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Summer Fun for Kids and Families


Photo by Elizabeth M. Lorge. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army.

Military kids have a little fun kayaking at Operation Purple's Camp Sandy Cove in High View, West Virginia.

Photo by Elizabeth M. Lorge. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army.
Are you looking for creative ways to entertain your kids during their summer break from school? If so, you're in luck. Why? Because there's a wide variety of free and low cost programs, events and activities available for you to choose from. Some of the suggestions featured below are geared specifically for military kids whereas others are great for the entire family.

MWR. A fabulous resource that you can to turn to is the Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) programs and services that are offered on most of the major military installations. Through the MWR you'll find an exhaustive list of leisure and recreational programs, events and activities for kids and adults.

Each branch of service has a MWR network, but depending on which branch you belong to it may be known by a different name. For example the Army refers to it as Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (FMWR); the Navy refers to it as Navy MWR; the Air Force lists MWR as part of their USAF Services; the Marine Corps lists MWR under the Marine Corps Community Services (MCCS); and the Coast Guard uses the MWR acronym but it stands for Morale, Well-Being and Recreation.

Summer camps. Whether you enroll your child in Operation Purple or one of the numerous other summer camps, one thing is for certain: your child will have loads of fun in an entertaining and educational atmosphere. Although the registration process for many of the camps begins in the spring there are many others that allow enrollment at various times throughout the summer.

Horses4Heroes. Do your kids like horses? If so, Horses4Heroes offers several programs for children (and adults, too). For example, HorsePlay! is a mommy and me style program for kids ages 2-6. The Horse101 program provides riding and horse care lessons and Operation Free Ride is exactly what the title suggests: a free horseback riding session.

Membership is a one-time fee of $25 which covers the entire family. However, it's important to note that membership is not required for families who want to participate in any of the Horses4Heroes health and wellness programs.

National parks. Did you know that there are more than 2,000 federal recreation sites? And now, military families can receive an annual free pass to all of the U.S. National Parks. To take advantage of this offer simply show your military ID or CAC card at any Federal recreation site that charges an admission or entrance fee.

Library programs. Have you paid a recent visit to your local base/post library? If not you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that they offer a wide variety of free programs and activities aimed at entertaining young kids. Furthermore, many MWR libraries offer book discussion groups, contests to promote reading, live performances, and much, much more.

Amusement parks. Through the Here's to the Heroes program, Anheuser-Busch is offering military members and three of their dependents a one-day free admission to Sea World, Busch Gardens and Sesame Place. Complete details are located here. Disney also offers a wide variety of military discounts and packages. For more details, please see this comprehensive list.

Aerobatic shows. Every year from March through November, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, Air Force Thunderbirds and Army Golden Knights entertain audiences of all ages when they take to the skies and demonstrate their talents and skills. These thrilling aerobatic shows are certain to leave kids and adults with a memory they'll treasure for years to come.

Arts and crafts. Army kids who enjoy crafts can participate in classes and activities through the Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (FMWR) Arts and Crafts Centers. Besides learning new skills, children get a chance to let their creative sides shine in a fun and entertaining environment.

Learn about the Constitution. The Military Family Network has partnered with K12 and together they're providing free educational activities to help teach military kids about the U.S. Constitution. Through this online interactive program, military kids will gain a better understanding of America's founding principles, rights and freedoms, and ideals. To aid in learning, the program is divided into grade levels so that the lessons are age/grade appropriate.

Kitchen creations. Need a great rainy day activity? Use these military-themed cookie cutters and make Jell-O Jigglers or try one of these patriotic desserts. Not only will you have a yummy treat but your time in the kitchen can be turned into an educational opportunity. By using the recipes you can teach your kids fractions and/or educate them on how to read and decipher recipes, which reinforces reading comprehension and teaches the importance of following step-by-step instructions. And if you're feeling really ambitious you can take this a step further by throwing in a lesson or two on food safety, nutrition or host a Q&A session, to name just a few. Similar to all other aspects of life, the list of kitchen-based teaching opportunities is endless and only limited by your imagination.

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