Tips on Keeping Your Kids Active, Entertained and Safe
As the school year draws to a close, many parents begin to worry how they will keep their kids occupied through the summer months. No parent wants to watch their kids spend their summers in front of the television or computer screen, but many times they don’t know what options are out there that their kids will enjoy and that will help keep them engaged and active. Fortunately, we have found some great local ideas that both you and your kids will look forward to!
“When looking for summer activities for kids, Nebraska has a lot to offer,” says Jeff Dousharm of Tiger Rock Academy, “so how is a parent to decide?
The two questions on most parents’ minds for any potential activity are:
1) is it safe?
2) will my child do/learn/experience something worthwhile?
With that in mind, there are three easy things to check in order to make your best decision. The first is what are the qualifications of the leaders/instructors/organizers of the activity or program? Anyone can promise you the world, but can they deliver? The second is, has the program or activity been around for a while? Often ‘new’ programs will struggle their first time and end up learning from their mistakes. Finally, what are your goals? Sometimes parents just want to toss their kids into whatever program comes along, but if we don’t have goals, then it’s difficult to measure if we have accomplished what we wanted. If we are clear on our goals, we can make sure we pick an activity with similarly aligned goals and objectives for the kids.”
Classes are great for kids to take during the summer as you don’t have to worry about trying to juggle activities with their school schedules and they will have extra time to practice their new skills without having to worry about homework. When choosing a class or classes for your children, keep in mind what they like and don’t like and let them be involved in choosing. Here are a few local ideas.
“Tiger Rock Academy offers a summer program that has been a hit with kids for over 16 years in both Lincoln and Omaha,” says Jeff Dousharm. “Kids (or adults) can train all summer for just $149 and includes a free uniform ($50 value). The lessons at Tiger Rock build self esteem, focus, self-discipline, anti-bullying skills, healthy lifestyles, listening skills, and of course are tons of fun! Their program has been proven through University Studies, and the flexible schedules and nationally certified instructors make it easy to get involved.”
Art glasses are also a great way to help your kids express their creativity and be able to bring something beautiful home for their efforts. “ArtGlass Unlimited offers children’s drop in art classes, suitable for ages 7-18 years,” says Judy Stanczyk. Working with a variety of colored and textured glass pieces, the artist can create fused glass projects that suit their age, level and attention span. We have a menu of project that range from a 4” fused glass tile ($15) to a standing piece of art ($80).”
Music lessons are another great idea for summer, whether you want to help your child improve their skills on an instrument they already play or introduce them to a new one. “For most of our students, music making is such a regular part of their life that the instrument is enjoyed year-round. Taking lessons over the summer allows a student to maintain and develop his or her skills. Without the pressure of homework and school activities, the students are able to focus in on their instruments and find more time to practice.” says Nissa’s String Studio. He goes on to say, “We offer a nine-week summer session of private lessons in the stringed instrument of your choosing. Students can also enroll in the summer session of our fiddle group, The SpitFire Fiddle Band, which is open to all ages and skill levels. Each student will conclude this session with a performance in our Summer Recital. Students have access to composing, recording and music technology options. Due to our recent expansion, we have plenty of room for new students on violin, viola, fiddle, acoustic and electric guitar, piano, synthesizer, cello and bass. We welcome all ages and skill levels. Students will enjoy learning in a positive and encouraging environment in a nice facility.”
Camps are a staple of summertime activities for kids. If you look back at your own childhood, you’ll probably find that some of your fondest memories came from summer camps you attended. Meeting new friends, learning new skills and just getting away from home for a while are all perks of summer camps and the Lincoln area has some great ones that offer wonderful summer experiences.
“Camp Sonshine is designed from top to bottom to provide a truly remarkable experience for campers,” says Trisha Keiser. “From the incredibly fun activities like swimming, to the carefully selected staff, to the innovative programming, we strive to give each camper a safe and unforgettable summer. We handpick staff from all over the world who love working with children and who intentionally model the kind of behavior parents want their children to emulate.” Programs at Camp Sonshine are tailored to meet the developmental needs of each age group and combine fun with meaningful moments that kids will remember. The 2011 summer promises to be better than ever at Camp Sonshine with a number of programs including the new LIT (Leadership-in-Training for grades 6-8) SHINE which will take the LITs out into the community to help with a variety of off-site projects, an expanded teen program with an overnight travel program, and new farm-friendly animals for the younger campers to enjoy.
When choosing a camp, make sure you talk with your kids about what they want. Do they just want to do a day camp (sometimes better for young children who have never really been away from home before), a weekend camp or a week or two long sleepaway camp to really get the camp experience? Also discuss what activities they want to do at camp. Sports? Art activities? General outdoors activities? Leadership programs? Once you get a good idea from them, you can find a few camps that fit the criteria and make a decision from there.
Getting kids involved in sports, whether as a participant or a fan, is a great way to either help them develop skills they can use later on or an appreciation and love for a sport that they can carry through their lives.
If you want to get your child involved in baseball, there are a number of leagues in town, from pre-schoolers all the way up through high school. You can also get your child involved in a professional team, like our own Lincoln Saltdogs. The Saltdogs offer a Kids Club for the summer that includes general admission tickets, a backpack, discount at the souvenir shop, autograph day with the players and coaches, an invitation to their mascot’s birthday party and more! This is a great way to help younger kids develop a love for the sport.
If your kids are in sports in school, summer is a good time for them to hone their skills. Either encourage them to form some informal leagues with their friends from school or look into lessons given by coaches or others who are trained in the field.
David Kosark at Joyride Bicycles says, “Getting your child a bike or upgrading the bike they have is a great way to encourage them to be active. We have a program where you can trade in a bike your child might have outgrown for a larger one, so you don’t have to worry about buying a bike they won’t be able to use next summer.” He goes on to say, “Getting the whole family involved in an activity like biking is a great way not only to stay active, but also to spend some quality time together.”
Bowling is another great active idea. It gets kids out of the house and helps them be social with either friends, new people they meet in leagues or with their family members if you do a family bowling night or just hit the lanes a few times throughout the summer. John Losito of Sun Valley Lanes says, “Bowling is fun, extremely affordable, family-oriented and gives kids a chance to get out of the house and hang out with friends. It’s the perfect summer activity!”
Jennifer Davis-Korn of 48 Bowl adds, “Bowling is the great equalizer of sports. It’s a good activity for the young or old, short or tall, athletic or analytical. It’s an activity that never gets rained out and the equipment always comes back to you. It teaches patience, perseverance, and above all, a sense of humor. For parents of younger children (grades K-4), bowling is a great way to practice balance and emerging large motor skills. For youth grades 5-8, bowling is a time to develop gracious competition and social skills, while still fine-tuning their game. For high schoolers, bowling is just as competitive as any other sport, requiring focus, a practice regimen and mental preparation. For those who participate “just for fun,” bowling is one of the few safe activities that are good for groups of youth or families.”
Skateboarding is another activity that your kids will enjoy and that also helps them stay active. Phil Burcher with Precision Skateboards says, “Skateboarding is a great, healthy activity. It’s an individual sport, and it’s simple to find a place to do it unlike organized group sports that only take place at certain times and in certain places. Skateboarding is simple, fun and challenging and kids are naturally attracted to it because they like the motion. It’s like an entertaining workout.” If your child wants to get into skateboarding but isn’t sure how to start, Precision Skateboards also offers lessons. Another issue Phil brings up is safety. “Parents seem to think skateboarding is dangerous, but studies have shown that it’s safer than other sports such as soccer and football. We also offer a full line of safety equipment to make sure your child is protected when he or she skates.” If your child is already into skateboarding, consider getting him some apparel this summer to increase his enjoyment of the sport. “We have skateboards, including longboards, as well as shoes and clothing,” says Phil. “For shoes, we offer brands like DC, Vans and Nike SB. We sell a lot more brands that the typical skate shop with over 100 different shoes to choose from, so you’re sure to find a style your child will like.”
Of course, it would be nice if all the learning didn’t stop for your children during the summer. Maybe you don’t feel it necessary they get quizzed on math and spelling words each day, but it is possible to help educate your kids throughout the summer months in areas that will help them down the road. One issue that many parents are concerned about is money management skills. No matter how young your child is, it’s never too early to start teaching them how to be good with money.
Angie Schreiner with Liberty First Credit Union shares a few thoughts on money-savvy tips for parents. “By teaching kids how to save for their goals, they’ll have one of the most difficult aspect of saving under their belt by the time they’re teens—being a consistent saver. A few examples to help teach kids of different ages about the savings game would be to have preschool age children sort different types of money into piles by color and size or play grocery store or credit union with them using a pretend cash register. Kids of all ages can help you grocery shop and you can teach them comparison shopping by showing which items cost less than others. If you decide to pay your kids an allowance, include them in the decision. Discuss allowance amounts and what they should use their allowance for. As kids reach high school age, clarify what you will pay for and what your children are responsible for. For example, your kids may want the newest cell phone, but make sure you establish what your spending limit for them is.” Liberty First also offers Junior Stars club for kids who open a savings account with them and they have fun activities like swim parties for members. This is a great way to make saving a fun event, especially for younger kids.
Summer is also the perfect opportunity to get your child extra help with school if they have been struggling or just want to brush up on skills. Mary Jo Cassner of LearningRx explains, “Basically, students are busier during the school year with classes and extra curricular activities than they are in the summer. Despite the popular theory that suggests students lose information over the summer, the truth is that you can’t “lose” information you haven’t retained in the first place. What happens is that a child isn’t actively developing new synapse connections in the brain due to lack of new information being presented. If long-term memory is weak, a child cannot retain the information very long. If the child’s short-term memory is weak, he or she has difficulty paying attention and storing information…especially unrelated academic information.”
Mary Jo goes on to say, “Nearly 80% of students struggling in school have some weak cognitive areas, but no one addresses it. We do at LearningRx. We work one-on-one to help students overcome struggles. First, we pinpoint what is causing the struggle and then work on the cognitive areas to help the student overcome the struggle and reach his or her true potential. Reading, math, processing speed, visual processing, long and short-term memory, logic and reasoning and word attack skills can all be vastly improved within months of cognitive training.”
Summer is quickly approaching and it’s never too early to begin making plans for your children. Gather information on the different types of activities that are available in the area, ask your kids what activities they might be interested in and remember to keep in mind that summer is a great time to improve your kids’ skills, learning and help them stay active and have fun!