Keepin’ the kids busy

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 1, 2000

Much to the dismay of local children, summer is beginning to wind down; the back-to-school frenzy lurks just around the corner.

Tuesday, August 01, 2000

Much to the dismay of local children, summer is beginning to wind down; the back-to-school frenzy lurks just around the corner.

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Children may be spending their final weeks of summer vacation sitting in front of the TV instead of playing outside.

With such nice weather these past few days, you may wonder why.

Because they’re bored.

Parents need not worry; the city of Austin is coming to their rescue, offering a number of events and activities for all children.

The local YMCA is one place where children can spend the day.

Mark Bjorlie, executive director of the YMCA, described their Summer Days program by phone Monday.

Summer Days, school-age child care is offered through Aug. 25 and includes about 90 children.

Monday through Friday, children take part in a variety of activities, including swimming, arts and crafts, and sports.

"We’re focusing mainly on elementary age children," Bjorlie explained. "Some come in as early as 7 a.m. and stay until 6 p.m."

This is a popular program at the Y, he said, and is filling up fairly quickly.

"We help provide a service for those who need it," Bjorlie said.

While pretty full for the season, if children are interested in Summer Days, all their parents have to do is sign them up.

For parents whose older children can never seem to sit still, the Y has the perfect event – a teen dance.

On Thursday, students going into grades 6-8 can head on over for a good time.

From 7-9 p.m., for the cost of $3, they can enjoy dancing, music, as well as prizes and pop.

Bjorlie said they chose to hold a dance over the summer due to the popular response they received to previous events.

If your child can’t get enough of the water, the Y has a number of events planned.

On Monday and Tuesday, from 5:30-6:30 p.m. they can participate in Splash and Dash.

Focusing on children entering grades first through sixth, Bjorlie said that they will be able to "experience what it’s like to be part of a real swim team – practicing strokes and conditioning."

After getting a feel for what it’s like to be on a swim team, any of the children who attended on Monday and Tuesday can return on Thursday, from 6:45-8 p.m. for a practice swim meet.

Bjorlie explained that the swim meet will be just like those held in high school, complete with a horn and timing system; children will be able to experience "fun competition."

This event is something the Y has been conducting for quite some time, Bjorlie said.

Its main goals are to promote the sport of swimming for young people, as well as the Y’s upcoming fall team.

They try to keep the program reasonable, with low costs, so they may incorporate high school students, as well; Bjorlie said it’s even more enjoyable for the young kids with them involved.

"The younger kids see what the older kids do with more time put in," he said.

Both parties benefit.

For parents looking for a way to spend quality time with their children, they can take advantage of the summer long swimming, tennis or gymnastics activities.

"(These activities) are there to give kids the opportunity to do things before school starts again," Bjorlie said.

Bjorlie described the tennis camp, which will offer free lessons Aug. 14-15.

For two days, children ranging in age from 4-13 will be instructed on tennis basics; if they enjoy it, they can extend their lessons through the end of the next week for a fee of $45.

The camp will run for a total of eight days, concluding Aug. 24.

The remainder of the Y’s programs will conclude by Aug. 25.

Activities for book worms

If your young child or preteen who prefers books to sports, the Austin Public Library has a number of activities to satisfy their love of the written word.

The theme of their summer program is "Library Kids Lead The Way."

From June 8 through Aug. 4, kids are invited to "lead the way" to the library for summer programs, activities, crafts, games, and of course, books.

Children may join the reading club, and see just how many hours they spend reading books this summer.

Maureen Steenblock, children’s librarian, said that the program "offers children incentives as they progress through the summer."

To join the reading club, children must register for a reading log so they may keep track of how much time they spend reading over the summer; they may register at any time throughout the program, which ends on Aug. 4.

Those who participate may do by having stories read to them by their parents and older siblings or reading by themselves or to someone else.

If you’re looking for a way to entertain your child during the day, head on over to the library for some fun.

"Anyone is welcome," Steenblock said of the library’s programs.

The programs are not limited just to younger children.

From noon until 1:30 p.m., every Wednesday and Thursday, children in second grade and up may participate in one of two activities – Brown Bag Lunch ‘N’ Crafts or Brown Bag Lunch ‘N’ Games.

On Wednesday, also at 1:30 p.m., children of all ages will enjoy a hands-on presentation by the Minnesota Zoo, in which they are bringing in animals to describe.

For parents who dread family vacations because their children become unruly during long car trips, the library offers a creative solution – travel packs.

All interested parents have to do is stop by the library and fill out a sheet detailing their child’s interests; the librarians do the rest.

"We include games, books, cassettes, and magazines for them to take with them on vacation," Steenblock said.

Advice from an expert

Suggestions from the Parenting Resource Center also help parents in dealing with their antsy children.

Maryann Law, executive director of the PRC, had the following pieces of advice for weary parents.

"One option is to get out a map and look for places within a fifty mile radius," Law said.

While stimulating thinking in children, it also gives parents ideas on places to visit with their children, including parks, towns, even bike trails they’ve never been to.

With the absence of school pressures, this is also a good time to connect with family and friends you may not have seen for awhile.

"This is a great time to highlight relationships with grandparents, a special aunt or uncle, or even friend," Law said.

Thinking along the same line, Law also mentioned deepening your child’s sense of history by exploring cemeteries.

"Cemeteries are a really good place of history," she said. "They lend themselves to talking about life issues, family history, or spiritual discussions."

Like the many programs at the library illustrate, reading is also beneficial to children.

"Reading out loud is very valuable to children," Law said. "People are able to read out loud 2-3 levels higher than they read to themselves."

Strong reading skills help to build vocabulary and communication skills as well; the PRC has a number of age-appropriate short stories available and encourages parents to take 15-20 minutes from their day to read with their children.

Perhaps the most valuable piece of information Law offered was to simply be with your children; that’s what they encourage most at the Parenting Resource Center.

"Kids absolutely thrive on adult attention," she said.

For further information on any of the programs listed, contact the following: Austin YMCA, 704 First Drive NW, 433-1804; Austin Public Library, 323 Fourth Avenue NE, Maureen Steenblock, Children’s Librarian, 433-2391 extension 319; Parenting Resource Center, 301 Main St. N, 437-8330.