Parenting expert offers tips to keep kids busy in summer

6:50 AM, Jun 4, 2013   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Let the panic begin.

Now that it's June, parents across the state are likely wondering how to keep their kids busy this summer.

KARE 11 wanted to lend a hand, so we reached out to a parenting expert -- Stephanie Ash, a Senior Editor at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine.

"We live in what I believe to be the best city for summer parenting. We have very mild summers, and we have a really highly-educated populace. We have a lot of great outdoor space. And those three things together make for a fun summer for anybody," said Ash, who also authors the magazine's Juicebox newsletter.

Ash's first recommendation -- check out the Mpls.St.Paul Magazine Family Guide. Beyond that, she offers several specific recommendations that could fall into either "splurge" or "steal" categories.

1. Geocaching in the Three Rivers Parks District. Kids and parents, too, can check out (for free) a GPS unit at several of the parks' visitor centers.

"You follow the coordinates and go looking for the treasure. You get there, you add a little something of your own," Ash said.

Cost: Nothing. Making this one a STEAL.

2. Archery (also in the Three Rivers parks). Kids everywhere want to emulate Katniss of the Hunger Games. Turns out, the sport can be done safely and relatively cheaply, with starter bow and arrow sets costing less than $100.

"[It's] really athletic. It's outside. It's empowering. And if you're doing it safely, it's a lot of fun," Ash said.

Cost: Less than $100. Making this "somewhat" of a STEAL.

3. Exploring the city, beginning with the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis.

Cost: Completely Free (unless you splurge for a cone or coffee). Making this option a STEAL.

4. Como Park, especially the Como Regional Park Pool.

"Como Park is so huge, and it has so many different things you can do. It has 12 different subpages devoted to it on the St. Paul City website," Ash said.

Cost: $5 max for kids 16 and under, making this another STEAL.

5. Leonardo's Basement. A creative child's wonderland.

"Leonardo's Basement is literally a basement in south Minneapolis [there's a location in St. Paul, too!] underneath a coffee shop that is filled with the most kid-friendly junk you can ever imagine. It's also filled with really incredible teachers who are science, math and arts-oriented who can help your child take whatever idea they have about the junk in front of them and make it into something spectacular," Ash said.

Cost: $185 for a week of half-day classes. NOTE: Scholarships ARE available! The price makes this one a SPLURGE, but according to Ash, it's well worth the cost.

6. Ax-Man Surplus. With four stores around the metro, this store of eclectic "stuff," aka, "junk," may well be the budget alternative to Leonardo's Basement.

"Similar to Leonardo's Basement, you can walk into Ax-Man Surplus with your child and $50, and they can come out and be just delighted for a whole weekend. Provided you have a glue gun, and they're able to use a hammer and some nails," Ash said.

Cost: Under $50 -- you can even set your child's budget under $20, making this one a STEAL.

Finally, for those with toddlers, Ash recommends you check out your specific city website for age-appropriate activities.

And with that, let the panic subside ... and the summer begin!

(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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