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Sunday, May 27, 2018
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Put down the gadgets and get outside

When parents get together, the question will invariable come up: how do you get your kids off their electronic gadgets and get them outdoors? Parents want their children spending some time immersed in nature and having face-to-face conversations with other children.

Immersing children in summer camps where they can spend an extended amount of time involved in hiking, exploring and other wildlife activities can be a wonderful, safe way to let children explore and learn about our beautiful state. And the Tampa Bay area offers a great many camps to fit the bill.

The Davis Island Yacht Club’s Learn to Sail program teaches youngsters ages 5 through 18 skills that can last a lifetime.

“Sailing is a sport you can do until you are 100,” said Jane Millican, director of Davis Island Youth Sailing Foundation.

Children who learn to sail develop a sense of constancy and independence from learning to sail alone on the water, she says.

When sailing, even children who are often distracted must focus. They use their minds and their bodies to make the boat go and make sure they are safe and in control.

“Sometimes in team sports, kids don’t get that confidence because only a couple kids might shine but in sailing everyone gets that opportunity to shine,” Millican says.

For the $265 fee, children will receive lunch daily and a free camp T-shirt in addition to the sailing experience. An additional $25 is charged per family. Registration is available now online at www.diyc.org and by calling (813) 251-1158.

The Tampa Yacht and Country Club also offers a sailing camp, for ages 8-15. For $250 for the week-long camps, held throughout the summer, students will learn the basics of rigging an Optimist pram, basic boat handling, seamanship, sportsmanship, sailing fundamentals and water safety. More information is available at www.tampayacht.com and by calling (813) 210-2222.

To help your children discover a new world, you might want to sign them up for a scuba camp. Jim’s Dive Shop in St. Petersburg offers camps and lessons for those ages 10 through teen, with the most popular age group being 12 to 13.

This camp “will open their eyes to a whole new environment - the underwater world. When they have an understanding of our water sources, like the springs, that will make them more responsible regarding future choices they make,” says owner Teresa Hattaway.

For $450, students will receive a textbook, dive tables and logbook, use of scuba tanks, regulators, buoyancy compensators and wetsuits and the open water scuba dives. Students must have their own scuba quality masks, fins, snorkels, weights, weight belts and dive boots, as well as snacks, lunches and drinks.

“Unlike most sports, the whole family can participate. It’s the sport that lasts a lifetime,” Hattaway says.

Parents are welcome during classroom and pool sessions and are encouraged to attend the open water dives. Some even choose to participate.

More information is available by calling (727) 393-3483 and at www.jimsdiveshop.com/scuba-camp.

For a real bargain, try the $100 City of Tampa all-day camps such as Mangrove Marcus Adventure Camp. Campers ages 8 to 14 will snorkel, fish and explore the “wild side” of Florida in this camp, offered weekly starting June 20, July 18 and July 25. Before and after care are available. More information is available by calling (813) 348-1175 and visiting www.tampagov.net.

Academy at the Lakes in Land O’ Lakes offers various camps from June 9 through Aug. 1, such as archery, basketball, crewing, flag football, football and soccer. Overall, they offer more than 50 half-day and full day camps for those in kindergarten through grade nine. The camp brochure is available online at academyatthelakes.org/community/summer-camp.

Girl Scouts can always be counted on for good outdoor fun, offering day and sleep away camps. Camp Wildwood, for example, sits on 589 acres of original Florida landscape and offers nature center activities, pioneer living, barn dances and horseback riding by trail or in the lighted arenas. Additionally, campers can swim and dive in the junior Olympic pool. Registration has begun and more information about Girl Scout camps can be found at www.gswcf.org/summercamp and www.gswcf.org/daycamp.

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