Some kids might need a bit of coaxing when it comes to extracurricular activities, while others have a set schedule already. Whichever is true for your kids, this list of 26 activities from A to Z is designed to spark their curiosity and passion outside the classroom. It may even inspire them to try a few things that you hadn’t thought of before. Some are ongoing classes, some are family events, and others may be held just once or twice. Find the ones that fit your kids” interests and schedules, and enrich your child’s time outside of school.
Studying the moon, stars, and planets acquaints kids with a variety of subjects: history, geography, and physics—even art. Learn more while looking through a 20-inch aperture refractor at DU’s Chamberlin Observatory, where the Denver Astronomical Society hosts biweekly public nights and open houses for kids and parents. The Colorado Springs Astronomical Society and the Space Foundation Discovery Center throw “Star Parties,” and astronomers can also link up with the Boulder Astronomy & Space Society.
Learning the science behind bike repair is an opportunity to develop engineering skills in a fun environment. RiNoVELO’s monthly Bicycle Workshop is suitable for adolescents and teens. In fact, the shop owner’s eight-year-old son regularly lends a hand at hour-long classes that show participants how to change flats, lube chains, tune gears, and more. At REI Denver, a demonstration-based Bike Maintenance Basics class teaches similar skills to students 15 and up, and Lucky Bikes Re-Cyclery offers its free Earn-a-Bike program to the 10-and-up crowd, teaching basic bicycle maintenance skills and safe bicycling during 12-week-long sessions.
Enrich your child’s STEM education with an out-of-the-ordinary activity like carpentry. During the school year, Kid’s Carpentry hosts hands-on after-school carpentry classes and workshops that deliver practical woodworking skills with an emphasis on the safe use of hand tools. Classes are held at Jewish Community Center Denver, Lalu creative arts studio, and Rockler Woodworking and Hardware.
Swing by Dinosaur Ridge for tons of tactile, dino-themed activities. The organization also offers TriceraTOTS, a monthly literacy-based program for toddlers, and free Dinosaur Discovery Days featuring interpretive guides. Preschoolers practice being paleontologists at WOW! Children’s Museum, and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science is another hometown favorite with its permanent Prehistoric Journey exhibit and year-round programming.
If your children are constantly scheming, put their ideas to good use by enrolling in a class that will teach critical thinking, collaboration, and financial literacy. Start with a free Money Matters crash course at the Young Americans Center for Financial Education; they”re held Saturdays, 9 to 10 a.m., for ages three to 19. Next, try a YouthBiz Workshop focused on entrepreneurial skills. Hooked? High school students can check out Junior Achievement Business Week, held each June, to learn leadership concepts and skills alongside many of Denver’s leading businessmen and women.
French for cheese, fromage is easy and fun to make. Cheese making gives kids a tasty opportunity to learn about chemistry and homesteading. At The Art of Cheese workshops located at the Haystack Mountain Dairy, mature, interested children about age 10 and up can attend cheese-making classes alongside their parents (classes color coded orange on the website are appropriate for younger participants). The Truffle Cheese Shop hosts hands-on burrata and mozzarella classes appropriate for about age 12 and up; they will also host cheese-making classes for small groups at private homes, geared to about age 10 and up.
Gardens are perfect outdoor classrooms. In addition to imparting life skills like patience and responsibility, gardening teaches kids about botany, biology, and concepts like causality. Tagawa Gardens Nursery has classes for kids, including a popular fairy gardening course. Denver Botanic Gardens has plenty of ongoing sessions, too—”Seedlings” for wee horticulturists plus family-friendly workshops. Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail—the world’s highest botanical garden—offers a full lineup of youth programs.
Recreational horseback riding allows young riders to enjoy the great outdoors while sharpening skills such as problem solving and goal setting. Oodles of Colorado establishments offer youth riding lessons. On the Front Range, trot and cantor at Denver Equestrians, The Urban Farm, or Chatfield Stables, which has a “Pony Pals” club.
Ready to learn about a new culture while trying something totally unique? Kids build confidence and a sense of rhythm at Celtic Steps School of Irish Dance, offering instruction for ages four and up—set to lively Celtic music. At Wick School of Irish Dance, a weekly step dance class shows dancers the basic steps. The Bennett School has standout classes for beginners, too, including a Young Dancers class.
This circus art is a fantastic activity for anyone looking to try a new form of entertainment while getting some exercise. All skill levels are accommodated at APEX Denver, a local parkour gym hosting juggling classes for kids 12 and up and youngsters with previous experience. Once your child knows basic patterns, encourage them to practice at The Boulder Circus Center, home to a Sunday evening juggling club.
If your children are thrill seekers, safely train them in an adventure sport like river kayaking. At Rocky Mountain Adventures, participants start off learning techniques and safety protocols in a swimming pool or pond. Colorado Whitewater offers up a variety of kayaking classes including its Kids Paddling Team, a safety-oriented series for ages eight to 17. Both organizations provide opportunities for river instruction, too. And the National Sports Center for the Disabled teaches the sport to children with disabilities.
Hiking is an activity the whole family can enjoy—and it’s even better when there’s a llama involved. YMCA of the Rockies Snow Mountain Ranch puts on a free Lollygagging with Llamas program for newbies. In Vail, take a llama to lunch and explore the high country with Paragon Guides, or try a day or multi-day guided excursion with San Juan Mountains Llama Treks. At the Denver Zoo, meet a llama daily at noon.
Give teens and preteens a strong foundation by signing up for beauty lessons. The teen beauty boot camp at Clementine’s Salon teaches participants the basics of skincare and makeup application during two-hour sessions taught by experienced estheticians and makeup artists who review everything from cleansing and moisturizing to acne treatment, sun protection, and makeup application. Plenty of other studios offer makeup tutorials for teens, including Simply More Makeup Studio.
This art medium helps children perfect fine motor skills. Learn foundational skills at Sew You Studio and Fancy Tiger, which hosts Kids Sewing 101 and Kids Knitting School. MindCraft Makerspace’s weekly sewing lab has students making everything from totes to airplane pillows. Check out the Denver Public Library too: Several branches host needlework classes. Michaels and JoAnn Fabric and Craft stores have knitting, crochet, and sewing classes for kids.
Public speaking is an important skill most children have to master through practice. Denver Center for the Performing Arts offers public speaking courses for older youth, and the organization’s middle and high school Improv classes offer up a more fun opportunity to get kids thinking on their feet in front of an audience. Ready to test your skills? Try a Sunday night Poetry Slam at Mercury Café, hosting youth slams on second Sundays.
Writing and performing plays challenges children to think creatively—and it might give them a lifelong appreciation for theater. At the Jewish Community Center Denver, budding artists are tasked with building a storyline, creating props, and producing an original performance during playmaking classes. Lighthouse Writers Workshop offers playwriting and screenwriting workshops, and Rocky Mountain Theater for Kids hosts a variety of after-school theater classes for kids.
If you”ve got a budding artist in the house, consider training them in the art of quilting, and don’t be surprised if you end up with beautiful textiles as a result. Learn basic rotary cutting and piecing techniques at a Learn to Quilt class at local JoAnn Fabric and Craft stores. High Country Quilts in Colorado Springs offers several quilting classes for beginners along with a free Sisterhood of Quilters meet-up for women of all ages and ability levels.
This sport helps children build confidence and athletic ability, and it teaches participants to calculate risk and think outside of the box. Boulder-based ABC Kids Climbing was designed just for kids, and offers a variety of classes and lessons. ROCK”n & JAM”n and Earth Treks have extensive youth programs, too. The National Sports Center for the Disabled has indoor and outdoor climbing classes for kids with disabilities.
If your little fish has already mastered the strokes, challenge them to learn scuba. Ocean First has snorkel and scuba lessons for youth of all levels. Denver Divers owns a whole fleet of child-sized gear, and offers plenty of lessons for youth, from its Scuba Rangers pool class to Junior Open Water Diver certification courses. Why should kids have all the fun? Consider getting the whole family certified, then plan a dive vacation!
You already know about the vast benefits of educating children in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). When it comes to technology, Silicon STEM Academy is Denver’s one-stop shop, with lessons in computer programming, 3D game design, and digital media. Denver Public Library has a STEAM program for teens. At TinkerMill, apply for a family membership to gain access to a variety of maker spaces, including the electronics and robotics lab, laser engraver/cutter, and 3D printers.
Blame it on Disney’s Moana, but we can’t get enough ukulele. That four-stringed Hawaiian guitar makes some seriously good sound, and learning to play it will help your children hone fine motor skills while developing an ear for music. Head to Swallow Hill Music for Kids Ukulele lessons, or try group classes led by the Rocky Mountain Ukulele Orchestra.
No matter what kind of bird your child sounds like while singing, voice lessons can improve communication skills, increase listening skills, and encourage self-expression. Sign up for weekly private sessions at Neighborhood Music Stapleton, a top-notch site staffing experienced teachers. School of Rock Denver offers signing lessons, too, and you can introduce youngsters to song and dance at Rocky Mountain Aardvarks classes.
Wilderness preparedness is something all mountain-loving children should know. Denver REI and Boulder REI offer Wilderness First Aid and CPR courses. Adolescents and teens learn first aid and avalanche safety at Colorado Mountain Club seminars, and can try orienteering with the Rocky Mountain Orienteering Club. For ongoing outdoor skills opportunities that children can build on as they get older, join Boy Scouts of America or Girl Scouts of Colorado.
By some accounts, Colorado is a “hot bed” for UFO activity! Whether or not you believe, there’s something fun about studying extraterrestrial phenomena, also known as xenology. Head to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science’s IMAX Theater for a screening of Conquest of the Skies 3D, and don’t forget to check out the organization’s Space Odyssey exhibit. Then take a road trip to the town of Hooper to visit the first UFO WatchTower.
Kids are full of energy. Balance their natural inclinations with yoga. Belly Bliss has top-notch programming for young children and their caregivers, and The River and Mudra Yoga Studio offer fantastic, play-based drop-off classes. For an unconventional experience, take a class at The Namastage Theatre, home of the ActAsana technique, combining yoga and acting.
bellybliss.org/yoga_fitness.html ∙ weseektheriver.com/kids-yoga
Looking for a fun way to get your child interested in science? Study animals. The Denver Zoo has daily feedings, shows, and up-close animal encounters. At Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, children have access to a full lineup of hands-on classes, including a Junior Zoo Keepers program. The Butterfly Pavilion has plenty of entomology events for families, or try birding at Vail Nature Center.