Introduction During the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been drastic changes in family life and programs and services that promote and protect early childhood development. Global stakeholders have raised concerns that the pandemic is putting enormous strain on parents and other caregivers, compromising capabilities and enabling environments for nurturing care of young children and therefore likely impacting children’s development.
Methodology This rapid review takes stock of emerging research on nurturing care for young children during the COVID-19 crisis. Two databases were searched in addition to an extensive search for grey literature, drawing on 112 scholarly and scientific studies from more than 30 countries that have examined components of nurturing care during the pandemic, namely: responsive caregiving, early learning and play, and children’s safety and security.
Results There are some reports of unexpected positive benefits of the pandemic on families, including increased father involvement in caregiving. But more commonly, the studies’ findings reveal numerous issues of concern, including parental and caregiver mental health difficulties and less responsive parent-child relationships, increased screen time among children, limited opportunities for outdoor play, and fractured systems for responding to potential child neglect and maltreatment. Evidence suggests limited access and challenges in the provision of remote learning for the youngest learners, such as those in early childhood education.
Conclusion The findings can inform global stakeholders, who have advocated for increased support and funding to ensure young children and other caregivers are supported and protected during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is an urgent need for action-oriented implementation studies – those that go beyond identifying trends and begin to pinpoint “what works” to effectively promote and protect nurturing care during emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic.