One of the common misconceptions about Mt. Lebanon Recreation Department  is that their busy season ends with summer.
“That, and people seem to think we mostly play kickball all day,” Recreation Director David Donnellan says with a smile.
Although they neither confirmed nor denied that they don’t play at least a little kickball once in a while, there really is no end to the recreation department’s busy season. When the pool closes, the tennis bubbles go up, kids play basketball, skate, ski, snowboard, dance and draw. Here’s an overview of some things you or a family member might want to take advantage of during the colder months.
You may find some similar activities elsewhere, but the Rec Department’s offerings are designed to be affordable for all; the teachers are carefully vetted and it’s a great way not only to learn new skills but also for kids (and often parents) to meet new friends.
A fun program for kids is Playdate on Ice. The activity, for children in preschool through kindergarten, offers two hours of ice time, a group skating lesson and refreshments for a child and an adult, for $4.25. “I always enjoyed Playdate on Ice when my children were that age,” says Donnellan. “Everyone had a good time.”
As the original Playdate audience has grown older and moved from Playdate to a variety of different activities, the recreation department has to go back into skater recruitment mode. “It’s like we’ve lost a generation of kids,” says Rink Manager Bob Hlebinsky.
“We’re reaching out to the preschools with flyers, to rebuild our audience.”
This year, Playdate on Ice is moving from Thursdays to Tuesdays, so as to not conflict with its dance programs. Now kids can skate and dance, too.
Playdates often have seasonal themes and sometimes have skating mascots, such as Frosty the Snowman or Spongebob Squarepants, although Donnellan admits the realistic mascots can sometimes scare the smaller children. One time when Hlebinsky was pressed into Spongebob duty, a child got close enough to look inside the costume’s eyeholes and exclaimed, “Hey! There’s someone in there!”
The rec department’s other skating programs include a basic learn-to-skate program, hockey skills classes and hockey leagues for all ages.
This month, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders are waiting for snow and the middle school ski program, which has been in place for more than 40 years. There are five Saturday bus trips to the Laurel Highlands planned for this winter, beginning January 9. The buses leave for Hidden Valley at 1:30 in the afternoon and return at about 11:30 p.m.. Fees are structured to allow kids to choose from a range of activities, including skiing and snowboarding lessons, equipment rental and lift tickets.
As is the case with everything weather-dependent, the ski trips are prone to last-minute cancellation, either because of bitter, too-cold-for-outside temps, or a sudden springlike spike to 55 degrees and rain. Despite the chanciness, the ski trips have remained popular over the years.
“It’s like a coming-of-age thing,” Hlebinsky says. “The kids can get away with their friends, have a little independence. And it’s kind of a break for the parents, also.”
For those who prefer indoor activities (perfectly reasonable in January), the rec department offers Art Factory classes for ages 4 through 13, including a new offering, Canvas Creation Kid Style, an hour and fifteen-minute workshop for children ages 4 to 6 and 7 to 13. Participants get instruction, Bob Ross-style, and come away from the class with a finished painting. Canvas Creation classes are slated for Monday holidays throughout the winter.
Some programs already are in progress, but you may want to take note of for next year:
Basketball About 900 girls and boys in grades 2 through 8 currently are playing basketball in Rec Department competition. The registration deadline for this activity was in October; play began last month and goes through February or March. Interested first-graders can sign up for a four-week introductory program from February 17 to March 15. Check www.mtlebanon.org  for details.
Dance: Romp N’ Roll, a new program this year for 1- and 2-year olds, introduces toddlers to a variety of movement concepts, including tumbling, stretching, hand-eye and eye-foot coordination and balancing. Mommy & Me, a September through May class for 2- and 3-year-olds accompanied by an adult, continues with coordination and tumbling, and introduces balance beams. The class ends with a dance recital in May. Creative Movement, for 3- to 4-year-olds, is broken into three consecutive sessions running from September through May. In order to take the third session, students must have completed one of the two previous sessions.
A dance program—for children age 4 through teens—is similarly structured, in that students must take one of two fall and winter sessions to be accepted into the spring session, which includes a recital.
And adults can take advantage of many winter Recreation offerings, too:
There is a whole range of fitness classes for adults—Pilates, dance, yoga and meditation—beginning in January. Also, there are adult and junior tennis clinics for beginners, intermediate and advanced players. And speaking of tennis, the bubbles (provided thanks to Indoor Tennis for Mt. Lebanon) over six of the tennis courts allow for year-round play, and the platform tennis courts are also heated.
The platform tennis courts are available for anyone, but Indoor Tennis is for members only. To learn more, visit www.mtlebotennis.com .