Think ahead to summer camp this Columbus Day when kids are out of school

Many kids have Monday off for Columbus Day or parent-teacher conferences. Think of Monday and other school holidays as a dry-run for future summer camps. Many places that offer summer camps also have one-day camps on these days. Also check with your regular after-school care to see if they will be offering a full-day camp on Monday, how to register and what the activities will be.


Louis Montanez, 9, plays on an mammoth rib cage cast in bronze at the Austin Nature and Science Center. LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Here are some of the ones we found. If you have another camp you’d like listed, let us know,

Austin Science and Nature Center. Wilderness Wise School Holiday Camp. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Ages 5-8. $50 per child.

Zach Theatre.  Activities around the theme Dragons, Wizards and Fairies. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For grades kindergarten-second. $80.

Austin Sports Center. Various sports-themed camps for ages kindergarten-ninth grade at both locations. $49-$95 depending on camp length.

Snapology. Build Lego and robotics at morning and afternoon workshops. $40-$45. Circle C Community Center and West Austin Youth Association.

Other activities on Monday

If you’re able to be home with the kids, many museums like the Thinkery that are typically closed on Mondays are open on this day. Check out these activities:

Sweet Berry Farm. Hay rides, corn mazes, pick your own pumpkins and more. 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday. Pay per activity. 1801 FM 1980, ​Marble Falls.

Elgin Christmas Tree Farm Fall Farm Fun. Explore a corn maze, hay bale maze and a crazy maze, plus go on a hay ride, visit animals and get a mini pumpkin to decorate. Big pumpkins to purchase. $7.  10 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday. Elgin Christmas Tree Farm, 120 Nature’s Way, Elgin.

Thinkery. The museum is open, but there will not be Baby Bloomers. The museum does have two special workshops: Monster Masterpieces. 9:30 a.m. 1-year-olds, 10:30 a.m. 2-year-olds, 11:30 a.m. 3-year-olds. Monday. $20. Whisks and Wizards. Make Halloween-themed food. For ages 4 and up. 10:30 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Monday. $8. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave.


Even Beyoncé can’t escape mom shaming when it comes to drinking and breastfeeding


A photo of Beyoncé, posted on her Instagram.

Mothers of the world, stop your hating on one another. When Beyoncé posted this picture on Instagram of her having a glass of wine a few days ago, the haters came out. The assumption was that Beyoncé was nursing her twins, and, therefore, should not be drinking.

Of course, we don’t know if Beyoncé is breastfeeding Rumi and Sir, who were born in June.

Even if she is, notice that the picture doesn’t show Beyoncé actually nursing her twins while drinking (that would not be recommended).

What are the rules about breastfeeding and alcohol?

Here’s what the American Academy of Pediatrics says:

  • Drinking beer does not increase your milk supply, as urban myth suggests.
  • Consuming alcohol of any kind may decrease the amount of milk your baby drinks.
  • Alcohol can change the taste of your milk, and this may be objectionable to some babies.
  • If you are going to have an alcoholic drink, it is best to do so just after you nurse or pump milk rather than before.
  • Allow at least two hours per drink before your next breastfeeding or pumping session. That way, your body will have as much time as possible to rid itself of the alcohol before the next feeding and less will reach your infant.
  • One alcoholic drink is the equivalent of a 12-ounce beer, 4-ounce glass of wine, or 1 ounce of hard liquor.
  • There are concerns about long-term, repeated exposures of infants to alcohol via the mother’s milk, so moderation is definitely advised.

Medula, the makers of breast pumps, offers these tips:

  • Breastfeed your baby before taking alcoholic beverages. Avoid breastfeeding during and for 2-3 hours after drinking alcohol.
  • Pumping does not get rid of the alcohol in breast milk quicker.
  • If you drink enough to feel “high,” experts advise waiting several hours before nursing the baby. You can pump during this time if you feel uncomfortably full.
  • Consult your doctor about the need for discarding milk for two hours after drinking alcohol. It may not be necessary.
  • When a big celebration is planned, arrange for someone sober to help care for the baby.
  • Avoid drinking excessive alcohol. Seek help from your doctor if you are concerned about your alcohol use.
  • Some medications interact with alcohol. Check with your doctor.

Also remember, that while sleeping with your baby in the same bed is not recommended, it’s especially not recommended in parents who have been drinking or are on medication. Doctors have seen a higher rate in suffocation or sudden infant death syndrome when that happens.


10 things to do with kids before school starts to make them smarter (or at least avoid summer brain drain)

My kids might be becoming less and less intelligent with each second this summer. They’ve been doing a lot of mindless YouTube watching. Pick up a book? Are you kidding, Mom? Go out and play? Forget it.

They are experiencing the summer brain drain … those three months of the year when the things they learned in school slowly leave their brains.

In the mid-1990s, Johns Hopkins University did research on this topic and found that lower-income kids who couldn’t afford academic programs like camps during the summer entered school more than two months behind in reading and math than their middle-class peers who were enrolled in such programs.

Ron Aladeniyi and his daughter Lola, 3, read together in the recently renovated library at Winn Elementary. Get the the library and start reading. (TAMIR KALIFA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Even beyond the academics, James Bray, an associate professor of family and community medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and family psychologist, says kids lose the habit of learning. “If you take two or three months off, you get out of the habit of focusing and learning,” he says. It can take weeks or months to get back into that habit, he says, rather than being able to just jump right in at the start of the school year.

Learning helps in brain development, Bray says. It’s one of those things — to be a better learner, you have to practice learning.

That doesn’t mean that kids have to hit learning with the same intensity in the summer that they did during the school year. “It’s important to take some time off,” he says, “But it’s important to continue to engage in activities.”

Austinite and University of Texas graduate Cristal Glangchai founded VentureLabs and VentureGirls to teach kids how to think like entrepreneurs using science technology engineering and math skills. She also has four children and she gets that not everyone can afford to do a different summer camp each week, but what they can do is turn their home into the lab and encourage kids to think as scientists and entrepreneurs. It’s taking fun ideas a step further. “How can we take an idea and turn it into a product and turn it into a company?” she asks.

That might mean that your kids decide to make their own Lego kits and sell them to their friends, or they try hydroponics and sell their plants to the neighbors.

With Bray and Glangchai’s help, here are 10 cool things you could do with the last few weeks of summer to get your kids thinking again:

1. Get reading, and not just the books teachers assigned them, but the ones they want to read. (If they need a list of suggested books, columnist Sharyn Vane has one at Austin Public Library’s branches have daily activities at the library for kids — everything from story tellers to art projects. Kids can even join a book group. Several programs offer incentives to read. Check out the ones from the Austin Public LibraryBookPeople and Half Price Books.

2. Observe the world around you and then ask “what if” questions. That means you look at the moon one night and ask, “what if we could colonize the moon? What would that take?” Get kids thinking big thoughts. Also ask them: “What did you try today?” “What did you fail at today?” “What’s one cool thing you learned today?”

The sound of cicadas in the evening and finding their nymph exoskeletons on trees and grass is a sure sign summer is here. Have kids research more about cicadas. Nell Carroll/AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2016

3. Classify everything and anything. If your kid is interested in the cicadas that are causing a racket at your house, have him research the different kind of cicadas or even all the different insects he sees.

Austin Creative Reuse Center has items that have been recycled that are perfect for crafts. Try making something new out of what you find there or in your own recycling bin. RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2015

4. Turn trash into treasure. Use what’s in your recycling bin to make art or a game or a new product. Nothing good in your bin? Take a trip to the Austin Creative Reuse (6406 N. Interstate 35, No. 1801, to pick up supplies for an art project.

5. Take an online class. has classes for kids but it also has a Fidget Spinners design challenge going on right now. also has classes. Some you have to pay for, but you can pay $49.95 for two years of instructions. Right now you can make a rocket with four videos. The good thing is it’s not just making the thing, classes also explain the “why” behind the class.

Future scientist Sam Lassen listens as Laurie Mason, Good Laboratory Practice study coordinator at Michale E. Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine and Research in Bastrop, describes the process of how to create slime. Sam’s older brother Max and Joe check out the mixing bowl. Experiment with different types of slime this summer. FRAN HUNTER FOR SMITHVILLE TIMES

6. Experiment with 1,000 ways to make one thing. Slime is big right now. Make it with corn starch and water, try it with glue and Borax, or vinegar, baking soda and skim milk. Try it in different colors with different add-ins like glitter. We found recipes at Don’t like slime? Think about making Play-doh or even ice cream or smoothies.

Patients Nico Damon, 7, and Sarah Pettinato, 9, right, play the board game Chutes and Ladders with Camp for All camp volunteer Charlotte Peeters at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas. Play a board game or make up one to play as a family. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2015

7. Play board games or card games (or better yet, invent a board game). Games teach us how to communicate as well as to use math and reading skills. Plus, you’re doing something together as a family. Just make sure to set the ground rules that winning isn’t everything.

8. Learn a new technology. Check out for coding activities and games for all ages. You can code with characters like Moana, Elsa and Gumball for the younger kids, but for the middle school and up kids, has more activities. Shh, don’t tell them. Coding is actually using math and logic skills.

9. Take an in-person class. The Thinkery now has $8 classes on Saturdays and Sundays. You can do things like dissect a cow eye or make a e-wearable fashion piece that lights up. You also can find classes at Home Depot and Michael’s, or take an art class at Art Garage or other local stores.

It’s Shark Week next week. Time to find out more about sharks or whatever kids are interested in. Discovery Channel

10. Watch TV. Yikes! Really? Well, starting Sunday, it’s Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. Why not learn something new about sharks? If sharks aren’t your kids’ jam, you can go to PBS Learning Media to look up old shows and search for content by topic. So if, for example, someone in your house is interested in black holes, you can find episodes of “Nova,” “Quest,” “Space Time” and “Physics Girl.” It also categorizes shows by ideal audience age, too. You also can find good content at PBS Digital Studios and on the PBS Digital Studios YouTube channel. Shows your kids might love include “Physics Girl,” “BrainCraft,” “It’s … Gross Science!” and Austin-based “It’s Okay to Be Smart” with biologist Joe Hanson.

Need more ideas for the summer? Find our summer fun guide at

Before you forget: Evaluate this summer’s camps for next year

Jessica Gonzales, from the Oak Hill YMCA, is outnumbered as her camp kids spray her with water guns as part of the festivities in the summer camp Olympics. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2015

Every year you swear your going to write down some things about the summer camps you’ve been sending your kids to so you’ll remember them when it’s time to sign up next year. And then you don’t. Then come January or February, when it’s time to start signing up for camps again, you think, “Huh, I think my kid liked that camp, but I can’t remember why.” “Huh, I remember there was something about that camp that was problematic … what was it?”

The really horrible things you remember. The OK things you don’t. We’re here to help. Even if your child has aged out of a camp, jot down some notes because it will help you figure out a camp or activity for the next year.

Print out these questions below to help you and your kids put your mental notes onto paper, or at least take some electronic notes and mail them to yourself based on this evaluation. You also can add your own questions to this evaluation.

Name of camp:

Contact with phone number, email, website: 


Was it easy to get to?

Length of camps in weeks, hours: 


Was it worth the price?

Were meals and snacks provided or did I provide them?

Other equipment or supplies needed?

Did I feel my child was safe and well-cared for at this camp?

My impressions of the staff at this camp:

My child loved this camp because …

My child did not like this camp because …

Things my child wishes would have been different: 

Things my child would be upset about if it wasn’t there next year: 

Friends my child made that we should connect with during the school year:

Children my child should not be with next year if possible: 

Things I liked about this camp:

Things I would like to see changed for next year?

Does my child want to go back?

Do I want my child to go back?

Does this camp offer school-year holiday coverage or after-school care?

Would my child want to attend those other activities?

Find more camp tips in our camp guide,



Austin company Waldo Photos has new way to find kids’ camp photos

Update: Waldo Photos will have more than 100 camps nationwide using its service this summer — meaning parents of more than 40,000 kids this summer will be able to find their kids in camp photos. Ask your camp if it is using the service.

Every July, as I send my kids to a three-week camp near Waco, I become a crazy person. Each day, I log into the camp’s photo site and begin searching like a mad woman for proof of life. On days, when there might be a happy, smiling photos of one of them, I’m over the moon. On days when I can’t find them anywhere, I’m in the depths of depression and worry. Are they having a good time? Are they participating? Is everyone playing nicely with others? Do they have any friends.

This whole process takes hours. Each day.


Austin-based Waldo Photos wants to change that. This summer, it’s working with camps like T Bar M Camps, Camp Balcones Springs and Still Water Camps to use its facial recognition software to find particular kids’ photos among the hundreds they upload each day and text parents the photos of their children.

Chief operating officer Rodney Rice started Waldo Photos because he was just like me. For the last 20 years, he and his wife would spend hours each night trying to find their three kids’ photos at camp. It was a shame, he says, because it was the only week out of the year when they had time to themselves, and yet, they were spending hours looking for their kids.

“What we’ve tried to do is make it simple,” Rice says.

Waldo Photos curates a camp’s photos and texts parents their child’s photos.

The camp registers to be part of Waldo Photos and gives each parent a code. Parents then download the app and put in a code that registers them to participate. They then upload a photo of their child and Waldo Photos begins searching for their child’s photos among the hundreds the camp uploads.

Once Waldo Photo’s software finds their child’s photos, it texts to the parents (and grandparents and campers themselves or whomever they designate). As more photos get uploaded, they get more texts of their child. They can then post the photos to the social media of their choice. They can control what other people see, versus the camp posting all their photos on Facebook for all to see. The photo parents upload to Waldo Photos to recognize their child is also secured from public view, Rice says. “Security is at the cornerstone of what we do,” Rice says. “We take it really seriously.”

Parents pay $15 for a one-week camp and $25 for a camp that is two weeks or more. The camp receives 50 percent of that money. Most of the camps have put it toward a scholarship fund.

“It’s a win win for everyone,” Rice says.

The technology took Waldo Photos two years to perfect. Children’s images are more complicated than adults, Rice says, because their facial features aren’t as defined, and often kids have similar features. Their features are also changing, so a recent picture to compare it to is important as well.

The technology, though, has been “crazy unbelievable” when it comes to what it has been able to pull up from the huge pile of photos it searches through. “We were worried about the action shots, the jumping of the cliffs,” Rice says. They were also worried about face painting, too. “It’s been pretty cool to see what people are getting.”

The hope is that after multiple years of pulling kids’ photos parents will also be able to very easily create a memory book for camp without having to go through all the photos again.


For the camps, Waldo Photos is also creating a dashboard where the camp can see how many times each camper was photographed. “They want to know that they are capturing all their campers,” Rice says.

Waldo Photos can also do this for events like family reunions, conventions and weddings.



Back to school to-do list: Schedule doctor visit for vaccines, sports physicals

Daniela Flores, 12, smiles as she receives an immunization at the Austin Independent School District and City of Austin Back-to-School Bash. Deborah Cannon/AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2011

Yes, I know that school is not out yet for most kids. I get that. Now is the time to get your doctor appointments to get your sports physicals and make sure your vaccinations are current.

Before you go, make sure you print out the sports physical form found on your school district’s website if you have a rising seventh grader and up. You never know if your previously unathletic kid might decide to try out for basketball. Many summer camps also require it.

Also, find that pesky shot record that you shoved in some file cabinet or drawer last summer.

Kids need these vaccinations for the 2017-2018 school year:

Kindergarten-Sixth Grade

Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis: four or five doses depending on which version your kid got.

Polio: four or three doses

Measles, Mumps and Rubella: two doses

Hepatitis B: three doses

Varicella: two doses

Hepatitus A: two doses

Seventh graders

Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis: three doses of the primary series plus a booster within the last five years

Meningococcal: one dose

Seventh grade is often where parents get caught. They bring their kids to the first day of school only to have them have to sit in the cafeteria until they can produce a shot record or get their vaccines up to date.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends these vaccines for the 11-year-old or 12-year-old check up:

  • HPV vaccine
    Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine helps protect against HPV infections that cause cancer. All boys and girls should finish the HPV vaccine series before they turn 13 years old.
  • Quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine
    Quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine protects against some of the bacteria that can cause infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and bloodstream infections (bacteremia or septicemia). These illnesses can be very serious, even fatal.
  • Tdap vaccine
    Tdap vaccine provides a booster to continue protection from childhood against three serious diseases: tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (also called whooping cough).
  • Flu vaccine
    Preteens and teens should get a flu vaccine every year, by the end of October if possible. It is very important for preteens and teens with chronic health conditions like asthma or diabetes to get the flu shot, but the flu can be serious for even healthy kids.

That check up is also a time to make sure that all the other shots they should have had by kindergarten are up to date. If not, you’ve given yourself the summer to catch up.

There is some movement by the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine to add some vaccine recommendations to the 16-year-old check up. It would like doctors to routinely give 16-year-olds a second dose of meningococcal ACWY and the meningococcal B vaccine. All good ideas before heading off to college.

Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccines. If you don’t have insurance, or if it does not cover vaccines, the CDC’s Vaccines for Children program provides vaccines for children ages 18 years and younger, who are not insured, Medicaid-eligible, or American Indian or Alaska Native.

There is a way to get a vaccine exemption if you deem it necessary. Go to under “School & Child-Care.” Please understand that when you choose that it’s not just your child you’re choosing it for. You’re choosing to not protect the many kids and adults who cannot have vaccines because of health conditions. Let’s not go back to the days of small pox.


What’s the Alamo Drafthouse showing for Summer Kids Camp this year? Check out the lineup

Alamo Drafthouse’s Summer Kids Camp lineup is out. We’re looking forward to seeing some classic movies every day from June to August for a donation of $1, $3 or $5 a tickets. All the proceeds go to local nonprofits. In Austin, you’re supporting Austin Pets AliveCon Mi MadreE4 YouthForklift DanceworksLiteracy Coalition of Central TexasMulticultural, Refugee CoalitionPeople’s Community Clinic and SAFE Alliance.

The Minions are back in the summer family film “Minions.” Universal Pictures

“Kids Camp really is a true expression of the Alamo Drafthouse mission,” says Amy Averett, Alamo Drafthouse Director of Family and Community Engagement in  a press release. “Fostering a love of cinema, giving back to the community, and just plain having fun. It’s what we’re all about. We’ve got a great lineup this year and are excited to offer the chance for families to amp up their community giving with the new $5 option while also enjoying some summer moviegoing fun.”

Here’s the lineup of movies:


“The Pirates! Band of Misfits”



“Zathura: A Space Adventure”


“The Iron Giant”


“Muppets from Space”

“The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie”


“Song of the Sea”

“Speed Racer”


“The Secret Life of Pets”






Time to sign up kids for swim lessons for summer: Registration is open

Brigitte Decato, a swim instructor with the Swim Safe program at the YMCA, works with Octavio Ruiz, 5, (center) on the backstroke. 2007 Laura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN

I know summer might feel far away, but it’s time to get those swim lessons on the schedule. The City of Austin Parks & Recreation Department’s swim class and swim team registration is open.

Remember, drowning doesn’t look like you might think it does. It’s silent. Read more about that and ways you can prevent drowning with my swim safety guide.

• Registration begins Monday, April 3, 2017 at 8 a.m. (10  a.m. for non-residents)
• Registrations are accepted online (, via fax (512-974-9344) or in-person (2818 San Gabriel St. Austin, TX 78705)
• Registrations are processed on a first-come, first serve basis
• Registration fees are due, in full, at the time of enrollment
• For more information on our swim teams and swim lesson schedules and level descriptions, please visit:


If you can afford swim classes for your kid, consider making a donation for another child to take a class. The Statesman’s Swim Safe program helps do just that.  To find out more about the program or to donate, go to or email

Get ready for summer camp with these tips

Clara Brady, 8, climbs at the Rock About Climbing Adventures Camp in Reimer's Ranch Wednesday July 13, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Clara Brady, 8, climbs at the Rock About Climbing Adventures Camp in Reimers Ranch last year. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

We’re getting excited about our summer camp guide. Find in on Feb. 24 at You can find last year’s guide now.

Fantastic Magic Camp instructor Elias King teaches the art of juggling to kids attending magic camp. RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Fantastic Magic Camp instructor Elias King teaches the art of juggling to kids attending magic camp.

For this year’s camp guide, we visited three very different camp last summer where we learned to rock climb, do magic and make art. We also went to a camp where high school girls get skills toward finding a career.

We’ve been writing about camp for 25 years and have shared a lot of tips.

Here are some of our favorite recent camp tip stories:

How to pick a camp

How to find the right summer camp for your kids

The questions every parent should ask when choosing a summer camp

Know what to ask before signing kids up for camp

Let kids try something new, challenging at camps

Our to-do list

Get your camp plans made with our to-do list

Pick your camp: How to map out your summer schedule

Plan for camp Mommy or Daddy now


Get swim lessons now before kids head off to camp

Take lice precautions before sending kids off to camp

Get your physical, medical forms lined up

Who’s on the list to pick up your child from camp?

Keep kids safe around water this summer

A guide to sun screen and sun protection 

Packing tips

Find the right containers to pack for camp

Get packing for camp with these tips

Special considerations

Talk to camp early about child with different physical, emotional needs 

Tips on paying for camp

Once at camp

Letters from camp: What they say and don’t say about your child


Teach your kids about money through online course

Your Kids & Money offers an online course to help you teach kids about money.
Your Kids & Money offers an online course to help you teach kids about money.

From the mind behind the summer camp MoolahU, Gayle Reaume, comes an online course for parents to take that teaches them how to teach their kids about money. The $37 online course promises to help you:

  • Create everyday opportunities for your kids to learn about making purchases.
  • Support your child’s learning through their mistakes.
  • Give your kids the experience of being powerful with money.
  • Remove tension around purchases.
  • Relax knowing your kids are learning about money through practice.

The class offers videos with text and audio examples as well as worksheets you can print out for supplemental experts.