Four happy girls holding pumpkins

As of Monday, all comprehensive schools of Helsinki are providing free-of-charge leisure activities

The Finnish model for leisure activities, which aims at increasing the well-being of children and young people, will be expanded to cover all comprehensive schools in Helsinki. The free-of-charge hobby groups of the autumn season, intended for pupils in grades 3–9, will start their activities on 30 August 2021. The activities were put together based on the wishes of children and young people and will give school pupils enjoyable things to do in the afternoon.

In the 2021 autumn semester, all of Helsinki’s 102 comprehensive schools are providing free-of-charge activities for pupils in grades 3–9 in accordance with the Finnish model for leisure activities. There are roughly 250 hobby groups in total, and the activities will be supplemented over the course of the autumn semester. The activities are provided free of charge, taking place after the school day at the pupil’s school or in its vicinity.

The key aspect in designing the selection of activities was listening to the wishes of children and young people. School-specific activity favourites were charted by means such as a national school pupil survey. In Helsinki, children's and young people’s activity wishes included parkour, visual arts, cinema, animation, theatre, cooking, coding, game design, robotics and animal hobbies. These wishes were implemented in the trial phase of the model in spring 2021. Now, in the autumn, the selection will be supplemented with new activities such as football, basketball, circus, dancing, street art, media art, photography, history, literature, gym and martial arts.

“We have formed a designated team of children and young people in Helsinki to strengthen participation among children and young people and collect valuable feedback to develop the activities,” says Project Manager of the Finnish model for leisure activities Irma Sippola from the City of Helsinki.

The City of Helsinki’s goal is to improve its leisure activity opportunities for children and young people and prevent their social exclusion.

“According to surveys, children and young people who have a regular hobby have fewer experiences of loneliness, school stress, sleeping difficulties, mood swings, bullying at school or poor health. Hobbies also have positive effects on well-being in school and thus everyday life in school. Scheduling the leisure activities after the school day enables families to spend time together in the evening,” Basic Education District Manager Kimmo Mustonen from the City of Helsinki believes.

Activities following the Finnish model for leisure activities are also one way to tackle the expensiveness of hobbies in the Helsinki metropolitan area.

“The expensiveness of leisure activities in the Helsinki metropolitan area can prevent people from starting a hobby. Free-of-charge activities organised after the school day cater to children and young people who may normally have limited opportunities to try out different leisure activities,” says District Manager Tiina Hörkkö from the Culture and Leisure Division’s Youth Services.

Leisure activities in the autumn semester are starting on 30 August 2021 with health safety measures in place

In the 2021 autumn semester, all of Helsinki’s 102 comprehensive schools are providing free-of-charge activities for pupils in grades 3–9 in accordance with the Finnish model for leisure activities. The schools will inform guardians and pupils of new leisure activity opportunities via channels such as Wilma. The leisure activities are produced in co-operation with associations, sports clubs, businesses and other operators providing leisure activities for children and young people. Information about activity groups and registration instructions can be found on the schools’ own websites. The activities adhere to the health safety instructions issued for leisure activities, and the organisers are committed to adhering to their own health security plan.

The Finnish model for leisure activities is a project of the Ministry of Education and Culture. The new model was piloted in Helsinki in spring 2021, whereby leisure activities were provided for pupils in grades 3–6 at 21 schools. As the activities are expanded to cover all comprehensive schools in Helsinki, the selection is increasing and young people in upper stage comprehensive education can now register for activities as well. The activity selection will be supplemented and more groups may be added over the course of the semester. The City of Helsinki is committed to building the free-of-charge after-school leisure activities into a permanent operating model that will later cover private, agreement and state schools as well.


Background information about leisure activities and the Finnish model

The Finnish model for leisure activities in Helsinki on the Culture and Leisure Division’s website

Information about activity groups on the schools’ websites (‘Meidän koulu’/’Kerho ja harrastustoiminta’ sections on the Finnish-language pages)

Information about the Finnish model for leisure activities and the pupil survey on the Ministry of Education and Culture’s website

Health safety instructions for the leisure activities

Researcher Suvi Määttä’s article on the Kvartti – Helsinki quarterly magazine 18 August 2021: “Viikoittainen harrastus on helsinkiläislapsilla yhteydessä parempaan mielen hyvinvointiin” (in Finnish)


Photo: Jonna Pennanen