Tuesday, April 03, 2007

We Try It: The YMCA's Healthy Kids Day

Nationally, the YMCA's Healthy Kids Day will be April 14. But for some reason, our Metro Y decided to host the event earlier.

We were pretty excited to have a free, family-friendly event. As it turned out, a lot of people felt the same. And by "a lot," I mean thousands. A half hour past the start time, there was still a line just to get into the stadium parking lot! And a line to get into the stadium, where the event was held.

My first thought: Wrong day. There must be a game.

But then I saw the tiny yard signs indicating that, no, this was the right day. And yes, all these people were here for the YMCA Healthy Kids Day.

So, my first advice: Go early. Or go very late.

As it turned out, the Y staff was just as dumbfounded at the turnout as we were. Who knew there were that many families looking for fun all on the same day? Maybe it was the free t-shirts - which apparently ran out immediately - or the offer of free food -ice cream gone in the first hour, apples gone in the second. But it seemed like every kid in my city came.

The activities were cleary designed for a smaller crowd. The dance and jump rope demonstrations were sidewalk level, which caused a traffic jam with a lot of people standing around, unable to see. The karate demonstration, held on a sloping hill, was a bit easier to see, but it was a bit unorganized and, well, slow, so nobody paid much attention.

There was a half hour line at least for the three blow-up bouncers. We dutifully stood in line with our one child, who, when faced with the grinning catepillar bouncing maze, said, "I don't want to go," and started putting her shoes back on.

Inside the stadium, we found a relay race of some sort. Unfortunately, you couldn't just jump in. The teams were set up ahead of time, which was a huge disappointment to me. Also, the children all seemed to be in the late elementary range, which cut out a huge chunk of the child population.

There were some games involving a football and bean bags, but they only had one of each, which translated into long lines.

The police and firefighters brought their usual State Fair trucks for children to learn about fire drills and meth labs. We had to leave the police truck, because the pictures were a bit horrific for a four-year-old: What does it teach my child to see a toddler with third degree burns from a meth-lab accident? Don't hang out with bad parents? And do parents who run meth-labs go to health fairs? Do they take their kids anywhere near the state police? I dont' think so.

The bicycle obstacle course seemed fun, although, again, too old for my child. And no way was she going anywhere near a fire drill.

It wasn't the best time we've had. And I didn't feel like we learned anything about how to become more active as a family or how to make sure our child gets enough exercise. I mean, I knew there were places we could take karate!

But we did get a lot of free stuff: Two toothbrushes, two packets of peanuts, two cheese sticks - notice a pattern here? They also had lots of free water, which was really smart, especially since they apparently built this stadium without waterfountains.

Final verdict: For us, the best part was people watching and the wonderful weather. We'd also never seen the city's new stadium, so that was interesting. But overall, we wished we'd gone for a hike at a park.

This event offered little for families with young children or teens. It was designed almost exclusviely for the elementary age bracket.

Hopefully, in the future or perhaps at other locations, the Y will find ways to involve children of all ages. It'd also be nice if it were more family-oriented. Let's face it: In cities, which is where the Y tends to operate, children aren't going to be out and exercising if their parents are inside on the couch.

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