I Forgot to Sign My Child Up for Camp! Now What?


I Forgot to Sign My Child Up for Camp! Now What?

Krista Anderson-Hill, Senior Summer Camp Correspondent

April 1, 2019 

Most of us have been here. We have great intentions of planning our children’s summer in January. We dream of a beautifully filled-in excel spreadsheet with dates, and camps for each child, envisioning our summers working like clockwork and, of course, everyone having the best
summer ever.

 And then life and work enter the picture, suddenly it is April and that glorious plan of summer camps is a thing of the past. But, do not fear, whether you need full-time care or enrichment experiences, there is still time and some creative ways to help care for and entertain your children during the days of summer.

Hire a Summer Nanny
Many older high school students, college students, and teachers are looking for ways to make extra income in the summer. And, most people who want to nanny in the summer enjoy children
and want to make summer super fun. Nannies can care for your children where they feel most comfortable, in their own home, and engage in local summer outings: swimming, museums, libraries, finding the city’s best snow cones. A successful summer nanny experience includes having clear guidelines about how the days will go and what activities you feel are appropriate for your children. Also, stock the fridge and pay decently. Taking care of your summer nanny will help ensure quality care and happy children. Our HappiYoungstr site has resources to help you through the nanny process. 

Create a Summer Child Care Co-Op
A childcare co-op is a pair or more of parents who agree to take turns watching each others children free of charge. Parents get regular time off and children get regular playdates with friends. Things to keep in mind when considering a child care co-op: choose parents that you feel are reliable, can make the proposed time commitment, have similar parenting styles and whom you can be honest and open about expectations and possible concerns.

At this stage of the game, you might be thinking that all quality day and overnight camps are full. But, that is not always the case. Check out our HappiCampr site to make searching for camps easy and efficient. Also, look to your local schools for summer childcare and camp options. Childcare organizations that offer before and after school programming during the school year, often offer full or part-time summer programming. These programs meet in the school setting and have daily field trips and swim time. High school sports and clubs usually offer summer camps too that are relatively easy to get in to and are cost-effective: cheer camp, drama camp, sports camps.

Hire A Tutor
When we hear the word tutor, most of us think of an academic tutor. But there are tutors for almost everything our children are interested in. If that music camp your child wanted to attend is full, consider hiring a voice or instrument tutor. Examples of tutor subjects include foreign language, sports, video games, cooking, art. The beauty of a tutor is it can be on your schedule and specialized for your child’s passion and learning style.

Tweens can be a tricky age for summer; some feel they are too old for camps but they may be too young to stay at home alone for long periods of time. And, tweens need to be active and engaged too. Volunteerism can be a wonderful solution to the tween dilemma. Many camps have junior counselors in training programs, and April is the perfect time to apply for these opportunities. Also, local libraries, YMCA’s, parks and recreation organizations and church often have summer volunteer opportunities for children ages 12 to 15. 

Get Out and Explore! Even in the blistering heat of summer, Austin is a great city for children and their families; there is so much to do. Here is just a sample:

Austin’s children’s museum, The Thinkery, thinkeryaustin.org provides lodes of hands-on, play-based learning and fun. The museum’s target age group is newborn to 11 years old. And, a
helpful tip is to bring extra clothes. There is a good chance young Thinkery goers will get wet in the water science exhibit, Currents. The Blanton Museum of Art is a wonderful place to introduce children to the world of fine art and every Thursday is FREE.

Bowling and Roller and Ice Skating
Oldies but goodies, kids love to bowl and skate. A big plus for parents:  these activities are indoors with air conditioning and relatively inexpensive. 

Local Swimming Holes
Austin and its surrounding areas have beautiful swimming holes. Taking the family to a swimming hole is a wonderful way to enjoy a picnic, cool down and explore nature. Many swimming holes require reservations before your visit. A favorite for kids of all ages is Blue Hole in Wimberly.


Urban Air Trampoline Park


Urban Air Trampoline Park

Laura Standefer, Senior Trampoline Correspondent

March 27, 2019 

Jumparoo at Urban Air Trampoline Park is a special time for kids five and under. It allows for littles to burn all that energy without being trampled by older kids. Plus, parents can join in on the fun for free! 


When I first heard about Urban Air, I thought it would be YEARS before I would be able to pay a visit with my little one. However, Friday mornings from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. are Jumparoo Toddler Time, which is only for children five and under. We went today with some other neighborhood moms and kids, and it was legit. For $9, my kid played, ran, jumped, and danced for almost two hours. The best part? I got to play too! My friend and I may or may not have been recently reprimanded for jumping at another similar establishment… But here, parents are included in the price during Jumparoo hours and I took full advantage. While my child was rubbing his eyes, yawning, and crying for a nap, I was all like, 

“Please, kid, just five more minutes!”

Then, just when I think I couldn’t like Urban Air any more, they opened a second location near Cedar Park. This one is even more visually stimulating than the last one we went to and includes a mini ninja warrior obstacle course and an indoor zip line. Plus, this location even has a concession stand with food and beer for grown ups! I’ve often dreaded going to many of these “jumpy places,” but Urban Air has me asking, “Is it Friday yet?”

Volunteering with Kids


Volunteering with Kids

Lyndsay McLeodSenior Pro Tips Correspondent

March 18, 2019 

Austin has a plethora of wonderful volunteer opportunities that you can participate in with your kids. Volunteering is beneficial to all parties involved, but especially children.

“Studies have shown that volunteering helps you to develop patience, compassion, empathy, leadership, and communication.”

And you know what else? Volunteering just makes you feel good!
There’s really nothing better than that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you see your kiddos making a difference in someone else’s life. We’ve put it the legwork for you and compiled a list of the many magnificent opportunities around our beautiful city that will not only enhance your own life but the lives of others as well.

All of these agencies offer you and your family the opportunity to serve and give back to your community. Many of them rely on volunteers to continue their work our community. By getting yourself and your family involved you have the ability to have a positive impact on somebody’s life. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Austin Child Guidance Center:

This agency helps to improve the mental health of children and their families through early intervention, diagnosis, and treatment to help develop the emotional skills to face life’s challenges. Volunteer opportunitiesrange from playing with children as they wait for their appointment to providing special event support.

Click here for more information on the Austin Child Guidance Center. 

Mobile Loaves & Fishes:

Mobile Loaves & Fishes volunteers hit the streets 7 nights a week, 365 days a year to provide food, clothing, hygiene products and other life-sustaining items to our homeless neighbors who are struggling to survive.  There are several different areas of opportunity to volunteer such as Truck Ministry or their Community First! Village.

Click here for more information on Mobile Loaves & Fishes.

Central Texas Food Bank:

This is a great opportunity to bring the whole family along and help fight food insecurity.

Click here for more information on the Central Texas Food Bank. 

Partners in Hope:

Partners in Hope is a Lake Travis ministry that connects people who desire physical, emotional, and spiritual help with people who will help.  Unlike ministries that organize a crisis response to a housing emergency, Partners in Hope helps families by working to improve living conditions, walking through a season of life, and empowering them to transform over time.

Click here for more information on Partners in Hope.

Generation Serve:

This program offers a variety of volunteer options for both young children as well as teens. Several of the opportunities are done alongside their peers without the supervision of a parent or guardian.

Click here for more information on Generation Serve. 

Fig Leaf Clothing Program:

Micah 6 of Austin offers street dependent youth a place to come for a snack or meal as well as take advantage of programmatic resources such as jobs club, expressions through art and occasionally guest speakers. 

Click here for more information the Fig Leaf Clothing Program. 

Sunday Supper:

Micah 6 Youth Center provides a safe environment for youth to relax and enjoy a hot, home cooked meal, something they may not otherwise have access to.

Click here for more information on Sunday Supper. 

Miracle League:

This is a baseball league for individuals between the ages of 4 and 19 that don’t fit into “regular” recreational leagues. Volunteers are needed for “buddies” and coaches.

Click here for more information on the Miracle League. 


STARRY nurtures children, strengthens families, and restores hope through counseling, family support, foster care, and adoption.

Click here for more information on STARRY.  

Urban Roots:

This organization offers individual volunteering or can help organize a group volunteer event. Urban Roots works to provide struggling families with fresh produce grown on their farm.

Click here for more information on Urban Roots. 

Meals on Wheels:

Meals on Wheels offers more than just meal delivery service! They have several active programs such as HOPE, a collaboration between Meals on Wheels and the Central Texas Food Bank, PALS, a program providing assistance in caring for the pets of elderly and disabled homebound clients, and Groceries To Go, which provides grocery delivery to clients who can cook for themselves but have no reliable or consistent help with grocery shopping.

Click here for more information on Meals on Wheels.

Brown Santa:  

This program provides assistance to underprivileged children and their families in Travis County and senior residents of local retirement centers in Travis County.

Click here for more information on Brown Santa. 

How to Afford Summer Camps


How to Afford Summer Camps

Krista Anderson-Hill, Senior Summer Camp Correspondent

March 11, 2019 

Summer camp can change a child’s life, but sometimes it can be expensive. Fortunately, lots of camps have total scholarships or offer financial assistance for families that need a boost.

I once read this funny and very true statement about summer camp:  

“Summer camp is like orthodontic care: it is a great idea in theory; it can change a child’s life and it can be very, very expensive.”

That statement pretty much sums it up. Most parents want their children to experience the unique joy of summer camp. Many parents need summer camps to fill the summer childcare gap. And when our wishes and needs meet our pockets, it can be a true shock. Summer day and overnight camps can range from $200 to $2000 per week. Here are a few tips to reduce the cost of summer camp and ease your stress:

Just like colleges, summer camps offer scholarship programs. Lots of camps have total scholarships or offer financial assistance for families that need a boost. If you know of a camp you would like your child to attend, visit their website or call the camp to inquire about scholarships. It is best to start this process early. Scholarships can be limited and may require an application process. A great guide to help parents and caregivers discover camp scholarships can be found here.

Sign Up for Camp Early
This tip is short and sweet. Many camps offer early bird tuition discounts. Most camps begin in June and the earlier you sign up the better.

Check Out Non-Profit Camps
Youth serving non-profit organizations often offer more affordable or free traditional summer camp experiences; think of YMCA, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, city and county parks and recreation departments, church groups. These organizations have been in the summer camp business a long time and many are well structured and well staffed.

Some parents can offer skills and resources to a camp in exchange for lower camp tuition. A friend, who is a nurse, serves as a camp nurse, in lieu of her boys camp tuition. Other skills that could be viewed as a valuable resource to a camp include: web design, creating a promotional video, providing CPR training, serving as a camp cook or camp office volunteer.

Ask Grandma and Grandpa
Instead of Grandma and Grandpa gifting toys for holidays and birthdays, ask them to contribute money towards the tuition of a special camp experience. They will love knowing they are giving
the gift of summer childhood memories.

Create Your Own Summer Camp
Find 5 or so other parents with kids close in age to your own, and who can take off a day a week or a whole week off. Each parent can create a day camp experience for the kids. Activities can be dependent upon the parents skills, but some ideas are: art, baking, wood working, learning to code, fishing, swimming, scavenger hunt, berry picking, library programs, museums, lemonade stand, and the list can be as long as your imagination. This idea does involve mom or dad playing camp counselor for five days. But when your camp time is up, you will have weeks where your kids will be busy, happy and outside of your house.

Tax Write Off
Summer camps can be a tax write off if you need your child (under the age of 13) to attend in order for you to work. Save your payment receipts and get the camps tax id number to complete the write off. When you are planning your children’s summer, remember that perfection is not the goal. I know many of us spend lots of time, money and mental energy trying to find and fund the perfect, most magical camps for our children. But one of the most beautiful things about children is that as long as they feel safe and engaged, they can have fun anywhere. So find a camp that meets your budget, have faith that your child will have fun, breath and save your worries for those braces!



Cedar Rock Railroad


Cedar Rock Railroad

Laura Standefer, Senior Train Correspondent

March 4, 2019 

Cedar Rock Railroad provides north Austin suburbs with a mini zephyr of their own.

The first time I had even heard of Cedar Rock Railroad was when I was invited to go with my neighborhood moms group. I was surprised to hear there was another train themed place in the area. Like many toddlers, my baby brother went through a train phase when he was little and I probably enjoyed it as much as he did. We grew up in Austin and, to this day, one of my favorite memories was going downtown and riding the Zilker Zephyr with my family. I was excited to experience something similar with my son, closer to our home.

I was skimming through the Evite and noticed that Cedar Rock Railroad had a Leander address. At first, I was disappointed, and almost didn’t attend because…

“I have to confess. I usually turn down plans if it requires 30 minutes in the car with my kid.”

To my surprise, I learned that it actually isn’t far from Round Rock at all. Just a few miles north of Sam Bass Road, I could get there in less than 15 minutes! Therefore, I decided to join the other moms and I’m so glad I did.

Lots of stuff to point at on this train ride!

We took the 10-15 minute train ride around the park, and then the kids spent the rest of the time climbing on a wooden train and walking through Cedar Rock’s “Pflooterville” (think mini Wild West). Even if your little one is just now entering the crawling, walking, or climbing stages you could kill some serious time here. Plus if they’re under one, they’re free! Older kiddos (3+) can enjoy the Little Locomotive Chase ride on their own afterwards.


Since CRR is so close, affordable, and fun, it has quickly become one of my favorites. While the area isn’t huge, they have several picnic tables and a concession stand with several snacks and drinks to choose from. I highly recommend packing up your family and giving Cedar Rock Railroad a try. All aboard!

Click here for more information on Cedar Rock Railroad.