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14 Ways to Keep Your Kids Busy This Summer, According to Three Miami Moms

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Cue Alice Cooper’s "School’s Out for Summer" and watch kids everywhere go apeshit with excitement. But for moms, the onset of summer vacation prompts another emotion altogether: fear. How are you supposed to keep high-energy offspring from bouncing off the proverbial walls when there’s no classroom to contain 'em?

Don’t panic. There are plenty of ways to exhaust your little ones, and most of these ideas won't break the family budget. Three prominent Miami moms give their best suggestions for wiling away the summer days.
From Mariana Cortez, mother of four (an 8-year-old, a 7-year-old, a 5-year-old, and a 15-month-old) and owner of Miami’s sweetest bakery, Bunnie Cakes, her big family loves what’s arguably the city’s best attraction: the water. Here are her family's fave ways to dive into the wet stuff:

1. Hit the beach
Well, it is Miami's best asset. “At the beach, we usually pack sandwiches for lunch, a lot of fruit, water, and juices, and we spent the whole day in the sun," Cortez says. "We swim; the kids love to play in the sand and build sand castles. Sometimes we also rent a kayak or a paddleboard; the kids love it!"

2. Splash around at Miami Shores Aquatic Center
Shipwreck Cove has six water slides, an interactive playground, water cannons, and a water-spraying system. Basically, it's kid heaven, and Cortez's youngsters love it. "They run around the park, and they are free," she says.
Miami Shores Aquatic Center, 10200 Biscayne Blvd., Miami Shores, is open varying hours Monday through Sunday. Admission costs $4 for residents and $7 for guests. Visit miamishoresvillage.com or call 305-795-2241.

3. Take a road trip to Disney World
OK, so the House of Mouse isn't in Miami, but a summer weekend getaway is a must for every family. “Each of us has a favorite park,” Cortez says. “Luke loves Epcot, Noah loves Typhoon Lagoon, and Amelie loves Magic Kingdom. Sebas and I love going to [Disney Springs], and Stella [the littlest] just loves everywhere we take her.” Cortez has lots of tips for larger families — and vegan ones. "We are a big family, so we usually rent a big house with a pool close to the parks. We do some groceries as soon as we get there. We have breakfast at the house and take sandwiches, fruits, snacks, and water to the parks. By the end of the day, we are very tired, so we usually have dinner at the park. There are more vegan and gluten-free options, and they can be very accommodating. We like to go for at least five days and relax one of those days at the pool."  
Disney parks are open daily, and admission prices start at $97 per day. Visit disneyworld.disney.go.com

4. Spend rainy days at the mall or the movies
Cortez's family frequents Aventura Mall because it's closest to home. Plus, it has shopping and movies, all in one. "We usually go directly to the movies or walk around if we need to buy something or just browse for clothes," Cortez says of their mall outings. "[My kids] want to watch Finding Dory — that comes out this weekend [June 17] — and the Secret Life of Pets," she says. 

Sasha del Almagro has two children, Logan, 12, and Skylar, 3. She works from home running a photography business and an online health and fitness coaching business. She also administers a Facebook play-date group, Play Dates of Miami, where moms gather. Her favorite family activities include:

5. Listen in on story hour at the library
"A lot of the moms from our play-date group are big on the Pinecrest library," del Almagro says, though almost all of Miami-Dade's branch libraries have their own events. The Pinecrest branch offers toddler story time Wednesday mornings and a Round Robin children's book reading Wednesday afternoons.
Check the individual library websites for full schedules and locations.

6. Paint stuff at Artists at the Falls
"There's a local artist who opened a studio, and she provides paint classes. For adults, she does glass painting; for kids, she’ll have a scene for everyone to paint. Kids get their own canvas and paint and become their own little Picasso," she says. 
Artists at the Falls, 12974 SW 89th Ave., Miami, offers Art Exploration classes for kids ages 4 to 6 Thursday from 3:30 to 4:15 p.m. and Painting on Canvas classes for ages 7 and older Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 4:30 to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The first class is free for new students, and a ten-class card costs $300. Visit artistsatthefalls.com or call 305-278-2690.

7. Go kayaking
“It’s always a fun activity for the kids. They get this feeling of being on an adventure!” Her family's favorite spot is Oleta State Park, she says. "You can kind of venture out to the middle of the bay, and you have the little islands, or you can just stay close to the mangroves on the mainland."
Oleta River State Park, 3400 NE 163rd St., North Miami Beach, is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission costs $6 per vehicle. Kayak rentals are available starting at $23 at BG Oleta River Outdoors. Visit bgoletariveroutdoor.com or call 786-274-7945. 
8. Play at Rocket Kids in Pembroke Pines
"It's a fun place that both of my kids get to enjoy together," del Almagro says. "They have an indoor playground that my daughter and son both enjoyed, as well as a laser tag area that my son had fun doing with his dad."  
Rocket Kids, 20911 Johnson St., Bay # 112, Pembroke Pines, is open Tuesday through Thursday from noon to 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday from noon to 9 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 7 p.m. Admission ranges from $8.99 to $10.99 depending upon the day. Laser tag costs extra. Visit rocket-kids.com or call 954-249-2395. 

9. Visit PAMM on Second Saturday
She also recommends Miami's hottest museum. Admission to Pérez Art Museum Miami is free every second Saturday, and the museum provides hands-on activities designed for kids.
PAMM, 1103 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and admission is free every second Saturday of the month. Visit pamm.org or call 786-345-5643. 
In addition to being Miami’s quintessential PR guru, as well as the woman behind 305 Cafecito and cofounder of the Leah Arts District, JennyLee Molina is mom to 6-year-old Rock Elijah. Thanks to her behind-the-scenes knowledge of all things Miami, her fam is frequently going on adventures. Here are some of her favorites: 

10. Hang at Home Depot
Believe it or not, the big-box home store isn't just for grownups. "Every first Saturday of the month, local Home Depot stores have kids; building activities, which are really fun and hands on. It's also free."
Call your nearest Home Depot for hours and activities. 

11. Check out Miami Children's Museum
"We are members, and despite going there countless times, there are always fun arts and crafts activities and rotating exhibits. It is great for rainy, summer days," Molina explains.
Miami Children's Museum, 980 MacArthur Cswy., Miami,, is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets are $15 for Florida residents. Visit MiamiChildrensMuseum.com or call 305-373-5437. 

12. Marvel at the Mini Rock Museum at the Miami Dade College Kendall Campus
"It's a former room that was once a cafeteria and then a bookstore and has earned the big-time nickname 'Kendall Rocks' because of what it contains: the incredible archaeological collection of a former Miami Dade College professor!" Molina says. "You can find and touch a tiger shark jaw from Key Largo, sediment from the Antarctic, and a whale tooth from Chesapeake Bay. The mini-museum boasts 10,000 specimens in its collection, and kids are allowed to handle everything from animal jaws to turtle shells. Children can also learn how to cast fossils and about the elements of archaeological digs." Best of all, it's free!
The museum is located at the MDC Kendall Campus, 11011 SW 104th St., Building 5, Miami. Hours vary. Visit mdc.edu/kendall or call 305-237-2000. 

13. Hit up Legoland
Though this theme park also requires a road trip, Molina says it's an even better bet than Disney for younger children. "My son is obsessed with Legos and building, so a hot but fun trip to Legoland is in order. I like that it never gets as packed as Disney over the summer, and it's his favorite."
Legoland, 1 Legoland Way, Winter Haven, is open daily during the summer, and tickets cost $71 to $99 for a one-day pass. Visit legoland.com/florida.

14. Explore our ecosystem at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center
With a foreboding future ahead (Miami might drown, after all), it's good to get kids appreciating nature as early as possible. "It's great and offers hand-ons fossil-rock reef walks," Molina says of the waterfront center. "It’s a terrific place to explore whole family adventures that range from dragging nets through seagrass and catching sea urchins, seahorses, and starfish to exploring an ancient fossil-reef tide pool."
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center, 6767 Crandon Blvd., Key Biscayne, is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission to Crandon Park is $5 per vehicle, and the cost of activities at the nature center varies. Visit biscaynenaturecenter.org or call 305-361-6767.

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