School is almost over, and you can officially start planning for your kids to be involved in summer activities right now.  There are always a variety of activities available at different time intervals during the summer months that will keep your kids busy while keeping their minds and bodies active and engaged.  These activities are important for fun, structure, peer interaction, and developing skills and relationships.  Choosing activities that best fit the needs and preferences of your kids while fitting into your schedule is a bit challenging at times, but there are many resources available in our community to help you and your kids decide what activities they will participate in.

There are going to be plenty of opportunities and activities to involve you kids in this summer, and Angie Lewis of Corky Canvas advises that since there are so many options and each class or camp is different you should make sure to choose wisely.  Try to pick a few with activities that your kids love, instead of overloading them with many activities that they may not necessarily be interested in.  While being exposed to new things is always beneficial, your child will most likely already have a good idea of what appeals to them and what does not.  Corky Canvas is offering Camp Color Splash from June 17-19, which offers a different art project every day!  Lewis says that if your kids love arts and crafts, they will LOVE this camp.  The cost is $85 per painter for all three days, and the camp is a collective experience so there are no partial date sign-ups offered.  There will be two age groups, the Red Group which is K-3rd graders and the Blue Group which is 4th-8th graders.  The fee includes materials such as canvas, paint and smocks.  Once they receive your reservation, Corky Canvas will also send a confirmation email with a questionnaire to gather more information about your child in order to offer them an amazing experience that highlights and fosters their individual talents and interests.  For more information, check out the Kids Tab on their website at

If you are in the mood to take a mini road trip with the whole family or want to get your child involved in a great and highly educational summer program, you should plan to visit the Strategic Air & Space Museum, located off of I-80 near Ashland and Mahoney State Park.  The Strategic Air & Space Museum (SAC) is committed to providing guests with engaging experiences that will inspire the young – and the young at heart – as they explore the worlds of aviation, history, science, and technological innovation.  The Strategic Air & Space Museum takes great pride in their unique aircraft restoration program, and are one of the few museums nationwide to have an on-site restoration facility which provides museum guests the opportunity to watch first-hand as SAC’s collection of historically significant aircrafts are brought back to their original glory.

Igniting the thrill of innovation and discovery begins with exciting educational and outreach programs.  Each year, the Strategic Air & Space Museum serves thousands of school children through variety of field trips, overnight programs, and school and community presentations given throughout the region and the state. SAC also strives to present interactive exhibits throughout the summer, and over the course of the year, that enhance focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These temporary exhibits keep the museum experience fresh every time you return. Examples of these special exhibits in the past have included “Robots: The Interactive Exhibition” and “Suited for Space”.  If your summer is already full of activities, you can still plan to attend the upcoming MathAlive! exhibit opening September 21st.  Along with the exhibits, when you visit SAC be sure to stop by their Simulator and MAT (Multi-Axis Trainer) rides and all ages will enjoy the variety of space-themed programs offered in their Planetarium.  SAC also has a different activity every month in their Science Zone and feature one aircraft per month that the public can climb inside and experience history come to life.  Both of these experiences are included in the price of admission – at no additional cost.  The museum hosts annual events as well, such as Helicopter Day & Wings Under the Wings on May 18th and the Family Fun Carnival on August 3rd.  Wings Under the Wings is a high-octane BBQ wing-tasting event under the wings of historical aircraft.  You can start the day with the One-Day ONLY Helicopter Day exhibit, and then fill your afternoon and your stomach with wings from some of the tastiest places in the area.

The Strategic Air & Space Museum’s Education Department is committed to fueling the curiosity of children across the Midwest and educating them with special emphasis in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). SAC believes that STEM is a direction of great significance for our youth and the future of our country and world, so they strive for excellence in all of their STEM-centered educational programs.  You can find more information or sign your kids up for one of the many super science summer camps by visiting their website at

Tiger Rock Martial Arts Academy offers two summer sessions or a combined “train all summer” option for kids and adults to train over the summer break.  These sessions begin June 14th and July 15th.  Registration is open until June 8th for the first session and until July 10th for the second session.  However, each year this program quickly fills to capacity.

Jeff Dousharm, owner of Tiger Rock, says in his experience working with families there are three critical areas that great parents use to evaluate summer program options for kids:

Is it safe?–Not just the activity, but the people facilitating it.  Is it just a bunch of 16 year olds hired to stand around?  Are the staff trained, certified or qualified in whatever they are teaching or leading?  Are they first aid and CPR qualified?  These are all factors that go into making sure that your child will be safe.  There are many stories of kids being hurt because of poor planning and unqualified program leaders, so parents should do their research and not just assume everything will be fine.

Will my child LEARN something or really improve an area of their life?–There are tons of activities out there.  The question is, what gives you the best return on your investment of dollars AND time.  Kids can have fun AND learn or develop at the same time.  Activities that help build skill sets such as focus and confidence can really give them the edge when they go back to school.

Will my child have FUN?–Besides learning, kids need to have fun!  Why?  Because if it’s not fun they won’t want to go and will get burned out.  You will be dragging them to the activity or worse yet, settling for them quitting.   And if they quit, not only are you out the money, but you also start the trend of telling your child that quitting is ok—not a good lesson in life.

With over 18 years in Lincoln, Tiger Rock Martial Arts has become a very popular option for summer activities for kids and families.  University studies prove the impact that Tiger Rock has on kids.  From confidence and reduced fear of failure to focus and listening skills, Tiger Rock delivers in a very fun and safe environment.  Multiple locations in Lincoln and Omaha make it easy for families to be a part of it all.

Gerry Phelan of Midwest Woodworkers recommends woodworking as a great hobby for children because it teaches life-long skills.  Beyond providing the ability to be self-reliant in building or repairing things, it teaches valuable lessons in other areas like planning, math and geometry skills, accuracy, patience, and attention to detail.  Woodworking engages the senses; particularly touch, sight and smell.  And above all, it’s fun!  Very young children enjoy watching adults and imitating what they do.  You can start preschoolers out by just giving them some wood scraps, glue and paint and letting them ‘build’ their own designs.  Then have them tell you what they made and praise them for their creativity.  It is better to let them use their own imagination than to try and follow plans or copy a model.  That way they don’t become frustrated because their project doesn’t match the ideal. From grade school to middle school ages, you can begin to slowly introduce tools and more complex projects–using good judgment on what your child is ready to handle.  Many woodworking tools involve sharp edges, so careful instruction and close supervision is needed when they use them.  You can build most projects with hand tools like saws, planes, etc. but if a power tool is necessary, have them watch while you do it and explain the care you are taking to be safe.  The projects can be anything from toy airplanes to birdhouses to Pinewood Derby cars – it doesn’t matter as long as they are engaged.  Woodworking is a great way to learn, enjoy shared experiences and gain useful manual skills.  Phelan always emphasizes the safety first policy.   Even a simple tool like a screwdriver or a hammer came be dangerous and destructive.  Always explain how tools are properly used and monitor that they are used safely.  Additionally, offer opportunities for kids to try woodworking on their own terms.  By encouraging kids to build things that interest them you can show them how the skills they are learning will help to make their next project even better.  Phelan also emphasizes to praise and reward their success and above all, do it with them.  Even if you don’t feel you are an accomplished woodworker yourself, you will find that what matters is that you spending time and building together.

Doodle Cakes have been teaching kids decorating classes for over eight years in the Millard area. Kim Gagne, owner of Doodle Cakes, has been honored with various awards such as Professional of the Year and Citizen of the Year plus has been recognized in the Millard Public School system and Girl Scouts for her work with children. The Doodle Cakes team is professional and works in education so they know how to make a camp day fun, productive and safe.  Due to the popularity of their camps, they have added more camp dates for 2013! There will be three Doodle Cake Camps available this summer, and camps include daily pastry decorating projects, games, crafts, and a kitchen and dining etiquette class which even offers your child an opportunity to properly set the table! Everything is included in the camp so there are no extras to purchase.  Doodle Cakes’ camps sells out every year so be sure to register early!  Gagne adds that you should always make sure your child is getting a good night of rest before each session so they can really enjoy all of the activities.  Summer camps are a great way for students to meet other children from other schools, and an opportunity to make new friends!

Rock Paradise Omaha is also owned by Kim Gagne, and provides a camp to teach kids teamwork that is a true bonding experience! During camp the kids will learn dances to popular pop songs, and create their own talent act to perform in the Rockin’ The Summer Show for parents and guests at the end of the week that showcases what they have learned, and what they created in the process. They will also play games and do daily crafts! Rock Paradise has a full stage and light show including an LED backdrop screen for extra excitement. They definitely have the WOW factor that kids will take with them as a memory forever!  Gagne also suggests that kids always wear comfortable shoes so they can keep up with all the camp activities throughout the day.

If you are hosting your own summer gatherings, HoppyKidz has tons of options to entertain kids of all ages (and adults!).  They have many different themed inflatable bouncers that are great for backyard barbecues, birthday parties, and block or neighborhood parties.  Summertime is always a great time to plan a gathering of family, friends and neighbors—especially for a luau! HoppyKidz has a Big Island Bouncer that will blend in with any tropical or summer theme.  HoppyKidz provides delivery and set-up services for all units, which takes the worry and hassle out of technical issues so you can focus on entertaining and enjoying your company.  If you want to serve treats, or do not want to hassle with preparing snacks for your gathering, they also offer a hot dog machine, cotton candy machine, candy party art, popcorn machine, and other small appliances that are perfect for parties.  Their pony hops are always a fun activity.  Both kids and adults can ride or race them for fun and entertainment.  HoppyKidz also has smaller ponies and hopper balls that the little ones absolutely love!  Another popular event during the spring and summer are company picnics, and these events are way more fun with activities to keep the kids busy while the adults have some leisure time.  A bouncer and a few games are all you need to accomplish this.  Shawna Miller of HoppyKidz stresses that you should ALWAYS supervise your children, or make sure there is a designated, responsible person who will be supervising any activity.  Activities are only as safe as the parents/adults that are supervising them.  It’s much better to avoid an accident rather than try to deal with an accident after it happens.  Miller also advises to keep plenty of liquids on hand to prevent your child from becoming dehydrated, as there is so much going on that they may not want to stop or realize they don’t feel well unless they take a break every so often.  Additionally, make sure that children are dressed appropriately for the weather and activities they will participate in, make sure they know the rules of each activity before they begin, and always keep a first aid kit handy!

Summer activities give your child the opportunity to spend their time engaged in creative projects that offer educational undertones while emphasizing fun and making friends.  This promotes physical and mental activity, and also encourages creative thinking as an approach to life.  In this way, you are preparing your child to be willing to take risks as they learn new skills, and creative thinkers also have the ability to understand that problems have many solutions—so when they encounter an obstacle, they are able to find a way around it rather than giving up.  Summer activities will give your child an opportunity to learn and practice these skills, as well as experiencing what the outside world has to offer firsthand.  For example, even if they follow a project guide exactly, they will still have to make decisions about the shades of colors they prefer, where to place items, or how to correct technical mistakes they have made.  Additionally, since repetition is one of the ways we retain information, once they have been exposed to one type of project they will learn the editing process.  In becoming more comfortable with the skill they are trying, they will also become more creative with the choices they make and more comfortable with exploring their imagination.  Summer activities also encourage children to find the resources to make what they want in order to solve their own problems.  If a tool is already in use, they will be negotiating with their peers and scheduling their place in line for it, as well as exercising patience during the waiting period, all while allocating their time to other aspects of the project.  These lessons are all being presented in a working manner, without your children being distracted from the excitement of their new experience.  You can take an active role in this process by attending a summer activity with your child, or reviewing what they did during the day in order to reinforce what they have learned, thus facilitating their emotional growth and understanding as to why each activity you both have chosen is great for them instead of simply something to pass the time.  Kids absorb everything, so why not position them in the best atmosphere to absorb positive ideas and influences.  Summertime is a great opportunity for your child to enjoy the world outside of the classroom and try something new, so make sure to take advantage of the many wonderful options available in our community!