Summer playground program returns to Wausau

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- Wausau & Marathon County Parks, Recreation & Forestry Department is reminding parents about program to help kids enjoy the outdoors during summer break.

Karyn Powers is the department’s superintendent. She said it’s open to kids ages 5 through 12 years.

"Well I really think it's important and parents agree that kids need to be outside and enjoy the summer that we have,” Power said.

Wausau city playgrounds has been around since the 1940s -- giving kids a way to burn off some energy. And give parents a break.

Dannie Esterline is the playground leader.

"I know that once school is out some parents don't know exactly what to do with the kids, if they don't think summer school is an option… this program is really important to those parents, just even to have a 3-hour break where they can run errands.”

The 8-week program runs from 8:30 a.m. to noon daily and alternates elementary school parks, meeting at John Marshall Elementary on Monday and Wednesday, Grant Elementary on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Thomas Jefferson Elementary on Fridays until 4 p.m.

Powers said the program is affordable.

"A summer program that primarily stays outside of the classroom, uses the facilities around the school, takes advantage of the play equipment and the grassy spaces to have fun and active play is the best opportunity for parents to get their kids out at a very reasonable expense,” Power explained.

This eight week program serves as more than just a fun getaway for parents. It also acts as a learning space for both kids and playground leaders. For Dannie Esterline, who is back for the 2nd year as a leader, the summer program gives her an opportunity to work with kids while on break from college where she is studying education.

"So this program has definitely helped me build my skills as an educator and I’ve definitely learned that no kid is exactly like the one before. And no matter what you go in to expecting, it’s probably not going to happen exactly like that and you just need to roll with the punches," said Esterline.

But, the leaders are not the only ones learning new things this summer, Powers said the program also focuses on teaching kids the importance of nutrition. They use the My Plate program that demonstrates how much of each food group you should have on your plate each day. Powers said they they use fun games and activities to teach these lessons.

"We do crafts related to it and quizzes and bingo related to it so it’s a good way to- it’s a short segment of their afternoon just learning about healthy nutrition," Powers explained.

Along with crafts, games and some educational projects, the program also includes four trips.

The cost is $44 for Wausau residents and $53 for non-residents.

Esterline said it’s also a great opportunity for kids to make new friends.

"I think it really builds the community around us. It helps all the kids get to know each other and get to learn how to play with their neighbors, learn how to work together.”

Families are able to sign their kids up anytime during the summer. And there is no deadline.

Wausau City Playgrounds runs until the first week of August.

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