For working parents, or those who just want to keep the kids occupied during the fall and winter holidays, now is the time to decide which camp is best. Whether it be a city recreation, YMCA or specialty camp, this is a good opportunity to test drive one before the much longer summer break.
It's always a good idea to check out your local YMCA to see if camps are offered, especially since those facilities offer after-school programs. And many cities will be offering winter camps to help working parents or those who just want to keep their kids busy. For the most part, parents must pack lunches and snacks for kids. And this being Florida, they probably will need sunscreen.
Here are a few choices if you're still searching.
St. Pete Beach is offering a Thanks for Giving Kids Camp from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 23-25 at the city's Community Center, 7701 Boca Ciega Drive. The camp, for grades first through fifth, is $50 for residents and $75 for non-residents. For information and to register beginning Nov. 1, call (727) 363-9245.
In December, the city will offer two camps, Dec. 21-24 and Dec. 28-31, from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (until noon on Christmas and New Year's eves). Kids in grades kindergarten through fifth are able to attend but space is limited. Cost is $75 residents and $100 for non-residents.
The city of St. Petersburg is again offering holiday camps — Fall Play Camp on Nov. 23-25 and Winter Play Camp on Dec. 21-24 and Dec. 28-31 — from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. for elementary school kids at 11 recreation centers throughout the city. The fall camp is $50 while the winter camps are $65 each week. Camp fees are done on a sliding scale and depend on whether the child is on a free- or reduced-lunch program. Registration will begin sometime in November, said Rick Craft, St. Petersburg's recreation manager.
Camps are also offered at virtually the same time for middle school kids, Craft said. Because of grants the programs receive, most of the middle school students attend for free, he said, adding that these kids generally have more field trips and do more community service activities at camp.
Craft says the kids participate in a host of activities, including indoor and outdoor playtime, science experiments, drama and field trips. Call (727) 893-7441 for more details.
In Tampa, the city is offering camp activities at several recreation centers from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. with before and after care available to kids who must be enrolled in kindergarten to fifth grade. A current city Rec Card is required to participate. Holiday camps are Nov. 23-25 at $33 per child; Dec. 21-23 ($33) and Dec. 28-31 ($44). For more information, call (813) 274-8615. And get out your day planner because Spring Break camp is set for April 5-9 at $55 per child; a sibling discount is available.
• In New Port Richey, a camp will be offered for kids ages 8-16, said Angie Walcott, the city's recreation supervisor. Details on price and start time are still in the works but Walcott said camp probably would be held Dec. 28-30. For more information, call the city at (727) 841-4560 or go to cityofnewportrichey.org.
If you prefer not to go the city route and you want to check out some facilities that also offer summer camps, there are some choices.
Think outside the (bread) box when considering a camp. And look at these short camps as a test drive for a camp in the summer. For instance, if you have a little chef (not Remy from Ratatouille) in your house, then they may want to take one of the holiday camps at Foodies, 2312 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg.
On Nov. 23-25, for example, kids ages 10 and up will make yeast bread and quick breads from scratch on Monday; side dishes on Tuesday; and dessert on Wednesday. All parents need for the big dinner is the turkey. But this is an afternoon camp from 3-5:30 p.m. and costs $185 or $215 to make side dishes for eight. Kids take home a tool of the day and the recipes for the dishes they prepare in class.
Foodies also will offer two holiday camps, Dec. 21-23 and Dec. 28-30, from 3-5:30 p.m. The first class includes lessons in food gifts, cookies for nibbling and a Christmas Eve dinner. Cost is $175. In the second, kids will make health treats, soup and New Year's Eve appetizers. Cost is $185. For information or to register, call (727) 209-1418 or online at www.foodies.net.
St. Pete KidzArt is offering several holiday mini camps for Thanksgiving and December holidays. At Great Explorations, the Children's Museum, 1925 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg, the Thanksgiving camps are Nov. 25-23 from 9 a.m. to noon for preschool kids ages 3-5 ($65); and for elementary students from 9 a.m. to noon ($65) or 9 a.m.-3 p.m. ($100). Before and after care may be available through the museum; call (727) 821-8992 for details.
The same prices and times apply for KidzArt holiday camps at Great Ex on Dec. 21-23 and Dec. 28-30.
At Planet Jump, 12640 62nd St., Suite 100, Largo, holiday Kidzart camps are offered for elementary students on Dec. 21-23 and Dec. 28-30. A half day, 9 a.m. to noon, is $65, while a full day is $100 for both sessions.
For more information and to register, go to www.stpetekidzart.com or call (727) 823-0123.
Great Explorations also will conduct some camps featuring games, crafts and activities in the museum. Thanksgiving camp is Nov. 23-25 while two mini camps on Dec. 21-24 and Dec. 28-31. All camps are 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. To register and for more information, contact Julia Tripp at (727) 821-8992 ext. 227. Each camp costs $35 a day for members and $40 for non members. Campers must bring a lunch and two snacks. And if you plan far enough in advance, spring break camp is set for March 29 to April 2.
Lowry Park Zoo will offer a Thanksgiving camp, Around the World (Nov. 23-25) and two winter camps, Hot or Not (Dec. 21-23) and Animals of America (Dec. 28-31) for students in kindergarten to fifth grade. The two three-day camps are $100 for passholders and $111 for non-members; the four-day camp is $132 for passholders and $148 for non-members. Extended care (7-9 a.m. or 4-6 p.m.) is $20 for passholders and $25 for non-members. There is no sibling discount. Campers must bring lunch, two snacks and a beverage. The zoo's Andrea Schuch (pronounced Shook) suggests a refillable water bottle so that they will have something to drink all day. Camp hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The price for the four-day camp includes a T-shirt which must be worn daily. Call Schuch, at (813) 935-8552 , ext. 279 for more information. All registration is online at lowryparkzoo.com.
• At Boyd Hill Nature Preserve in St. Petersburg, four camps are being offered Nov. 23-25 for a variety of age groups. Jungle Boogie ($30 for members of Friends of Boyd Hill Nature Preserve; $36 for non-members) is for kids ages 3-4 who must be potty trained; Young Naturalist ($60 members; $72 non-members) is for ages 5-6; Herpetology Camp ($75 for all) is for ages 7-11; and Pioneer Camp ($60 Pinellas Pioneer members; $72 non-members) is for ages 7-13. The three camps for older kids are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and extended care is offered at $15 for the session. Jungle Boogie camp is from 9 a.m. to noon and no extended care is available. Call (727) 893-7326 for more information.
The Museum of Science and Industry, or MOSI, in Tampa has camps set for kindergarteners through eighth grade. Students must bring two snacks and wear clothing that can get messy. They can bring a lunch or buy it at the MOSI Cafe. Extended hours are available from 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. for $10 each per week. Among the camps offered:
• Camp Turkey, Nov. 23-25, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. (kindergarten to fourth grade; MOSI members $95, non-members $114): You only have to tell the kids one thing about this camp and they will be good to go: A turkey will be launched with a catapult. Enough said.
• Worlds of Imagination, Dec. 21-23, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. (kindergarten to fourth grade; MOSI members $95, non-members $114): This artistic camp will let children create new inventions out of Legos or other building material and draw, paint and sculpt art or action figures.
• Virtual Gaming, Dec. 21-23, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. (fifth-eighth grade; MOSI members $95, non-members $114): It's not all fun and games here — wait, yes it is. Tweens and teens will create stories, avatars and new worlds on the computer. And they'll experiment with mixing reality with video game worlds and produce a mystery to be solved using the Internet.
• Planet X!, Dec. 28-31, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. (kindergarten to fourth grade; MOSI members $125, non-members $150): Students will set up camp on Planet X, the strangest planet in the galaxy and search for aliens, use robot probes and go on missions to find alien treasure.
• Kung Fu Movie Making, Dec. 28-31, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. (fifth-eighth grade; MOSI members $125, non-members $150): Kids can work their inner Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee to learn the techniques and staging to make a safe action adventure.
Science Center of Pinellas County: Although no specific dates have been set, the center will offer camps during the December winter breaks. Fees and topics will be determined soon. Keep checking the center's Web site, www.sciencecenterofpinellas.org for more information.
The PinkCricket Center for Arts Education, 534 Central Ave., St. Petersburg offers classes in the visual arts, literary arts, drama, music, film, fashion design and dance. The center will offer camps for kids in kindergarten through fourth grades from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Three-day camps are $100 for members, $120 for non-members; early registration, multiple camp and sibling discounts available for members. Before and after care available for a fee. Students must bring lunch and two snacks.
• Candy Shop Pop (kindergarten-second grade, Nov. 23-25): Students will explore the world of pop art, creating Warhol-style images; building giant sculptures like Oaldenburg; and painting Lichtenstein-style posters — all based on their favorite kind of candy.
• Print, Roll, and Stamp (third-fifth grade, Nov. 23-25): Students will learn basic printmaking skills while creating colorful prints.
• Once Upon a Time (kindergarten-second grade, Dec. 21-23): All campers will be princes and princesses. They'll build a castle to play in, create their own fairytale wardrobes and write their own fairy tale.
• Build It: Toy Workshop (third-fifth grade, Dec. 21-23): Students will learn how to make traditional toys, design their own toys and games, and create fun packaging for their handmade toys.
• Puppet Theater (kindergarten-second grade, Dec. 28-30): Campers will create puppets and work together to create a special puppet show based on a familiar children's story.
• Get Into Character (third-fifth grade, Dec. 21-23): Each camper will create a fictional character and transform into that character using stage makeup, costumes, props and a biography they write.
At Bounce U in Wesley Chapel, the finishing touches are being put on the schedule for the Thanksgiving camp, Create and Bounce. The camp, which will feature holiday themes such as Turkey Day and Teepees and Totems, will be Nov. 23-25 from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Owner Debbie Kopycienski says that there may be before care offered. She added that a camp will be held during the December holiday break. Details are still being determined so check the Web site. Bounce U is at 5419 Village Market, Wesley Chapel. Call (813) 907-5867 or go to email@example.com.