Winter camps provide Sonoma County kids with activities, parents some child care relief

Many Sonoma County organizations and businesses offer winter break camps, providing parents options for child care while school is out.|

School’s out for the winter, but many parents remain on the clock, making the most wonderful time of the year stressful as they scramble to find child care and keep their children busy while at work.

The Children’s Museum of Sonoma County wants to alleviate some of that stress, offering eight half-day camps over the two-week break, which continues next week. The museum launched the camps Tuesday, starting out with a glitter-and-goop themed workshop.

Sonya Yonash enrolled her son, Thorin, 5, in four of the camps, including one focusing on robotics and electric science. He’ll be making robots using toothbrushes, wires and craft supplies. The Cesar Chavez Language Academy kindergartener said he likes building projects and mainly works with paper and wood. He said he wants to one day work on a construction site - or be a ninja.

Yonash, who owns a Graton thermoformed ceiling tiles business, said she wanted to provide her son with stimulating activities while he was out of school.

“He gets to figure out how things work. That builds up his confidence,” said Yonash, 37, of Santa Rosa.

She also wanted to find a comfortable place for him. The museum is one of his favorite play spots.

“Especially if you’re a working parent and can’t afford full-time day care, it’s great to have a place you feel comfortable leaving them,” she said.

Although she took time off work this week, Jenny Whalen signed up her son, Caden, 7, for Snow Play camp. Whalen said she wanted to get her son out of the house. Otherwise, Caden, a second-grader at Anova, a Santa Rosa school for children and young adults with high-functioning autism, social and emotional challenges, would sit in his room all day playing with Legos, she said.

“It’s important getting him out around other kids,” she said while dropping him off for the camp Wednesday.

More than 100 children are registered for the camps, which fill up quickly every winter, said Lauren Peters, the museum’s programs director. The camps provide hands-on science- and art-based activities for kids ages 5 to 8.

“We want to be able to help provide child care for parents, but we also know it’s a really great time for kids to play and explore while they’re out of school,” Peters said.

The museum is among several organizations and businesses offering winter-break camps in Sonoma County, including the Redwood Empire Gymnastics and the Sonoma County Family YMCA.

Santa Rosa’s Recreation and Parks department scheduled over the two weeks four-day rock climbing, gymnastics and arts-and-crafts camps. At Camp Vertical, kids learn about climbing techniques and how to overcome their fears scaling Vertex Climbing Center’s 35-foot high walls. Kids get to learn different flips, jumps and swings in the gymnastics camp, while the Winter Camp Wa-Tam puts their baking and acting skills to the test.

More than 100 children were enrolled in Camp Wa-Tam, which will be held over two different sessions at the Finley Community Center, said Kristi Buffo, the city’s recreation and parks spokeswoman. Eight kids signed up for rock climbing, while 20 others were enrolled in gymnastics.

Buffo said the camps allow kids to be active in the winter, rather than being stuck at home and inside because of the weather.

On Wednesday at the Children’s Museum, instructors Briana Quintana Barajas and Marissa Martino led 13 kids into a small classroom. As part of the Snow Play camp, the kids would be making snow globes out of glass jars.

The kids picked their favorite animal figurine for the two instructors to glue to the cap filling the jars with glitter, water and a dash of vegetable glycerin. Martino explained to the kids that the glycerin sank to the bottom because as an oil it was heavier than water.

“It’s so important to teach kids about science and the world around them,” said Martino, a Chico State student studying to become a teacher.

Santa Rosa second grader Maggie Balitbit, 7, couldn’t wait to make fluffy snow-like slime.

“I thought it would be fun,” Balitbit said about the camp. “I can give all this stuff to my mom and dad.”

Martino said the museum’s camps combine both science and art to engage and challenge students of all interests.

“It’s nice to merge the two together to show kids how capable they are and spark their creativity,” she said. “It’s about finding a way to get them excited.”

You can reach Staff Writer Eloísa Ruano González at 707-521-5458 or eloisa.gonzalez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @eloisanews.

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