More guided sports for schoolchildren through participatory budgeting

A proposal for more sports hobbies for school-age children received 4,675 votes during the voting phase of the second round of OmaStadi in October 2020.
Physical activity is important for children’s growth and development. Photo: Kimmo Brandt.
Physical activity is important for children’s growth and development. Photo: Kimmo Brandt.

The purpose of the proposal was to increase low-threshold recreational sports activities and to reach children who are not interested in competitive sports. The goal was an inexpensive or completely free hobby at a familiar local school. A selection of sports was requested, so that everyone could find a suitable sport for themselves. 

The proposal also included the idea of continuing and expanding EasySport activities in the school year 2022–2023. In order to make the sports selection as diverse as possible and the activities regionally comprehensive, sports clubs and sports sector businesses needed to be involved in the activities. 

“EasySport activities has been organised Helsinki since 2010. They are permanent low-threshold activities for 3rd–6th graders organised by the city, aimed at promoting children’s physical activity. The contents and locations of the offered exercise classes may vary slightly during different periods,” says Miia Partinen, Unit Manager.

EasySport clubs attract school-age children to exercise

Through the project, ten EasySport hobby groups have been added to different parts of the city for autumn term 2023. The EasySport activities, which have been expanded with OmaStadi funding, will continue until the end of May 2024. One example of the activities is the EasySport club at Laakavuori Primary School in Mellunmäki.

The EasySport groups in Laakavuori, which are funded by the OmaStadi project, have met every Wednesday in the autumn and spring term. For example, the group of 3rd and 4th graders has the most participants at about 15 children, while the specials group has about seven participants and the group of 5th and 6th graders has had up to five participants. The classes are led by sports instructor Jessica Mäkinen and assistant instructor Sanni-Mari Kaarto.

EasySport offers a wide range of sports all over Helsinki. Children can join the classes at any time, without advance sign-up.

“Octopus, dodgeball, foxes’ tails, hot potato, statue tag, football,” the children shout suggestions to their instructors. In the Laakavuori Primary School gymnasium, some of the sports club members have had time to climb up the wall bars and some are running around. Physical activities are enjoyable when the instructors take care of safety. 

Physical activity is important for children’s growth and development 

Mäkinen, EasySport clubs instructor, considers sports hobbies for children to be very important.

“Physically active children are better able to concentrate and listen. They learn to work in groups, follow rules, pay attention to others and make new friends. For many, doing an enjoyable hobby after school is a better option than an afternoon spent alone at home.”

According to Jessica, it is important for schoolchildren to be able to be physically active and play games. She hopes that children will not hesitate to come to the hobby clubs, which gets them involved in recreational activities. 

“When you have happy experiences with physical activities as a child, it builds a foundation for later in life,” says Jessica.

The children and instructors hope that the EasySport clubs will continue in the future

EasySport activities are mainly organised in cooperation with Helsinki-based sports clubs. The activities have regular funding. The aim of the activities is that, after getting interested in a sports hobby, the children can move on to activities organised by a sports club.

Sports clubs offer children the opportunity to hone sport-specific skills and have several practice sessions a week. During and after the COVID-19 pandemic, fewer and fewer sports clubs have had the opportunity to participate in the cooperation. OmaStadi funding has made it possible to hire a dedicated sports instructor for EasySport classes, enabling a significant increase in the sports offering. 

Between 2 and 15 October, Helsinki residents can submit their OmaStadi ideas on how the city should spend EUR 8.8 million.