LIMA — Stayce Furr’s four children may be nearing a summer off from school, but Mom is already thinking about how they won’t be sitting around the house doing nothing.
There will be swimming and racquetball at the YMCA, family bowling and skating outings and much more.
“I don’t like them to be in front of the TV or computer constantly,” she said. “I would rather they be out and active.”
As summer approaches and the school year winds down, many parents need places for their children to go while they work.
Others are looking for positive activities that keep children’s bodies and minds working. They want options that get children away from the television and video games for awhile, but also keep them from getting into trouble.
Furr learned about some of the summer options at a recent Opportunity Festival at Lima North Middle School. About 200 parents attended the event and learned about nearly 20 summer opportunities. The options ranged from activities sponsored by community organizations to businesses giving special offers to youth during the summer.
“Parents could sign their kids up right then and there,” said Yvonne Jones, parent liaison at the school. “They also had a way to get that one-on-one contact to really find out what they offer and how it will fit with their child, instead of running around all over Lima and Allen County trying to find something to do.”
For some parents finding something for their children to do is an absolute necessity, said Ric Stolly, director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry for the city of Lima.
“It is how their kids are taken care of and entertained,” he said. “For some families, it is a got to have. Others it is a luxury.”
For many years, the city Parks Department has offered a summer program for 6- to 12-year-olds. This year’s program, which includes field trips, athletics, games, arts and crafts, and lunch five days a week, begins June 10. Registration will begin from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at 900 S. Collett St. The cost is $30 for the summer.
“It is a safe place for kids and an environment where they are being mentored, and friendships are being developed,” Stolly said. “The opportunities that exist are phenomenal.”
Many agree that children, especially those approaching and in their teen years, have a greater chance of getting in trouble when they have nothing to do.
“We want our kids to stay doing something positive for the summer because we know when kids don’t have anything to do, they sometimes can gear toward the wrong things,” Jones said. “We just want them to be engaged in things that are positive, so they can enjoy their summers and parents can feel good about what kids are doing.”
Jones said that once children hit middle school it is even more important that they have structured activities they can do with their friends. Furr got her daughter, a freshman at Lima Senior High School, involved in Rally Point Youth Center.
EXERCISE BODY AND MIND
Finding summer activities is more important today, Jones said, because of all the distractions children face.
“They have television on 24/7, and the Internet and technology,” she said. “Those things are good and they have their place, but it is also good for kids to just get out and have fun and do physical things.”
The parks program includes guest speakers and field trips to places such as the Neil Armstrong Museum and Rhodes State College and OSU-Lima. The learning experiences are an important part of the program, Stolly said.
“For some it is the first chance to experience a college campus,” he said. “They may see the moon in a whole different way when they get to go down and touch a moon rock.”
Most YMCAs offer summer camps that keep children moving with some added educational components. Children in the Putnam County program will play outside at least an hour a day and swim and do other physical activities. Weekly themes bring in education, Director Lori Fetherolf said. For example, science week will be full of experiments.
“For some parents it is continuation of child care, but a lot of it here is it gives kids something to do for the summer so they are not around the house,” she said. “It gets them out and keeps them active so they are not watching TV all day.”
The YMCA will add tennis lessons this year and a sports enhancement program, where children ages 12 to 15 can get sport-specific training. Physical activity is a must for children of all ages today, Fetherolf said.
“It is really important to have 60 minutes of activity a day to fight that child-obesity trend,” she said. “We try to do all we can here to fight that.”
Furr will keep her children moving by going to the YMCA, where a favorite activity is racquetball. They will also take advantage of discount rates at Edgewood Skate Arena and free bowling at Westgate Entertainment Center.
Westgate is part of a national program that offers two free games to children 15 and younger every day beginning this week and running until Aug. 31.
“From our standpoint it is a way to get new customers into our building during our slowest time,” said co-owner Wes Johnston. “It is a way to get new customers and get people introduced to bowling, and maybe down the road they will come back and have a birthday party or join a league or just come out and go bowling.”
This is the fourth summer Westgate has taken part in the program. Families must go to http://kidsbowlfree.com to register. About 4,000 children registered last year. Johnston said some come every week.
“It keeps getting bigger and bigger,” he said. “We are trying to make a big push to get as many out as we can.”
As the need for options has grown, so have the options. Jones said after a successful first year of the Opportunity Festival, this year was even bigger with more businesses and organizations represented.
A few others at the festival included the Toledo Zoo, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Urban Minority Alcohol and Drug Abuse Outreach Program, and Ultra Sound Special Events.
“There is plenty,” Jones said. “A a lot of these things are free and they are all around Allen County and Lima. There is no excuse for a child to sit around and do nothing all summer.”
Westgate Entertainment Center