It’s Time to Think About Structured Group Activities Again

The moment I’d been waiting for finally arrived:: my students getting to take classes AT my school, instead of online. It was a glorious day, which turned into an incredible week! The smiles, the laughter- it was so good for me to see my students again. I knew it was good for the students, too. I didn’t realize how great it was though, until one of my laid-back 10-year-old student’s mom casually said to me, “When he returned to class for the first time since March, it was also the first night he slept through the night since the pandemic began.” And I realized that our kids NEED to get back into the groove of structured group activities again for the well-being of their mental health.

Now, before you go and say, “Oh, she doesn’t care about people who get COVID, or those at high-risk,” please know that could not be further from the truth. And I’m not condemning anyone who chooses to stay in quarantine. I am pointing out, though, that perhaps it’s time to thoughtfully think about the benefits of getting our kids back into structured group activities outside the home.

Years and years of studies have shown how exercise benefits children not just physically, but mentally as well. 

In his blog post, “Can exercise help treat anxiety?” on Harvard Health Publishing, John Ratey, MD, says, “Exercising regularly builds up resources that bolster resilience against stormy emotions.”  And getting out and back into structured group activity where socializing, even from a distance, can take place face to face, will ease a child’s mind, too.

Structured group activities kept right on rolling during the quarantine thanks to Zoom. But, as a colleague of mine stated so eloquently, “The option to teach online classes was like having life rafts to keep us from going down with the boat when the corona-berg hit.” And it was a great option to get kids {and parents} active. But now that things are opening up, kids really need to get active outside the home to reduce the anxiety from all the things the pandemic has brought to us from mom and dad now being the teacher and taking classes at home/online to not being able to physically play with friends.

Keeping Everyone Safe

Going to structured group activities outside the home will look vastly different now. Organized activities – dance, cheer, gymnastics, and martial arts to name a few – are following Governor Abbott’s safety protocols. Most are going above and beyond what is required. Nearly every structured kids’ activity now takes temperatures when students enter, limit the number of students and space them out 6 feet apart, and limit the number of parents/siblings who can enter the facility with the participant. We’re taking steps to make our programs “touch-free”. And we’re disinfecting with virucide like nobody’s business {I’m personally going through 2 gallons of virucide specially made for martial arts programs a day}. And we’ve changed our programs to adapt to the new safety protocols, too. Frankly, if you look into a facility and they DON’T do these things, you should probably move onto the next one on your list.

Certainly, physical activity is not the only way to manage your child’s anxiety. If your child is feeling overwhelmed, it may be best to seek out a professional therapist that specializes in helping children manage their anxiety.

Options if you’re not ready to do structured group activities outside the home

Finally, if you’re not ready to venture out, most facilities are still offering online options for kids to be active as well. You can find a whole list of virtual events here. Now’s a great time to explore them during the summer, and hopefully transition to going in person when your family is ready to.

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One Response to It’s Time to Think About Structured Group Activities Again

  1. Danielle Boss June 12, 2020 at 9:07 am #

    Good post! My daughter restarted swimming and gymnastics this past week and is so happy. The gym we go to is SO good about all the safety protocols they are taking – limiting people in the building, taking temps, disinfecting multiple times throughout the day, coaches and visitors wearing masks, etc. Good way to get back into some activity while being safe.

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