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. Nonetheless, as parents, we know you want to help them find some things to do that will be a good fit for their personality. 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). However, we hear that many area establishments are hiring 15-year-olds for retail, food service, and other summer jobs traditionally filled by older teens, due to 2023’s ongoing labor shortage. (We looked into whether your teen will need a work permit for summer employment.) It’s a good time to be a teen who wants to earn real money!
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 are really, really 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 extracurricular 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 her 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.
RELATED: Looking for a list of ways teens can make money while school is out? Check out this great article from Grown and Flown for everything from mowing lawns to tutoring, pet sitting and more.
Some community organizations welcome kids of the tween and teen age to volunteer. Here are just a few ideas.
- Champaign County Forest Preserve District has youth volunteer opportunities. 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. Check available opportunities on its event calendar.
- Salt and Light (Urbana location only) welcomes volunteers as young as 6 years old; children younger than 14 must be accompanied by an adult. Volunteers help sort donations of clothing and food, tidy up the pantry, and help keep the thrift shop running smoothly. You can learn more here.
- Champaign County Humane Society has a Pet Pals Club for ages 10-15. Kids in grade 5 and up can be dropped off for the once-a-month meetings; sign up for the summer session (June, July and August). Get all the details on its Facebook post.
Some local camps welcome junior counselors to help out as an extra set of hands with their summer programming. Junior counselors should enjoy spending time around younger kids and be prepared to help campers and counselors.
- Champaign County Forest Preserve District Counselor-in-Training (CIT)
A counselor-in-training (CIT) is a mature individual between the ages of 11-17 who helps to supervise campers and assists with camp activities each week. CITs should have a passion for nature or cultural history and a desire to share this with others. Most CIT opportunities are weekly, but this year they will offer a limited number of one-day options. 2023 application can be found here; deadline to apply is May 1.
- Urbana Park District Counselor-in-Training (CIT)
Teens ages 13-15 (completed seventh grade) can sign up to be future camp counselors this summer. The park district is putting on its annual Counselor-in-Training program. Teens will be able to build leadership skills and bring their unique set of talents to the park district over the summer. The counselors-in-training will volunteer with the Nature Day Camp from June 5 – August 4 and put in 15-20 hours of work a week. It costs $360 to be a counselor-in-training. Financial assistance is available. Apply by April 16, 2023. People can call Chelsea Prahl at (217) 384-4062 if they have any questions or wish to apply to be a counselor-in-training.
Junior lifeguard academies increase confidence and water skills to prepare participants for needed skills to become a lifeguard.
- Champaign Park District – for ages 12-14, July 10-21
(Successful completion will qualify participant for an expedited hiring process after turning 15.)
- Stephens Family YMCA – for grades 6-8, June 12-16 or July 17-21
The following junior lifeguard program has been offered in years past, but has not yet announced info for 2023.
- Urbana Park District – for ages 12+, dates and registration info to be announced soon
Babysitting, First Aid/CPR Courses
- Heartsaver First Aid, CPR/AED Class, through Champaign Park District: ages 9+, June 17, July 15, or Aug. 19
- Babysitting 101 and Beyond, through Parkland College: ages 11-13, June 19-29, 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 may have additional options.
Douglass Teen Summer Program
Have your teen hang out at Douglass this summer. This is for ages 12-15. Teens will volunteer in their community, take weekly field trips, go swimming, make friendships that will last a lifetime, and much more. Each participant should bring a water bottle, swim suit, and towel daily. Participants need to bring their own lunch and snack, please no peanuts/nut products. More info available through the Champaign Park District.
Urbana Park District Camp FRESH
Camp FRESH! (Future Responsible Environmental Stewardship Heroes ) campers must be ages 12-15. Camp FRESH! offers a unique dive into the Urbana-Champaign community. In addition to enjoying boating, fishing and picnicking at the Lake House in Crystal Lake Park, campers will visit a variety of businesses and organizations to get exciting behind-the-scenes looks while trying new things. Bring a sack lunch, snack, and water bottle each day. More info on page 31 of the program guide.
Project Athletes Summer Speed School
Speed, agility and conditioning training. For grades 3-5 and grades 6-12. Visit the Project Athletes website here (for the summer-long program).
Perform in a Production
Audition for a musical production!
Champaign Park District Youth Theatre will be doing “Into the Woods,” open to grades 6-12. Deadline to register is May 25 and auditions will be held June 5. Editor’s note: canceled for 2023
Urbana Park District Youth Summer Theatre’s production is Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” open to ages 6-18. Auditions will take place April 21-22 and sign-ups are already open; rehearsals don’t start until May.
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 offer a number of camps for this age group. Parkland College also has numerous offerings; make sure to click on every category under “Youth & College for Kids” to see the full lists. We also sort summer camps in the Champaign-Urbana area in our Chambanamoms.com summer camp list.
- 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 lineup, 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 or classes at the new Martens Center
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