This virtual list of extracurricular activities was updated on Feb. 10, 2021.
Ten months into what I hesitate to call any kind of “new normal,” we’ve gotten into a decent groove doing just about everything virtually — and not just work and school. So I wanted to create a post with a running list of extracurricular activities that we’ve tried and recommend, which I can update when we’ve had success with new ones (because in many cases, they ain’t cheap!).
These aren’t just virtual activities for kids either. Nope. There are ideas here for your whole family and some just for Mom and Dad. So far, my extracurricular activities list is only six parts long but, like everything we do on the blog, I’m not here to just Google a bunch of different ideas to push out content; as always, you can trust that if you see something listed here, we have actually tried and loved the class or series we’re suggesting.
You won’t, for example, see any virtual dance classes listed here, because we tried those and it’s just not as fun as being in an actual studio. We tried.
I’ll be adding new ideas here from time to time, so if you’ve visited this post before, be sure to refresh the page to ensure you see the latest updates.
List of extracurricular activities, part 1: Ukulele
In The Before Times, my kids took piano lessons. I always wanted music lessons as a kid but it wasn’t in the cards, so when we noticed that Aaron Cappel — a Toronto teacher who’d hosted fun weekly singalongs on his Facebook page during the initial lockdown last March — was offering a virtual series teaching ukulele for beginners, I jumped at the opportunity to learn alongside my kids.
For $99, your entire household gets access to seven weeks’ worth of lessons (with two lessons per week); so with three of us learning, it worked out to just $33 each for the entire series — roughly the same price as 1.5 piano lessons. And, get this: we were playing actual songs by the end of our second week! By week four, I was singing and playing along with quite a few songs.
Aaron is a great teacher and his program is really easy to follow. And because it’s all pre-recorded, you can learn at your own pace. Some weeks we fit in two lessons and another couple of nights of practise, while some weeks were so busy or exhausted that we had to skip them altogether. The course is yours forever, so you can revisit it as much as you like over time. It comes with plenty of sheet music, too, which — yes — you will also learn to read thanks to this virtual extracurricular activity.
What I love about ukulele is that the startup costs are pretty low. Compared to that expensive piano in our rec room, our ukes from Long & McQuade were in the $70 to $85ish range. The kids each got a KALA Soprano ukulele, which was a great size for their smaller hands and really light and easy to handle, and I use a Leho Concert ukulele, which has a rich, full sound and a bit bigger and more ideal for my fingers and frame.
List of extracurricular activities, part 2: Playful Kids
Next up in this extracurricular activities list is one just for the littles: a playwriting class for kids! Playful Kids offers a multi-week class where kids not only learn about playwriting, but they actually get to act out various short plays and then write their own.
But the very, very best part? Those plays are then performed by actual actors. Real, working actors. I’m talking pros who have Broadway credits. The final Zoom class is the culmination of your child’s hard work and imagination and you get to see it brought to life on-screen.
We decided we wanted to be surprised with the kids’ creations. So, though we were rarely around when our kids were in their Playful class on Wednesday evenings, I’d occasionally sneak down to grab a glass of water and I’d hear Miss Q and The K Man excitedly interpreting a character or developing their storylines.
Orian, the program founder and instructor, always gave positive weekly feedback and assigned “homework” designed to encourage creative writing.
We invited family and a tight-knit group of my kids’ best friends to the final performance, so it was the closest we’ve come to a recital since heading into this remote-living world. And it was wonderful! It was so neat to see what my kids had dreamed up and having the actors level-up their work was just incredible.
One of the benefits of virtual activities like this is that your kids can meet children from other cities, provinces and even other countries. My kids, for example, shared their Playful class with a kid from the United States — not something they’d ever be able to do in an in-person extracurricular. It also means that you don’t need to participate in a virtual class that’s held in a country other than your own.
List of extracurricular activities, part 3: Molly’s cooking classes
No list of extracurricular activities would be complete without a virtual cooking class. And we’ve absolutely loved the ones that Molly J Wilk offers from her apartment in Versailles, France.
A Le Cordon Bleu graduate, Molly hales from Dallas, Texas, and now lives about five minutes from the Palace of Versailles. She’s super bubbly and one of the most engaging personalities I’ve encountered online. Within minutes, you’ll feel like you’re in her kitchen, catching up with an old friend. You cannot out-energize her.
Although most of Molly’s classes are geared toward adults, she does offer some family-friendly classes from time to time, too. A class list goes up about a month in advance and there are both pastry and cooking classes. Molly is extremely good at providing the WHY behind techniques and can offer alternatives for people who are, say, dairy- or gluten-free.
Now, if you want to bake along with Molly, it’s very doable; she goes at a reasonable pace that even novice bakers can handle. But you have to be strategic about your prep and go full Martha Stewart ahead of time with all of your ingredients measured out in advance and ready to go. Some people prefer to watch Molly’s class as a demo and then tackle the recipes later. The recipes are provided as PDFs and are yours to keep.
Virtual cooking classes vary in price based primarily on how long and intensive they are. Most of them are about one-and-a-half hours long and cost 25 Euros (at today’s rate, that’s about CDN$38). Sometimes there are advanced classes that are in excess of three hours long, and those are 50 Euros. Forty-five minute “mini” classes are only 10 Euros.
I’m dying to do a macaron class! So far, though, we did a family Halloween class where the four of us made a bunch of different Halloween treats (like ghost meringues and some fabulous monster cookies) and I did a separate class on my own just before Christmas where I learned how to make puff pastry from scratch and also learned about a savoury French cake-bread hybrid called a “Cake Salé.”
My kids have done other virtual cooking classes but agreed that Molly’s is their favourite to date.
Be forewarned: Molly’s classes sell out. Sometimes within hours of being posted. So if you see a class that interests you, snap it up!
List of extracurricular activities, part 4: 4 Cats
I have to tell you that even if this were a list of extracurricular activities for in-class participation, 4 Cats would be on it. My kids have taken various classes at 4 Cats for many years and our home is filled from top to bottom with their beautiful artwork.
When we were initially forced to stay home, 4 Cats acted swiftly and moved classes online. It was the first virtual extracurricular my kids ever tried and considering how quickly the instructional videos went live, I was impressed. Our local 4 Cats delivered a set of supplies — the same as what would have been used in an actual studio class — and my kids did a five-week program after remote learning ended for the day…all at their own pace. (And without any of the time and hassle that comes with having to chauffeur the kids across two towns to get them there.)
There were big and small projects on canvas with acrylic paint and others with plasticine. Thankfully we were able to transform our dining room table into an art centre, covered with a plastic tablecloth from the dollar store to protect it. If you only have one table in your home, expect to be doing set-up and tear-down each week for this class.
But it’ll be worth it to fill your space with your kid’s art or get a headstart on gifts for the grandparents.
Here are more fun things to do at home with kids while we’re living virtually.
List of extracurricular activities, part 5: Learn to Crochet
Surely there are actual crocheting classes you can take online, but you can also create your own at-home tutorial for free thanks to YouTube.
When Miss Q received a crochet kit for her birthday, I expected her to have it figured out in an hour once she watched a few videos; she’s usually a self-starter and has learned lots of things this way with ease.
Cue the frustrated tears. Turns out there are a lot of really bad crochet teachers on YouTube.
So, in an effort to salvage this new hobby, I decided to learn how to do it myself and then teach Miss Q what to do. It took me an entire day — and I think I came to the end of YouTube’s crochet videos — but I finally found some good how-to instructions and was able to get Miss Q through the basics so she could at least start a scarf. Also known as…a rectangle.
As it turned out, I really (really) enjoyed crocheting and have since purchased my own hooks and yarn!
Here’s how to teach yourself how to crochet (even if it’s just to teach your kid):
You have to know how to get the yarn onto the hook — that’s step one. Learn how to make a slip-knot and a single chain; click here for my preferred method. Don’t like that style? Try this one instead.
Here is the Holy Grail of crochet videos, which teaches a wide range stitches and there’s even a granny square tutorial at the end of it that’s the best one I’ve found: click here.
Get started with fancier stitches like the basket weave crochet and the filet crochet. Then try your hand at the waffle stitch and wheat sheaf stitch before moving on to more intricate stitches like the larksfoot stitch.
Finally, I like this video best for learning how to fasten off (a.k.a. finish off): click here.
And here are some easy, beginner crochet project videos:
- One of the first things I made was this infinity scarf
- Easy crochet blanket — ignore the terrible intro and stick with this one
- If you have cotton yarn, it’s harder to work with in my opinion but it does make for great crocheted dishcloths (or this one)
- These crochet mittens were my most challenging project to date and I suggest watching the entire video first before starting, but I thought the instructions and pace in here were really good had I better understood that the instructor would be doing each size separately
- Fingerless gloves are way, way easier than mittens
- If you’re making hats and want to top them off, here’s a good video about making pom poms with yarn
- This baby bonnet tutorial is easy to follow and makes a gorgeous gift
- This braided headband involves some stitching
These projects are a bit harder:
- Baby booties
- Flower bookmark
- Miss Q is in love with her new bucket hat — this was good practise with thinner yarn and a really precise pattern that requires perfection
- Another crochet bookmark
- Fingerless mittens
- Waffle baby blanket
- These turban-style ear warmers are my favourite quick project that’s good practise when you’re sizing something up or down without clear instructions
Once you can follow along with videos, you can start learning how to read a pattern. And I’m right there with you — this is the stage I’m at now, too. When I have a better handle on how to layer on this next step, I’ll add links here so you can extend your list of extracurricular activities beyond the crochet basics if you like.
List of extracurricular activities, part 6: Sourdough
Alright — time for some shameless self-promotion. I’ve become a self-professed sourdough queen and have the Internet to thank for it. While there are paid classes you can take, I assure you that you can learn everything you need to know for free. From me!
Sourdough is the gift that keeps on giving, because in addition to having the healthiest, freshest bread on-hand whenever you please, you’ll also end up with sourdough discard each week and be able to make so, so much with it. Pizza Fridays have never been more delicious in my house.
You don’t even need any fancy equipment to get started. At the beginning, I didn’t even own a scale. This also makes for a fun science experiment to do with the kids.
You can begin your own sourdough journey one of two ways:
- Inherit some mature starter from a friend and then read my post about how to feed sourdough starter to keep it alive.
- Make your own sourdough starter from scratch! This will sound incredibly daunting if you look this up, but I swear it’s really easy. I decided to film my own experience creating my starter and vowed to edit it together and upload it to YouTube if it worked. Not only did it work, but this starter is even more active than the one I inherited. This is how to make sourdough starter using only two types of flour, lukewarm water and patience. It’s a VERY detailed video that you can follow step-by-step as slowly as you like.
Once your sourdough starter consistently doubles in four to six hours after a re-feed, you’re ready to start baking.
With my “active” starter (the one that replaces commercial yeast and makes bread rise), I make boules of bread. After trying a LOT of different sourdough bread recipes, I created a Dutch oven sourdough bread recipe that you make in a Kitchen Aid stand mixer and condense a lot of steps from a longer, more traditional recipe. There’s also a long, detailed video in the post if you learn better that way.
And while that wild yeast is gold, the sourdough starter you’re left with as you discard half your goop each day before a re-feed is incredibly versatile. Some people toss this but once you see how much you can make with it, you’ll realize how crazy that is.
Here are some of my favourite sourdough discard recipes:
- These sourdough cinnamon rolls will rock your world
- My sourdough English muffins are better than any store-bought ones
- A stellar dupe for Morning Rounds
- The sourdough brownies from Top With Cinnamon are easily the best brownies I’ve ever had
- Sourdough crepes are a less-sweet version of my Vitamix crepes
- Sourdough discard pizza crust
- Sourdough discard pancakes (I love these with buttermilk)
- Little Spoon Farm’s sourdough discard crackers are delish; I like to throw some grated parm into the batter AND on top once it’s spread out
- Sourdough discard banana bread
- Sourdough discard blueberry muffins (cut the sugar by ditching the topping)
- The sour cream & chive sourdough biscuits from Feasting at Home never last more than a day in our house
- Sourdough discard cinnamon raisin bread
If learning All Things Sourdough wasn’t on your personal list of extracurricular activities, I hope I’ve convinced you to add it.
If you’re looking for more virtual activities for kids, I have quite a few listed in my free homeschooling resources post, so be sure to check that out, too.
And that’s it for now! Again, I’ll add to this list of extracurricular activities when we try new ones that deserve two thumbs up. Until then, if you’ve tried some virtual activities for kids (or grownups!), please add your own extracurricular activities list in the comments.
DISCLAIMER: Some activities may have been provided to facilitate inclusion in this post. In some cases, we’ve paid for them ourselves. In all instances, my opinion is my own.