MOST parents see outdoor play as the key to combating loneliness that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused children.

New research suggests more than half believe their children have been more lonely amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to the report from the NSPCC.

The poll, of 1,036 UK parents with children aged three to 12, suggests that 65 per cent said their children have played inside more since the start of the pandemic, and 70 per cent have spent less time playing with friends.

Two in three parents believe play has become more important for their children since the start of the pandemic, and 79 per cent think playing outside will be vital for children's wellbeing.

The YouGov poll, which was carried out in May, shows children have done more arts and creativity, played more online and played more pretend-based games during the pandemic.

It comes as Labour has called for all children to be given opportunities to “play, learn and develop” as part of a 14.7 billion programme to help pupils catch-up on missed schooling amid the pandemic.

The party’s education recovery plan says extracurricular activities and breakfast clubs should be expanded to boost time for children to play and socialise after months away from their friends.

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said: “We know the last year has been incredibly challenging for families and many children have missed out on the opportunity to play and really enjoy their childhood.

“Lots of children have felt lonely and isolated and have longed to be reunited with their friends and family again.

“After the year we’ve just experienced, we could all do with a bit more play and the research we are releasing today shows just how important it will be for families this summer.”

The findings have been released ahead of the charity’s Childhood Day on June 11 – where people are being asked to organise a fundraising play event.