While the grown-ups are huddled and shivering in over air-conditioned offices, the Austin Parks and Recreation Department is offering free outdoor activities for Austin-area children all summer long. The all-day programming is offered at parks across the city, and meant to give working parents (or parents who just need a freaking break) an alternative to pricey summer camps.
Running June 11 through August 3, Austin's Summer Playground Program gives children ages 6-12 the opportunity to take part in organized sports, arts and crafts, fitness and nutrition lessons, team building exercises, games, outdoor activities, and good old fashioned summer fun at 11 local parks. The program is staffed by City of Austin employees, and runs Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm, according to the Parks and Rec Department.
In order to participate, parents can register their child online or during drop-off on the first day. Since it's a drop-in program, there is no minimum or maximum number of days a kid can attend.
The summer 2018 participating playgrounds include:
- Bartholomew District Park
- Chestnut Pocket Park
- Davis-White Northeast District Park
- Dick Nichols District Park
- Franklin Park
- Garrison District Park
- Oak View Neighborhood Park
- Quail Creek Neighborhood Park
- Ramsey Neighborhood Park
- Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park
- Zilker Elementary
Though the program is designed for ages 6 to 12, Bartholomew District Park, Franklin Park, Garrison District Park, and Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park also accept 4- and 5-year-olds.
Since 1928, the playground program has given kids the opportunity to engage with their community. Park rangers, Austin police officers and firefighters, and other civic leaders drop by to spend time and share stories, and the 12-to-1 children to adult ratio is meant to ensure that campers are well supervised while they're having fun in the sun.
And speaking of sun, the Parks and Rec Department does recommend sending kids with sunscreen and water, though it will provide them if needed. Most spots also offer a free lunch or snacks.