A leading psychology professor and member of NPHET's communications advisory group has called on the Government for its Covid advice to parents to make sense.

It follows comments by Education Minister Norma Foley this week that people should reconsider hosting and attending birthday parties or play dates for children.

University of Limerick Professor Orla Muldoon told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that contradictions in Government advice make it difficult for parents to buy in to and trust Government recommendations to drive down rising Covid infections.

"The communication from Government needs to make sense - so, make it make sense for people," said Professor Muldoon.

"Parents are being told: 'Well, don't have a party', but their children are being sent in to a school where there are 30 children. That doesn't make sense to the average parent. How is it that the party is a problem but the school isn't?

"The other thing about making it make sense is that we need to be sure that the advice that people are getting is consistent with what we now know about Covid.

"We now know that Covid is airborne. Therefore it doesn't make sense to ask parents to cancel outdoor parties. In fact, it makes less sense to ask them to cancel outdoor parties than to ask them to continue to send their children to school," said Professor Muldoon.

"These kinds of contradictions make it very difficult for parents to stay with what's messaged," the Professor said.

"Because of that people can now see the advice is not consistent. It is not clear and that undermines both trust and compliance in what people are being asked to do," added Professor Muldoon.

Play time

Professor Muldoon also raised concerns about the impact of reducing children's play time.

"There is an acceptance in developmental psychology that play is the work of childhood. Children aren't just playing they are actually learning things and they mostly learn this from other children," said Professor Muldoon.

"They are learning all sorts of social skills - like turn taking and reciprocity. And, if we don't offer children the opportunity to play with their peers, to interact with their peers, there is a learning cost for these children," added Professor Muldoon.

Party cancellations

Meanwhile, businesses providing children's parties are getting more cancellations.

Niall O'Dwyer, co-owner of Really Grand Events, said the cancellations left his company vulnerable.

"We've had a couple of cancellations from clients who have decided to postpone or cancel their plans for children's birthdays," Mr O'Dwyer told Morning Ireland.

"There is definitely a fall off from the house parties. It does leave us very vulnerable," added Mr O'Dwyer.

A group of parents collecting their children from pre-school in Dublin told Morning Ireland's vox-pop that they are agreed on cutting down on children's playdates and birthday parties.

However, while the majority of those who stopped for this vox-pop agreed with reducing their children's social contacts, some still had play dates planned or were prepared to hold birthday parties outside.

Many of them held the common view that clearer guidelines are needed from Government for parents.

One woman told the programme: "I think that people are totally flummoxed and want guidance on it. I think when its left up to parents … it's a bit of a head-melt".