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COOL CAMPS : Where the Days Are Filled With Arts and Crafts, Lessons in Mime, Horseback Riding and More, Minus the Mosquitoes

December 19, 1991|CORINNE FLOCKEN | Corinne Flocken is a free-lance writer who regularly covers Kid Stuff for The Times Orange County Edition.

This Christmas, you may want to consider giving your child a session at a winter day camp instead of another 1,000-piece erector set or fashion doll with more accessories than Imelda Marcos. It has no small parts, you don't have to assemble it, and the memories can last far longer than most toys.

Here's a sample of what's happening countywide. Advance registration is required at all locations, but most spokespeople say that space is still available in most sessions.

* For your budding Picasso or Streep, the Irvine Fine Arts Center (14321 Yale Ave.) hosts its annual Winter Arts Camp, open to ages 6 to 10. According to staff member Susanne Wilkinson, the five-year-old program features instruction in drawing, painting, ceramics and other visual arts, led by certified art teachers, as well as classes in mime, music and theatrical improvisation. Group activities, including mural-painting, games and outdoor recreation, are also featured. A performance and exhibition at the end of the session allows all campers to show off their new skills to parents and friends.

\o7 Winter Arts Camp is held Monday through Friday, Dec. 23 through Jan. 3 (no camp on Dec. 24, 25 and Jan. 1), from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 9 a.m. to noon. Extended care is available. Fee: $75 to $160. (714) 724-6610 or 552-1018.

* If your little one yearns to ride the range, you may want to consider the Equine Endeavours Winter Camp at San Juan Capistrano's Sycamore Trails Stables (26262 Oso Road). Directed by Linda Pine Rossi, a trainer certified by the American Riding Instructors program, the camp offers greenhorns ages 7 to 14 a chance to learn horsemanship from the ground up.

Working in small classes and using a string of specially trained horses, Rossi and her staff share tips on horse behavior, anatomy and grooming, as well as riding skills and safety. Young riders spend time in and out of the arena, playing games like Simon Says and Red Light, Green Light on horseback, and participating in short trail rides. Campers signing up for five days or more can take part in a lengthier trail ride after camp hours.

The Equine Endeavours camp features a flexible schedule that allows parents to pick and choose the days their children attend. (Minimum three days.)

The Equine Endeavours Winter Camp runs Saturday, Dec. 21, through Jan. 5 (closed Christmas and New Year's Day) from 9 a.m. to noon daily. Fee: $135 for three days; $200 for five days (additional days available at discounted rate). (714) 496-1879. * Sports? Arts and Crafts? Fun and games? YMCAs countywide have them covered in their Winter Holiday Camps. Although activities vary, all of those mentioned here are open to pupils in kindergarten through the sixth grade and run weekdays from Monday, Dec. 23, through Jan. 3, excluding Christmas and New Year's Day. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with extended care available. Here's a sampling:

The North Orange County Y (2000 Youth Way, Fullerton) offers hiking, sports, swimming, arts and crafts and, if the snow gods smile, a day trip to Big Bear. A New Year's Eve overnighter featuring games, dinner and a "bounce house," is available for $25.

Fee: $82 per week. (714) 879-9622.

* The Newport-Costa Mesa YMCA operates its "Happenin' Holidays" camps at Eastbluff Elementary School (2627 Vista del Oro, Newport Beach) and Mariners Elementary School (2100 Mariners Drive, Newport Beach), with swimming at the Y (2300 University Drive, Newport Beach). Highlights include Back Bay hikes, movie field trips and special theme days. Rates can be structured to allow children to attend all or part of the sessions, said program director Regina Stoops.

Fee: $70 per week. (714) 642-9990.

* The South Coast YMCA offers sessions at Truman Benedict School (1251 Sarmentoso, San Clemente) from Monday, Dec. 23, through Jan. 3; and Dec. 30 through Jan. 3 at Newhart Elementary School (25001 Oso Viejo, Mission Viejo) and the Y (29831 Crown Valley Parkway, Laguna Niguel). First-week activities include a trip to Knott's Berry Farm and Irvine Regional Park. Second-week programs feature archery and woodworking and an excursion to the San Diego Zoo. A New Year's Eve overnighter is offered for an additional $10 fee.

Fee: $65 per week. (714) 495-0453.

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