Summer vacation lasts for only 11 weeks, according to the school calendar. But it may seem like an endless summer for parents of children in the San Fernando Valley--thanks to the constraints of the season, heat and smog. What can parents do when they believe it's too hot or smoggy to send their children outside to play, and Nintendo has lost its thrill?
"Parents should limit outside activities on very hot days," said Dr. Arthur Lisbin, director of child and adolescent health for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. "The worst time of day is between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. When it gets into the 90s, it's time to slow the kids down." Lisbin recommends bringing children inside regularly to cool down and drink fluids.
"Kids should wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing," said Lisbin. "And, while I'm not pushing Gatorade, it's a good thing to drink. Better than water."
"What I'm most concerned about is sun exposure," he added. "I have concern about all the new reports on skin cancer. Children's skin may be more sensitive than adult skin." Lisbin recommends that parents apply sun block to the children before sending them outside.
Parents should also be aware of signs of heat fatigue, heat cramps and heat stroke, Lisbin said. Heat fatigue occurs when a child overexerts himself and becomes dehydrated. Symptoms include headaches, excessive sweating, shallow breathing, poor appetite and a general weakness. According to "The New Child Health Encyclopedia," parents should bring children to a cool place and give them plenty of liquids. A cool shower or bath helps.
Heat cramps can occur when the body loses large amounts of fluids and salts through sweating. The most common muscle cramps are in the arms, legs and stomach. Parents, according to the "Encyclopedia," should respond with plenty of liquids and have the child rest in a cool place.
Although heat stroke is rare in children, it is a medical emergency and calls for immediate action. Symptoms include weakness, dizziness, abdominal cramps, flushed skin, pounding pulse, nausea, lack of sweating (the opposite of heat fatigue) a fever as high as 104 degrees, and even a coma. Children who are ill, taking medications or have diabetes or vascular problems are more susceptible.
What else can parents do during the long, hot summer? Where are the coolest places to take children? Here's how children--and parents--can chill out.
BOWLING--Children as young as 6 can heave a ball at an alley. As long as they adhere to the most basic rule of not walking down the lane to fetch their balls, most bowling alleys welcome young children; many bowling alleys even have 8-pound balls. Although league play takes up most of the evening hours, most alleys have open day bowling.
Bowlerland Lanes (7501 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys, 818-989-1610) has open bowling from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week. Adults pay $2 a game; kids, $1.60. Shoe rental is $1.25.
Brunswick Bowl (9118 Balboa Blvd., Northridge, 818-992-8677) has open bowling from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday through Monday, and Tuesday through Thursday to 5:30 p.m. Adults pay $2 a game; kids, $1.60. Shoes are $1.25.
Canoga Park Bowl (20122 Vanowen St., 818-340-5190) is open 24 hours a day with open bowling before 5:45 p.m. seven days a week. Adults pay $1.80 a game; kids, $1.60. Shoes are $1.25.
Conejo Bowl (125 W. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 805-495-4696) has open lanes Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 8 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 4:15 p.m. Weekday games are $1.85 for adults, $1.25 for kids. Shoes are $1. On weekends, adults and children pay $2.05 a game.
Corbin Bowl (19616 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana, 818-345-5250) has open bowling weekdays from noon to 5:30 p.m. and weekends from noon to midnight. Adults pay $1.90; kids, $1.40. Shoes are $1.25.
Pickwick Bowl (921 Riverside Drive, Burbank, 818-842-7188) has special rates of $1 a game weekdays from noon to 4 p.m. Weekend rates are $1.75 for adults, $1.65 for kids. Shoes are $1.
Santa Clarita Lanes (21615 Soledad Canyon Road, Saugus, 805-254-0540) has open lanes seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Weekdays games are $2 for adults and $1.55 for kids with a $1 shoe rental. On weekends adults pay $2.25; kids, $1.55
Sports Center Bowl (12655 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-769-7600) has open lanes from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. seven days a week. Adults pay $2.25 a game; kids, $1.75. Shoes are $1.25.
Woodlake Bowl (23130 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills, 818-348-7181) has open bowling from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. seven days a week. Adults pay $1.75; kids, $1.50. Shoes are free for kids and $1.50 for adults.
STORY HOURS--Libraries offer an old-fashioned respite from the heat. Even the quiet seems cool. To lure the little ones in during summer, many branches are scheduling story hours.
Canoga Park Library (7260 Owensmouth Ave., 818-887-0320). July 21 at 10:30 a.m. for ages 3 to 8.