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Columbus News

Posted on: July 27, 2023

'Itty Bitty Camp' and 'Pop-Up Rec' providing area kids chance to flourish outdoors

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Columbus youth will soon have the chance to earn “G.O.A.T. status” like Michael Jordan and Tom Brady. Well, in a way.

The City of Columbus Parks and Recreation Department is gearing up for the grand finale of its all-summer-long Itty Bitty Camp with next week’s “G.O.A.T (Greatest Of All Time) theme, four days of fun featuring some of the most well-received activities from throughout the 12-week program.

Itty Bitty Camp was launched earlier this year as a way to introduce little ones from kindergarten through third grade to outdoor recreation.

“It’s about giving the younger kids the opportunity to learn skills that maybe they’re aren’t familiar with,” City Parks and Recreation Coordinator Sydney Winger said. “But obviously, we’re making it fun.”

Each week has featured a rotating list of themes, such as “Superheroes,” “Wet N Wild” and “Fitness.” The camp, which has run 9 a.m. to noon Monday-Thursday, incorporates the weekly theme into specific formatting for each day of the week: “Make It Monday.,” “Take A Trip Tuesday,” “Water Wednesday” and “Tire Us Out Thursday.”

Winger and Itty Bitty Camp Head Counselor Jayven Krepel developed the structured format together, with her noting Parks and Rec is always looking to evolve and create new programming. Winger said she looks for inspiration by checking out what sister communities offer and building upon those ideas to make them work well in Columbus.

“I think it has been going really well,” Winger said. “We’ve had a really good schedule and structure.”

Mondays see the campers create some kind of craft they can put to good use throughout the week, such as a cape at the start of “Superhero Week.” On “Take A Trip Tuesday,” they’ve gone on an excursion through the massive Pawnee Park. The campers then put the Pawnee Plunge to good use on “Water Wednesday.”

“The Plunge doesn’t have swim lessons that morning, so the kids get the Plunge to themselves,” Winger said. “They can enjoy the pool and the slides and play in the water.”

The last day of the week involves anything that lives up to the name “Tire Us Out Thursday,” so loads of activities and games that get kids moving.

This last week has been no different. Coinciding with Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week,” which features shark-based programming, kids have been enjoying an array of shark-inspired activities. Mid-morning on Thursday, July 27th, the campers were in the midst of creating their origami sharks with plans to put a slippery slide to use afterward. On “Water Wednesday,” they played an action-packed game of “Sharks on Minnows (think “Marco Polo”). The week also saw the campers enjoy a “Shark Attack” drink (Kool-Aid mixed with grenadine fruit syrup).

“It has been awesome,” Krepel said. “We’ve had a lot of new faces.”

That’s what the Park and Recreation team likes to see: Kids and adults having fun. Residents will still have a chance to send their kiddos to next week’s final Itty Bitty Camp of the summer for just $50 to cover all four days. The camp comes with a daily snack for all participants, with Krepl noting they can accommodate anyone with special diets.

Little kids are hardly Parks and Recreation’s only focus. This summer saw the department also launch “Pop-Up Rec,” an initiative that sees staff head out to various City parks from 2-4 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays to play games and sports like kickball and softball.

“Nowadays with technology, it’s easy to stay inside. We wanted to show kids it’s easy to learn a simple sport like softball,” Winger said. “We want them to be able to go to the park with a ball and a bat and play with their friends.”

Krepel said they’ve had kids of all ages, ranging from 5-16, show up to participate. Registration can be handled on the City’s website by clicking here, but kids can just “pop” over the day of the camp they want to attend with $5 to join the fun.

“That’s literally the point,” Krepel said. “We just want kids to have fun outside.”

On Monday, July 31, participants will create “park art” using nature and art supplies. On Wednesday, they’ll learn to play water volleyball by launching water balloons over the nets. Next week’s camp happens at Pawnee Park.

As for the Itty Bitty Camp’s “G.O.A.T” theme next week, people can register their kids by clicking here. Activities will include science experiments from “S.TE.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Week, swimming, water balloon fights and more.

Winger said Krepel has been doing an excellent job leading the camps and making sure all participants are having a good time. It’s evident Krepel, Winger and the entire Parks and Rec team relish hanging out with youth and providing them opportunities to create fun summer memories. G.O.A.T. Week will embody that.  

“We’re taking all the best parts of our summer and making the best week out of it,” Krepel assured. “We want kids to come out, meet friends and have fun. Anybody is welcome.”

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