Austin Kids' Directory Blog

YMCA Program Makes Fitness Accessible For All

YMCA Program Makes Fitness Accessible For All

Getting healthy in the New Year is a common resolution. But for many families, finding a way to afford health and wellness activities on a limited budget poses a real obstacle.

Fortunately, the YMCA of Austin offers financial assistance for memberships and program fees based on household incomes. As Austin’s leading nonprofit focusing on health and wellness, the Y provided more than $2.3 million in assistance in 2016 to more than 38,000 deserving neighbors.

“The Y is for everyone,” says James Finck, YMCA of Austin president and CEO. “We’re here for all ages, genders, religions, races, ethnicities, orientations, abilities and socioeconomic backgrounds. We don’t turn anyone away who can’t afford to pay the membership or program fees.”


More than 5,000 Austin-area families received financial assistance for YMCA membership in 2016 through the Y’s Membership for All program.

With eight facilities in Travis, Hays and Bastrop counties, the YMCA of Austin offers a range of activities to meet the needs of all ages, from infants to seniors. Popular programs include group exercise classes, personal training, senior fitness, aquatic exercise as well as youth programs like dance, gymnastics, sports, swim lessons and arts classes. The Y also offers Special Needs Adaptive Programs (SNAP) for persons with disabilities.

“The Y is an important part of our young family’s life,” says Angela G., a Membership for All recipient at the Northwest Family Y. “We use the Child Watch, the gym, the pool, swim lessons, gymnastics and ballet as often as possible. I come to Zumba weekly as well. Our family’s budget is pretty tight. Our mortgage and student loans significantly drain our finances. We do not have a car payment or cable. We live fairly frugally and are so grateful to be able to benefit from the extra assistance given to us.”

Finck says the Y has streamlined its application process in recent years to make it quicker and simpler to apply for assistance so that new members can get started practicing healthy habits. In addition, the YMCA is waiving its normal $48 joining fee through January 31.

“We’re so much more than just a place to work out,” Finck says. “What you see in our facilities is the tip of the iceberg.” Finck says. “We’re here to strengthen the foundations of our community.”

He cites the example of the Y’s MEND program, which stands for “Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do It!” and is a free grant-funded childhood obesity intervention program supported by the St. David’s Foundation “We were the first Y in the country to offer MEND, and now the YMCA of the USA is rolling it out nationwide as its signature childhood obesity initiative. One day, we’ll be able to say it started in Austin.”

Other innovative programs include LIVESTRONG at the YMCA, which is a free YMCA-run and Y-funded program for cancer survivors. The TownLake Y Senior Retreat program serves older adults with early- to mid-stage Alzheimer’s and dementia. The YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program helps adults diagnosed as pre-diabetic make lasting lifestyle changes.

YMCA of Austin locations include:
Bastrop YMCA, 1112 Main St., Bastrop, (512) 321-YMCA (9622)
East Communities YMCA, 5315 Ed Bluestein, 922-YMCA
Hays Communities YMCA, 465 Buda Sportsplex Dr., Buda, 523-0099
Northwest Family YMCA, 5807 McNeil Dr., 335-YMCA
North Austin YMCA, 1000 W. Rundberg Ln., 973-YMCA
Southwest Family YMCA, 6219 Oakclaire Dr. (& Hwy. 290), 891-YMCA
Springs Family YMCA, 27216 Ranch Rd. 12 South in Dripping Springs, 894-3309
TownLake YMCA, 1100 W. Cesar Chavez, 542-YMCA

For more information about YMCA membership rates and Membership for All, call (512) 730-YMCA (9622) or visit

Founded in 1953, the YMCA of Austin is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a healthy spirit, mind and body for all. The YMCA of Austin currently serves more than 65,000 active members and provides program services to an additional 60,000 people citywide. The YMCA puts Christian principles into practice through programs that promote good health, strong families, character values, youth leadership, community development and international understanding.

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Gardening with Kids

Gardening with Kids

I did not have a chance to taste the first broccoli I ever grew because my then 2-year-old ate it straight off the plant. The first time I grew peas, I could not figure out what was going wrong. One day there would be pea pods growing on the vines and then next day they would all be gone. Were birds getting to them? Later, I found a stash of empty pea shells on top of my sons’ playscape. It wasn’t birds, it was little boys.

Learning to Love Their Vegetables

Gardening with kids can try your patience, but the benefits include potentially not having to nag your kids to eat their vegetables. My husband, yes, I must nag him, but my kids will eat the serving of green beans first before starting on their pizza.

As an elementary teacher at Community Montessori School, I incorporate gardening into our classroom work. When a child is involved in growing something, he or she is much more willing to eat it. I know this to be true, because I have eager students asking me almost daily if we can make kale chips.

Studies have shown that the ability to delay gratification is critical for success. There is no way to hurry gardening, so children must be patient. If they pull up the carrot too soon, they get a tiny carrot. Waiting literally means bigger rewards.

How to Garden With Kids

Children like to go fast, and slowing them down is a struggle. They might enthusiastically pour an entire seed packet into one hole. Ask me how I know this.

I have children use a ruler when planting seeds and measure 3-inches (or whatever the distance between seeds it says on the seed packet) and stick a craft stick into the ground. Then, they measure another 3-inches and stick another craft stick in the ground.

We do this until we have marked where all the seeds are going to go. Then, the kids can dig a hole where a craft stick is, plant a seed, and remove the craft stick to indicate that that space has been planted. This prevents entire seed packets being poured into one hole.

If you do not know where to start, containers are easy for kids. Get a few pots and fill them with potting mix to increase your odds of a successful harvest.

Another great opportunity to garden with kids is at a community garden. Just being in a garden, even if the child has little interest in the act of gardening, can help develop a reverence for what goes into growing food.

At Adelphi Acre Community Garden, we have an entire Children’s Garden bed available to kids for digging, playing, planting, and harvesting. There is a small fairy garden and a big “wishing teepee” that the children can write a wish on a scrap of fabric and tie to the teepee.

Simply exposing kids to a garden is meaningful. However, you may have to guard your homegrown vegetables from pests. In my case, the biggest pests eating my produce are my sons. However, that is a pest not only can I live with, it’s a pretty awesome pest to have.

To find out about community gardens in our area visit and

To learn more about Community Montessori School visit

By Gina Polly Applegate, Education Director at Adelphi Acre Community Garden and Upper Elementary Guide at Community Montessori School

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5 Ways to Make the Holidays Easier for Children with Special Needs

5 Ways to Make the Holidays Easier for Children with Special Needs

The most wonderful time of the year brings with it family celebrations, school parties, and visits with holiday favorites like Santa Claus. While it’s an exciting time, it can also be overwhelming—especially if you have a child with special needs. The good news: The tips and strategies provided below can help ensure the holidays are memorable and merry for all.

1. Be predictable. Surprises and unforeseen events have the potential to send a child with special needs into disarray. One way to help avoid that problem? By creating calendars or visual schedules to help your child know what to expect that day. For example, if your family is getting together for a turkey dinner, include pictures of food and the family members you’ll be visiting. Apps like Choiceworks let you create visual schedules with activities planned for the day.

2. Avoid overstimulating sights, sounds, and smells. For children with sensory aversions, the holidays can be overwhelming. Between the flashing lights, loud holiday music, and perfume-scented sections of stores, it’s easy to see why. A few ways to help: Share photos of Santa and other holiday favorites before your child meets them; invest in a quality pair of headphones for your child; and designate a quiet place in your home where your child can go to decompress when needed.

3. Teach other children about your child. Why not give your friends and family an idea of what to expect if you’ll be visiting with them during the holidays? For example, consider sending a letter or email to those who have children, detailing a little bit about your child’s personality. Let them know if your child tends to ask a lot of questions, craves attention, or likes to hug. A little notice beforehand could avoid awkward situations and hurt feelings.

4. Buy suitable gifts. Amazon is chock-full of gifts designed for children with special needs, like these sensory water beads and foam puzzle blocks. You can also make it easier on loved ones if you send them a list of toys your child would enjoy, since buying for any child can be tricky enough.

5. Relax. At the end of the day, unexpected things may happen that are out of your control. If you can roll with the punches, though, your child will likely follow your lead.

With some advance planning, you might find you can shift your attention from meltdowns to what matters most—enjoying the holidays with the people you love.

Diane M. McCullom is the senior vice president of clinical operations at Dallas-based Epic Health Services, a leading provider of pediatric skilled nursing, therapy, developmental, enteral, and respiratory services, as well as adult home health services, with operations in 18 states. Epic has three locations in Austin.

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Austin Kid’s Directory Fall Fair & Fairytale Threads Consignment Event

Austin Kid’s Directory Fall Fair & Fairytale Threads Consignment Event

Come to the Austin Kid's Directory Fall Fair on October 22nd from 10am-2pm. Some of our advertisers will be offering information about activities, schools, childcare, medical services and more!

Here's a sneak peek at some of the participants who will be there: The Swim School of Austin, Harmony Public Schools, Ageless Living Home Health, Austin Yard Cards, Extend-A-Care for Kids, Cafe Monet, SpaceTime Park and Jump! Gymnastics.

Admission and parking are FREE and there will be giveaways, freebies, hands-on activities, demonstrations and more! Pikachu will make a special appearance for GoGames360 from 11-noon!!

Our event is being held in conjunction with the Fairytale Threads Children's Consignment Event where you will have the opportunity to shop for new and gently loved items at great prices. Find clothes for newborns-kid’s 16, Jr. sizes & prom wear, maternity, books, gear and toys for kids, babies and toddlers and teens...and on Saturday many of the items will be marked 50% OFF!

Hope to see you there!!

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5 Fun Ways to Get Active With Your Kids

5 Fun Ways to Get Active With Your Kids

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 1 in 5 children in the United States has obesity. With September being National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, it is a great time to discuss fun ways parents can keep their children—and themselves—physically active.

Here’s the thing: Children with obesity are more likely to carry the medical condition into adulthood, which could potentially lead to debilitating physical and mental problems, including diabetes and an increased risk of certain types of cancer.

What can parents do to help ward off obesity in their children? For starters, energy balance is critical. Make sure your kids are getting enough sleep, eating the ideal amount of calories, and partaking in regular physical activities—which can be a ton of fun if you follow our recommendations below.

* Introduce your children to nontraditional sports. Think skateboarding, mountain biking, and canoeing. Not every child excels at the most common sports like football and baseball, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t athletic—it could just mean they haven’t found their niche. Luckily, Austin is jam-packed with trails and waterways for your kiddos to test their skills.

* Walk, don’t drive. Now that the dog days of summer are behind us, the temps are at that sweet spot when walking is a much more viable option—so lace up those tennis shoes, and the next time your family decides to visit your local hangout, why not walk instead?

* Make a new family rule: No sitting still during TV commercials. Can you imagine the fun this rule might ensue? Encourage your kids to dance, do jumping jacks, stretch, or anything else that prevents them from sitting still. Bonus: You don’t have to completely cut out television time with this rule.

* Design an obstacle course. Three-legged races, hurdles crafted from old blankets, bean bag tosses—these are all activities you can create with items you likely already have in your home. Watch as your child’s imagination takes off as they come up with even more challenges.

* Play a modified version of “I Spy.” We all know the original version of this game, but here’s a new spin: Make a list of items in your neighborhood that you want your child to “spy,” then go for a walk in hunt of the items. Want to make it even more interesting? Put a time limit on the search in order to encourage your child to get moving!

If you have as much fun as your children will while participating in these activities, don’t worry—we won’t tell.

This article was written by Diane M. McCullom, the senior vice president of clinical operations at Dallas-based Epic Health Services, a leading provider of pediatric skilled nursing, therapy, developmental, enteral and respiratory services, as well as adult home health services, with operations in 17 states. Epic has three locations in Austin.

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