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What a difference a year can make

Updated: Apr 15, 2021

It's clear that kids and families have had 12 months of uncertainty, cancelled plans and a complete lack of “normality”.

But thanks to Trendspotters, our longitudinal, ethnographic panel that follows the lives of kids aged 7 to 16, we are able track and document each year and we can now reveal exactly how different a year 2020 has been.

Normally punctuated by school holidays, exams and the ebb and flow of school life, the year of Covid saw a much flatter calendar dictated by restrictions and the latest government advice.

In 2020 World Book Day gained increased relevance as kids’ last big celebration and a moment of normality before we descended into the unknown. As time progressed SATS and sports days were cancelled and school holidays lost their impact as the groundhog effect emerged. It became clear early on that it was a lockdown of two halves – those with access to outside space (and in particular gardens) and those who did not.

Summer sunshine arrived with a small level of normality, some new freedoms and families rediscovering staycations and days out. The much-anticipated return to school in September was short lived, with local lockdowns following shortly thereafter, further emphasising Covid experience disparity. Some families in the North and Midlands have effectively been in lockdown since September. Halloween was celebrated at home with parents and brands making an effort to make it special.

With very little to look forward to Christmas came early for many families determined to bring cheer with Christmas trees beginning to appear as early as November 1st. Celebrations were planned then edited to reflect restrictions as families came together for 24 hours. Christmas lists reflected Covid times with communication, comfort and pimping our home surroundings jostling under the tree.

But what did 2020 really mean for kids and families and will anything change forever?

We saw a huge surge in device acquisition this year. Gaming created new digital playgrounds for kids separated from their friends and mobile phone adoption shifted younger as parents recognised the importance of friendship connections. Social media adoption also shifted younger with parental approval – WhatsApp groups increased exponentially.

Kids morphed into professionalised learners with office-based tech moving into the home and the whole family up-skilled. EVERY school class is now on Teams or Zoom lists and Edu Apps have been adopted by most schools with the most popular rooted in gamification (Stand up Times Table Rock Stars!)

The mix of at-home and at-school learning suits Gen Alpha and their thirst for self-serve knowledge and exploration. In the future schools may wish to operate more like colleges with landmark lectures inspiring thought and discussion backed up by self-research at home. We fully expect to see a mix of private/public suppliers and partnerships as Government explores options for schooling in the post-Covid era, especially as families seek to retain their work-life balance. However, we must remember that the education gap has widened over 2020 and a focus on children in challenged circumstances has to be top of the education agenda.

Post Covid we expect to see an immediate shift in spending priorities for families. Laptops and at-home tech have now become priority purchases for most families and they are also reconfiguring homes for their new lives, creating new spaces for work, rest and play and home based entertainment shifting to take advantage of the garden (and make up for another staycation year). We also expect to see a growing appreciation of the tangible and experiential for families, as relief from and to sit alongside their digital everyday experiences – and don’t forget there’s a whole pile of pocket money waiting to be spent!

2020 has changed kids and families forever and we expect 2021 to look different yet again. If you’d like help planning for the future, please use our brain and get in touch. We’re here to help.


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