February 22, 2023

Variety of YWCA Princeton Summer Activities Available for Young Children Through Age 12

SUMMER SESSIONS: “I am looking forward to hearing and seeing the teachers and children learning, discovering, and working together through play both inside and outside on the YWCA grounds.” Tara O’Shea is the director of The Burke Foundation Early Childhood Center at YWCA Princeton, the Youth Program, and also head of the YW Summer Program.

By Jean Stratton

YWCA Princeton has a proud history. For more than a century, it has provided programs and activities for women and families. Established in 1922, it was originally located on Nassau Street, moving to its current site at 59 Paul Robeson Place in 1958.

Since the 1970s, the YWCA Princeton has offered summer programs for children, including both indoor and outdoor activities.

Tara O’Shea has been associated with the YW since 1996, and has served as head of the Summer Program since 2005, as well as overseeing The Burke Foundation Early Childhood Center at the YW, and the Youth Program.

This year the Summer Program will begin June 20, continuing through August 25. Girls and boys from age 2 and a half through 12 are eligible to participate, and the variety of activities will appeal to children of all ages, points out Haley Gorda, YWCA Princeton communications and marketing manager.

Full and Half Day

“We offer full- and half-day programs Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. or 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.,” says Gorda. “Families are asked to provide bagged lunches for their children, and we also offer healthy snacks consisting of a fruit or veggie, a cracker/cookie, and a water/juice option. If your child has an allergy, and you want to provide him or her their own snack, that is permissible, and we will keep your child’s snacks separate and safe for the week. Friday is Fun Day, and we serve ice pops in the afternoon.”

The Summer Program offers a weekly enrollment plan, and families may register by the week or for longer periods, she adds. The programs are organized according to age and category and by offering them on a weekly basis, children can select those that especially interest them, Gorda points out.

Also, she notes, “Sometimes families will be away on vacation for part of the summer. This way they can sign up just for one week, depending on their plans. Unlike with other camps’ and programs’ policies, they are not locked in for the entire summer. Our programs are a good way to help families find what their children are especially interested in. Also, families do not have to be members of the YW to participate.

“Our Summer Program includes activities to
thoughtfully engage key areas of development, including social, emotional, physical, and cognitive,” she continues. “It promotes learning, and encourages social skills, sharing, and respect for others.

“We have an inclusive and diverse staff, which is very experienced. Our staff members, who are referred to as ‘teachers’ or ‘Summer Program staff,’ are American Red Cross-, First Aid-, and CPR/AED-certified, and we work with the New Jersey Office of Licensing to determine and maintain appropriate child-to-staff ratios based on age groups. Our site has the capacity to serve 150 children, and we also have some activities off-site.”

Themed Activities

The weekly programs offer themed activities geared to specific ages. For example, Gorda explains, “EXPRESS YOURSELF and Robotics Enrichment are two different summer programs that are for children between ages 4 and 8. There may be some occasional overlap in activities, but in general, EXPRESS YOURSELF is definitely more art and creative project-focused, and Robotics is more science and technology-based.

“The hands-on educational approach engages young children to learn STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) concepts through play and creative self-expression.

“In EXPRESS YOURSELF Through Art, Music, and Dance, children will brainstorm and explore weekly themed activities and techniques in robotics. YWCA Princeton uses the KIBO curriculum by Kinderlabs, a research-based curriculum with 20 years of early child development research.”

Activities may include arts and crafts, experiments, puzzles, robotics, hula hoops, and reading aloud, adds O’Shea. Painting and activities with shapes (such as picking up small hoops on the lawn) are also included.

“Water Play activity refers to water balloon tosses, water relays, and play with sprinklers,” says Gorda. “The children do not use the YMCA swimming pool.”

Age Appropriate

“The Summer Childcare program is an extension of the year-long child care we offer at The Burke Foundation Early Childhood Center, where we provide child care for children ages 8 weeks to 6 years old,” continues Gorda. “The Summer Childcare program, however, is specifically for children ages 2 and a half through 6. Although we do offer care for infants year-round, including in the summer.

“The Burke Foundation Early Childhood Center provides age appropriate activities for the children in an engaging and multicultural setting both inside at the classroom and outdoor environment. Weekly themes set the tone for a variety of activities including water fun, music and movement, arts and crafts, scientific discovery, and nature activities.”

Another important choice for families is the SAFE Kids Summer Program. In collaboration with Penn Medicine Princeton Health, it is designed for children 8 to 12 years old. The program includes hands-on activities and interactive presentations around such topics as cooking with kids (with emphasis on healthy snacks and meals to encourage eating and enjoying fruits and vegetables); empowerment for children; kids’ yoga; sun safety; personal safety in the children’s environment (poison control, 9-1-1, first aid); and more.

Unlike the other programs, which run throughout the entire summer, this is a one-week program offered for three weeks: June 20-24, July 10-14, and August 21-25.

Other cooking-related activities, which are new this year, include Kids Can Cook: Breakfast, Lunch, Healthy Snacks. Led by a registered dietician, the children will learn to make simple, healthy breakfasts and prepare healthy lunches and snacks. At the end of the class, participants will sample their meals. In Kids Can Cook: Fresh Garden Veggies, a registered dietitian will lead an interactive session teaching children how fresh vegetables from the garden or seasonal veggies are not only healthy, but can be tasty too.

Ready For Action

Four to 8-year-olds can get ready for action with the Ready, Set, GO! program. Held off site, this program will foster and improve the kids’ gross motor skills in small group and entire group cooperative activities so they can move freely in their environment. Focusing on balance, coordination, etc., it will involve hands-on playing with frisbees, hula hoops, and other games.

Except for Ready, Set, GO!, before and after care is available for all of the programs held at the YW, reports Gorda. Before care is 7:30 to 9 a.m. and after care is from 3:30 to 6 p.m.

Gorda, who has been with the YW for four years, is enthusiastic about YWCA Princeton generally and the upcoming summer program.

“I appreciate the impact of all the YWCA’s programs, and I feel very fortunate to meet all the people who benefit from our Summer Program. The social interaction is so important. Our programs are often when the child makes friends and acquires their social connections. There is also awareness and understanding about people from other countries. We have children whose parents are at Princeton University, and the U.S. is not their native country. The children learn about each other. This is a great benefit.”

To register, visit the website at ywcaprinceton.org/programs/summer, beginning March 1 and call (609) 497-2100 ext. 334 for pricing and further information.