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Kids get their own night out at Lake Hiawatha Park

Posted on 25 March 2019 by calvin

Inexpensive kids program each Friday night gives parents a break for less than the cost of a babysitter

Give your kids a night out and give yourself time for a date.

Each Friday night, the Lake Hiawatha Recreation Center hosts Kids Night Out from 6-9pm, the only regular program like it in the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB) system.

“I love that it is three hours including a meal for only $8 for Minneapolis residents,” stated Ruth Johnston, who has lived in the Northrup neighborhood since 2005. “I love that it is childcare that is not in my house (don’t have to clean up beforehand), and my son really likes to go. It’s a fun evening out for him and a break for my spouse and me.”

Some nights, Johnston and her husband go out to eat. “But the nice thing is that we can stay at home if we want,” she pointed out. “Sometimes we get take out food and hang out together!”

Photo right: Eleven-year-old Micah Johnston (left) plays Uno with MPRB staff Natalie Johnson and Riley Parham (right) on Mar. 15. Micah said he likes the games, friends, and movies. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Kids Night Out fills a gap for the Johnston family, who don’t have relatives in the area. Their family is in Iowa and Japan.

“Using Kid’s Night Out was even more important when our son was younger, and we were more tired and stressed out from watching after him. At 11 years old, the reason our son goes now is mostly that he likes it and wants to go,” stated Johnson. “But we still enjoy the free time.”

Parents can sign up ahead of time on the MPRB web site, or drop in that evening. A maximum of 25 kids can attend each Friday.

Johnston first learned about the program when she drove by and saw it advertised on the Lake Hiawatha Park sign off 28th Ave. Her son Micah has gone to Kids Night Out for years now, off and on.

He’s part of a group of four to 10 regulars that parks staff member Natalie Johnson, who facilitates the program, has watched grow up. The majority of attendees range from eight to 10 years old.

“A lot of times parents are looking for a babysitter and find us,” remarked Johnson. “This is a very affordable option. A lot of parents are shocked we have three hours and dinner at such a low cost.”

Evening catered to kids
While at Kids Night Out, children play on computers, watch a movie on the big TV, buy snacks from vending machines, and play board games. Meals are pizza, corn dogs and hot dogs with chips and water.

They also play group games such as dodgeball, four corners, kickball, and soccer. The group goes outside if the weather is nice or stays inside and uses the gym if it isn’t.

“We try to cater the evenings to what the kids want,” pointed out Johnson. They let the kids vote on movies and suggest games. “It’s different every Friday night. It keeps them coming back because they get to do what they’re into.”

“I like that it’s really laid back,” observed Riley Parham, who helps staff the program. “We really just hang out with kids and have fun.”

Parham attended similar programs at Painter Park when he was a kid, and appreciates how the parks system offers community gathering spaces for a lot of kids.

Supporting families
“My son recognizes kids from Kid’s Night Out when he sees them in the neighborhood,” said Micah’s mom. “For me, I just feel like this is a place in the community who cares about how much parents need an evening to themselves. This kind of inexpensive, available childcare is something that provides support to parents and families. “Giving parents a break is one effective way to take care of kids in our communities.”

“It’s a really fun program,” said Johnson. “We always welcome new kids.”