When I took on this article, I was child-free and didn’t typically take on the mantle of telling parents what to do with their kids. As I started my research, I imagined what I might like to do with my potential future family. It helped me choose a tone that leaned toward helpful and away from naggy. Looking back, it’s a little ambitious to do all of these things with your kids in one summer.
Ultimately, I chose a list-focused format that divided the activities into categories to keep the narrative of several interviews on track.
By Danielle Verderame
Originally Published in Central VA Family Guide
Each person on this earth receives a finite amount of time to experience the world. These days, we often find ourselves looking for ways to pause the busy, device-filled buzz of daily habits and make time for family—and not just clocking hours, so to speak, but spending meaningful time with our loved ones.
As you look ahead to your summer, we hope you will take your family time to the next level on three fronts: mind, body and spirit. The following activities are a great place to start.
Expand Your Mind
Within the walls of Vector Space, families can participate in a variety of classes and activities grounded in science and inspired by the Maker Movement. Elise Spontarelli, co-founder and executive director, created the space, “…as a physical place for people interested in science, technology, engineering, art, and math to collaborate, invent, discover, and build the things that interest them.” For parents and older children who are already “makers,” the facility conveniently provides access to tools, supplies, and more for a plethora of different projects. For those who are just starting to explore hands-on learning, Vector Space offers classes, such as the Arduino programming class. The best part about these activities is they supplement book learning without the boredom; kids can see the application of principles they learn about in school. And parents can enjoy working on a project with their children for fun—not because it’s due the next day in science class.
Merging pop culture with crafting, Rivermont Makery also blends knowledge with child-friendly activities. This place is perfect for parents who want to promote creativity but would like to avoid buying a lot of extra supplies and cleaning up a big mess. Parents and children may see their favorite movie or book come to life in a themed craft, learn to make slime or crayons, or enjoy activities such as Lego brick play. Laura Watts, owner and instructor, points out that the classes cost less than a movie ticket. But in contrast to a trip to the movie theater, their classes and sessions are a chance to get away from glowing screens. And you get what you pay for—Rivermont Makery uses high-quality materials and their skilled instructors focus on teaching the child, not the craft. This ensures a unique experience that brings out a child (and parent’s) inner creativity.
Inside the four walls of that building covered in bugs, Amazement Square is the go-to destination for a lesson in history, social studies, science and more. On the top floor, you’ll see a working model of the James River flanked with pictorial images of Lynchburg’s city skyline at different points in time. You’ll also see a Native American exhibit—with a life-size teepee—on this floor as well. Amazement Square recently broke ground on an education center that will allow them to have a dedicated classroom space for events and workshops. Also, the museum was selected to host a nationwide exhibit focusing on Korean culture; “Heart and Seoul” is on display through September 2017 at River Ridge Mall. While most people know about the options for young children, the organization also offers internships and volunteer opportunities for middle and high school students.
Challenge Your Body
The YMCA of Central Virginia makes it easy to crank up your heart rate while having fun with your family. New to the staff is a family strengthening coordinator—her goal is to create programs and classes to enhance family time. Family yoga and other fun fitness classes/activities will be rolled out each month. Another unique YMCA offering is the KidzGym at the Jamerson Y, which serves two purposes. Director of Communications Misty Vinson-Spitzer explains, “It’s a great place for children [ages 5 to 14] to play while their parents work out, but it’s also a family gym that encourages parents and kids to exercise together.” The YMCA also organizes several youth sports teams and offers both group and private swim lessons for children. These and various other programs allow parents to introduce their children to new activities in a safe and nurturing environment.
New to the area is Jump Lynchburg, a high-energy trampoline park, in the former Movies 10 theater. For families seeking a fun time, the facility offers several different spaces to play including: battle beams, foam pits, open jump and dodge ball. Jump Lynchburg also features special jumping sessions for young children, children with special needs, and families. On the trampolines, you will find yourself exercising without even realizing it and taking fun family selfies that you will cherish for years to come. According to General Manager Brent Fortenberry, Jump Lynchburg encourages families, “…to branch out and experience our facility and have a good time with their kids in an atmosphere that is fun, friendly, and engaging.” If you want to stay out of the sun or it’s a rainy summer day, facilities like Jump Lynchburg can help get your blood pumping.
Renew Your Spirit
Focusing on nature is a great way to help your family recharge. Planting new flowers or a small garden at your house is a project the whole family can participate in. Or, you can visit Lynchburg Grows and find many ways to get involved. The seven-acre urban farm expands access to produce for Lynchburg residents, restaurants and organizations while also providing onsite vocational training for disabled and low-income individuals. According to Shelley Blades, farm manager and executive director, the organization relishes community support from citizens of all ages. Families can stop by anytime during the farm’s open hours to help with tasks such as weeding, planting or harvesting.
Give your family a much-needed break from all of the screens, and check out some of Lynchburg’s best arts and culture options. One show that’s certain to draw some laughs (and also teach your child a few things) is Endstation Theatre Company’s “The Complete History of America (Abridged).” This wacky history lesson is performed at Thomas Jefferson’s Popular Forest July 13-22. For more family-friendly shows, be sure to keep tabs on the Academy Center of the Arts and Liberty University Tower Theatre.
Another way to spend meaningful time with your family is to help others, and take advantage of your open schedules to work in various volunteer opportunities. For parents of younger children, you can make gift bags for local nurses or EMTs or toiletry bags for Miriam’s House, Salvation Army or Hand Up Lodge. Older children can assist their parents by delivering lunches for Meals on Wheels recipients or spending time serving at Lynchburg Daily Bread. These volunteer opportunities help children of all ages see the world differently and often lead to important conversations about their community.