May 23, 2012

Kiddie Dope

News from the Juice Box Set

Let your kids rock their socks in the heat of the summer next month, as AthFest takes over downtown. Embracing your sweaty artistic side? Four air guitars out of five (c'mon, we don't want to be THAT sweaty).

Getting Wet 'n' Wild: I swore I wouldn't do it. Last summer, I heard the stories and had the big goal and swore to myself, I'm going to keep up with it. But then winter set in and the idea of going outside with wet hair just couldn't settle with me.

So, consider this my slap on the wrist and my do-over. With swimming lessons for my daughter, that is. I'm not a strong swimmer. But I can fake it enough to bring my daughter to a pool (OK, I'm a bit petrified of large, echoey, indoor pool spaces, but that's beside the point), and since she could barely walk, we've been bobbing around at Bishop Park and at the YMCA. Last summer, I enrolled her in some swimming lessons, and what began as a whim—by the time she was 3, she was starting to get the idea—quickly turned into a weekly tradition. By the time school started, she was close to diving into the deep end.

Which is why I swore to myself we'd keep it up. So many kids spend their summers in the pool, the lifeguards told me, but when school starts they don't get back in for months and lose some of what they learned over the summer. It's a trade-off for school, I suppose.

Which is why I'm imploring you, if you haven't brought your kids to one of our many area pools, get into the habit this summer and then do better than I did at keeping up with it through the cold months, too.

Athens-Clarke Leisure Services has lessons scheduled all summer long, and while they are filled up, it never hurts to get on the waiting list. At $33 for a county resident ($50 for nonresidents), you can't beat the price to have college-level swimmers teach your child how to be comfortable in the water. Call (706) 613-3801 for info. There also are lessons all summer at the YMCA ($50 members, $70 nonmembers; [706] 543-6596) and the YWCO ($50 members, $60 nonmembers; [706] 354-7880).

I think one of the reasons I was a pool slacker was because once school starts, a host of other activities start up, too. But Dan Magee, ACC parks services administrator, tells me that swimming can actually enhance your child's skills in other sports. Not only is it a skill that can be useful throughout your life, but it keeps a range of muscles in shape for other uses. "Swimming is the best exercise, no matter what sport your child plays," he says. "It is so much better for their development—swimming helps them get much more flexible, and if you're into football, into track, it develops coordination. It adds to the other sports."

Plus, with the Summer Olympics coming up, how cool would it be to bond with your kids—despite any fears of large, echoey rooms—over a sport you both can enjoy?

Turn It Up: Speaking of water, break out the water bottles for the annual party for the townies, AthFest. It's June 20–24, and the kids portion (KidsFest!) runs the Saturday and Sunday of the festival. Mind you, I'm a big fan of popping some child-appropriate headphones on your little ones and toting them down for the live music on Friday, too, but the hands-on stuff happens on the weekend.

This year's kid-friendly lineup has a nice range of music and activities that kids can relate to. There will be lots of dancing courtesy of DanceFX, step and hip-hop teams from Barnett Shoals Elementary School and even an interactive lesson. There will be two open-mic sessions—3:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday—so alert your kids to start planning their act. And look for performances from the UGA String Project (a partner of the AthFest Educates! program), talented local musician and artist Heidi Hensley with her Googly Schmoogly Band, and a couple of installments of Cedar Shoals High School's Chicken Wing Theatre.

And, of course, there are the activities that go along with KidsFest. Debbie Watson, the KidsFest chair, says the festival is about more than the music. "We are trying to provide the 'overall' experience… KidsFest is about exposing the kids and their parents to all the arts in a fun and inexpensive way." That means water-themed games, inflatable toys, a rock wall and macaroni art (to name just a few activities).

Before KidsFest officially opens, catch Atlanta-based family-friendly band Laughing Pizza on the Pulaski Street stage at noon Saturday, June 23. I wrote about the band a couple of months ago when they played at the Melting Point, then watched as my daughter went from sitting bashfully to dancing in the front row when we watched them perform.

Pack the sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat and some clothes that look good with sweat on them. Your kids will thank you.