DOI: 10.5014/ajot.2023.050247 ISSN: 0272-9490

Impact of Age and School Instruction Mode on Children’s Occupations Early in the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Longitudinal Survey Study

Samuel Thomas Nemanich, Gabriel Velez, Ann Millard, Anne Pleva
  • Occupational Therapy


Importance: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic disrupted participation in routines and daily activities. It is unclear how children reengaged in activities during the pandemic, particularly as a new school year began. Differences in school instruction mode (in person, hybrid, or remote) during the pandemic could further affect activity participation.

Objective: To examine changes in sedentary and nonsedentary activity participation in children and to determine whether school instruction mode was associated with participation.

Setting: Home-based survey of U.S. residents.

Participants: Parents of 208 children (46.2% female) between ages 5 and 18 yr were surveyed at two waves: March through April 2020 and October 2020.

Outcomes and Measures: Frequency of sedentary (indoor play, electronic device usage) and nonsedentary (outdoor play, leisure and extracurriculars) activity participation was observed. Descriptive and inferential statistics of the changes from Wave 1 to Wave 2 and linear regression were used to determine statistically significant variables associated with activity participation.

Results: Nonsedentary activity participation increased and sedentary activity decreased from Wave 1 to Wave 2. Instruction mode was statistically associated with nonsedentary, but not sedentary, participation. Negative mood, local COVID-19 severity, and household income were also associated with nonsedentary and sedentary participation.

Conclusions and Relevance: Children’s participation in sedentary and nonsedentary activities normalized during the new school year; however, many factors likely contributed to these changes.

What This Article Adds: Despite differences in school instruction mode and the influence of mental health early in the pandemic, children’s nonsedentary activity participation increased. Occupational therapy practitioners can reinforce the importance of reengaging in activities and regular routines to promote health and well-being during challenging situations.

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