MOUNT VERNON — “I’m bored!”
It’s a phrase parents dread, but one that seems inevitable, especially when kids have nearly three months of summer vacation. Keeping kids entertained may be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. There are plenty of free or low cost options in Knox County.
Free programming is available at local public libraries. This year’s summer library program is space-themed. Each Knox County library offers the reading incentive program, as well as free activities, which vary by location.
Ariel-Foundation Park also hosts free, family-friendly events including fitness classes and Monday Movies. Monday movie guests are encouraged to bring a blanket or lawn chair. Kids get a free slice of pizza and other snacks will be available for purchase. The season opens with “Mary Poppins Returns” on June 17 at 8 p.m.
Fitness classes take place throughout the week at the Schnormeier Event Center. Children are welcome at all fitness classes, but this year the park is debuting a class especially for kids. Thrive Kids, hosted by Hannah Kelling, will take place Tuesdays from 10 to 11 a.m.
Two free summer concert series are an excellent opportunity to encourage a love of fine arts at early age. The Summer Music Garden’s 2019 season includes concerts by the Mount Vernon Community Band (June 23), Kari Kovick (July 21) and Kare Strong (August 11). These concerts take place from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Knox County Career Center’s children’s garden and are geared towards young children. The Ariel-Foundation Park concert series, which starts this month and will continue through October, has eight events on the roster, including a children’s concert by the Knox County Symphony on Sept. 29.
There are also plenty of public parks families can enjoy for free anytime. These include Riverside, Thayer Ridge, Phillips, Wolf Run, Ariel-Foundation, and The Square (Mount Vernon), Brown Family Environmental Center (Gambier), Indianfield Bluffs and Honey Run (Howard) and Mohican State Forest (Loudonville) and the Owl Creek Trail (Fredericktown). The hiking trails at these parks are free to use, as are the Heart of Ohio, Kokosing Gap and Mohican Valley multi-use trails. The multi-use trails are paved, handicap accessible and open to bicycles, tricycles, rollerblades and skateboards.
Mount Vernon’s Premiere Theater 7 offers $1 children’s movies on Tuesdays and Wednesday mornings at 10, June 18 through July 24. Tickets are $1 for children and accompanying adults. This year’s lineup includes “Small Foot,” “SING,” “Curious George,” “The Secret Life of Pets,” and “Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase.”
The YMCA of Mount Vernon has an hourlong children’s enrichment program Tuesday mornings at 9:15 a.m. where children complete STEM projects and crafts. A youth fitness class is offered at 9:15 a.m. on Thursday mornings. Both classes are free for members and $5 for non members.
Families can also take advantage of the city parks programs, which offer low-cost child care and the chance to play at Hiawatha Water Park. The elementary program is open to kids entering first through sixth grade next school year. From 10:30 a.m. to noon, children enjoy the pool and amenities at Hiawatha. After lunch, kids play games including tennis, basketball, softball and kickball until the program ends at 3 p.m. The program takes place at Hiawatha, but free bussing is available from Riverside Park each morning at 10 a.m.
The preschool program is open to children ages 3 through 5 who have not attended kindergarten. It runs weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Children enrolled in this program play games, do crafts, play on the playground and visit the water park on designated days. This program takes place at the Tot Lot at Hiawatha.
The cost for both programs is $60 for the first child and $45 for each additional child. Both programs run through Aug. 9. Neither will be available on July 4. Registration for the elementary program opened June 3; no registration is required for the Tot Lot program. The program may be cancelled on days when severe weather is predicted.
Anyone who cannot afford a monthly membership to the YMCA is encouraged to apply for the scholarship program. Discounts of between 10 and 75 percent are given to individuals and families.
Discounted entry is available at Mount Vernon’s science and play museum (SPI) to Ohio EBT (Ohio Direction) card holders upon presentation of ID. There is also a financial accessibility program available to a limited number of families each year. This program provides a free annual membership to families with demonstrated financial need through the Community Foundation of Mount Vernon and Knox County’s Sue Webster Fund.