University of Regina researcher taking aim at COVID-19’s effects on play

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WATCH: A researcher from the University of Regina is focusing on how play has been affected by COVID-19 – May 1, 2020

A graduate student from the University of Regina has started a study focused on how the coronavirus pandemic is changing how people play.

Whitney Blaisdell is a mother, teacher and founder of Project Play YQR.

Her website’s original aim was to promote greater accessibility to play for people of all ages in Regina. While this is still true, the current situation has altered the way the public can access play resources.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: City of Regina closes playgrounds to maintain social distancing

“Now that people are confined to their homes, that’s a little bit nerve-wracking,” said Blaisdell. “I know that for me as a mother, it’s taking a toll. So there’s a lot of work to be done in exploring how this will impact play.”

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The study will be done in collaboration with Regina’s Early Learning Centre (ELC), which provides services for low income families with children up to age five.

ELC’s Early Years Family Resource Centre coordinator Monica Totton said this research will help the facility with adjusting to new procedures.

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“Everybody’s normal has been shifted,” Totton said. “There’s less opportunities to get out into the community and engage with other people, or participate in our programs.”

“We’re still trying to navigate this, as the best way to continue to support families. Whitney brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise, and some skills that we don’t have.”

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Blaisdell’s research will utilize crowd sourcing as a way to connect with the community. Through this interaction, she hopes to get a realistic sense of what Regina residents need in order to improve their abilities to play.

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“Essentially the entire project is just learning from the community and their ideas,” she explained. “So listening to their concerns about how this is affecting them will be a huge aspect of the project.”

It was this local outreach goal that secured the study funding from the U of R’s Community Research Unit (CRU).

The CRU operates as a matchmaker between the Regina community and researchers at the University of Regina. According to community director Lynn Gidluck, this project was ideal to support in order to achieve community gain.

READ MORE: Regina teacher creates YouTube music show for kids during coronavirus pandemic

“There’s a million things on the web for activities kids, but what Whitney is going to bring is that local context,” Gidluck said. “So it’s more meaningful and relevant for people living in our community.”

Even though the grant is only $5,000, Gidluck said she is always amazed at what researchers and organizations are able to accomplish with little amounts of funding.

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“When you give a really small amount of money to a community, the money goes directly to them,” she explained. “I’m always amazed at their creativity.”

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Gidluck expects this project to be no exception.

“The resources that Whitney is creating on her website will be a long lasting legacy. I think a lot of the resources that she’s going to develop will be good year-round, even post pandemic.”

Those resources won’t look like a normal university thesis either. The end results will depend entirely upon the feedback Blaisdell receives from the community.

“They might want videos, they might want brochures, they might want a newsletter,” laughed Blaisdell.

“We don’t know yet what it will turn into, but it will be very accessible to everybody.”

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.