published Monday, December 9th, 2013

Drop and shop: Kids can play at various locations in Chattanooga while parents prowl for gifts

Instructor Debi Waites, right, hands out beads to children to apply to their popsicle stick Christmas trees at ArtsyU's Parent's Day Out Drop-n-Shop. ArtsyU is offering arts and crafts projects for children on certain Saturdays during the holidays to give parents an opportunity to shop.
Instructor Debi Waites, right, hands out beads to children to apply to their popsicle stick Christmas trees at ArtsyU's Parent's Day Out Drop-n-Shop. ArtsyU is offering arts and crafts projects for children on certain Saturdays during the holidays to give parents an opportunity to shop.
Photo by Doug Strickland.
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    Participating in ArtsyU's Drop-N-Shop are Caroline Sells, left, and Meredith Powers.
    Photo by Doug Strickland.
    enlarge photo

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    Savannah Hicks participates in ArtsyU's Parent's Day Out Drop-n-Shop.
    Photo by Doug Strickland.
    enlarge photo

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    Katelyn Steele participates in ArtsyU's Parent's Day Out Drop-n-Shop.
    Photo by Doug Strickland.
    enlarge photo

The shopping has to be done, and you can't exactly take the kids with you to buy Christmas gifts for them. So what do you do?

A few local churches and some businesses have recognized the dilemma and have begun offering drop-off services for parents that provide activities for kids such as creating art projects or playing on inflatable jumpers.

Uptown Art on Cherokee Boulevard plans a Penguin Kids Camp from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday that allows children ages 5-11 to create a penguin painting on a 16- by 20-inch canvas. Cost is $50, which includes all materials, other craft projects and lunch.

At ArtsyU on South Terrace, Parents Day Out Drop-N-Shop opportunities will be offered the next two Saturdays, Dec. 14 and 21, according to communications manager and instructor Rachel Hawkins. For $40, children ages 5-12 will spend their time working on holiday-themed art projects from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

"The ones who stay the whole time will go home with three art projects," Hawkins says.

They will paint and decorate a piece using old jewelry, drip paint ornaments, and they will do a winter-themed painting.

Artistic ability is not a prerequisite at either place.

"Obviously, the more artistically inclined kids can really take off with it, but it doesn't matter," Hawkins says.

Snacks will be provided, but kids who plan to stay the entire time should bring a sack lunch. The sessions are limited to 12 kids.

The Downtown YMCA will hold a Parents Shopping Night from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 20. Cost is $5, and parents need to register in person on Monday, Dec. 16, beginning at 7 a.m. The Y can accommodate only 75 kids, and Fitness/Youth Development Director Kathy Dew predicts the spots will go quickly.

Planned activities include bounce houses, dancing, movie time, craft time, gym time and pizza, all of which are included in the $5 fee.

"The parents like that it utilizes our trusted child-watch staff," Dew says. "The kids love them because they don't just stand around. They get out and dance with them and play games."

Pump It Up on Commons Boulevard near Hamilton Place offered an all-day service on Black Friday, and General Manager Emily Thomsen says about 20 kids spent at least part of the day there.

"Parents seemed to really like the idea," she says. "I am about 80 percent sure we will do it again for Christmas, but we haven't decided on the days yet."

For $15, kids received breakfast and lunch, and they could stay from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., though most stayed just a couple of hours, Thomsen says.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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