Kids relish annual holiday event

Nick Hirsch swirled yellow and blue acrylic paint around inside a clear glass Christmas tree ball. The rich colors gleamed with a metallic sheen, still clearly yellow and blue in spots, while blending in others to a bright shade of green.

When the 8-year-old Finksburg boy finished his craft, Susan Harry, a program specialist with the Westminster City Recreation and Parks, looped a piece of red ribbon through the ornament's cap, replaced it and helped him package the ball with blue tissue paper in a plastic bowl.


"We're going to pretend this is an egg," Harry told Nick, who then helped her tear sheets of tissue paper into small pieces for the nine other children who had created ornaments.

Nick and his brother Ryan, 6, were among 10 youngsters, ages 6 to 10 years old, who were being kept busy this past week at the city recreation department's annual Winter Holiday Workshop. Adding to the festive feel, the workshop was held in the old Armory building on Longwell Avenue, which resembles a fairytale castle.


Parents could sign their children up for up to four days. For $20 a day - $5 extra for before or after care - city recreation workers entertained the children with games, crafts, a movie and sports. Wednesday's group moved from one activity to another, with no time for boredom. First, they played "balloon catch," with each youngster trying in turn to scoop up as many as 10 balloons at once and hold onto them. Two girls managed to get all 10 to win the competition.

Jennifer Mellor, the department's senior program director, then lined the children up into two teams of five. The challenge was to find a clipping from a newspaper. Each child was shown a clipping, then tore through a local paper to find a copy before the other team's member could do the same.

"It's been fun with the smaller groups," Harry said. "We're able to play more games. The game room downstairs has been great - we have 10 TVs in a PlayStation room for before- and after-care."

While the children did a newspaper search, Harry set up tables for the ornament craft. Carefully removing the caps, she gave each child a glass ball, warning them not to touch the sharp tops.

She and Mellor helped the children squeeze a little paint into the balls, enough to coat their interiors.

"It takes patience because we have to keep swirling it to cover all the parts," Harry told the children.

Dean Meinke, 8, of Westminster, said his glass ball looked like a rainbow. Jacob Campo-Wood, 7, also of Westminster, spilled white paint on the outside of his ornament and ended up with paint all over his hands and on his shirt.

"You need a bath," Mellor told Jacob jokingly. "We're going to take you outside and hose you down."


While cleaning up the craft supplies, Harry and Mellor gave the children a word-search puzzle to do before going to the gym.

"We also try to run them around a bit," Harry said. "They're getting antsy now so we're going to do some tag in the gym."

With the weather expected to warm up later in the week, Mellor said she hoped to take the children outside to play. "It's nice to have the park right here," she said.

After tag, the children watched a movie while eating lunches that they had brought from home. Then the afternoon was spent largely playing dodgeball, soccer, basketball and hockey.

Dodgeball appeared to be the youngsters' favorite game.

"I mostly like dodgeball in the gym," said Nick, whose grandparents were watching him and Ryan while their parents were away at a wedding. "I like doing crafts and the arcade."


Nick and Ryan are regulars at the city recreation camps, having attended the summer and Thanksgiving programs, as well as two days last Christmas. But Wednesday was the first time for Mackenzie Nargiz, 10, and her sister, Adison, 9, of Westminster. Their parents had to work.

The sisters agreed the camp was fun, and they enjoyed making the ornament and playing the games.

"Dodgeball is my favorite sport in the whole world," Adison said.

Not only do the children enjoy the games, they also learn how to play them properly.

"The camp is good because a lot of them play [sports], but don't know the rules, and we teach them the rules, too," Harry said.

The children were also learning other things - new words in the puzzles, what color is created when two colors are mixed, and safety in handling glass.


"This is a really unique building and we have unique programs," Harry said.