Your Local YMCA is Filled with Opportunities
If your family is located in, or near, a urban or suburban setting, odds are there is a community center, such as a YMCA near you. Community centers can come in different forms and have different focuses, but they all revolve around the purpose of serving as a safe place families can rely on for activities, recreation, and, as the name would suggest, connecting to the community.
Some community centers focus on physical recreation and are equipped with sports centers, exercise machines, and pools. Others focus on positive social influence by means of engaging activities for youth, educational programs, and resources for parents. Community centers are usually centrally located within neighborhoods, offering easy access for most residents in cities or suburbs. Community centers offer more than just a place for fun or games. Beyond the obvious surface level perks to using a community center, there are plenty of deeper benefits that result from their presence.
Positive Physical Health Habits
One of the advantages is place to focus on physical health and wellness. The community aspect of a centrally located sports complex can be a factor that helps people, especially children, get over the apprehension of working out and staying fit. While you and your children are busy having fun with your neighbors, you are also achieving exercise that will be incredibly helpful to long-term wellness.
It also will help establish in your children an association between exercise and enjoyment, which will help build healthy habits for the future. Other positive consequences of having a fun place to get exercise include benefits to mental health. Physical exercise has been shown to reduce stress levels while improving overall mood. People who exercise regularly also experience decreased rates of depression and anxiety with increased mental focus and improved sleep rhythms.
Children are certainly far from immune to these mental health issues, and will likely see improved school performance and better mood levels if they are involved in recreational activities in a community center.
Increased Community Safety
Neighborhoods that have the presence of a community center have also been shown to have reduced crime levels. Centers for youth in particular are excellent at providing a meeting place for kids and teens that keep them off the streets and out of potentially dangerous activity.
A lot of areas with high crime or drug use by teens are lacking in positive activities to get involved in. When youth have little structured productive endeavors to engage in, the potential for unhealthy decision making increases. Some centers have structured places for youth hangout, participate in fun activities, and encourage productive community involvement. Some of these activities may include, art projects, music collaboration, or even life-skills training.
While there is an immediate effect of increased public safety, the long-term benefits are just as significant. When youth are engaging in positive activity together, they are also setting themselves up for better futures. By learning healthy coping skills, participating in educational groups, and collaborating with other youth, they are creating habits that will likely turn into successful career paths and healthy hobbies.
Similar advantages are found with multipurpose community facilities with exercise centers as well. Drawing children and youth to healthy physical activity in a family-oriented setting is also likely to draw kids away from the streets and into healthy community together.
Increased Cultural Diversity
Another great advantage to community centers is the exposure to cultural diversity. Some regions are more diverse than others, but most likely you are surrounded by at least a few neighbors that come from a different background than your own. When people are stuck in their routines, have a set group of friends, or simply aren’t engaged in their local community, it can be all to easy to stay in your own cultural bubble.
By spending time in your local community center with your family, you are likely to encounter, and build relationship with, people of all different races, socioeconomic statuses, sexual orientations, gender identities, and religions. Participating in group activities, games, and physical exercises together helps provide a bridge through shared experiences and having fun. Being that a community center welcomes everyone from a shared area together, regardless of background, you are more likely to increase the level of diversity in you and your children’s’ relationships.
A Solid Solution for Childcare
While a lot of community centers focus on fun activities for the whole family and positive after-school activities, many also offer daycares and summer programs for kids. Many parents end up having difficulties with finding childcare that work for them. Luckily, a lot of community centers have high quality childcare options that are safe, fun, and offer plenty of engaging social activities for children.
These services also have the distinct advantage being centrally located in communities, making their use especially convenient for commuters. Summer programs that are offered at community centers have a lot of benefits as well. A lot of parents can work out schedules that still allow them to drop their kids off at school and pick them up. However, once summer rolls around, families with both parents working will need an option that covers the rest of the day given the absence of school.
Community centers offer fun day camps, sports leagues, and other activities during the summer that give parents the break they need to continue their work while school is out. Beyond simply providing supervision for children over the gap of the summer months, the engaging activities often involve educational aspects to them, allowing children to have an easier transition between summer and going back to school.
Information and Resources for Parents
One of the major functions of a lot of community centers is to be a resource and educational tool for parents of all kinds. Community centers often host meetings meant to equip members of the community with resources to help their children, and the neighborhood as a whole. This is an excellent way for parents to get connected with other parents in the area who share the same interests of bettering the community, and serving their children well.
Some educational and support meetings may be geared towards parents in general, while others are aimed at helping parents with children who have physical disabilities are have special needs. These sorts of resources are especially valuable to parents who face these issues as extra support, education, and creative collaboration can foster a more accepting and accommodating community for everyone.
Community centers can be a place where parents collaborate to organize fun events tailored to meet the needs of autistic children, a local special Olympics event, or perhaps advocate for local legislation that helps disabled children in the community.
Bringing the family closer together
Community centers help neighborhoods in many different ways, but one of the most significant benefits is the effect a local place to have fun together can have on an individual family. The cliched saying “the family that plays together stays together” has a lot of truth to it. It is a fact about people that a shared fun experience results in more effective bonding.
In the same way couples or families that participate in recreational activities together tend to grow closer together. The advantage of using a local community center is that it makes achieving this goal a lot easier. Community centers tend to offer a large range of physical activities and games that families can enjoy together. You will often find that the staff will facilitate games designed for the whole family to engage in.
Community Centers are very accessible
Community Centers can come in the form of public government funded centers, or privately owned organizations such as the YMCA. Both options are always either free, or relatively affordable for family packages. These centers are typically placed in areas that will be the most convenient for people get to quickly from their neighborhood, often times they are placed centrally within a neighborhood.
If you have been searching for ways to grow your family closer together, solutions keep your children engaged in positive activities, and resources to help your family, your local community center is waiting to help. Take some time to do some research online to figure out where your local community center is, and don’t hesitate to take a visit to see just how it can better your family and grow your community.