Social interaction during childhood is more than just fun. It’s a vital part of childhood development. As kids grow, they learn from their peers and through playing with or talking to others. Engaging in social situations with other children teaches kids cooperation, collaboration, compromise, problem-solving, and teamwork.
Yet, not all kids have access to sufficient in-person socialization opportunities. Even those who do can benefit from options outside their surroundings. Fortunately, technological advances have made it possible to develop new forums for kids to socialize with others who share similar interests, thus removing limits to exclusively local opportunities. Kids stuck at home due to a pandemic, those who homeschool, or even those who just want more opportunities to connect with peers can all benefit from online clubs or activities. Check out this selection of virtual opportunities.
1. Activity Hero is a hosting site where various groups and instructors can list activities for kids of all ages. There’s a section with classes, after-school programs, and holiday camps where students work with a teacher choosing various options to match their interests. Options include Legos, science, cooking, art, music, and coding. activityhero.com
2. FunClubs offers 45-minute classes led by an instructor for children in grades K-8. FunClubs provides small group experiences where students are broken down into groups of six-eight. This allows kids more time to interact with the teacher and each other in a comfortable setting. Classes include drama, film-making, coding, and cooking. funclubs.com
3. Outschool is a small-group learning platform for kids ages 3-18. It offers over 100,000 classes, so it caters to practically any interest your child might have. Kids learn from experts while interacting with classmates who share interests in a small setting. outschool.com
4. Open Tent Academy caters more directly to homeschool students but offers some “after school” classes. These classes focus more on learning material than just socializing, yet emphasize discussion and interacting with peers within the class. opententacademy.com
5. Playcrafter Kids Club is for younger students ages three-seven to engage in a six-week program with two hour-long classes per week. Children work with four teachers trained in the arts and participate in drama, music, yoga, and dance using stories. Kids are split up into small groups, and during parts of the lesson, they can unmute and interact with their classmates. playcrafterkids.com
6. Connected Camps has online programs and summer camps for children who want to learn about digital entertainment such as coding, Minecraft, eSports, digital arts, and game design. Connected Camps has small group classes that offer children opportunities to interact with others and collaborate on projects or games in a fun environment. It also hosts a free moderated Kid Club Minecraft server for kids ages 8-13. It offers counselors to mentor kids, a code of conduct, and is based on a specific learning approach. connectedcamps.com
7. iD Tech hosts virtual technology classes and camps for kids ages 7-19 who want to learn or develop their technology skills. It offers week-long sessions of no more than five students, combining instruction time with opportunities for classmates to collaborate and socialize.
8. Clubba, for kids ages 6-12, offers online club series with classes taught by college student club counselors. Classes are small, up to five students, so students can really interact and learn new skills. Club counselors support peer interaction and developing friendships with ice breakers and other interactive activities.
9. American Camp Association provides a search for virtual camp listings by preferred categories. It has a section for live group interaction classes as well as costs and interest categories. You can also search for virtual camps by organizational affiliation such as 4-H Clubs, The Boys & Girls Clubs, and Boy and Girl Scouts, and by religious affiliation, and government-based programs.
10. Child & Adolescent Anxiety Practice After School Clubs offers virtual after-school clubs so children have opportunities to socialize with peers with similar interests in a structured environment. This is particularly beneficial to kids struggling with social isolation and related anxiety. Clubs are led by Dr. Avny, a clinical psychologist specializing in child and adolescent anxiety. Each club session is six weeks long with one, 45-minute class per week and broken down into 10-13-year-old and 14-17-year-old groups. Each club focuses on a hobby or interest such as cooking, arts and crafts, video games and sports, emphasizing social interaction and collaboration. caapanxiety.com
11. Destination Science offers holiday camps, summer camps, and after-school classes for children ages 5-11. Participants receive science kits with the materials needed to participate in science activities during the live session with an instructor and other children their age. destinationscience.org
12. Lavner Education offers technology camps with a STEM focus for kids in Grades 1-9. It has camp sessions with over 40 classes offered over the winter, spring, and summer holidays. Classes admit between four-eight students per instructor and provide opportunities for hands-on, experiential learning, collaboration with classmates, social interaction, and opportunities to progress through skill levels. lavnercampsandprograms.com