Life gets more complicated the older our children get, so we present some ideas to occupy your tween or teen this summer in Champaign-Urbana
We remember fondly the days that we sat down with the calendar and opened the local program guides to carefully select the camps our little children would love. “Ooooh, nature camp! Then a week of pottery camp! And swimming every day?! My little one will love that!”
Well, life isn’t as simple once our young ones grow into their own mini-adult versions of themselves and begin to have some strong — strong! — likes and dislikes when it comes to how they spend their out-of-school time, particularly a big long chunk of it like summer vacation. Nonetheless, as parents, we know you want to help them find some things to do that will be a good fit for their personality, have them out of the house (but quasi-supervised) and spreading their wings just a little bit during these in-between years. Your family also has needs — adults still need to work, and older kids may need to contribute financially as well.
For the purposes of this article, we’re specifically talking about kids roughly between the ages of 12-15 (too old for many camps and not yet driving or picking up traditional 16-and-older employment).
Things to keep in mind as you plan
- Include your children in the process. Tweens and teens want to be a part of the decision-making process when it comes to how to spend their time and what interests them. Volunteering them to babysit three days a week when they really, really are frustrated around young children may not be the best idea.
- Less is more. What worked when your child was 7 — scheduling them to do something every single week all summer long — may not work now. Talk to your children and see what they actually want to do this summer and build from there. Of course you will need to judge how much responsibility your kids are ready to handle, but these years are usually a time of decreasing adult supervision.
- Tweens and teens can participate in family financial discussions. Camps and extra-curricular activities cost money, and each family needs to define and discuss their expectations for their teens about earning and spending money during vacations (not to mention the importance of saving for the future).
- Set some general summer ground rules. If you think it is a possibility that your child would stay in their room all summer, emerging only for food and the occasional friend meet-up at the park, come up with some “when-then” ground rules. “When you’ve taken care of the weekly job of mowing the lawn, then you may have some freedom in deciding how to spend the rest of the day.” Or set up a system where phone privileges are left open-ended only when a couple of basic requirements are fulfilled on a regular basis.
Some community organizations welcome kids age 12 and up to volunteer. Here are just a few ideas.
- FRESH Crew Volunteers are needed for the Urbana Park District’s work days at community gardens and natural areas. Must sign up on Urbana Park District website ahead of each work day. For ages 13-18.
- Champaign County Forest Preserve District has youth volunteer opportunities as well. Planting and clean-up events happen pretty regularly; volunteers under 14 must be with an adult at all times, while ages 14-15 can volunteer on their own (but adult permission is needed). Older teens (14+) may have more opportunities to volunteer, like in the garden and the paddleboat areas. Anyone interested in volunteering needs to fill out this application and can find out about available options from there.
- Another Champaign County Forest Preserve District opportunity is nature journaling. Ages 11-14 can do some ongoing, independent nature journaling/visual projects, like this one last year.
The Champaign County Forest Preserve District has a CIT (Counselor in Training) program held in conjunction with its summer programming but the CIT program is on hold until 2022. Check back next year for more info.
Junior lifeguard academies increase confidence and water skills to prepare participants for needed skills to become a lifeguard, for which they can become certified at age 16.
- Champaign Park District – for ages 12-14, mid-late July, details/registration here
- Urbana Park District – for ages 12-16, mid July, details/registration here
- Stephens Family YMCA – camp for ages 11-14, mid July, details/registration here
Babysitting, First Aid/CPR Courses
- Safe Sitter course, through Champaign Park District: ages 11-15, June, details/registration here
- American Red Cross Babysitting Camp, through Stephens Family YMCA: entering grades 6-8, late June, also receives CPR/AED certification, details/registration here
- Heartsaver First Aid, CPR/AED Class, through Champaign Park District: ages 9+, details/registration here
- Babysitting 101 and Beyond, through Parkland College: ages 11-13, late June, details/registration here
We hear that Safe Sitter courses are offered at Carle and Gibson Area Hospital. American Red Cross Babysitting, First Aid/CPR/AED courses are being offered virtually, too.
Project Athletes Summer Speed School
Speed, agility and conditioning training. For grades 3-5 and grades 6-8. Visit the Project Athletes website here (for the summer-long program) or get information on shorter sessions through Champaign Park District here.
Perform in a Production
Theater in the Park is happening this summer through Champaign Park District. Three productions for students entering grades 3-6, 6-12 and 7-12 are on the docket.
Learn a New Language
Spanish, French, Italian lessons and more through Champaign Park District.
Try a New Sport or Activity
This is just a short sampling of ideas. Champaign Park District and Stephens Family YMCA both offer a number of camps for this age group to check out. Parkland College also has a number of offerings; make sure to click on every category under “Youth & College for Kids” to see the full lists.
- Join a swim team
- Tennis lessons through Champaign Park District
- Learn about cars and car maintenance at Automotive Camp at Parkland College. Machining and Welding camp, Vet Med camp and Programming Workshops are in the line-up, too
- Fencing or lacrosse camp, through Champaign Park District
- Dance lessons, like Musical Theater Dance, at Springer Cultural Center (register through Champaign Park District)
- Cooking camp, through Stephens Family YMCA