Arts & CultureKiddie Dope

Summer Camps and Cinema for Kids

Once your children are old enough to realize that being in a large, dark room with flickering lights and noises all around isn’t scary, going to see a movie can be downright fun. But then it’s a race to see how many classics you can get them to watch before they inevitably stumble onto the latest Disney fad. 

I’m always a fan of the discount prices at the Georgia Square Value Cinemas on an overly hot or rainy day. But another nice break from the multiplexes (and the overpriced popcorn) is the kid-friendly shows at Ciné. A couple of weeks ago, the EcoFocus Film Festival included a special showing of kid-friendly movies that screened for a packed house. This weekend, kids have an even bigger treat: The annual Fresh Look Athens International Children’s Film Festival.

The event kicked off Sunday, Apr. 6 and continues with a 2 p.m. screening Sunday, Apr. 13. This is a great chance to get your kids to see a collection of fun international films that aren’t widely distributed otherwise. They are mainly animated, but the styles and stories are so varied that each stands on its own.

Leo Cotlar, who, along with a couple of other volunteers, selects the films each year, says he scouts the films by attending several children’s film festivals a year. “In the last few years we are also receiving DVDs and links from directors/producers who learn about our festival and want to submit their shorts,” he says. 

Some of the highlights this year include The Mole and the Sea and Hedgehogs and the City for the younger kids. For older kids, Cotlar says they’ll see themselves represented in Big Mouth and Shame and Glasses.

Cotlar says there’s a chance the festival could travel to other cities, and he’s been contacted by officials in Savannah, Miami and Burlington, VT, about bringing the festival there, too. But for now it’s all ours. Tickets are $7.50 each and can be purchased from the Ciné box office the day of the show. For more on the festival, visit

Oh, Right. Camps.

Call me crazy, but I’m seriously starting to dread spring simply because of the annual summer camp sign-up ritual.

If you’re new to the area or have a child who is just now old enough to get camping, here’s the quick-and-dirty lowdown: Athens-Clarke County’s Leisure Services Department offers camps that have staggered sign-up dates. (For example, sign-ups for Lyndon House art camps are Saturday, Apr. 12; get in line early.) There are also dozens of camps offered through businesses and organizations that started enrolling kids as early as mid-March. Direct your browser to for more information.

As a side note, let me just say (as I probably do every year) that back in my day, “summer camp” was when your parents shipped you off to someplace out in the woods, where you slept in your sleeping bag and did activities like swimming and horseback riding. At the end of the week, you came home. But that’s not the case anymore. Today’s camps mainly fill the void left when school gets out, both in an educational and in a child-care sense.

That said, I entered this spring feeling less pressure to fill up my daughter’s schedule because of a shift in our own family work schedules—and also because, since she’s turning 7 this summer, I thought she would be old enough to take part in all the “7-and-older” camp options. (Canoeing! Tennis! Hiking! Zoo animals!)

Alas, I was mistaken. Apparently her July 1 birthday is early enough to let her finish first grade by this summer, but not early enough to qualify her as a 7-year-old for county-run camps. My husband, it turns out, stood in line at Bishop Park only to find that we’ll have to wait another year before we can experience the full scope of camp options. That meant all my careful plotting and planning is out the window, and at this point, if you haven’t signed up for the camps you like, you’d better hope you’re high up on the waiting list.