Nearly three months into the lockdown in May, Arpita Shinde (name changed), a Mumbai-based parent, was worried as her six-year-old daughter Aahana, who plays football as a hobby, was getting anxious about not being able to go out of her home to practice the sport.
“Initially, she would throw tantrums but when she realised that there was no way she could go out, she began spending more time on the mobile phone. This was alarming to me as a parent, as my daughter was never someone who would sit in a place for hours,” said Shinde.
In the days to come, Shinde researched a bit and found her daughter an online sports tutor. “She could meet children of her age online and play small games within the house and on our building terrace. That made her happy,” said Shinde.
With schools operating classes online for the past several months owing to the Covid-19 outbreak, playing and extracurricular activities have also moved online as children remain cooped up inside their homes. Through online platforms, social media pages and activities organised by schools and non-governmental organisations, students are being offered a wide array of options to pursue their hobbies, take up an activity or learn a skill from the comfort of their homes.
One such platform is KRAYON, which is an exclusive, secure online video platform for students. It features 12 different competitions including music, dance, art, writing, quiz etc for students from Class 1 to Class 12.
“The platform allows students to upload pre-recorded videos of their performances and share it with their peers from across the country. We also ensure complete safety and privacy of the children. The platform offers a non-judgemental and non-competitive approach, and children can just have fun and learn from each other,” said Dr Syed Sultan Ahmed, managing director and chief learner, LXL Ideas, which runs the platform. Students from nearly 1,000 schools across India are a part of the platform.
For younger children, online platform KLAY offers in-person teaching and care-giving services at home. “The learning environment for children shifted away from physical classrooms to the online space overnight. While schools and teachers have harnessed their innovative best to ensure continuity in learning for children online, some parents and children are still getting used to the new format. To serve such parents, we have built [email protected] as the next best alternative,” said AK Srikanth, CEO, KLAY. So far, more than 250 families have subscribed to the platform and the packages for calling a teacher and caregiver at home begin from ₹10,000.
In order to cater to the developmental needs of underprivileged children in Mumbai, NGO Salaam Bombay Foundation began ‘Masti ki Paathshaala’, an initiative that encouraged children to play games and display their talent before their peers. “A large number of children in Mumbai live in 10×10 rooms with very little space to move around. The lockdown had caused a lot of anxiety in their families as many had to fight for daily survival. To help such children stay positive in these tough times, our facilitators would make video calls to them, hold game sessions, ask them to perform and boost their confidence. This had a huge impact not just on the child but on the entire family. Over 1,000 students attended these sessions in the city,” said Aditi Parikh, vice-president, communications, Salaam Bombay Foundation.
Ruchita Dar Shah, a parent from Mumbai who runs online parenting platform First Moms Club, said that the past few months have been challenging for children as well as their parents.
“My older son is an avid footballer while my younger one is into theatre. Not getting to go to school or pursue their hobbies was disappointing. But slowly, as a family, we came up with alternatives for them to spend some quality time at home. For instance, we encouraged them to buy lots of books, read and discussed them together. Also, my younger one draws up quizzes for us and we play as a family. While a lot of online options exist for pursuing extra-curricular activities, parents should not pressure their children on accomplishing something from a hobby or a talent. Then the whole purpose of the exercise is lost,” she added.