Summer fun is a snap at the S.N.A.P. Bus. Hosted by Families First of Minnesota, the Summer Neighborhood Activity Program Bus makes the rounds pulling into various Rochester parks on Thursdays, June through August, offering fun for family members of all ages.
"The bus has craft supplies, sports equipment, games, and more — everything you need for outdoor summertime fun," said Natalie Smith, Families First of Minnesota transportation coordinator.
Free, and with no pre-registration required, families are invited to drop in at one or more of the S.N.A.P. Bus stops. No need to check in once you arrive. Simply step aboard the bus, pick out your activity and head outside to start the fun.
"If you aren't sure how to play the game or need help getting started, we have SOS (Summer of Service) youth volunteers on board to help," said Smith, noting that families who attend once tend to return. "I always tease the (S.N.A.P.) bus driver that he has groupies. There are some families that make it to every single stop."
The S.N.A.P. Bus is just one of the many programs offered by Families First of Minnesota. Formerly known as Child Care Resource & Referral, the nonprofit serves families throughout southeastern Minnesota through initiatives like Crisis Nursery, Head Start and the Parents And Relatives Raising Kids support group.
"Our main focus is children, families and child care professionals," said Jesica Johnston, Families First of Minnesota communtiy relations specialist. "There are seven programs under the umbrella of Families First. Although they each offer different services and they each might appeal to different families, they all focus on ensuring positive beginnings for children and their families."
At the S.N.A.P. Bus, children under 5 years of age must be accompanied by a caregiver. Call if the weather looks questionable, as the service is not necessarily provided rain or shine.
What: S.N.A.P. Bus
Where: 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., June 18, Three Links Park; June 25, Goose Egg Park; July 9, East Park; July 16, Soldiers Field Park; July 23, Elton Hills Park; July 30, Homestead Park; Aug. 6, Goose Egg Park; Aug. 13, Three Links Park
More about Families First
• Head Start provides free preschool experiences to children in Olmsted and Freeborn counties. In 2015, more than 600 children and their families participated in the local Head Start program. Applications are being accepted now for the 2015-2016 Head Start school year. Eligibility requirements apply.
• Crisis Nursery provides temporary, short-term child care for families in crisis situations. Daytime or overnight care provided by a licensed childcare provider. Additional services (counseling, parent education, referral to community resources) available to families at no cost. Call 287-2020 or 281-6248 (after hours).
• The Parents And Relatives Raising Kids support group is open to anyone who is raising children (parents, relatives, caregivers). Held 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. the third Tuesday of the month, the group is designed to provide support and education to parents of kids of all ages.
On your mark ... get ready ... go to the All Comers' Track Meets! Sponsored by the Rochester Track Club and part of the Rochester community for 45 years, the free, for-fun races are open to kids age 2 through high school ages. There are 50-meter through 800-meter races, a 1-mile race and a long jump competition. Meets are held June 9, 16, 23, 30 and July 7 and 14 at the All Comers' new location — the John Marshall High School track, which is located at 1510 14th St., NW. Register onsite the day of your child's first race. Click on www.rochestertrackclub.comfor more information.
What else?Track and Field Camp is open to students in grades 3 through 8. It offers 18 different track and field events (jumping, sprinting, throwing) and culminates with a track and field meet on the last day of camp. It's held from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, July 6 through July 10 at Mayo High School. Register through Community Education using class number 2172.401, at www.rochesterce.org, or call 328-4000.
Meet some new friends at the Chester Woods Oxbow Critters program at 7 p.m. Saturday. Oxbow Parkstaff will bring some of Zollman Zoo's animals to the park, offering families the opportunity to get up close to the animals while learning some interesting animal facts. Free with an Olmsted County park pass, which are $5 for a daily, $25 for an annual. Email email@example.com with questions.
What's next?Chester Woodsis part of the Olmsted County park system. Located in Eyota and open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., the park has a beach (open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.), walking trails, overnight camping and free, family-friendly programming during most weekends. Upcoming programs include: Summer Solstice Hikes on June 21, Reptiles and Amphibians on July 4 and Fireflies on July 18. Go online, www.co.olmsted.mn.us, to find out more.
Little ones and their favorite big person are invited to PAIIR's Those Great Informational Fridays. The Parents Are Important In Rochesterclass includes parent/child play as well as a parent-only discussion, and is open to families of children ages birth to kindergarten enrollment age. It will be from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. June 12, 19 and 26 at Northrop Education Center. Classes are priced on a sliding fee scale and financial assistance is available. No Rochester resident will be denied participation due to inability to pay. Call 328-4020 to register.
Need to know more?Parents Are Important In Rochester is Rochester Public School's Early Childhood Family Education program. PAIIR offers a variety of parent/child classes. This summer, PAIIR wraps up its 40th anniversary celebration at a Rochester Honkers Game, at 1:05 p.m. June 14 at Mayo Field. Tickets are $7; ages 4 and younger are free. Find out more at www.rochesterce.org/paiir.
Build a Load 'n Go Truck at Home Depot's Free Kids Workshop from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. Kids ages 5 to 12, accompanied by their favorite big person, will receive a workshop apron, certificate of achievement and the satisfaction that comes from building their own truck. Free. Register online at www.workshops.homedepot.comto save your spot.
Is there more?At 10 a.m. June 13, kids will make Iron Man's Avenjet at Lowe's Home Improvement, 4550 Maine Ave., SE. Part of Lowe's ongoing Kids Clinics, the event is free. Register online, www.lowesbuildandgrow.com.