featured on the University of Oxford website

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