Illustration. A school-aged boy playing with two balls.

Finnish model for leisure activities launched in Helsinki

The Finnish model for increasing the well-being of children and young people was launched in Helsinki on 19 April 2021. 21 schools are involved in the pilot phase. The aim is to enable every child and young person to have a leisure activity that they can enjoy free of charge after the school day in the school facilities or near them. The Finnish model for leisure activities is a project of the Ministry of Education and Culture. The Ministry awarded the City of Helsinki a €1.0 million grant for supporting the well-being of children and young people through the model.

Restrictions caused by the coronavirus situation and health security instructions issued by the authorities are taken into consideration in the operations of the Finnish model for leisure activities, which is aimed at 3rd–6th grade pupils in the spring of 2021. Pupils born in 2008 and later can currently take part in leisure activities in indoor and outdoor facilities administrated by the City through special arrangements. The activities adhere to the coronavirus instructions issued for children’s and young people’s activities, and the organisers are committed to adhering to their own health security plan.

Wishes of children and young people reflected in the activity selection

The Finnish model for leisure activities focuses on hearing and involving children and young people. Their wishes regarding leisure activities were charted in a national school pupil survey. In Helsinki, popular activity wishes among school pupils included parkour, visual arts, cinema, theatre, cooking, coding, game design, robotics and animal hobbies. “The feedback received from children and young people is immensely valuable to us. We want to have them participate in developing the activities as well, so that we can strengthen the participation and equal hearing of children and young people,” comments Project Manager Irma Sippola.

Leisure activities supporting the well-being of children and young people

The coronavirus pandemic has reduced children’s and young people’s activity opportunities and increased their loneliness. As such, they now need friends and enjoyable activities that promote their well-being and thus support their coping. Above all, bringing leisure activities for children and young people to school facilities after a school day free of charge lowers the threshold for engaging in activities.

A high-quality and diverse activity selection built based on school pupils’ wishes gives pupils something to do in the afternoon. “Leisure activities support the well-being of children and young people and prevent social exclusion. Key aspects of leisure activities include enjoyable pastimes, friendships, and learning and practising new skills. When leisure activities are connected to school days, families can spend evenings together,” says Basic Education District Manager Kimmo Mustonen.

Leisure activities emphasise communality, togetherness and the creation of friendships. “According to the School Health Promotion study, we have far too many children saying that they have no friends. Having hobbies, doing things together and experiencing successes are important ways to reduce this experience,” comments District Manager Tiina Hörkkö from the Culture and Leisure Division’s Youth Services.

The activities organised after a school day bring hobbies closer to children and young people who may normally have limited opportunities to try out different leisure activities and enable them to find paths to long-term hobbies. “We have noticed that children do not have equal opportunities to have hobbies and activities. This is due to many factors. Thus, the model for free-of-charge activities promotes equality in particular,” Hörkkö continues.

The Helsinki City Strategy states that every child and young person should be provided with an opportunity to have a hobby. Improving hobby opportunities and awareness of local leisure activities among children and young people is a joint wellness promotion goal for all City of Helsinki divisions in 2021. Its fulfilment will be observed as part of budgetary monitoring.

Activities launched with health security in mind

21 schools are involved in the spring 2021 pilot phase. The activities are available for the 3rd–6th grade pupils of the following schools: Hietakumpu Comprehensive School, lower stage; Keinutie Comprehensive School, lower stage; Koskela Comprehensive School, lower stage; Laajasalo Comprehensive School; Laakavuori Comprehensive School, lower stage; Latokartano Comprehensive School; Metsola Comprehensive School, lower stage; Pihkapuisto Comprehensive School, lower stage; Pihlajamäki Comprehensive School, lower stage; Porolahti Comprehensive School; Pukinmäenkaari Comprehensive School; Puotila Comprehensive School, lower stage; Ruoholahti Comprehensive School, lower stage; Snellman Comprehensive School, lower stage; Staffansby lågstadieskola; Tapanila Comprehensive School, lower stage; Toivola School; Vesala Comprehensive School; Vuoniitty Comprehensive School; Yhtenäiskoulu and Åshöjdens grundskola.

Information about activity groups and registration instructions can be found on the schools’ own websites. The schools involved in the spring 2021 pilot have informed guardians about the new activity groups via Wilma as well. Leisure activities for upper stage comprehensive school pupils will be launched later due to the restrictions caused by the coronavirus situation. The goal is to provide all 3rd–9th grade pupils of comprehensive schools in Helsinki with activities in accordance with the Finnish model in the school year of 2021–2022.

Building a new kind of co-operation model

The leisure activities are produced in co-operation with associations, sports clubs, businesses and other operators providing leisure activities for children and young people. The goal is to create new co-operation models and develop the activities based on accumulated knowledge and experiences.

Further information

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

Helsinki seeks partners for adopting the Finnish model for leisure activities News article on the City’s website 18 January 2021

Coronavirus instructions issued for leisure activities for children and young people

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 children’s hobby wishes on the Ministry of Education’s website


Kuva: Maarit Hohteri, City of Helsinki