By CHELSEY POLLOCK
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- During school vacation, many parents turn to community programming to keep their youngsters off the couch.
“In the cold and after Christmas, I think kids tend to stay inside and play video games,” said Karen Wisniewski of Manchester Tuesday.
Wisniewski’s daughter Brooke, 11, has been attending school vacation day camps at the Massabesic Audubon Center in Auburn for seven years.
“This gets them outside and it’s fun and keeps them busy,” Wisniewski said.
The Audubon program, which is open to children 6 to 12, takes kids through a variety of nature lessons around a particular daily theme. The full-day program runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., camp director Angie Krysiak said.
“We try to teach kids a lot about New Hampshire’s local environment and what’s going on in winter,” Krysiak said.
“We really get them in touch.”
Brooke Wisniewski said she appreciates the chance to stay active during her vacation.
“Normally I’d just sit around the house or maybe hang with my friends,” she said.
Lawrence Martial Arts Academy in Bedford offers a similar day camp.
“Camp keeps kids busy and they don’t even realize they’re doing a workout because they are having so much fun,” said owner John Stewart. “We make sure the kids aren’t going to be lazy like around the house and we reinforce what they’re learning in school about respect.”
Jay Eaton of Goffstown said his three children have been attending the program for years. His eldest child is now 15.
“They’re learning in a safe environment and I don’t have to worry about anything,” he said. “Especially nowadays when I think a lot of kids spend that time sitting on the couch at home with a video game in their hands, my kids have a blast here.”
And while many full-day programs come with a fee, some local groups offer vacation programming free of charge.
At Alexander-Carr Park in Derry, the sledding slopes are open from 9:30 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. on this vacation week.
Park employee Dave Maloof said that about 100 people will come to the park on the average winter vacation day, especially after a fresh snow.
“It’s fun, it’s free and there’s a place to warm up,” Maloof said. “And we’re here to make sure it’s safe.”
The heated park building and indoor concession stand are open during sledding hours and the park is lit up at night.
Many families hit the Derry slopes Tuesday afternoon, including Craig Gilbert of Derry and his three children.
Gilbert said he was able to adjust his work schedule this week to spend time with his kids during their vacation from St. Thomas Aquinas School in Derry.
“Fortunately, my work is flexible enough that I can work from home,” he said. “I love being able to hang out with the kids around the holidays.”
For those sick of the cold, the Derry Public Library provides a free kids program during each day of school vacation.
“I was snow-blowing and my kids were fighting and my wife said, ‘Take them to the library,’” Jeff Davis of Derry said Tuesday. “This is a lot better than going somewhere that you have to spend money or just out to eat.”
The library will host a magic show by local student magician Max McGee at 1 p.m.
today, with a charity trivia event running from 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday.
“We just love to bring families together for things that they might not normally get to do in their hectic lives at home,” said Nancy Chase of the library’s Children’s Room.
Manchester City Library also offers some special programming for this week’s vacation, including a video game tournament for teens and a New Year’s party for younger kids Thursday.