Short school week, what to do with the kids?
Next week is an odd one on the school calendars in the Tampa Bay area. Schools are closed on Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and there's also an in-service day where the teachers are there but the kids aren't. For Hillsborough kids, it means they have Monday and Tuesday off. For Pinellas, they have Monday and Friday off. What's a working parent to do?
We have some ideas for you.
Take the days off yourself: If you can take time off work yourself, January is a great time to hit the theme parks that are mobbed in the summertime. According to park watchers, January, the beginning of February and the fall have the lowest attendance numbers and the best weather.
Looking for something to do with bored kids on Tuesday? We have two words of happiness: puppy hugging. The Southeastern Guide Dogs’ Discovery Center in downtown Sarasota will be overrun by itty-bitty puppies and they are inviting the public come in and help with their socialization.
“It’s a win-win," said Jennifer Bement, spokeswoman for the organization, "The puppies are getting used to lots of different sights and smells, and hugging a puppy is just plain good for the soul.”
The puppy hugging session is 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday and there's a “Puppy Tales” reading time from 2 to 2:30 p.m., all free at the Discovery Center, 1618 Main St., Sarasota; (941) 953-2892.
If your kids is more of a shredder than a hugger, the Skatepark of Tampa is open early on Monday and Tuesday at 10 a.m. to give the kids something to do.
Camps: If you can't get away, there are some camps to consider. The Lowry Park Zoo is hosting an Animal Olympians camp on Monday and Tuesday. It's $85 for passholders, $95 otherwise and extended care is available beyond the 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. camp. You can register online at the zoo's web site or call (813) 935-8552, ext. 268 for information.
On St. Pete Beach, the Community Center’s Day-Out Kids’ Camp on Friday for grades 1 through 5 includes gym games, arts and crafts, park play and tons of fun. Cost for the camp is $30 for St. Pete Beach Residents and $50 for non-residents. Enrollment is limited so call (727) 363-9245 to reserve a spot or drop by the Community Center at 7701 Boca Ciega Drive. It runs from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Most schools have an after care program that will hold day camps for teacher planning days. Even if you don't normally use the after care, you can sign up for one-day sessions like this. Inquire at your school
Cities and counties that run after-school programs also typically will offer one-day deals for people who don't normally use them. At the city of St. Petersburg, for example, residents can pay $20 for a one-day play camp at any of the city's dozen recreation centers. Non-residents can also use them, but they need to purchase a recreation card, which is $12.50 for a month's use or $125 for a year. Most centers will be open both Monday and Friday for play camps, although some will be closed for MLK Day. Call (727) 893-7441 for information, or check the city's website to find the nearest recreation center.
Good old-fashioned swaps can save a working parent who is tight on money. Find a neighbor or friend who is a stay at home mom and offer to babysit for a date night in return for a day of play at her house. Date-night babysitting is a valuable prize to any mom, so use what you got.
--Sharon Kennedy Wynne
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