The Impact of Extracurricular Activities on Mental Health and Wellbeing
Do your kids love their extracurricular activities? From cricket to coding, kids thrive on doing something that breaks up the routine of scheduled learning — whether that’s at home or in the school setting. Plus, those extra hours after school or on a weekend help provide a more well-rounded education than academic learning alone, whilst letting your children explore their passions. The weekend coders of today can be the tech leaders of the future! But did you know that extracurricular activities have real benefits for mental health, too?
Being involved in extracurricular activities is instrumental in building mental resilience and self-confidence. Interacting with their peers, meeting goals and challenges, and trying new things all boost a person’s self-worth, at any age. That’s never been more important than right now. Kids have found themselves in situations where they don’t see their friends for extended periods of time. They may be relying entirely on the internet to stay connected to anyone outside their household.
A study from the University of British Columbia found that children who took part in extracurricular activities were more likely to have higher levels of optimism. The same kids were less prone to anxiety or depression. Girls, in particular, reaped the benefits of doing something outside the standard school schedule. Whether you’re looking for something creative or something to boost your kids’ STEM education prospects, it’s clear that sourcing extracurricular fun for your child is a real boost for their mental wellbeing.
Finding extracurricular activities for your kids online not only entertains them, it offers opportunities to collaborate and connect with others. This is a crucial part of social development. Plus, it introduces children to a more diverse range of people than they may meet in their educational settings. Of course, in 2020 and 2021 so far, kids have not had as many opportunities to explore options outside the classroom. So many events and clubs have necessarily shut down across the country — and, indeed, the world.
Losing access to their favourite activities has a range of worrying effects. Children may:
· Feel further isolated
· Become anxious, depressed, or feel hopeless
· Lose interest in the activities that used to excite them
· Feel like there’s no fun stuff, only “boring” academic subjects
· Lose touch with friends that they connect with during these activities
· Become resentful which can lead to behavioural issues
The UK government recently published a report on the state of children’s mental health during the pandemic. Whilst researchers praise children for their incredible resilience, a reduction in overall happiness was noted. Loneliness was a top issue for many children, as well as a range of fears and anxieties prompted by the risks of the pandemic itself. A separate article notes that extra-curricular activities improved overall life chances and opened up exciting opportunities for children.
Another important aspect of trying to keep children engaged with their favourite activities is to provide them with access to well-rounded development. Inspiring girls in tech subjects or projects is so much easier when there are peers on hand with the same interests and passions. Workshops led by women in tech industries or leaders from tech companies are amazing, but there’s something really special about peer-to-peer learning. It truly motivates children and shows them that anything is possible.
Getting Your Kids Connected Again
Thankfully, there are still plenty of opportunities to get your kids interacting with their peers whilst firing up their neurons and inspiring curiosity. Technology allows groups to meet online, send resources by email, or even physically through the post, where possible. The past few months have seen the rise of exercise clubs run entirely on Zoom, daily PE workouts on YouTube, esports in place of real sports to keep young athletes connected, and a range of tech education solutions that have kept young minds agile and curious.
Here at Girls Into Coding, we’ve adapted our workshops and events, making them completely safe and virtual. We’ve even managed to keep the hands-on aspects that make them so fun and worthwhile. To do this, we create bespoke packs of components and instructions and send them out to participants beforehand. This makes these workshops inclusive and accessible. It lets the kids watch their peers get involved and help each other out, creating a real community spirit. Involving girls in STEM projects does more than teach them how to build a robot or code. It shows them how technology is a part of most aspects of their lives and empowers them to know that whatever career they choose, they can excel at it if they choose to.
In these unprecedented times, we know how crucial it is that we stay socially distanced in order to get through the pandemic situation as swiftly and safely as possible. Going virtual has allowed us to sustain our network of learners, taking our ever-growing community online. We’ve got such a diverse range of girls who have formed a like-minded peer group that revels in exploration, learning, and creating together. It really is inspiring to be a part of.