Features & Images » Feature Story

Summer alternatives for kids

Times have changed and so have what keeps kids busy and amused in the summer. Cindy Filipenko checks out what's up for kids here and in the city.



"I’m bored…" Those two words, particularly when uttered in a slightly nasal whine, have a direct line to parental spinal cords. This is probably because for most adults the thought of having absolutely nothing to do is actually a cause for celebration. However, the folks that tend to sputter out this accusatory declaration are children – children who will shortly be free of the structure and demands of school for a couple of months.

Are you shivering yet? Or are you merely envying your divorced friends who manage to ameliorate the situation by shipping their offspring to the other parent over the summer? Well, before your blood runs any colder or you serve your spouse with papers – remember, there have always been summer holidays; our parents survived them and so did we.

Of course, for many of us now in the position of scheduling a summer’s full of activities for our kids, our summers were loosely supervised by a consortium of stay-at-home neighbourhood moms.

In the early ’70s Richmond neighbourhood of my youth, there were really only two programs. The first was a parks and rec program called Summer Fun. Small portable buildings full of playground equipment and craft supplies were dropped into elementary school playgrounds. A couple of college recreation students were put in charge and voila, a free summer program for suburban kids! The problem was, Summer Fun was a bit of a misnomer. At least half the time "summer" was a rainy mess and making macaroni-paper plate art around a wet picnic table was hardly "fun".

The other program was less formal, yet had achieved a high level of compliance among the River Road Maternal Consortium. An adhoc program, it consisted primarily of a harried and exhausted female parent looking up with a pre-murderous expression and yelling: "Get the hell outside!" Sometimes a phrase such as "…before I lose my mind" was added to the call to this particular action.

Get the Hell Outside! (trademark pending) was an effective and easily implemented program with almost 100 per cent adherence in the neighbourhood. Ah the halcyon days of avocado appliances and shag rug rakes….

Kids today are different than we were. Whether they are living in families with both parents working or in single-parent families, daycare has become just another aspect of childhood. From an early age kids are being exposed to increased peer socialization and a day of structured activities. Remove these vital elements from a routine established long before school age and things can get a little hairy. And nobody wants that, I mean, somebody could end up losing his or her mind. So, in the interest of family sanity, here are some suggestions for day camps, summer programs, residential camps and easy family getaways that won’t break the bank.