Extracurricular Activities in Times of Pandemic
Supporting the Development of Creativity and Skills in Children and Youth
By: Grecia Romero
Back to school, back to normal—that’s what most people aspire from this new school year.
Although classes have already started with a plunging list of recreational activities on the calendar, the concern of allowing children to participate in person is still going on for many parents— especially because of the rising number of kids affected by the Delta variant.
However, good things can be found hidden in any bad situation, and the pandemic has been the inspiration for the creation of different learning modalities which include art, music, dance, sports, and even STEM activities.
Johanna Barrios, a teacher who has worked with children for more than 10 years points out that it is important to allow children to continue expanding their knowledge and acquiring new skills—whether that be in person or virtually. “Extracurricular activities contribute to psychological development, emotional and motor skills of children.”
She said this also helps kids discover what their strengths and interests are. “Children can develop self-control, improve social interactions, build independence, grow values, and even discover their professional inclinations.”
Skill development can also help children adapt to challenges. “Children learn to function socially beyond school and family environment. They learn to deal with different circumstances and different people while working with the resources available and getting them ready for any challenge in the future,” Barrios said.
There is no doubt that the pandemic has pushed skill-essential activities online. It is now more imperative than ever to compensate for those social skills that kids might be lacking.
In-Person or Virtual: A Continuing Dilemma
It continues to be a great challenge for many families to join in-person activities, and virtual options might not seem so attractive. However, choosing one allows room to grow, be it a simple game with friends or something more formal.
Sayi Morales, a teacher and specialist in preschool education and children with special needs, acknowledges this conflict.
“Children are under great stress at the moment. They also have their own fears and are very aware of the time we live in. That is why it is recommended that parents are aware of the emotional health of their children,” Morales said.
She points out that adding pastimes to children’s routines promote self-confidence and manage emotions in a healthy way, balancing their growth. “Otherwise, we will end up having children free of the virus, but with a great psychological burden.”
Both experts agree that the manner in which to join activities depends on each family and their circumstances, but in no case should parents allow fear to prevent the child’s participation in the activities they enjoy.
“We have to accept that this is our new way of life, a new normal, and our kids can still participate in many activities. If it is face-to-face, health and safety measures should be followed, or virtually while using the available resources. But, we definitely have to learn how to live with this situation that seems to stay for long,” Morales said.
Resources and Ideas
For families who want their children to participate in activities in person, it is advisable to verify that the providers of these services follow the guidance precautions and recommendations updated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
For families who are considering virtual extracurricular activities, here are some options and ideas:
- Scholastic Reading Club: Ideal for kids who love books, games, and even winning prizes. Membership is free www.clubs-kids.scholastic.co.uk
- NASA Children’s Club: Children will to learn about space and the different NASA missions in a safe and free environment. Games and activities are based on the STEM standards for preschool through 4th grade. www.nasa.gov/kidsclub/index.html
- ChessKid: A fun, educational, safe, and free option to learn to play chess online. Available for children of all ages. www.chesskid.com
- ActivityHero, Outschool and Crejo: These are virtual sites that bring together instructors teaching art, music, science, cooking, programming, instruments, and much more. Includes free or low-cost options for children from preschool through high school. www.activityhero.com , www.outschool.com , www.crejo.fun
- National Geographic Kids: Fabulous free club with a vast list of activities, games, giveaways, and ideas: cooking recipes, arts, science, and knowledge about animals, world culture, and more. National Geographic Kids also offers subscription to their monthly print magazine with additional information and resources www.natgeokids.com/nz/category/kids-club/
- FunClubs: Virtual classes with instructors and a group of students in real-time. This option offers seasonal courses of 6-8 weeks for children in preschool through 8th grade. The variety includes Spanish, cooking, art, chess, and musical instruments. www.funclubs.com/#online-classes
- Playcrafer Kid Club: For children between 3 and 7 years old mainly home-schooled. With a 6-week program and 12 virtual classes, in which children participate in drama, music, dance, and exercises. Each session incorporates songs, games, stories, and movement. www.playcrafterkids.com/kids-club
- Tinkergarten: With virtual and in-person options, this program offers the opportunity to learn about the values and conservation of nature with weekly outdoor play activities. For children from 18 months to 8 years. www.tinkergarten.com
- Other Resources Available: The Miami Dade County Public Library System and the Children Trust are constantly updating their options by offering in-person and virtual free or low-cost options. www.mdpls.org and www.thechildrenstrust.org.
Despite any current uncertainty, the efforts of parents to offer their children a safe environment in which to grow and learn will allow them to cope with these unforeseen times, raise children with resilience, and be better equipped to face the challenges of the future.