The Participation Trophy Debate

Over the last couple of decades, we’ve seen the emergence of a modern trend that emphasizes positive reinforcement in sports. The result? Kids in many activities have begun bringing home awards, trophies and ribbons simply for participating in an activity or on a team. Is rewarding a child for simply showing up sending the wrong message — or is it a team-building and esteem-building tool?

By Jillian Chamberlain

The great Participation Trophy Debate received renewed attention last month when James Harrison, a professional NFL player for the Pittsburg Steelers, posted a photo on his Instagram account stating that he was going to have his two sons return the participation trophies that they had received. Harrison had the following to say in his Instagram comment:

The post garnered scorn from trophy supporters, who argue that participation trophies remind young kids that they are part of something, and they may help build enthusiasm so the kids will return for another season. The trophies, some feel, are along the lines of the team T-shirt and car magnet — a pleasant reminder (especially during the off-season) of time well-spent.

Others argue that there are different ways of accomplishing camaraderie, while still awarding only excellence or unique achievements like, say, most improved player. Team pizza parties and post-game gatherings can be held to honor the team for their collective accomplishment. Such gatherings remind kids that their effort is valued, regardless of ability or results.

Rewarding children for for their participation and effort certainly is important — just think how you’d feel if your boss didn’t care whether or not you showed up to work or, worse, how hard you tried to do well at your job. But should everyone get an actual trophy? Or should certain awards be reserved only for those who are exceptional? Or are physical trophies and awards not necessary (or desirable) at all?

To be sure, many coaches, instructors and teachers have strong opinions on the subject. And many parents take matters into their own hands, as Harrison did, if they disagree.

One thing, though, that almost everyone can agree on — kids deserve to stretch their legs and their minds, to enjoy more friend-time and less screen-time, and to find a fun activity or two to rejuvenate them. Help your child find a class or activity that they are passionate about: Check out the thousands of activity listings that we have in your area!  If you like, you can give yourself a gold star for checking us out — or not. It’s really up to you!


10 Tips to Ease Your Child’s Fear of Swimming

Does your child dislike swimming? Changing your mindset can prep your child to take the plunge with confidence. Here, 10 tips to help them learn to love the pool.

By Reesa Lewandowski

Having a child who has a fear of swimming can lead to some pretty tense times for your family — especially if the rest of you love to spend time at the pool. So what is the best way to start teaching your child to swim? First, try to work on getting your child comfortable in the water, and do so as early as possible. The older your child gets, the harder it may be to ease their fears. There’s no time like the present: In fall and wintertime, indoor pools offer the perfect place for you to introduce kids to swimming, get some aquatic exercise, and cure the cabin fever that can be all too common in colder climates!

Sometimes it’s a challenge to think like a child, but that can be just the ticket to easing your kid’s fear of swimming. Here are 10 great tips to help you get your child comfortable in the water:

1. Focus on the future.

While you may want your child to be comfortable in the water as soon as possible, resist the urge to push them to do too much too soon. Remember, they have a lifetime of swimming fun ahead of them; there’s no reason to stress over learning a lifelong skill in one day.

2. Follow your child’s lead.

If your child is comfortable in the shallow end, stay there.

3. Put the emphasis on fun.

Bring water toys and buckets for them to splash and play with. Let them see that the water can be a place to enjoy.

4. Let them sit on the edge.

Kids (and adults) love to dangle their feet in the water! Think of this as a time to cool your toes, and don’t worry so much about what comes next.

5. Stay on the steps for a while.

Imagine how big and scary a pool can look to a child! Pools with steps in the shallow end give kids a great place to sit until they are ready to go deeper at their own pace.

6. Say yes to splashing.

As a parents, we often discourage splashing, but it is a great learning tool to help your child to get comfortable in the water. Splashing helps them learn the feel of the water and how their limbs work in the pool.

7. Help them feel safe.

Once your child manages to get into the water holding on to you, be sure to hold on to their trust. Let them decide when they’re ready to do more or have you walk in a little bit deeper.

8. Show them the peaceful side of swimming.

One way to help kids see the pool as a soothing (not scary) place: Show them that they can float on top of the water! Buoyancy can be a hard concept for kids to understand. A great way to get them comfortable with floating: Stand in the water and hold your arms out straight in front of you, just below the surface, then have your child lay on his back with his head resting on one of your arms and his lower back, legs, or feet resting on the other.

9. Get a little silly.

One of the first things a child is taught in swim class is how to blow bubbles in the water. This is a good trick to keep the water out of your child’s nose when she dips her face into the water. And your kids will think it’s hilarious to watch you demonstrate! Turn it into a game: See who can blow bubbles the longest. Or pretend to be a motor boat.

10. Know when to towel off.

Once your child shows disinterest in the situation, allow her to take a break. This may be a good time to have a snack, take a nap, or or play a game out of the water. Keep each experience around the water positive and happy, and your child will likely come to love the water as much as you do!

Another great way to get a child swimming is to sign them up for a swim class or swim camp. Swim teachers and summer camp counselors often have a lot of experience easing kids’ fears of swimming. With time, the pool can be a place your child loves!


Will Your Kid “Love” Tennis?

According to the United States Tennis Association, tennis offers plenty of perks for kids and teens, including making new friends, learning teamwork and sportsmanship, building discipline, enhancing coordination and flexibility, and increasing bone strength. Those are strong incentives for parents to sign up their kids for tennis camp—but will they actually enjoy it? And how can you tell which tennis camp is the best fit?

To find out, I interviewed the dynamic duo Danielle and Brittany (commonly referred to as The Beauty and The Beast around their high school tennis court) and Colleen (another accomplished tennis camper and instructor), who spent a collective 14 years in tennis camp during their teenage years. Here are their best insights for tennis players of all levels. I hope this helps you find the perfect place for your kid!

tennis-campD.H. and B.K at Tennis Camp in 2006, Morrisville, PA

Why attend tennis camp?

For Brittany, tennis camp was a great way to spend time with friends while training for her upcoming high school tennis season. “Kids should expect to play a lot of tennis and get into good shape since there will probably be a lot of conditioning as well,” says Colleen. Tennis camp also teaches kids a skill set that will be with them forever, says Danielle. “Campers should expect to learn correct form and the rules of the game, while also learning how to work with and communicate with a variety of people.” Colleen still treasures the new friendships she built with many of the players. “It was a fun environment where I could hang out with people my age,” she says.

How can you choose a camp that meets your goals?

“I think it’s important to understand what you want to get out of the camp,” says Danielle. “If it’s for summer activity instead of for training, the instructor should be fun and patient.” Her advice: If your child doesn’t know how to play and needs to learn the basics, you’ll want a camp that is more low-key. “If you are there for training—to really improve your skills—you should be looking for a camp with more structure,” says Danielle. Some questions to ask the camp director: What are the skills that are being taught each day/week? Are there different levels? How quickly can a player move between the levels? How will the players’ skills be tested throughout the camp?

What should you look for in an instructor?

“Instructors should be knowledgeable, in shape, uplifting, and fun!” says Brittany. “They will also strongly value the instructor-player relationship.” Colleen’s thoughts: “I would recommend looking for an instructor who has experience running a tennis camp and also encourages you to participate in other activities outside of tennis.”


What do kids like most (and least) about tennis camp?

“My camp included fun and exciting activities outside of the game itself, like pie-eating contests and races, which helped bond the tennis pros and the tennis players/campers,” says Brittany. Her least-favorite part? Running a type of sprinting drill called suicides. “During the summer, I was more interested in having fun than being at any kind of tennis boot camp,” she says.

Danielle says that her camps were organized by skill level. “The age range of each group could be very wide, especially when I first started attending,” she says. “As the years went on, that changed, though, and the groups became competitive and I became less age-conscious.”

How can tennis camp help kids in the long run?

Danielle’s love of tennis grew, along with her skill set–thanks, in part, to her summer training. “I made it on my high school’s varsity team during my sophomore, junior, and senior year. I was also a hand-selected tournament player throughout high school, and I played on the club team while in college,” she says. Brittany also played tennis throughout high school, and Colleen even taught tennis for four summers!

Any tips for kids starting tennis camp?

I would say just go into it with an open mind and have fun,” says Colleen. “Don’t take it too seriously or it could become a chore.” On the other hand, says Brittany, do remember that tennis camp involves a good workout. “Be prepared with lots of water and sweat towels, which will definitely come in handy on a hot summer day,” she suggests. Also remember to pack snacks, sunscreen, and other summer essentials each day. Most of all, enjoy yourself, says Danielle. “Get ready to have some fun being active and meeting new people!”

If you are looking to enroll your child in tennis camp or tennis lessons check out some of the facilities in your area!

Soccer Sports

Kidz Love Soccer: A Non-Competitive Approach

Discover a kids soccer program with a different philosophy. Kidz Love Soccer focuses on teaching the fundamentals with fun, not competition!

kidz_love_soccerThere’s a good chance that Kidz Love Soccer is offering camps and classes near you – they now have programs in more than 160 communities in California, Oregon, Texas, and Washington.

And they’re worth looking for — they have a completely different approach from typical league-based soccer programs! Kidz Love Soccer focuses on teaching the fundamentals of soccer in a way that improves skills, instills confidence, and teaches sportsmanship and respect for others.

Kidz Love Soccer has developmentally friendly programs ranging from parent-child classes starting at age 2 … right up to weekly classes for 10- to 12-year-olds that maintain the thrill of match play without the intense competition and time commitment required in competitive leagues. In between are Tot-Soccer, Pre-Soccer, and Soccer classes for younger grade-schoolers. All abilities are welcome, and kids are nurtured, built up, and developed as athletes — all within a positive framework.

The fun of soccer without the drama of a league. Look for locations near you!

Find more kids’ camps, classes & workshops near you >>


All About Cheerleading


Cheerleading is no longer all about megaphones and can-can kicks on the sideline of a football field! These days, cheerleading is a sport requiring athleticism, endurance and teamwork. While traditional pom pom cheerleading still exists, there are now other choices for parents and children to choose from.

School Cheer

The primary purpose of a school cheerleading squad is to promote and support the school’s athletic teams. They work to keep the team’s fans riled up at games and meets. School cheerleaders ordinarily perform traditional cheers, chants, dances and pom routines. In addition, they must be skilled in tumbling, jumps, stunts and voice projection.

While a large percentage of school squads compete against others, their own competitions are generally secondary to rallying for their school events. Occasionally, schools may have two squads – a competition-only team and a traditional squad that is committed to performing at athletic events. Regardless of the type of squad, when schools compete at a cheer competition, they compete against other school squads rather than other types of teams.

School cheerleading tryouts are typically held over a series of a few days in early spring. Generally, a set number of cheerleaders are chosen from the hopefuls who try out, and even the current team members must try out to secure a spot on next year’s squad. Factors other than athleticism and skillset, such as grades and reputation, may come into play as these students are seen as ambassadors of the school. Tryouts may involve an individual performance in front of judges (some coaches require all the athletes to perform the same routine to allow for more consistent judging) or an individual performance combined with a group assessment in which cheerleaders perform a routine and/or stunts.

Allstar Cheer

Allstar cheerleading is perhaps the most rigorous and demanding type of cheer. Since Allstar cheering is purely competitive, as opposed to supporting another athletic team, it can place more physical and athletic demands on a cheerleader. Allstar also typically requires more time and money than the other types of cheer. Allstar teams are affiliated with gyms that may be solely dedicated to cheer or teams may be formed at gymnastics gyms.

Allstar teams are dedicated to performing a 2 minute 30 seconds routine in front of a panel of judges. The routine must include dance, cheer, tumbling (cartwheels, roundoffs, and more advanced) and stunting components, all intricately choreographed to the team’s own music mix. As opposed to traditional cheerleading, the vocal cheer portion of the routine (typically less than 30 seconds) is very short and voice projection isn’t a large part of the score. Judging has a high focus on stunt/pyramid formation and stability and level of tumbling ability.

Most gyms will allow any child to enroll given that his or her parents are willing to meet the financial and time commitment requirements. The majority allow children to enroll at age three or four, with a few beginning at age two. The team(s) onto which an athlete is placed depends largely on his or her tumbling abilities, so most gyms evaluate children individually and sometimes in a group setting.

Each defined level of allstar cheer requires at least a majority of team members to perform particular skills during a routine. Since teams are judged on technical ability as well as perfection and coordination, it is to a team’s advantage that all cheerleaders can perform the skills and perform them well. It is not uncommon for athletes to take additional classes in tumbling, stunting and flexibility in order to stay conditioned to perform at their team’s level.

Prep Cheer

Prep cheer is a type cheerleading that offers an alternative to traditional allstar cheer. It is fairly new, having been established in the last few years, but most allstar programs offer it as an entry level option. Prep is definitely a lower commitment form of allstar cheer that requires less in terms of money, time and travel. Most prep programs have a shorter competition season, which sometimes means that athletes can join mid-year.

Prep competition routines can be as intricate as those of their allstar counterparts. Athletes are required to perform for two minutes and prep rules only allow for limited, less advanced, stunting. However, just because prep is a newer level of allstar cheerleading doesn’t mean it’s easy! Routines still must include choreographed dancing, cheering, tumbling and stunting and are usually  judged to the same standards as the allstar routines. On the other hand, there are only three difficulty levels of prep cheer while traditional allstar has six levels.

Recreational Cheer

Much like school cheerleaders are associated with a certain school, recreational (or “rec”) cheerleaders are associated with a community recreation league. Some organizations with established rec teams may include churches, youth sports leagues and YMCAs. Additionally, national organizations such as Pop Warner and Upward Sports offer programs for young cheerleaders.

In addition to cheering for league games, rec cheerleading squads may also compete. Again, these teams compete only against other recreational cheerleaders rather than against school or allstar teams. However, if a rec team does not cheer for a league sport, it may be required to enter some competitions as an allstar team which may have more rigorous judging requirements.

Like allstar cheer gyms, rec leagues usually do not hold traditional tryouts meaning that everyone who wants to cheer is given a spot on a team; some do not hold tryouts at all. However, tryouts may be used to determine a child’s team or skill level placement (referred to as “division”). Rec cheer is a great way to get started in cheerleading since youngsters are taught the fundamentals that are used in higher levels of cheer (school and allstar). A bonus of recreational cheerleading is that costs and time commitments are typically much lower than in other types of cheer.

If you are looking for a way to burn off your child’s energy while building coordination and athleticism, look no further than cheerleading. Hopefully this overview will help you find a starting point and determine your family’s best fit in the cheerleading world.

<<  Find cheer classes on ActivityHero


A Guide to Horseback Riding for Beginners

Do horses keep coming up in conversation with your kids? When you’re in the car, when you’re making dinner, when you’re on the way to school…the questioning is relentless. Your kid has riding on the mind and probably won’t stop asking about it until they are able to try it. Horseback riding is really one of those sports that everyone should at least try once in their lifetime, no matter what age, even if its just a fun trail ride because it such a unique experience building a bond with an animal that you can’t really get from any other sport. Before you let your mind get carried away with costs and other worries, let me help you get started.

Horseback Riding Camp

Start by choosing a day camp or a horseback riding camp. Camps are an amazing opportunity to be introduced into everything from barn work, to horse prep to riding with other like-minded kids. It’s important to look for a camp program that will give your child this type of experience because it will not only be more interactive, but it will make them a better rider and more responsible in the long run. Year after year, I see kids’ confidences and passions flourish over just a few weeks of camp, and they really start taking pride in all of the work they are doing, whether it be the stall they cleaned or the trot they perfected. Riding at camp will leave your child with a memorable experience. If your kid leaves camp wanting more or you are more interested in a solo starting experience for them, private lessons are another great starting point.

Find horseback riding camps near me>>

Private Horseback Riding Lessons


Training programs will vary by barn and by trainer, so there are a few things to consider when looking for both of these things. If you are in completely unfamiliar territory, don’t panic. Start by asking around to friends and family to see if any of them know of farms in the area with good reviews or trainers that teach introductory lessons. Not every farm has lesson horses, so it’s just a matter of asking questions once you find them. Another great way to get information is by going into your local tack shop. Often times, the people that work there are riders themselves and know of contacts in the area. They also have bulletin boards with trainers and information about their riding programs. If you prefer to work online, you can also do a search for barns and trainers in your area and then check out their websites to find your best match. You can also do a search for local associations based on the type of riding you are pursuing, ie Dressage Associations, Hunter Jumper Associations, Western Associations etc, and find barns and trainers advertising on there.

Once you’ve found a barn and a trainer, you can decide on a program. I recommend starting with private lessons, at least for a few months. Like I mentioned before, every barn has a different way they set up with lesson programs. So when you’re making your decision of where to start, compare every program. It’s ideal for kids to be able to build a relationship with their trainer and build up their confidence on a horse in a one on one environment without being overwhelmed. Then once they are solid in the saddle and trust their trainer you can add in group lessons, which are a great way to start integrating your kid into the barn group. They will get to know the other kids, learn with them, and have fun. Private lessons are a great way to teach and refine, and then they can hone those skills in a group setting where they are really asked to focus despite the added distractions. Together, private and group lessons create a solid training program.

Dressing the Part


Hopefully, you feel more comfortable about how to get your kid started in the world of horses. The next challenge is to get them physically ready. There are so many things that your kid could use, but when they are first starting out, just go with the basics and get what they absolutely need because otherwise it adds up too quickly. So what are the basics? The most important items to focus on are the helmet and boots. It’s essential for these to fit properly for the safety of your child and horse.

Always buy a helmet new. You will probably see some that are on consignment, but it isn’t safe because you don’t know if any falls occurred in them or other problems. Stop by your local tack shop to try on different styles and get the perfect fit. You can also measure on your own and order online, but know that every style will fit differently so it may take a few tries before finding the best one. For beginners, the IRH Equi-Lite Helmet is a great choice and it comes in a variety of colors and sizes. Remember though, helmets are not one brand fits all. If you are not familiar with fitting helmets, definitely go into a store and ask for help. Just so you know what they are looking for, the rule of thumb for fitting a helmet is finding one that provides even pressure all around your head. It should lie about 1 inch above your child’s eyebrows and not wobble around when they move their head or shake. The nice part is that many helmets come with adjustable pads that will help you perfect the fit, once you find the model that works best.

After you have found the helmet, you want to make sure they have a pair of good paddock boots, also known as short boots, which are perfect for beginners. You can look for a nice pair on consignment or purchase them new. My personal favorite brand for paddock boots is Ariat. Lastly, get your kid a pair of gloves and riding breeches and they will be set to go! It’s always a safe bet to start with less and then add to the wardrobe once they get more involved in the sport.

However you choose to get you kid started in the saddle, the most important part is that they like the barn and the trainer. Everything from there will fall into place and they will quickly fall in love with the sport.

Horseback Riding Sports

Should You Buy or Lease a Horse?


So your kid loves horseback riding lessons and now they want a horse of their very own, right? Should you buy or lease a horse? In this article, I’m going to help you with that decision by giving you some pros and cons. It’s a big move I know. Go ahead and take a moment to digest it. To be honest, the answer is different for every family and is dependent on where your child wants to go with their riding. Are they on the path to competing, have they physically outgrown the pony they are on, or are they just looking to have the responsibility of their own horse? Before jumping on the horse owner train, let me give you some tips from someone who has been there before…a few times.

Leasing A Horse

Going from taking weekly lessons to owning your own horse is a huge step. Instead of throwing yourself into something before you and your child are completely ready, why not consider leasing. I’ve been in this sport for 14 years now, and I’ve watched more people go through horses than you can imagine because they rushed into buying something before finding the right match. If you aren’t completely ready for the commitment of buying a horse, talk to your trainer about starting a leasing program. This gives you the opportunity to find a horse that your child is compatible with and can grow with. Leasing gives your child the responsibility and consistency they are looking for but keeps some of the pressures and financial burdens off of your plate. In addition, leasing doesn’t have to be a permanent decision. When your child wants to move up to higher levels or is looking for a new experience, you can start a new lease with a new horse. Once you and your child have the experience of temporary ownership that leasing allows, you might feel ready to own your own horse; maybe even purchase the horse that you are leasing.

Owning A Horse

Having a horse of your own is a very large responsibility, but it’s also an amazing experience. It’s completely different from taking lessons or even leasing because you now have full decision-making capabilities. With that though comes vet bills, boarding, shoeing, tack, etc. which can get overwhelming very quickly. If that is something you are ready to take on, then absolutely go for it. Now is the time for you to sit down with the trainer and go over what everyone thinks is the best plan. I recommend not only looking for a horse that your child likes, but also one that they can grow with, in size and performance. You will be spending a lot of money, so it’s a smarter investment to get a horse that will be able to advance with your child, instead of one that will need to be sold within a year or so. If your childs horse skills increase, you could even sell the horse at an even higher value than you purchased it. I’m getting ahead of myself here but the point is, look beyond just the present when you are making your purchase. If you make a plan and organize your finances, it will not be as extreme of a change like picking any old horse would be.. Also, make sure you do a thorough vet check so you are fully aware of your horses health. People are not always upfront and truthful with problems their horse may have, so make sure your trainer and vet are involved in all steps of this process. Once everything passes, it’s time to have fun!


Affordable Ways to Horseback Ride

If you and your child are not in the financial position to pay for a lease or purchase a horse, have your child start offering their riding services to other boarders in the barn, when they themselves can’t come up and ride their own horses. Sometimes this can even be done for money. It may not give them the consistency of riding the same horse all of the time, but it will make them a very good rider. Being able to adjust to different horses on the spot is a very unique skill to have, and believe me, not everyone can do it. Only the best riders know how to use their skills across the barn, not just on their own horse. It’s a great way to learn and advance, without having the financial pressures of owning.

Whether you’re leasing or buying a horse for the first time, my biggest piece of advice is just being patient and taking your time. It’s a big move and commitment, so it has to feel right. Work with your child’s trainer, have your child try a lot of different horses, and do a full check-up before finalizing anything. And have fun with it!

Check out some of these horseback riding camps!

Neophyte Farms Horseback Riding – Simi Valley, CA

Almaden Equestrian Center – San Jose, CA

Redwood Ranch Stables – Oakland, CA


After-School Activities Friends of ActivityHero Guest Posts Sports Uncategorized

Fencing builds physical and mental strength for kids!

Fencing Class

As parents, we want to give our children every advantage in life we can afford.  I love fencing because it can help your child build their strength on so many levels.  How many sports do you know of that can give your child a physical and mental challenge while building their confidence, social skills, and academic future?  Sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it?  But this is exactly what fencing can do for your children. 

With its rapid footwork and thrusting, your child will get a high-impact aerobic workout.  He or she will build stamina, strength, and coordination.  I like to think of fencing as a type of dance, because we use the same sort of skillset – understanding timing, tempo, measure and velocity. 

Likewise, in the dance of fencing, the student has to develop a sense of body awareness, not only knowing how their own body is positioned, but how they are positioned in relation to his or her opponent.  This body awareness is something that transcends beyond fencing – it’s a huge part of healthy living!  At Academy of Fencing Masters, we encourage our students to be aware of one’s body and the awesome machine that it is; adopting healthy attitudes and eating habits.  Fencing will instill in your child the idea of treating their body as an instrument and a temple … and taking care of it! 

Fencing is also a terrific stress reliever.  Your child can release their aggression and frustration through fencing in a controlled environment.  When they go to the strip, nothing else matters.  All problems and worries melt away – as they concentrate on technique and strategy.  Some of our high school students say that fencing is their escape from the pressures of peers and school. 

Improves your child’s strategic thinking and academic discipline

Fencing is obviously a very physical sport, but what most people don’t know is that there is a whole other mental layer that goes with it.  It’s like a game of physical chess:  Every move by the opponent spurs a reaction and response.  The key is learning to think strategically so that you can score a hit, or point.  While coaches provide a lot of guidance and training during practice, the real mental challenge comes on the strip when the fencer is squaring off against his/her opponent.  There, all the thinking that goes on is independent.  Your child has to learn to focus, be intuitive, and stay in the moment.  Fencing will teach your kids to think on their feet – a valuable skill that will stay with them all through their lives, helping them academically, socially, and in the workplace.      

By the way, colleges LOVE fencers!  Many colleges actively recruit applicants with fencing backgrounds, even going as far as to offer fencing scholarships.

Confidence booster

Fencing is a wonderful tool to bolster confidence.  To meet an opponent’s attack, the fencer has to be quick on their feet with their defensive strategy, this means there’s no time for second-guessing oneself.  Fencing requires bold moves and self-assuredness both in defense and offense. 

This is the one sport where size doesn’t matter, only skill.  I’ve seen fencers win competitions against opponents twice their size because they had the skill and talent to do so.  It’s an amazing thing!  This is one of the few sports that events the playing field between size, age, sexes, ethnicity and personality.

Likewise, fencing is a sport where parents and children can compete together.  At Academy of Fencing Masters, it is not unusual to meet a parent and son or daughter fencing in the same competition.  At a recent Senior Mixed Foil tournament, we watched a father and his teen son compete together.  We also had a mother and her teen daughter in the same competition.  It’s a great way for a family to bond together:  sharing the same passion and vision in a sport – especially during the teenage years when the ties with our kids can become strained. 

Expanding your child’s social circle

While many people who aren’t enthusiastic about team sports may enjoy the individuality that fencing offers, I think one of the biggest benefits your child will appreciate is the ability to make friends.  Fencing bridges the gap between age differences, sexes, size, and ethnicity – opening the door to a network of friends that might not have been available through everyday venues such as school.  This will give your kids exposure to many different types of personalities and experiences they might not have otherwise faced. 

Fencing is one of the few sports where kids can compete not only on a local level, but nationally and internationally as well.  Fencers often have the ability to meet — and even compete against — professional fencers on a regular basis. 

Guest writer Irina Chirashnya is the founder of Academy of Fencing Masters in Campbell, CA.  

Find fencing classes and camps on ActivityHero.  


Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Sports

Camp Director Diaries: Camp Tawonga

Camp Tawonga

Camp Tawonga has been a leader in Jewish camping since 1925. They offer a variety of different programs for campers of all ages from traditional camp fun to teen leadership programs, all set in the beautiful Stanislaus National Forest.

Teens can also embark on retreats to Israel, Canada, and other locations. We interviewed camp director Jamie Simon to learn a little bit more about her beginnings with the camp:

Tell us a little about yourself and how you started the camp.

Tawonga has been in my blood since I was eight years old, I was a camper for seven summers.

When I was old enough to be a counselor at Tawonga, I filled out the staff application the first day it was available!  I worked on the summer staff for many years before joining the year round team in 2006.  I grew up a Tawongan but I never thought I would be lucky enough to be working for camp year round!

I live in Oakland, California with my husband, who also grew up at Camp Tawonga.  The values I learned as a child at Tawonga have deeply impacted my professional and personal life.  When not working for camp I love watching sports, enjoying the outdoors, and spending time with friends and family.

Are there any special lessons or experiences you are trying to provide during the camp?

Camp is such a special place for kids and it is my goal that kids leave Tawonga with three things: a positive self image and self esteem, a feeling that they have been a part of creating a cooperative

community and a strong connection with nature.

I hope that their time at Camp Tawonga has shown them that they are uniquely special, they have a loving community supporting them and that they feel inspired to give back to the world.

What surprises/delights the kids (or parents) most about your camp?

Parents are impressed and happy with our customer service; they know that we will take good care of their kids but they are surprised at how well we take care of them.  We have an extensive parent guidebook and make customer service a priority.

We know how hard it can be for parents to send their children away and want to make this the best possible family experience.  We believe that our success at camp comes from the partnership we build with families.

What sets your class/camp apart from the rest?

Tawonga’s location is magical, we are located along the Tuolumne River right outside of Yosemite
National Park.  Campers have an opportunity to go backpacking in Yosemite and explore the beautiful land that surrounds us.

In addition to our location we are a group centered camp. Campers learn skills like team work, compromise, community building and leadership.  Our focus is on the community experience.  Campers leave feeling like they were a valuable part of the community and feel excited to create communities like the one they shared at Tawonga.

Lastly, our staff are excellent.  We have a comprehensive staff training and ensure that staff are always putting the children first. People often ask me, “Where does the magic of Tawonga come from?”, I always say, “The people.”  From the prep cooks, maintenance team, wilderness leaders, counselors and year round staff the Tawonga community is surrounded by people who are intentional, creative, passionate, caring and motivated. I am grateful every day that I get to be a part of this community and create the magic for children.

Camp Director Jamie Simon
Camp Director Jamie Simon

To learn more about Camp Tawonga, check out current schedules, and register for camps check out Camp Tawonga on ActivityHero!


Written by Sarah Antrim

After-School Activities Sports Super Activities for Super Kids

5 Tips for Getting Your Children Excited About Kids Sports

Kids excited about sports baseball cookies
Photo by Flickr user VensPaperie

These days, it can be pretty tough to get kids to do something as simple and engaging as playing kids sport.

Though it seems slightly crazy, throwing a ball around or running around with friends will often take second place to video games, TV, cell phones, and the internet.

Many parents despair at the time their kids spend in front of a screen when they themselves spent their childhoods playing outside with nothing but nature and friends for amusement (and maybe a ball and some roller-skates if they were lucky). And the frightening statistics about obesity levels don’t help.

Getting kids excited about sports so they voluntarily switch off the TV can be tough, but it’s a challenge we all need to face up to. The National Center for Health Statistics has found that 30 percent of American adults are already obese (some 60 million people) and no one wants that for their child.

The effect of exercise on overall health is a pretty compelling case for getting your children into kids sports. And getting your kids excited about sports now is an excellent groundwork for a healthy and happy future. But it’s not always easy going.

Here are 5 tips to get reluctant kids away from their LCD screens and excited about kids sports.

1. Make it Fun

Kids excited about sports boy playing tennis
Photo by Flickr user KrissZPhotography

Both kids and adults will respond far less positively to any activity that feels like a chore, so making exercise fun is a great way to get kids excited about it.

Classes like Zumba, which incorporates dance moves into exercise, are ideal for making the experience one they will want to repeat, as well as developing a sense of rhythm and physical confidence.

2. Join in Too

Kids excited about sports family basketball
Photo by Flickr user xcode

This doesn’t mean that you need to start stepping in for your kid at sports games and classes, criticizing them when they don’t kick high enough, or shouting at them from the sidelines!

Instead, take a healthy interest in the sports your child is interested in – play tennis with them to help work on eye to hand coordination or join a combined kids and adults softball team. Play together for some healthy bonding time, like a family basketball game, once a week.

The exercise will be good for everyone and it’s one of the few times you can bond without other distractions.

3. Let Your Child Decide

Kids excited about sports horseback riding
Photo by Flickr user micmol

You may love horseback riding, but does he?

There’s probably nothing less motivating for a kid – particularly those of a certain age – than being told that they have to do a certain sport (or a certain anything).

Whether it’s because it’s a sport you wished you had excelled at as a child, or one you think they have talent for, forcing kids to do something they clearly don’t want to do is rarely constructive.

That’s not to say: let off the hook. Make it clear that some sort of sport is compulsory, but let them choose the one that is right for them.

4. Set an Example

Kids excited about sports join in
Photo by Flickr user CaptQuirk

You may run in to problems with getting your kids to exercise if you never do any yourself.

Why should they get up off the couch if you never do?

The best way to lead is from the front, so start setting your own exercise goals. Share your achievements and the positive effects sports and exercise have on your life with the rest of your family.

5. Encourage Them

Kids excited about sports encourage them
Photo by Flickr user PanARMENIAN_Photo

Although you don’t have to be a hard-as-nails soccer mom or dad, pushing your child to be better than everyone else, a measure of encouragement goes a long way when it comes to getting kids into sports.

Help them set their own goals, whether it’s being good enough to join a team, or learning a new skill. Willingly shuttle them around to practices and matches.

A positive attitude to your kid’s interest in sport will make them want to take it further.

Guest blogger Amy Sawyer writes for Go Mammoth sports leagues.

Crafts Hiking Holiday Break Camps Ice Skating Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Nature Programs Play/Outdoor

8 Great Holiday Activities You Can Do With Your Kids

Christmas break and other holidays can leave kids bored or blue. Beat cabin fever with these low-cost family-fun activities that kids of all ages enjoy.

By Jennifer Moore

 kids winter holiday activities

The holidays are one of the best times of year to promote family bonding, and doing activities as a group can help strengthen those ties even more. Keeping your kids’ brains and hands busy also makes for fonder memories, since boredom and cabin fever are sure-fire triggers for sibling squabbles. The following are a few activities that cost little or nothing and can be enjoyed by children of all ages. With each one, think about your own favorite holiday activities from childhood, and use those fond memories to add your own special touch.

Shop for kids’ holiday camps near you > >


Get Crafty

From Flickr user sararuthberry

Start making holiday crafts, tree ornaments, wall ornaments, and frames. You’ll get keepsakes you can bring out every Christmas, and your kids will get a kick out of seeing their crafts on display for years to come. (Be sure to have your child add their name and date to each item.) Even if Christmas is over, creating decorations is a great way to keep kids busy during the break. Plus, you can see what areas of the house could use some extra adornment next year, then make items just for those spots. This is also a great time to do minor repairs and touch-ups on decorations from years-gone-by.

Stir Up Some Fun

Kids of all ages love to cook, and the holidays are the perfect time for parents and kids to bond while baking. Get out the cookie cutters, icing, and edible decorations (such as sprinkles and candy letters), and create unique cookies, cupcakes, and candies. If you’re not much of a baker, purchase a gingerbread house kit and have fun decorating it. Clean-up tip: If you’re not planning on nibbling on the gingerbread house later, you can adorn it with old candies that are left over from Halloween or school goodie bags.

Have a Movie Marathon

From Flickr user DavidDMuir

Don’t forget family movie night! A dreary or cold day is the perfect time to pull out all of those must-see holiday classics. Or break out the new DVDs that the kids recently received as presents. This is especially great when siblings are tiring of each other or when they don’t like to play the same games. Having the “shared experience” of watching a movie will provide siblings with an enjoyable interaction. Plus, they’ll have something to discuss later, such as favorite scenes, lines, and characters from the film. If they tend to bug each other, be sure to have them be bookends, with you sandwiched between them as a buffer.

Soon-to-be classic holiday movies > >

Throw a Goodies-Be-Gone Party

The best way to get rid of extra Christmas cookies is to invite some of your kids’ friends over. This may seem like a lot of work when you’re already trying to amuse your own children all day during break, but it actually may give you time to regroup while the kids show friends their new toys and games. You and your spouse can take turns supervising the play date, while the other does chores … or relaxes with a good book.

Get Out of the House

From Flickr user Michael Allbritton

It’s easier to get rid of cabin fever if you don’t spend the whole break in your “cabin.” If you live in a place that gets winter weather, then go out and enjoy the snow. Building snowmen, making snow angels, having snowball fights, and even constructing snow forts or igloos are all classic family activities because they just never stop being fun. But if you live in sunny California or Florida, winter is also the perfect season for a family walk in the neighborhood, a sing-along with the local kids, a hike in a local wildlife refuge, or a sight-seeing trip to a local tourist spot. Check out local travel guides and newspapers to see what family-friendly events are coming up.

Boost Kids’ Brainpower

School’s out, but that doesn’t mean your children have to stop learning. For kids who love tech, sit down together and check out interactive games on websites like, and Or plan an educational family outing to a nearby planetarium, zoo, children’s museum, or state park. Many such locations offer free talks from experts, guides, or rangers. (Kids don’t need to know that they’re educational!) You can also document the visit with photos, then research fun facts on wildlife or relevant subject matter when you return home.

Beat Boredom With Board Games

From Flickr user Crazybananas

When you ask adults what they remember most from their childhood, many will place “family game nights” among the “best nights of their lives.” Though kids will love playing against you on some of their video games, they’ll also get a kick out of playing those “old-fashioned” games from your childhood. Get out the Monopoly board or play Clue. Even a game of Scrabble can be fun when you divide the family into teams — particularly if your teens are obsessed with Words with Friends.

Burn Off Some Kid Energy

Many public parks set up ice-skating rinks for the winter, complete with cheerful Christmas lights and skate rentals. Or simply grab some hot cocoa, soak up the holiday music, and sit and watch the skaters twirl by. Not a fan of ice? Hit the roller rink or ski slopes instead. Or try a physical activity that requires less athletic talent, such as bouncing at a trampoline park, or a different kind of skill, such as playing laser tag. These latter options may be less holiday-oriented, but they’re just as good at burning off holiday-cookie calories and kids’ excess energy.

Shop for kids’ holiday camps near you > >

Jennifer Moore is a mother of three, juggling work, kids, and family time. Promoting family time is usually a job that falls on Mom’s shoulders, but the benefits are long-lasting, keeping a family united over generations.

After-School Activities Events Sports Super Activities for Super Kids

San Francisco Camps to Keep Your Kids Active Over the Winter Holidays

Are the kids looking for something fun to do during the holiday break over Christmas and New Years? Check out some of these fun winter camps for kids in the San Francisco area!

Cooking ‘Round the World Winter Camp, Oakland & Alameda.
Kids discover America’s deliciously different regions by cooking & eating! Campers go home with a binder of recipes, a new apron & perhaps a yearning for travel!




Spring Down Equestrian Center, Portola Valley.  Horseback Riding during the holidays! They have two, one week sessions of camp scheduled during the holiday break. Campers will learn everything about horses from the hoof up: safety,  grooming & tacking up, riding, how horses think, taking care of horses and much, much more.




Spartan’s Sports Camp, Mountain View. Basketball players in 5th-8th Grade get to learn valuable skills from Mountain View High School coaches and alumni in this half-day camp. Shooting, ball-handling, and defense will be among some of the skills covered in a high-energy, fast-paced environment. This is a great opportunity to tune-up skills prior to the winter youth basketball leagues.

All Star Baseball, Santa Clara. Great for beginning and intermediate players. These camps emphasize individual skills with basic fundamentals, team play, and overall fitness while experiencing the joy of the game.

If these camps aren’t near you, search for the latest schedules on ActivityHero using our date search.

Do you know of a great camp that is not listed here? Leave a comment!

Contests Events Sports Super Activities for Super Kids

ProCamps Giveaway Winner Review

Last month we ran a contest to win a father and son weekend camp sponsored by ProCamps with NBA star Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors and his father, former NBA star Dell Curry. The weekend-long camp held in San Francisco gave attendees the chance to meet the stars and learn first-hand some basketball drills and how to work together as a team. Our winners, Dinesh Chandrasekhar and son Rishi, kindly offered their testimony about their experience with the camp.

What did you learn about your dad/son that you might not have known before?

Rishi: I never knew that he shoots so bad.
Dinesh: I didn’t know that he had energy to play basketball and workout for 4 hours straight!
If you were in the NBA, would you want your dad/son on your team?
Rishi: Probably because he is good at passing the ball.
Dinesh: Absolutely. He has the finest moves in the game. (Proud dad!)
What did Dell & Stephen teach you that you didn’t already know?
Rishi: They taught me to dribble around my body.
Dinesh: That I could actually be a good coach for him even though I don’t really play the game well.
If you could choose one word to describe your dad/son what would it be?
Rishi: Quick. He gets the ball around real quick.
Dinesh: Nimble. He is extremely fast and agile on the court.
How often do you play basketball together?
Rishi: Almost every day.
Dinesh: Wish it was every day but I try.
How did this camp change your view of the game?
Rishi: I like the game even more.
Dinesh: I can see how it can make my son more confident and strong.
How has this camp changed your relationship?
Rishi: Made it more fun.
Dinesh: I have more respect for him at the game after seeing what he could do in a totally new team. Our team was being thrashed by the other team for an entire ten minutes. At the start of the third quarter, Rishi goes in to play and his game uplifted our entire team. He scored two crucial points for us. Even though we lost as a team, I was still proud of him for playing his heart out there.
Thank you to Dinesh & Rishi for sharing their experience, and a HUGE thank you to ProCamps for sponsoring this incredible giveaway!
After-School Activities Contests Events Parenting Resources Sports

Be the Best–Learn from the Best!

Hey Dad, do you get so pumped for sports games that you can’t help but get your family excited too? Does your idea of a family outing include matching jerseys and hot dogs? We’ve got a treat for you!

We are giving away a weekend camp with NBA father and son stars Dell and Stephen Curry! The chosen father and their son or daughter will join star guard, Stephen Curry and his father, former shooting guard Dell Curry, for basketball instruction and fun at the Dell and Stephen Curry Basketball ProCamp in San Francisco, CA. Enter to win here!

image from

But that’s not all–we have a second giveaway for you too! Kids can enter to win a camp with All-Star Forward and Olympic Gold Medalist Kevin Love for basketball instruction and fun at the Kevin Love Basketball ProCamp in Eden Prairie, Minnesota! Enter to win here!

image from

Thanks to ProCamps for providing this awesome opportunity for ActivityHero users! Entries must be received by September 19, 2012. More details and entry form here!

Sports Supermoms in the Spotlight

Parents of Olympians

As the Olympics continue on in London, coverage has been focused on some sports heroes more prominently than in years previous – the mothers of the athletes in all of their screaming, gasping and whooping glory.

NBC, the exclusive primetime network broadcasting the games, has received plenty of bad press. From limiting online viewing to those with particular cable subscriptions to just flat out not showing a variety of events, they have really done one over on the games’ most devoted fans. However, many are agreeing NBC has totally redeemed itself with its incredible coverage of the sobbing parentals in the stands, anxiously viewing their sons/daughters’ performances in England.

Here are a few of our favorite examples, paying homage to moms everywhere.

Aly Raisman

image from

Probably the most prolific coverage of the games has been given to Aly Raisman’s parents, whose video as spectators at team final has gone viral. Lynn and Rick have received as many hits on YouTube as skate boarding dogs and singing toddlers with their hilarious facial expressions reflecting the jaw-dropping stunts and competitive action at the Olympic gymnastics events. Aly has responded with a hint of eye-rolling and polite responses to media regarding her parents’ viral video success – but there’s no doubt that her gold-medal winning performances can be partially credited to her parents’ loving support.

Michael Phelps

image from

American viewers first became acquainted with Debbie Phelps in prior Olympics games, as she was one of the first parents to truly receive media attention for her hooting, hollering and sobbing in the stands. Now that her son has broken historic Olympian records in men’s swimming, she can relax a bit – as was illustrated by her leaning against the spectator railing in relief. A devoted single mother who worked full time while driving Phelps to early morning swim practices growing up, Debbie continues to be a focal representation of Olympian parenthood.

Gabby Douglas

image from

16-year-old Gabby is the first African American woman to ever win the all-around gold in gymnastics, and her mother Natalie Hawkins could not be prouder. Their story also could not possibly be more compelling. Natalie had to make the gut-wrenching decision to send Gabby across the nation to train with a particular coach, which eventually led to not only a Gabby-shaped hole in her heart as she had to settle for a long distance mother-daughter connection, but also to her selling her own jewelry and filing for bankruptcy as well. This mom’s commitment is being reported as one of the most shining examples of committed parenting when it comes to young athletes.

Chad le Clos

image from

Chad le who? That is what America was saying until the South African swimmer stole a gold medal from the seemingly unstoppable Phelps. And his father Bert is just as golden when it comes to gushing publicly over his son. Watching replays, he adorably used the word “unbelievable” and blew kisses to the TV screen. How can you not love such an underdog story with a dad as excited as this one?

Jordyn Wieber

image from

Rita Wieber, the mother of Jordyn – who was expected to be “the one” to watch during the gymnastics events in London – has been on quite the emotional rollercoaster. First, her daughter failed to qualify for the individual finals despite being heralded as a shoo-in for the events. The images of Jordyn weeping after losing the chance for an individual gold were replayed countless times over airwaves, and Rita was not able to reach her daughter for hours after the devastating loss. However, despite her obvious undying support for Jordan in the arena, Rita should also get credit for another aspect of parenting – insisting Jordyn remain in public school and have a well-rounded life outside of gymnastics.

As the Olympics progress, we will undoubtedly see more emotional moms and dads as their children compete in the games. And honestly, that’s likely how America likes the broadcasts to go – showing real people like themselves experiencing the best moment of their children’s lives. It’s what we all hope for, and what we all can aspire to when it comes to unconditional love, commitment and sacrifice.


Written by Tamara Warta