Hot fun in the summer sun

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 24, 2002

It's the time of year most students look forward to.

Summer vacation.

For many children, it means action-packed weeks of summer camp, swimming lessons, trips to the beach and dozens of other activities to fill the days free of homework and studying.

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For others, it means long, boring days of watching reruns on TV because they simply don't know what else to do.

No matter which category your child falls into, many activities, workshops and camps are offered by different organizations in Austin.

If your child is interested in sports, the Austin Park and Recreation Department offers dozens of activities for children of all ages. Swimming lessons are available throughout the summer for infants to teenagers.

Not the aquatic type? Bowling lessons will be given to children aged five and up at Echo Lanes.

For those aspiring to be the next Tiger Woods, golf lessons will be taught to children at least 6 years old.

If your child is interested in playing baseball, but too young for the real thing, t-ball leagues are open to children who are 5 years old, but have not completed kindergarten and to children who have completed kindergarten or first grade.

Boys and girls who are too old for t-ball and are 7 to 9 years old can play softball and girls 10 to 12 years old also have their own softball league.

If your child has dreams of being the next Pele or Mia Hamm, and is between 6 and 11 years old, they can participate in the Park and Rec's summer soccer leagues.

Volleyball fanatics in fourth through 10th grades can take part in volleyball camps in July.

The Park and Rec Department hasn't overlooked runners, either. Track practices will be offered for anyone ages five and up.

For more information about the Park and Rec Department's summer activities, call 433-1881.

The YMCA also offers a variety of clinics "before the season starts for kids trying to brush up on their skills," says Ruth Chamberlain, the YMCA youth director.

Clinics are offered in gymnastics for children as young as 3 years old, in tennis for kids 4 to 18 years old and in swimming for infants to adults.

Cindy Brake, the YMCA aquatic director, says the swimming clinics give children "an idea of what the swim team is all about. They learn the four competitive strokes, nutrition, team work and how to improve their flexibility."

The YMCA's Summer Daze School Aged Child Care program also is popular with parents. Parents of children in first through sixth grade can leave their kids at the YMCA for either the whole day or a half-day while they are at work. The children will spend the days taking field trips, playing games and making arts and crafts and Chamberlain says parents appreciate that the YMCA "is a centrally located place and is a safe, safe environment."

Brake and Chamberlain also say another benefit of the clinics and day care program is the friendships the children form. "So many kids that did not know each other end up as best friends," they marvel.

"I think parents should really take advantage of these programs," Chamberlain says. "It's important to keep kids busy and they're learning while they're here. We try to make it fun, but it's also a learning experience."

Parents do have to pay a fee for most of the YMCA's programs, however, scholarships are available. For more information about the YMCA's summer activities, call 433-1804.

Children who are interested in nature and like being outdoors can take part in many programs offered by the J.C. Hormel Nature Center. This summer, the nature center is offering nature walks for preschoolers, a workshop studying Monarch butterflies from eggs to the time they migrate, nature survival olympics and fishing. Additionally, children and their families can take nature center-sponsored canoe trips on the Cedar River several times this summer.

You can contact the nature center by calling 437-7519.

The Mower County Extension Office also has many outside activities planned for this summer. A 4-H summer camp for children in the third through sixth grade will be held at Camp Patterson near Mankato, June 17-19. Children in sixth through eighth grade can attend another 4-H camp at Camp Patterson on June 21-22. The camps are open to children from more than one county and though 4-H members are given preferential treatment, they can bring friends who aren't in 4-H if space allows, says Deb Schammel of the Mower County Extension Office.

Schammel says children in kindergarten to third grade can participate in day camps in Adams in mid-July. She says the children will go swimming at the Adams swimming pool, play games and do "camping-type activities."

No matter which camp they go to, Schammel says the children will meet new friends, learn new skills and learn to get along with different types of people. "They build friendships, gain self-confidence in the things they are able to do. It may be the first time they experience something like this, the first time they're away from their siblings or family situations," Schammel says.

For more information, call the Mower County Extension Office at 437-9552.

If your child doesn't like spending much time outside or needs a break from typical summer camps, the Austin Public Library has many programs going on throughout the summer.

Community services librarian Maggie Snow says the young adult book clubs will continue through the summer, but the library also offers other programs all summer.

"For younger kids, from June 9 to Aug. 16, there's a reading club called 'Discover a hoppin' place at your library,' and the idea is that if kids read 20 minutes a day for 20 days, they can come into the library and get a prize. They can get up to three prizes during the summer," Snow explains.

The reading programs are important because "it's important to keep kids reading over the summer and it gives them something safe to do," Snow says.

From June 17-21, an entrepreneurial camp for girls in seventh and eighth grade, called 'Girl Boss' will be offered at the library in the mornings. Snow says local business women will speak about how they started their own businesses and what they have to do as businesswomen. Girls who attend will also learn computer skills such as designing business card and creating spreadsheets.

Snow says the library is still in the process of planning many summer activities for children and more information will be given about those as soon as possible. For more information, call 433-2391.

Amanda L. Rohde can be reached at 434-2214 or by e-mail at