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Whether your children are crafty, athletic, or curious about the world (or all three), we’ve gathered our favorite offbeat, ridiculously fun ideas to coax them off the couch and away from the game console. Here, more than 14 ways to enjoy the perks of being a kid—and a parent—in the Mile-High City.
Don’t be fooled: The dancing and trapeze-swinging at Denver Center Theatre Academy is serious performing—or at least it’s getting there. Artists and actors from the Denver Center Theatre Company and the National Theatre Conservatory work with students as young as two and a half years old to beef up their acting chops. Newman Center for Theatre Education, 1101 13th St., third floor, 303-446-4892, www.denvercenter.org
Combine the endurance of a swimmer and the grace of a figure skater with the ability to hold your breath for three minutes, and you have a member of Denver’s Rocky Mountain Splash Synchronized Swim Team. Swimmers ages seven to 17 compete on both local and national levels. Practices at Hinkley High School, 1250 Chambers Road, Aurora, 303-693-4330, rmsplash.org
To join the Jumping Eagles, a 65-strong competitive jump rope team in Littleton, kids have to master 26 tricks, such as the double under and Chinese wheel, plus learn choreographed routines set to music (think: Sean Paul, not elevator music). 303-982-4044, www.jumpingeagles.org
Sure, tutus and pointe shoes have a place at the Artistic Fusion Dance Academy, but with classes ranging from hip-hop to break dancing, your twinkle toes will move beyond the bar. 960 W. 124th Ave., #600, Westminster, 720-929-1820, www.artistic-fusion.com
Camping, fishing, hunting, snowshoeing, and staying overnight at the Denver Aquarium are a few of the activities hosted by Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK), a Denver nonprofit that encourages passion in science and environmental leadership for culturally diverse kids. The family program allows parents and siblings to join Junior in healthy outdoor projects and excursions to become stewards of Colorado’s natural resources. 6060 Broadway, 303-371-8658, www.elkkids.org
Longmont’s 50-acre Sunflower Farm offers up just about any idyllic farm-life activity you can imagine. Collecting eggs and riding ponies? Check. Whiling away an afternoon on a tire swing or taking in a field of sunflowers? Yup. Blowing bubbles in a green field and climbing on tractors? Indeed. Learning about nature firsthand—definitely. 11150 Prospect Road, Longmont, 303-774-8001, www.sunflowerfarminfo.com
Geared toward fifth- through ninth-graders, the University of Colorado’s dynamic Saturday-morning CU Wizards Series is a free monthly program hosted by “wizards”—university science professors—who entertain and engage the audience with interactive experiments in areas such as physics, chemistry, biology, or astronomy; each subject area is packaged with a title like “Climate Change in a Bottle.” Check with CU’s Science Discovery department for more opportunities, such as after-school classes and wilderness camps with an educational twist. University of Colorado at Boulder, 303-492-5011, www.colorado.edu/sciencediscovery/kids.html
A day trip to the Georgetown Loop Mining and Railroad Park, just 45 miles from Denver, is the perfect learning-leisure combo. For $22 per kid (adults are $29.50), ride a historic steam engine round-trip from Georgetown to Silver Plume, and trek about 400 feet on foot into the Lebanon Silver Mine. Check with the railroad for special events like the Pumpkin Train at Halloween and Santa’s Polar Adventure Train in December. Devil’s Gate Station, Georgetown, 1-888-456-6777, www.georgetownlooprr.com
Rug rats bouncing off the walls? Perfect—take ’em to Jump Street, the indoor trampoline park where endless trampolines (more than 100 in the Thornton location) line a giant room—including the walls—for an acrobatic paradise. Don’t miss the trampoline-dodgeball area; older kids can sign up for dodgeball leagues. When it’s time for a break, head to the inflatable castles or arcade. Don’t worry: Special areas for little guys and gals under the age of seven are roped off. 8225 N. Valley Highway, Thornton, 303-426-5867; 10081 W. Bowles Ave., Littleton, 303-339-3030; www.gotjump.com
With a harness and a healthy dose of guts, your little guys can scamper up the 35-foot climbing wall at the Colorado Mountain Club (CMC) in Golden. The two-and-a-half-hour sessions ($11) are fully supervised by CMC staffers who offer tips on skills like belaying and moving smoothly from hold to hold. 710 10th St., Suite 200, Golden, 303-996-2751, www.cmc.org/yep
Dressed in mini-sized gis—the white, belted, traditional martial arts uniform—four- and six-year-olds scramble to form a line at the start of each Mighty Dragons class at the Boulder Quest Center. They repeat an eight-line student creed about believing in themselves, respecting their teacher, and accomplishing their goals. And then it’s playtime. Although the 30-minute class teaches basic self-defense and develops motor skills, the kids never know it as they bounce a giant red ball, leap over hurdles, and tumble over an obstacle course in Karate Kid mode. 1200 Yarmouth Ave., Boulder, 303-440-3647, www.boulderquest.com
Classes at the Art Students League of Denver are held in a noncompetitive studio setting where K-12 students can learn the fundamentals of drawing, painting, ceramics, printmaking, and more, whether they’re beginners or preparing portfolios. This fall, look for classes like ARTrageous Adventures for younger kids and Wheel Throwing for high schoolers, or ask about the Child and Parent Art Club to spend Saturday mornings painting or plaster-casting (key: not in your home) with your littlest ones. 200 Grant St., 303-778-6990, www.asld.org
Walk into the workroom of Niwot’s Sew Fresh Studio and you’re likely to find designer Nora McCray hunched over a sewing machine, surrounded by a herd of kids, and explaining the difference between a bobbin and a feed dog. (For the uninitiated, a bobbin acts like a thread spindle, and a feed dog helps move the fabric forward.) With a constantly changing calendar of kid-friendly classes, tykes can walk out with a new pair of PJs or a stuffed animal. 361 Second Ave., Niwot, 303-652-0532, sewfreshsewingclasses.com
Whisking, cutting, and mashing—the cornerstones of cooking—are just some of the tasks that kids master in Sticky Fingers Cooking’s seasonal skills classes. Bonus: They’ll learn to follow recipes and take home their very own utensils. Classes held at the Grant Avenue Church and Community Center, 216 S. Grant St., 303-648-4078, www.stickyfingerscooking.com