|Dreading that 'Summer Daze?'|
Don't worry! Plenty of organizations offer ways to fill your kids' time with fun, educational activities
As another school year draws quickly to a close, many parents are undoubtedly asking themselves the same questions: Where did the time go? What can we do to keep the kids occupied? Spring fever gives way to summer frenzy as parents scramble to find activities to fill the long, hot days of summer. For some, it may be back-to-back day camps. For others, it may be filling time at home with activities or park outings.
The summer challenge is nothing new to Tiffany Weider and Liz Roby, who were picking up daughters from recent Saturday classes at Crealde School of Art in Winter Park. Roby, a Winter Park mom of three daughters, ages 4 to 9, says a week of camp for three can get expensive, so "we're not heavy on camps. I would rather spend that money doing something together as a family." Nine-year-old Lily mentions inviting bunches of friends over or going to the beach. Her mom mentions building a house from refrigerator boxes.
Weider said she begins plotting summer strategy for 9-year-old Jillian in February. "There are 11 weeks of summer, and we have to have them all full,"the Winter Springs mom says. Jillian's summer includes camps at Crealde, the Orlando Science Center and the Orlando Museum of Art.
Ken Foster, who has been heading up Crealde's summer ArtCamp for seven years, began planning even before Weider did -- he started in January. He promises that this year "is going to be dynamite. The kids are going to love it." The camp features a number of sessions -- a week of half-days for the youngest artists and two-week, full-day sessions for those 8 and older -- offering a comprehensive approach to art. The sessions are taught by professional artists and include instruction in printmaking, ceramics, photography, painting and drawing, and sculpture. "We've gone back to the old-school way of allowing teachers to create without boxing them into a theme"Foster says. In addition to the summer-camp lineup, there are six themed Saturday classes offering such fun-sounding choices as Visual Storytelling through Cartooning, Pint-Size Picassos and Alien Clay.
Crealde will be accepting registrations until the beginning of June -- or until a class is filled -- for its ArtCamp (June 8 through Aug. 8) and Summer Saturdays (June 15 through Aug. 1) for children ages 5-17. Prices for the classes vary.
Here are some more options for parents who find themselves still piecing together the summer-break puzzle:
Winter Park Public Library
Children of all ages will find a variety of ways to "Be Creative @ Your Library" during the summer. A highlight, of course, is the summer reading program. A kick-off party is scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon on June 6, when kids will receive a free book for signing up for the program. During the summer, kids will have the opportunity to earn "book bucks"which can be redeemed for prizes, by reading at least 15 minutes a day. Aside from encouraging children to have a library card and to check out books, the aim, says MaryGail Coffee, community relations coordinator, is "to help kids keep up those literacy skills but also make the library a destination for the summer." That's why much of the library's focus will also be on tweens and teens, making such popular events as video-game and movie nights weekly rather than monthly events. There are also programs for the whole family's enjoyment. Among those offered last year, for example, was a Spanish-culture class featuring Flamenco dancers. "It was crazy popular"Coffee says.
Library programs are free, though registration may be required.
Now in its 42nd year, Rollins Summer Camp offers fun and learning in a collegiate environment. The camp day is modeled on the college experience, with parents and children working together "to create their own custom camp" from the variety of offerings. Courses include such perennial favorites as sailing, art and robotics. "They're learning, but it's not school"says Katie Perrine, assistant director of special programs and events. The camp had been offered to students who had completed kindergarten through fifth grade. Rollins will pilot a new program this summer for those who have completed sixth grade, Perrine says, in answer to the call from parents who send their kids to the camp year after year. Different from the two sessions that run for a month, the new program will offer two two-week sessions focusing on technology and working with the Rollins radio and television stations.
Though registration for the camps began in March, Perrine says it is ongoing.
City of Winter Park
"This year is going to be very unique"says Ronald Moore, an assistant director in the Parks & Recreation Department. The city joined forces with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida in October to provide youth programs at the Winter Park Community Center. The usual turnout for the summer program camps has been 150 to 175 kids, and Moore doesn't expect this year to be any different. Once registration begins in May the day camps are expected to fill quickly with those currently registered in the Boys & Girls Clubs program. But Moore says, "If the demand is there, it is our responsibility to accommodate it." Because Winter Park has a wealth of resources, Moore says there is no problem filling up a couple of months with age-appropriate activities. Along with arts and crafts and storytelling, there are skating and bowling trips and outings to kid favorites such as Wet 'n' Wild. "The sky's the limit"Moore says. Scholarships are available for the summer program. The program also attracts middle- and high-school-age kids, because "it gives them something constructive to do and not just be hanging out." In the interest of providing a safe environment, the gym is reserved for campers during the summer from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, but it's open to the public from 6-9 p.m. weekdays and from 1-6 p.m. on weekends.
Winter Park Chamber of Commerce
The Chamber of Commerce offers a weeklong Youth Leadership Program for high-school students entering their sophomore, junior or senior year. In the eight years since its beginning, 250 youth leaders have graduated from the program. Daily themes focus on such things as team-building, arts and culture, communication, law and government and career-insight day. Participants get hands-on experiences at venues throughout the city and complete a community-service project. Upon completion of the program, 25 community-service hours are awarded. The application deadline is May 8.
For those parents who may have procrastinated past sign-up times, a trip to the city's Web site will point the way to a variety of options, recreational and otherwise. A visit to the Hannibal Square Heritage Center offers a learning opportunity as well as a chance to cool down at the "spray" park nearby. Dinky Dock on the shores of Lake Virginia continues to be a cool summertime attraction. For a bit of good, old-fashioned fun, kids may want to gather up a fishing pole and some bait and head to the Lake Island Park -- the site of the city's annual fishing tournament -- off Denning Drive and Morse Boulevard. Anglers under 16 don't need a fishing license.
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