Especially in the wake of extensive isolation and more time than ever spent at home for so many families during the last year, kids really need to get out and have some fun this summer. As you make plans for your own kids, it’s essential to look for a mix of activities that not only keep your children busy but also keep them thinking, discovering, and developing their skills. The right combination of educational fun and socialization can help cultivate initiative, discipline, patience, and tolerance, which are skills they will apply daily when they’re back in school in the fall and as they grow. Research shows that presenting skills in a fun way will have positive, long-lasting effects that reflect in a child’s school performance.
So, what can you schedule for this summer that will keep your children thriving, laughing, growing, and learning? We thought we’d talk to some folks who specialize in summer fun and learning in the Lincoln area to gather some of the best ideas for summer 2021. There are plenty of options to make this summer a win-win for parents and kids alike!
Get Out and Play!
Keeping kids active and away from constant screen time is crucial in summer, and sports is one way to attend to their overall health and wellness, provide them with physical challenges, and help with mental acuity, all while helping them develop positive social skills. Play It Again Sports (playitagainsports.com) offers everything you need to keep your kids active in sports this summer. Whether it’s for baseball, softball, football, soccer, golf, rollerblading, disc golf, skateboarding, or another sport or fitness-related activity, they’ve got a great selection of high-quality new and used sports equipment and attire for affordable prices, and they have a knowledgeable staff that truly enjoys helping customers find the right items and the right fit.
“We love to support the youth athletic programs in the area,” said Owner Diane Hesson. “We like being a part of a child’s introduction to team activities, fulfilling a social need and building healthy lifestyles. Our model allows us to do that and families to save money on quality used equipment at the same time. We’re just hoping to get through a spring and summer full of outdoor play. The past year has been hard on everyone, and we just need to bring some normalcy back into our lives.”
If your kids have outgrown their sports equipment or are starting a new sport, locally owned Play It Again Sports provides an easy way to sell your quality used sports and fitness gear and get paid on the spot—or trade up for what your kids need now. You save big time with affordable used gear, but they also supply the latest new equipment and accessories from the most popular brands. Get out and Play it Again this summer!
For a more immersive kind of experience, Bright Lights Summer Learning Adventures (brightlights.org) offers five weeks of half-day and full-day summer learning camps for K-8th grade students. With more than 90 camps to choose from, their hands-on, engaging, high-quality camps let students learn on the topics of their choice while having fun and making new friends. The majority of Bright Lights camps are taught by certified teachers who share their knowledge on the camp topic with a passion for learning you’ll be challenge to find anywhere else.
“We are so excited to be offering in-person camps again this year, as we know summer learning is going to be more important for students than ever,” said Bright Lights Executive Director Lori Paulsen. “Summer 2021 is our 35th summer of offering summer camps, and we can’t wait to kick them off!
Bright Lights students get to take a week-long summer adventure into a topic that interests them. And with 90+ camps, every student can find something to be excited about on the schedule. They have camps about everything from animals to science, food, sports, music, the environment, and more.
“Bright Lights also offers a flexible schedule with both half-day and full-day camp options, plus we have Before Care and Lunch Care available,” Lori said. “And while the students get the adventure, parents get to see the excitement on their faces as they head to camp each day, knowing they are learning and growing while having fun—just what summer should be about!”
Bright Lights Summer 2021 camps take place during five weeks: June 7-11, June 14-18, June 21-25, June 28-July 2 and July 12-16. See the schedule for the more than 90 camps available and register at BrightLights.org. The safety of students and staff is their top priority, so they have made adjustments, as well as contingency and health/safety plans based on current health directives.
“We pride ourselves on establishing a safe, friendly and motivating environment that helps students be successful while having fun,” Lori said. “We are constantly refining and developing our curriculum to be fresh, fun and challenging for students, and we can’t wait to see them all at camp this summer!”
Acton Academy Lincoln (actonacademylincoln.com) is a modern self-directed, peer-to-peer educational opportunity that launched in fall 2020 to serve families who want the best possible independent learning experience for their children, not hampered by an antiquated one-size-fits-all, grade-specific, micromanaged school system. In addition to their school-year curriculum, they host the LNK Kidpreneur Fair at 1 p.m. on May 15. In addition, they host Camp Curiosity, with two one-week sessions (July 26-30, August 2-6). Most of the activities for these events are outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine, with the interest and safety of every participant in mind.
“Both of these opportunities will be great ways for kids to spark curiosity in fun and educational settings,” said Co-founder Heidi Harsin. “At the LNK Kidpreneur Fair, area youth will have the opportunity to develop a brand and product, build a marketing strategy, and then open their business to customers for a one-day marketplace event. This fair will give kids a hands-on experience that will inspire them to continue cultivating their journey of self-discovery.”
The week-long Camp Curiosity sessions will be an opportunity for kids to experience adventures within the STEM field and the outdoors! This camp will be full of hands-on activities, miniature quests, and team-building activities. Your kids are sure to leave this experience with a whole new level of curiosity and love for the outdoors!
“Through the combination of team-building games, child-centered activities, and emphasis on the hero’s journey, every child that participates in Acton Academy events this summer will be empowered to discover what sets them on fire, what excites them, and how they can leave an imprint in this community and beyond,” Heidi said.
Character, Faith, Fun
If you’re looking for a winning combination of personal and spiritual growth and summer fun for your kids, the Carol Joy Holling Retreat (caroljoyholling.org) camps can fill the bill! Their camps in June and July are aimed at helping kids feel the joy of childhood but also gain the life skills they will need to develop into productive, happy adults. Carol Joy Holling camps are primarily for kids in grades 1 through 12 and are mostly weeklong programs (Sunday through Friday), plus specialty parent/child and parent/grandchild camps, as well as one camp for special-needs youth and three for special-needs adults. What’s more, they offer a Confirmation Camp and day-camp programs at churches and on site.
“Summer camps are the heart of our organization,” said Executive Director Jason Gerdes. “We really believe that kids need to have opportunities to be stretched, have role models, and be in a safe place with a chance to grow—and we do that in an awesome way. Diversity is important, too. All kids are welcome, regardless of where they come from or who they are. You are welcome, and when you come to camp, you leave labels behind and just get to be a kid. Kids walk in as who they are, and it helps them build their identity and gain confidence in themselves. Oh, and finances cannot be the reason that a child does not attend. We have a policy that we’ll pay for any portion of the fee for any kids. If they want to be here, we’ll find a way!”
Participants in Carol Joy Holling camps get to enjoy activities including boating, swimming, horseback riding, archery, high-ropes courses, zip-lines, and more. They also include a program called Coop that focuses on team-based activities and games that teach kids how to work with a team. New this year is a $3.2 million housing building for elementary kids at the TrailHead site, a huge upgrade from the platform tents they’ve used since the beginning. They still have a few of those, though, for kids who really want to try a night or two in them.
“We are a Christian camp, so we start and end each day with worship or devotion,” Jason said. “That’s a big part of who we are. The heart of our mission is growth for kids by equipping, teaching, and exciting them for discipleship and camp experiences. We give the kids safe opportunities to take risks, meet new people, and connect with things they didn’t think they could. Trying and succeeding just compounds their ability to take on the next challenge in life. There’s always something or someone new to connect with. For some, it’s just coming to camp for their first time, and for others, they just want to take on everything and push to grow and become leaders.”
Jason practices what he preaches, too. He attended the Carol Joy Holling for four years in his youth, and then worked as a counselor during college. He met his wife, who was also a counselor, at camp, and they now have three kids who attend! He has worked there for 21 years. In fact, it’s the only job he’s ever had, going straight from college and working in fundraising at the camp until being appointed executive director three years ago. If that’s not a powerful testimonial, we don’t know what is!
Of course, even if the kids are looking forward to summer break, many parents don’t have the luxury of stopping work for three months. If you’re looking for childcare for your toddlers, World of Knowledge Child Development Center and Preschool (worldofknowledgene.com) provides a safe and supportive learning environment for them throughout the summer months. Their activities are structured to both enrich your children’s minds and to encourage fun social play. For a taste of their summer programming, ask them about their Schools Out and Summer Day Camp for school-aged children, too. They’ll have the opportunity to have an adventure, but under the supervision of friendly and energetic counselors.
For the older students or the whole family, roll on over to Sun Valley Lanes (sunvalleylanes.com) and enjoy their 32 cutting-age bowling lands for family, friends, and league bowling. Join a league, have a party, or just bowl for fun. You’ll also enjoy the Splitz Bar and Grill, a full-service pro shop, a recently expanded arcade with a prize-filled redemption center, the new covered patio with two firepits, an indoor Lucky Putt miniature-golf course, and nightly bowling events every day of the week! New additions to Sun Valley Lanes are three high-end sand volleyball courts, opened as part of their $4 million renovation and expansion.
Summer 2021 promises to be a lot more active and engaging than last summer, and Lincoln is rife with opportunities to keep your kids and family active and learning throughout the summer months. We recommend adding the summer activities featured here to your fun agenda!