NOURISHING KIDS EAT FREE NIGHT
1765 Briargate Parkway, Suite 807, 593-7786, modernmarket.com/locations/colorado-springs
Kids eat free nights are a dime a dozen. But Modern Market is different. Sure, the little ones (12 and younger) feast for free (with purchase of adult entrée) on the usual nights: Sunday and Monday, 5 p.m. until close. But the menu is what sets this affordable, health-conscious eatery apart. Forget frigid corn dogs, goopy mac-and-cheese and rubbery chicken fingers. (Do chickens even have fingers?) We're talking sophisticated-yet-munchkin-friendly fare like roasted chicken and mashed potatoes with a greens-and-balsamic side salad a three-cheese-and-tomato grilled cheese on multigrain bread; or a build-your-own-mini-salad with topping options like goat cheese, corn, beans, and bacon and a long list of snazzy dressings. Wipe the drool off your chin and head over. Expect to spend between $10-$15 on yourself between meal and drink.
AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAM WHERE KIDS FLOURISH
E11 CREATIVE WORKSHOP
Manitou Art Center, 515 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 551-2277, e11cw.com
This place is unreal (in the best of ways). If you're worried that your child might actually be losing brain cells in a traditional after-school program, this place will ease your mind. Consider it a "maker space" with adult supervision. Children are free to create whatever their hearts desire using recycled materials, art supplies and a variety of big-people tools (used with supervision). (My son's first creation: a "cream cheese coconut cross," made from the lid of a Philadelphia tropical cream cheese tub, chunks of wood and glue.) Not in the mood to create? Kids can dismantle electronics, play make-believe in the dramatic play area, arrange colorful blocks on a light table, sew, plunge their hands into sensory-friendly Jurassic Sand and so much more. Think of E11 as fertilizer for the young mind. (It's also home to a preschool and hosts parties.)
PLACE FOR KIDS TO MAKE LIKE A GUPPY AND SWIM
DONNA'S DOLPHINS SWIM SCHOOL
5470 Powers Center Point, No. 130, 487-7946, donnasdolphins.com
Not all kids take to the water like ... well, a duck to water. My nearly 6-year-old is absolutely petrified of getting his eyes, nose and ears wet Needless to say, it's been a bit of a hurdle on his journey to water competency.If large- or even small-group swim lessons just aren't cutting it for your child, let the folks at Donna's Dolphins work their magic for a few weeks. Teachers are energetic, fun and full of patience. Several staffers have a real knack for working with special-needs children, including those who, like mine, have sensory issues. Each lesson ends with free time, your child's choice of a prize and the ceremonial adding of stickers to a motivational chart. What's more kid-friendly than that?
THERAPY PROVIDER WHERE KIDS BOOST SKILLS & CONFIDENCE
THE SHANDY CLINIC
Various locations throughout Colorado Springs and Pueblo, 597-0822, shandyclinic.com
If your child is in need of speech, occupational or physical therapy, Shandy Clinic makes things convenient by offering therapy at four Colorado Springs locations. My son's therapy sessions are less like work and more like fun extracurricular activities - which is great, because we're at Shandy most days of the week. Making electric blue "slime" or a Ninja Turtles-themed heart during an occupational therapy session (while sneaking in valuable fine motor practice)? Yes, please. As a mom, I'm particularly fond of Shandy's convenient weekend "handwriting OT" sessions, which involve the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum. If you're a special needs parent, you know how hard it is to come by weekend therapy appointments. Not letting this one go!
FRUGAL SATURDAY MORNING KIDS ACTIVITY
Various locations throughout Colorado Springs, 260-6902 , michaels.com
This certainly isn't Colorado Spring's best-kept secret. Nor is it the most exotic, elaborate Saturday morning kids activity. But it's simple and cheap - two things I value as a busy mom. Stop by a Michaels store any time from 10 a.m.- noon on Saturdays and pay a mere $2 for your child to create the week's take-home craft. Recent projects have included a nature journal, mini potted cactus replica and watercolor-painted photo frame. Shop alone, if you wish, while your kiddo gets his Picasso on. Then leave without cleaning up the mess. Enough said.