Among the many challenges of summer -- high electric bills, near-daily thunderstorms, mosquitoes that find their way into your bedroom just as you're drifting off to slumberland -- are your kids (and maybe your neighbors' kids and your sister's kids) hanging around your house for three months.
It's hard to tell them to go play outside when it's about a 100 degrees out there, but there are plenty of fun and affordable things the young 'uns can do to keep themselves occupied and not spend too much time staring at some screen or device all summer.
Here are a few suggestions.
1. Pools. The beaches around here are phenomenal but pools have a lot of advantages, including the relative difficulty of your kids straying too far. If you don't have a pool in your back yard or in your apartment complex, try one of the three county pools: GT Bray Aquatic Center, 1119 13th St. E., Bradenton; East Bradenton Aquatic Center, 1119 13th St. E., Bradenton; and John T. Marble Pool, 3675 53rd Ave. E., Bradenton. You can find more details about each pool at mymanatee.org/home/government/departments/parks-and-recreation/pool-facilities.html.
2. Manatee Players performing arts camps. Manatee Players host several summer programs for young people (and for adults) at the Manatee Performing Arts Center. One upcoming program that's sure to be popular is the Summer Broadway Boot Camp. It runs all day, Monday through Friday, July 6-25, and culminates in a production of "Guys and Dolls Jr.," so kids get to actually be in a show and mom and dad get to see them. 941-748-5875, manateeperformingartscenter.com.
3. Summer reading. The Manatee County Library system has plenty of events every summer designed to provide some fun for your kids and teens, and at the same time encourage them to read. This year the youth programs focus on heroes and heroines. There are dozens of presentations, mostly on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and they're different library branches, so there will be one that's convenient for you. Check them out at mymanatee.org/home/government/departments/neighborhood-services/library/summer-reading.html/ or just call the library closest to you.
4 . Family Night at the South Florida Museum. On the Saturday of most months, the museum offers half-price admission after 3 p.m. (It's open until 8 p.m.) Among the popular features of Family nights are live star talk and shows in the Bishop Planetarium. Unfortunately, this year the Fourth of July is one Saturday so there's no Family night until August. Call 941-746-4131 or go to southfloridamuseum.org.
5. Splash parks. For younger kids, or kids who aren't comfortable swimming, the county's splash parks are a great way to keep active and keep cool in the summer. The kids can romp around in the shallow water and frolic through spray features. Actually it sounds like fun for adults, too. The city splash park is on Bradenton's Riverwalk, 750 Third Ave. W., Bradenton. The county splash parks are Lincoln Splash Park, 715 17th St. E., Palmetto; Pride Splash Park, 815 63rd Ave. E., Bradenton; East Bradenton Aquatic Center, 1119 13th St. E. Bradenton; and G.T. Bray park, 1119 13th St. E., Bradenton. Go to mymanatee.org/home/government/departments/parks-and-recreation/parks.html/ for hours and more details about each park.
6. Theater and dance classes. If the programs offered by Manatee Players don't suit your needs or your schedule, you might check acting classes at the Players Theatre in Sarasota. They have monthly fees so kids can check out one class and move to another in a few weeks if they're so inclined. Classes include stage acting, acting on camera, musical theatre and all dance from hip-hop to ballet. There are a classes for various age groups from 3 to 18. 941-365-2494, theplayers.org.
7. Music classes. The Sarasota Orchestra has three-week programs, two hours a day, for absolute beginners just trying out a new instrument, through intermediate and advanced students looking for professional guidance. They start June 28. Details are at sarasotaorchestra.com.
8. Summer movies. Carmike Royal Palm 20 in Bradenton is offering movies for kids at really low prices on Wednesday and Thursday mornings all summer long. Tickets are just $4 and kids get a small popcorn and drink for free. There's a different movie each week. "Rise of the Guardians" is on tap for June 18, followed by "How to Train Your Dragon 2" (June 24-25),"Monsters vs. Aliens" (July 1-2) and other family favorites each week through the summer. Royal Palm 20 is at 5125 26th St. E., Bradenton. Go to carmike.com for more movies and other details.
And at the Regal theaters -- Oakmont 8 (4801 Cortez Road, Bradenton) and Hollywood Stadium 20 (1993 Main St., Sarasota) -- there's a summer series of family films with tickets for only $1. There are two films each week, starting with "Annie" and "Nut Job" June 25. Go to regmovies.com/Movies/Summer-Movie-Express. There's plenty of other stuff, whether you're looking for outdoor activities -- beaches, parks and playgrounds are always there waiting for you -- or classes, movies and stage events.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.