Guest article by Dana Minney
When I was pregnant with twins and living in New York City 12 years ago, I couldn’t wait to move to Austin, TX. People enthusiastically described how “livable” and even “weird” it was here. Most importantly, everyone agreed there’s no better city to raise a family in.
They did not lie!
Now my boys are 11 and a half and have lived here nearly all their lives. We so enjoy it here that we can’t imagine living back east, or anywhere else. Austin is where it’s at, and we sure do get around this town.
If you are also a parent who likes to get out and learn, do and experience life together with your kids, here is a short list of FREE opportunities to help you on your way.
Community Night at the Thinkery
Every Wednesday, the Thinkery in Austin’s Mueller Development stays open late with free admission from 4-8 p.m. Younger kids enjoy the water station, where they can see the principles of gravity in motion, and how water creates energy. All while splashing around and getting SOPPING wet!
Older kids love to create simple animated videos, paint on the walls and experience the workshop sessions in the Space 8 section of the museum. Last week, my sons and I learned about circuits and how to make a breadboard. Each exhibit is VERY hands-on, and the staff couldn’t be more welcoming and helpful.
It’s no accident the Thinkery appeals to parents like me AND their kiddos. CEO Troy Livingston says he was hired specifically to help with that mission. “Learning is a conversation. An interaction. We want people of all ages to have access to environments where that happens. That’s our goal at the Thinkery.”
Now go check it out for yourself. Dress comfortably and don’t be surprised it you get water or watercolors on your clothes!
1830 Simond Ave. – Website
Free Fun With Kids at Austin Public Library
Free cultural and learning activities abound in any one of Austin’s public library locations. In just one week’s time, you can attend a crafting circle, Lego lab or writing camp. Recently at Faulk Central Library, we saw a storytelling, singing and guitar-playing trio. They used moving scroll drawings to illustrate a children’s story.
An interview with Ann Minner, Regional Youth Services Manager, reveals the secret behind the programs’ large appeal. “A lot of kids lose interest in the library when they enter the teen years. Librarians are curious by nature and genuinely want to retain visitors…so we are constantly brainstorming to create points of interest for all ages and types.”
Minner says literacy isn’t limited to just reading the printed word, but gaining competence and ability. By this definition, “literacy” can mean singing, viewing pictures or doing something with your hands.
In fact, you can do and learn just about anything you want to at any of Austin’s libraries, and that’s without even cracking open a book! You can practice speaking foreign languages in dual language story time, connect with your toddler at Under 5 Play & Sing, hear a poetry slam or even learn how to fix appliances! You can find something to do any day of the month from the libraries’ schedule of events.
Even more opportunities are expected in the future: November 2016 to be exact, when the new downtown library will open. Minner says they’re calling it, “the library of the future.” See you there!
Nurture My Child
Tech-savvy as it is, you’d expect Austin to have an online directory for everything the city has to offer to families. Local resident Rebecca Cole is the creator of Nurture my Child, just such an online resource. She agrees Austin is one of the best places for raising kids. “This is reflected in the variety of camps that we have here…Think of an activity or topic and they have a camp for that. I also feel that Austin is a very accepting city of different parenting styles and I think everyone can find a place to belong.”
In February 2016, Nurture My Child hosted a daylong FREE expo, where kids and parents could try first-hand the many camps and kid-oriented activities in Austin. Organizers of a Lego camp had a Lego play exhibit; digital camps had laptops set up for kids to play video games; horses were on hand to promote the horseback riding camp; and a planetarium was even temporarily installed for the day’s event! Cole says there are over 800 places to take kids in Austin, and you can find them all on Nurture My Child.
Street Art at The Domain and HOPE Gallery
A final free and fun way to expose your kids to art and be outdoors is to visit the new graffiti mural installation at The Domain.
11600 Rock Rose Ave. – Learn more
The Domain exhibit is temporary, but you can see outdoor art anytime at Austin’s only legal place for graffiti, HOPE Outdoor Gallery.
1100 Baylor St.
This is just a smattering of fun activities and places in Austin you can take your kids where YOU will have a good time, too. Experts agree modeling behavior of a person with an inquisitive attitude is the best way to raise your child to be a lifelong learner. With spring weather already here, the timing couldn’t be better to get out, explore, play and learn!
@theAustinot wants to know:
What free activities and events do you enjoy with your kids in Austin?
Dana Minney is happy to have finally found sanity as a single mom by having fun, together time with her kids. Learn more on her website.