Think about your closest schoolyard friendships, the bonds you forged playing on the same dodgeball team at recess, passing notes in class, and swapping your pudding cup for their cookie at lunch. We assumed that our children would be able to experience these same simple yet fundamental interactions – until this year. As schools have adopted remote learning in response to COVID-19, students of all ages and grade levels have been forced to change how they interact with their teachers as well as their peers.
Many studies have explored the relationship between quantity and quality of social relationships on physical and mental health, and found correlation between social isolation and conditions like high blood pressure and impaired immune function. The fact is, social interaction contributes to overall health and wellness. Finding ways students can socialize during COVID is important – that’s why we’ve compiled this list of ways students can stay connected while remaining safe and socially distant.
1. Have a group study and learning session
Turn on your webcams, open your books, and study as a group! Regular group study sessions, whether held weekly, biweekly, or so many days before each exam, provide social interaction while facilitating the exchange of ideas and promoting academic accountability. Students can collaborate on notes in a shared Google Doc and via screen share. Like in-person study sessions, remote study sessions may get off-topic – and that’s okay! Remember, the social element is a key component of these sessions, on par with learning. Children may find that the similarity of their days means they have a harder time finding things to talk about on purely social zoom calls, while the inclusion of study topics can prompt more discussion.
2. Leverage digital platforms and games that promote learning
Sites like ABCya and Arcademics offer free multiplayer educational games for students in grades K-6. You can search by subject as well as grade level to find engaging, colorful games that students can play together online. For older students, don’t discount the social and educational value of console games. From classics like the Portal series to newcomers like Gwent: Novigrad, multiplayer puzzle games help players build logic, reasoning, and communication skills. As more games adopt crossplay functionality, students with different consoles can play the same games together.
3. Attend a virtual event together
Events are going remote – and without the overhead dedicated to event spaces, food and transportation for attendees, etc., many are free! Check out the Virtual Event Calendars on Events.com and Eventbrite.com to find out about upcoming events that interest your children. You can also attend TED Talks remotely. Go the extra mile to make the event a fun and connected experience – suggest that your child put on an outfit they would wear to the event if it was happening in person, prepare snacks for them to enjoy throughout, and encourage your child to participate in chats or discussions that take place during the event. If your child doesn’t feel comfortable interacting with other event goers on a large scale, set up a side chat in Slack or Google Hangouts so they can interact with their friends and discuss what they’re hearing and learning, either during the event or afterwards.
4. Join a virtual club
Starting in January 2021 La Jolla LearningWorks will be offering Enrichment Circles to provide students with the benefit of social interaction without compromising safety, all while learning something new. Small groups of 4-6 students will enjoy virtual teacher-led meetups centered around a particular subject. Some options include reading, Spanish, and drama. Each weekly session is 30 minutes to 1 hour in length. You can sign your child up for a scheduled session or get a group together and customize a day and time that works best for your schedules. Click here to learn more about Enrichment Circles and sign up for the next set of classes!
5. Take fitness and activities online
YouTube is a terrific resource for free pre-recorded online fitness classes, from dance classes to boot camp-style workouts and more. Clear an area in your home where your child can move freely, or even set up a laptop in the yard, and start a zoom call on which everyone watches and works through the same video together.
If your child and their friends would rather participate in a live fitness class, there are plenty of great options for those as well!
- Kids Fit – Sign up for a 4 week Kids Fit class with coach and movement specialist, Stephanie Main. As a CrossFit Kids certified instructor and Yoga teacher, she knows just how to take your kids movement breaks to a whole new level- and have fun while doing it!
- Dance – Blue Note San Diego is offering weekly blues dance classes every Wednesday night via Zoom from 7:30-8:30pm Pacific Time. Classes are $10 for one class or $40 for a package of five classes.
- Yoga – Philadelphia-based yogi LJ Steinig offers weekly donation-based yoga classes via Zoom, with the proceeds benefiting a different charity each week. All ages are welcome at her alignment based, gentle flow classes on Tuesdays at 7:30pm Eastern Time – just Venmo a donation of any amount to @veganliciousLJ to receive the Zoom link.
- Exercise – The YMCA offers both on-demand and live fitness classes for free, both directly through the YMCA and via their partner organizations.
6. Reconnect with old friends across the U.S.
Now is the perfect time to reconnect with old friends that have moved out of state, or even to another country! Zoom calls and Google Hangouts make it easier than ever for your child to rekindle old friendships. Your child and their friends can have a movie night using the Watch Party feature of your favorite streaming platform, play online games together remotely, or enjoy a meal together via video chat and catch up on everything that’s happened in each other’s lives.
7. Find a virtual pen pal to make new friendships
Many pen pal programs have gone virtual during pandemic. Here are a few programs where students can find a virtual pen pal:
- PenPal World is one of the most popular virtual pen pal programs for students. It includes a free tier and a paid tier that facilitates sending messages to more pen pals each day.
- Reachout America connects students with a senior pen pal. For many seniors in assisted living facilities, visits from loved ones are rare or non-existent due to increased safety regulations. Emails from students brighten their days, and children have the opportunity to practice communication skills while making a new senior friend.
- My Language Exchange – Is your child learning a new language? My Language Exchange connects students from all over the world with native speakers of the language they are learning, so that each student can practice with their virtual pen pal while also learning about different cultures.
Social interaction plays a critical role in your child’s physical and mental health. COVID-19 has required a change in what that interaction looks like. Fortunately, technology allows us to stay connected in new and exciting ways, from virtual events to online fitness classes, collaborative gaming, and more. Online clubs like Enrichment Circles at La Jolla Learning Works provide children with that necessary social activity while learning something new. Connect with us to learn more.