The lazy days of summer are closing in fast. Kids who have been busy with reading, writing and arithmetic soon will have lots of hours to fill. And after 180 days, they’ll be ready for a break.
But down time doesn’t have to mean dead time.
In addition to traditional summer activities like swimming lessons and sleep-away camp, Tupelo is brimming with opportunities to keep kids’ minds and bodies moving.
“You don’t want them sitting on the couch all summer,” said Lawndale gifted program teacher Teresa Gregory, who serves as the director for the Tupelo Public Schools’ Camp Opportunity. “You want them to keep their minds fresh, too.”
Tupelo Parks and Recreation, Go! Creative Athletics, HealthWorks! and Tupelo Public Schools all have a slate of camps and activities. Although fun is at the top of the agenda, there’s plenty for kids to learn while they’re having a good time.
“Summer camps are great at keeping kids active and engaged,” said Donna Loden, the imaginator of Awesome Experiences at HealthWorks! Children’s Health Education Center. “Who knows if they’re going to find something that will impact their future?”
Besides if they don’t have anything to do but park themselves in front of the TV and video games, pretty soon parents are going to be hearing that dreaded refrain: “There’s nothing to do.”
It’s just not good for kids to completely shut down for the summer – physically or mentally. Kids need to keep their minds and bodies engaged.
Health experts recommend kids get at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day to stay healthy.
During the school year, kids in kindergarten through eighth grade are getting at least 150 minutes of physical activity during the school week. That’s about half of what they need.
Getting that physical activity in is about more than sweating.
“The more you move, the more you learn,” said Sydney Darnell, owner of Go! Creative Athletics, which offers a challenging slate of summer fun for little and big kids.
The summer programs are about more than keeping kids busy, Darnell said. “Summer gives us more time to spend with these kids … time to build confidence, to help them find their gifts.”
At Go! Creative Athletics, Darnell focuses on letting kids explore different kinds of athletic and art disciplines under the close guidance of coach-instructors. The McCullough Boulevard center is offering both four-day camps and classes that meet once a week.
One of the camps Darnell is most excited about is a new Go Away Camp, where kids going into grades 2 through 5, will get all the fun of sleep-away camp – tents, s’mores, journaling, flashlights, campfires and cabinmates without the overnight stay during the 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. four-day camp June 22-25.
“The main thing I want to teach them,” at any of the Go! camps, Darnell said, “is that they can do anything they want to do.”
Wacky, healthy fun
Summer camps at HealthWorks! are about more than germs and body parts. They cover mystery, drama, science, art and ants in your pants.
“We have a very broad definition of health,” Loden said. “Anything that makes you happy and feel good contributes to overall well-being.”
This summer, the children’s health education center at the corner of Industrial and Robert E. Lee drives is offering nine half-day camps and two week-long camps for kids ages 5 to 12. The half-day camps, which cost $15, are repeated through June and July in both morning and afternoon sessions.
“At HealthWorks!, we certainly want children to be active, both physically and mentally, but having fun while being active is our top priority,” Loden said. “Summer camps provide imaginative opportunities for campers to try new activities, make long-lasting friendships and experience learning HealthWorks! style.”
Back to School
The Tupelo Public Schools offer Camp Opportunity. With these camps, there are no bubble sheets, tests or homework, promises camp director Teresa Gregory.
“It’s really hands on,” Gregory said. “There’s something for everyone.”
There’s a mix of art, drama, science and virtual world travel. There’s even a class that focuses on games. The week-long camps are offered from 8 a.m. to noon in June at Lawndale School.
The camps are open to all Tupelo Public School students, who have completed kindergarten through sixth grade, on a first come, first served basis. But register soon – the camps often fill up quickly.
Even if kids are staying home alone this summer, Darnell suggests parents and kids get together and set some flexible summer goals with an eye on making sure kids get up and get moving.
“Don’t over schedule, but do schedule,” Darnell said.
It might cover summer reading and getting out to the pool to swim or taking a family walk around the neighborhood after dinner. It also could include plans to redecorate and rearrange rooms, along with the cleaning required to make those projects happen.
“Kids love it,” Darnell said. “They can brainstorm about what they want to do.”
Parents may have to gently push kids into trying new activities, but they should be careful to tune in to the reviews. If kids don’t like it after the first two times, it may be time to try something else.
“If they’re not doing something they enjoy, it will be the reverse reaction,” Darnell said.
And parents have to be willing to take the first step if they want their kids to be more active.
“They are watching us,” Darnell said.
Moms and daughters will have a special week at HealthWorks! to get fit and have fun. The BodyWorks/Work Your Body program, which will be offered 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 8-12, is open to girls ages 9 to 13 and their moms or caregivers. They’ll spend the morning at HealthWorks! and the afternoon at the North Mississippi Medical Center Wellness Center, where they’ll get hands-on time on nutrition and exercise.
“The week culminates on Friday at noon with a Health Fair, Health Walk and a Food Fiesta prepared by the participants,” Loden said. “An incredible week crammed with so much fun for only $50.”
Michaela Morris/NEMS Daily Journal