The fall routine is in full swing now - back to school, back to jam-packed weeks - and mom and dad want a little break without feeling like they're abandoning the kiddies. Here's a way for everyone to have fun. Drop the children off for some games, socializing and snacking, then head out for a couples date night on your own.
Several centers on Long Island offer a parent survival night. Advance registration is required for all of them.
PARENTS' NIGHT OUT
Next session 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, both locations
Ages 4 to 9
Cost $33; $18 for a sibling
Children practice gymnastics and sports skills, play board games and do crafts. They have a pizza dinner and cool down at the end of the evening with yoga. "Our whole motto is fitness made fun, so we make it active and connect with the kids," says co-owner Debbie Greenberg. Friday happens to be the My Gym franchise national Parents' Night Out, with all proceeds from the evening being donated to the My Gym Challenged America program, which assists children with special physical and cognitive needs.
KID'S NIGHT IN
NEXT SESSION 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday
Ages 2 to 7
Cost $30; half-price for siblings
Drop the kids off in their pajamas for a pirate-themed evening, then go out for dinner or just have some couple time. The kids will create pirate hats, hunt for treasure, make a treasure chest and enjoy cookies and milk. Once Upon a Treetop offers the nights once a month. "Every time we do it, it's a different theme," says owner Antonella Antonacci. "October will be carving pumpkins - come in costume." The staff ratio depends on the number and ages of kids signed up each month. Once Upon a Treetop will also arrange Kid's Nights on demand for a group of five children or more.
PARENTS' SURVIVAL NIGHT
NEXT SESSION 6:45 to 9:30 p.m. Oct. 8
AGES 3 to 12; must be potty-trained
Cost $34; $28 for siblings
The kids play in the gym for about an hour, doing gymnastic-based games, playing with balls or a parachute that billows up and down when they hold it, as well as obstacle courses. Then they enter the party room for unlimited pizza and juice. They make a craft, and then go back into the gym for the remainder of the evening. The staff ratio is 8 to 1, says gym director Nancy Kovacik. "I think most parents go out to dinner," Kovacik says. Buona Sera Ristorante Pizzeria in Smithtown offers 15 percent off dinner to parents with their receipt showing that they've left the kids at The Little Gym that evening.
The Little Gym in Sayville offers a similar program, with snack and juice offered instead of pizza. The next night is scheduled for Saturday, from 5 to 7:30 p.m., $32, 10 percent off per sibling (631-563-0950, tlgsayvilleny .com). Also, its counterpart in Greenvale hosts the program Oct. 1 and the first Friday of every month, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. for ages 3 to 9, $45, 10 percent off per sibling (516-513-0600, tlggreenvaleny.com).
Ages 8 to 13
Next session 7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 8
Cost Free to anyone; register at the YMCA at 7 p.m. Friday and the child can come any Friday night through December. Must have birth certificate to register. A winter session begins in January.
Activities include karate, sports, movies, wood shop and arts and crafts.
Check your local YMCA for details about similar programs. For instance, the Patchogue Y starts its preteen program Oct. 15, and Glen Cove will begin in November. The Great South Bay YMCA also has a Teen Center for ages 13 to 17 on Saturday evenings, beginning from 7 to 10 p.m. Oct. 9. Other YMCAs also have teen programs. The Huntington Y Teen Center, for instance, begins on Oct. 16, from 8 to 10 p.m. "The kids are able to use the pools, the fitness center, they're able to use the gym for volleyball and basketball. They are supervised by YMCA-trained staff," says Joanne Courtien, director of marketing at the Huntington Y.
PARENT NIGHT OUT
NEXT SESSION Begins in October, check with Gymboree after Oct. 4 for times
AGES 10 months to 6 years
Cost $35, $5 for each sibling
This three-hour drop-off program usually is scheduled for one Friday night a month at each center and includes gym activities, storytime and a snack. May include dance, arts and crafts, or movie depending on the ages in the group. Ratio is 4 to 1.
PARENTS' NIGHT OUT
NEXT SESSION 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Oct. 1
Ages 6 months through 8 years
Cost $10 an hour for one child; $15 an hour covers two siblings; $18 an hour covers three or more siblings
"There's a little bit of everything," says owner Kerry Anastasi. The children do crafts, music, movement, gymnastics, dress-up and pretend play. "We usually show a children's movie later on in the evening, and we end up doing kids' games such as a scavenger hunt or musical chairs," she says. Child-to-adult ratio is 4 to 1. No food; a water cooler available for drinks. "Because of all the kids' allergies, we don't do food," she says.
Club Saturday Night
NEXT SESSION 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., Oct. 23
AGES Grades 5 to 9
COST $20, $10 per sibling
Participate in gym activities and games in the teen lounge.