For generations, the phrase “I’m bored” has been a familiar childhood refrain during summer – but kids today belong to the first generation that can easily fill time sitting and gazing at a smartphone or computer screen.
It’s not enough anymore for a parent to say, “It’s not my job to entertain you.” Today, they have to add “and you’re not getting on your phone – go figure it out,” said teen life coach Amy Schule, owner of Brave Girls, Wise Souls in Williamsville.
Summer doesn’t have to be boring in Western New York. Take a walk, ride a bike or run a 5K with your kid. Read books with them. Or consider these five ideas that can quiet the familiar summer refrain – at least for a while.
Kids outdoor fitness
Canalside is among spots where kid-friendly exercise is taking place this summer.
“The summer months are hard to fill with activities when you have kids at home – and not only is Zumbini new this year – but there are other classes specifically designed for kids,” said Amber Ciesiulka, spokeswoman for BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, which sponsors a slate of classes for children and grown-ups at the downtown Buffalo waterfront attraction.
Classes include Kids Get Moving from 6 to 8 p.m. Mondays and Fridays through August (except Aug. 3 and 17) alongside the kids’ beach, in the southeast pocket of Canalside. Aliana Cruz, who will be a junior this fall at McKinley High School, and Julie Brown, an elementary school teacher at Amherst Christian Academy, put children through paces that can include soccer, hockey, a ring toss, horseshoes, Hula-Hoops, jump rope, football and Frisbee. The program, through Sow It Now Health & Fitness, is designed for kids 12 and younger but most appropriate for those in the 2- to 8-year-old bracket.
“If parents have another activity they want to do, they can stop by and drop off their children if they’d like,” Brown said.
Cardio Kids Drive Fitness runs at 6 p.m. Wednesdays at Canalside for children ages 8 to 13. Also at Canalside: Zumbini with Jody, a Zumba and BabyFirst class for newborns to age 4, at 11 a.m. Sunday and Aug. 26; Josh & Friends, also hosted by Sow it Now, a “circuit training” exercise program to music for ambulatory teens and adults with developmental or intellectual disabilities, at 10 a.m. Wednesdays; and Everyone Can Dance, for kids and adults, at 10 a.m. Fridays (except Aug. 3 and 17).
Elsewhere in Buffalo, the splash pad is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily through Labor Day, depending on the weather, at Martin Luther King Jr. Park, Fillmore and North Parade avenues. Farther afield, Fitness in the Parks hosts a kids fitness class at 12:15 p.m. Thursdays at the Allen Park Bandshell, 31 Hughes St., Jamestown.
A big plus for all this fitness: It’s free.
Bike as a family
Slow Roll Buffalo hosts free Monday evening rides starting from various spots in the city – and, on many other nights, beyond Buffalo. Families can start to gather for the next Monday ride at 5:30 p.m. outside the Broadway Theatre, 512 Broadway; a 10-mile guided excursion starts at 6:30. Slow Roll also plans a ride at 1 p.m. Saturday at Sheridan Park, Sheridan at East Park Drive, Town of Tonawanda. These and other rolls are suitable for all ages and abilities. First-time riders should register at slowrollbuffalo.org, where schedules of upcoming rides also can be found. Helmets are mandatory for children and adults.
Families without bikes who’d like to take an outing together can consider the nearly 50 Blue Bikes available to rent from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily through Sept. 2 at Canalside as part of this BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York program. Its members get discounts by presenting a health insurance card. Bikes of all sizes are available, including a trike and, new this year, six-seat Surrey bicycle. Reddy Bikeshare also has more than 200 GPS-enabled red bikes available for shared, short-term use in spots across the city. Independent Health members get discounts. For rates and more info, visit reddybikeshare.com.
Tifft Nature Preserve
The Buffalo Museum of Science runs this 264-acre refuge dotted with ponds, marshes and woodlands at 1200 Fuhrmann Blvd. Summer activities for kids include discovery camps, Thursday morning wellness walks, Sunday afternoon hikes and an Insectival festival from noon to 4 p.m. on Aug. 5. Camps and other events come with a cost and preregistration is usually required by calling 825-6397 – but you can walk the property for free. Visit tifft.org for a schedule of events and more information.
State Parks paddles
Free kayaking is available for kids 8 and older, as well as adults, at three state parks in the region. A kayak, paddle and life jacket are provided but demand is high, so you’ll need to register as soon as you can.
Smartstart Paddling Orientation classes run at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays through August, and beginner classes at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. Aug. 18 and Sept. 1 at Beaver Island State Park on Grand Island. Beginner classes also run at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. Aug. 25 at Wilson Tuscarora State Park in the town of Wilson. Call 282-5154 to register for any of these classes.
Knox Farm State Park, in East Aurora, hosts beginners classes at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 23, and 9 and 11 a.m. Sept. 8. Call 549-1050 to register.
The Buffalo & Erie County Public Library on Wheels Bookmobile and all 37 library branches welcome children and families to dozens of free activities and events as part of its summertime theme, “Libraries Rock!”
“Reading year-round is important – especially during the summer break,” Library System Director Mary Jean Jakubowski said. “Studies have repeatedly shown that summer reading and library programs encourage summertime reading, helping children, teens and young adults raise their learning levels and keep their reading skills sharp so they are better prepared to return to school in the fall. Library staff can help children select age-appropriate reading materials and provide literacy-enhancing programs, such as engaging storytelling, music making, DIY creating, teen reading competitions and live performances.”
Reading competitions include Battle of the Books, a team trivia competition for youth entering grades 6-9 which hosts its final round of competition at 11:15 a.m. Aug. 4 in the Erie Community College South Campus gym in Orchard Park. Canalside hosts a storytelling and free craft program from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Tuesday through August.
For more information about summer reading activities, visit any branch, call 858-8900 or visit buffalolib.org, which also includes a full slate of special summer events.
Twitter: @BNrefresh, @ScottBScanlon