Parenting Advice

3 Digital Extracurricular Activities That Provide Socialization (and a Break for Parents)

Kells McPhillips

Photo: Getty Images/Johner Images

Back in 2014, a report conducted by the United States Census Bureau found that 57 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 17 participated in extracurricular activities. Fast-forward to 2020: It’s a fair assumption that the coronavirus has greatly diminished the percentage of kids who are now heading to soccer practice, to rehearse a school play, or to hang out with science club after school. And that means many parents already juggling roles of caretaker, teacher, and employee need to carry extra weight on their shoulders when school’s out for the day. But, a number online extracurricular activities are cropping up to entertain and teach kids, which may also help parents wrap up their own workdays more efficiently.

Beyond being a helpful schedule saver for overextended and exhausted parents, extracurricular activities serve an important purpose for kids in pandemic and non-pandemic times. “Extracurricular activities help break up the day and also bring more fun into your child’s life,” says licensed family counselor Melissa Divaris Thompson, LMFT. “Music class and soccer are very different than academics, like math and science. And children, especially now, need some diversity in their learning and also need to have some fun.”

Many brands have done the creative work of designing digital extracurriculars to keep kids engaged so parents can spend an extra hour or two clearing their inbox or, gasp, taking some much-needed restorative time to themselves. Here are three online extracurricular activities (some at no cost) that kids can sign up for right now.

3 online extracurricular activities to help kids move, learn, and socialize (and give parents some relief)

1. Airbnb Field Trips

If Bill Nye led one of my middle-school extracurriculars, I think I probably would have grown up to love science more than I currently do. Thanks to Airbnb’s latest collection of online experiences, “Field Trips,” kids today have the opportunity to learn about science from the Science Guy’ himself. (Yes, I’m jealous.) “Decoding the Science of 2020” ($100, October 2) is an hour-long session in which Nye will engage kids with experiments on the science of skin color, climate change, and coronavirus.

And that’s really just scratching the surface of Field Trips. You can also sign your child up to learn origami ($10, multiple dates), study the archeology of leaves ($31, multiple dates), or learn about space from an astronomer ($10, multiple dates).

2. Nike Training Club “Family Friendly” workouts

Nike’s making sure that sports practice being canceled doesn’t mean your child won’t get to break a sweat this fall. When the pandemic hit, the athleticwear giant made every piece of content on the Nike Training Club app absolutely free—including a collection of family-friendly workouts that take a fun approach to fitness.

All workouts land somewhere between 11 and 33 minutes. One 15-minute workout called “The Floor Is Lava,” for example, teaches kids dynamic, fun workout moves (like frog hops). Nike’s hope is to teach “key movement patterns” like squats, lunges, pushing, and pulling in a fun way so kids can carry them into adulthood.

3. Brightly’s Book Club

Brightly’s Book Club for Kids creates reading guides for culturally relevant books that span across every age group, from zero to 13 or older. Brightly’s offers guides and book club questions for each title, so you can organize Zoom book clubs with your kids and their friends where all things plot, themes, and key takeaways get discussed right after school. Depending on how old your kids are, they can lead book club themselves, or one parent, relative, or older sibling can step in to moderate.

Some of the titles in Brightly’s reading guide library include Hoot by Carl Hiaasen, The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani, and Wonder by R.J. Palacio.

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