Friday, May 25, 2012

Totally Texas -- Summer stuff for kids -- free!

School’s nearly out -- do you know what your kids will be doing this summer? Sure, there’s vacations, and camps and a lot of stuff -- that costs money. But week in, week out, here are suggestions for totally free things to do this summer, with your kids, that don’t involve them huddling in the house all day with the TV or Game Boy.

Let me emphasize -- these activities are not day care. Participate with your kids and you’ll make memories for a lifetime.

The star for the coming month has got to be the BooksmART Festival at the Dallas Museum of Art, Saturday, June 9, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Besides the chance to meet an impressive group of children’s authors and illustrators, the program includes a Dallas Theater Center workshop for kids, multiple performances, and free eye exams and glasses for children ages 5-16. (Yes -- free exams and glasses, courtesy of the Essilor Vision Foundation.)

You can buy a meal, or bring your own -- the Sculpture Garden has space for picnics. (Just don’t bring food into the art galleries, please.)

The museum also has free general admission the first Tuesday of each month -- June 5, July 3, and August 7 this summer. And it offers family activities every Wednesday in June and July. (Adults pay for this, but kids age 12 and under are always free.)

The museum is located at 1717 Harwood, accessible from Woodall Rogers Freeway. Parking is not free, but the museum is only a few blocks away from DART’s St. Paul Station. For complete schedules and additional information, see

While you’re finding your way around the museum district, check out the Nasher Sculpture Center’s Target First Saturdays. Admission to the Nasher, across the street from the DMA, is free each first Saturday -- June 2 coming up. The Nasher’s spacious garden has room for kids to move around and explore. See

Just across the street from the Nasher is the Crow Collection of Asian Art, with AdventureAsia: Family Days at the Crow. Admission is always free, but first Saturdays (June 2 and July 7, none in August this year) are Family Days, with activities, storytelling, a family writing workshop, and more. See

Don’t overlook the obvious -- the Dallas Public Library’s children’s programs, especially at the Central branch, 1515 Young Street; and Bookmarks at NorthPark Center, 8687 North Central Expressway (at Northwest Highway). See for information and hours. Also at Dallas libraries, the Mayor’s Summer Reading Program, with prizes for Dallas area children age 18 and younger.

Don’t forget to read with your kids. Not comfortable with your reading skills? My grandsons are beginning readers, but one of their favorite books is still Chalk, by Bill Thompson. It has no words at all, just marvelous pictures that let you tell the story in your own words. Chalk is available at several Dallas library branches. Or ask the librarian for suggestions for other picture books. (And consider creating your own sidewalk art.)

(Next Friday -- speaking of authors, guest blogger Mark Finn gives us a mini-tour of Conan creator Robert E. Howard’s hometown of Cross Plains, and its annual festival in honor of its most famous son.)

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