10 things to do with kids this week in Pittsburgh, from monster trucks to free books

Photo courtesy of Monster Truckz Extreme Tour.

This week’s lineup of things to do with kids offers thrills that soar high into the air and adventures that travel deep into underground caverns. There are stimulating adventures, hands-on projects and challenges for the whole family. Scroll on for the week’s highlights of family-focused fun.

1. Feel the thunder!

The Monster Truckz Extreme Tour makes a pit stop in Pittsburgh’s Pennsylvania Motor Speedway from June 25-27. This wild and crazy show sets massive trucks jumping high in the air and crushing cars on the ground. The Nitro Motocross Team raises adrenaline even higher. Get there two hours early and head to the free Pit Party, where kids can ride in a monster truck and visit with drivers for autographs and photos. Kids ages 3-13 receive a free ticket with the purchase of an adult general admission ticket. Don’t forget the earplugs!

Photo by Kamaji Ogino.

2. Get hip to hydrangeas

Every Saturday, Pittsburgh Botanic Garden gives kids a reason to love the outdoors. The Young Artists in the Garden series explores garden-themed pursuits like craft projects, games and storytelling. On June 26, the focus is on hydrangeas and the book “Fern and Otto: A Story About Two Best Friends,” by Stephanie Graegin. The fun takes place in the Garden of the Five Senses from 10 a.m.-noon. Activities are included with general admission. Reserve your timed ticket here.

Photo courtesy of Jumping Jack Theater.

3. Blast off to sensory-sensitive science

The Carnegie Science Center welcomes kids in grades K-5 with sensory sensitivities special programming from 9 a.m.-noon on June 27 and Aug. 15, when sound effects and exhibit lights will be adjusted to a calmer level. Among the activities are performances of “Starshine!,” an immersive experience developed by Jumping Jack Theater. Journey through the galaxy as you admire constellations, dance with asteroids and listen to the soothing sounds of space. Seating is limited. Reserve your space by calling 412-237-3400 or via email at CustomerService@CarnegieScienceCenter.org.

Photo courtesy of DreamWorks.

4. Head to a movie under the stars

Allegheny County Movies in the Parks continues its family-focused series with “The Croods: A New Age” (PG). The film screens at dusk on June 30 at Hartwood Acres and July 2 at South Park. In the sequel to “The Croods,” Grug leads his prehistoric family from their dangerous home to a beautiful land of plenty. But they find another, more-evolved family, the Bettermans, have already settled in. There are lessons to be learned amid the hilarity. And popcorn to be eaten. Arrive early and take part in the kids’ activities that begin at 7:30 p.m.

Image courtesy of South Park Theatre.

5. Pull up a chair for outdoor theater

The next production in South Park Theatre’s lineup of kid-focused summer programming is “Pinocchio: No Strings Attached,” running June 28-July 7. The silly musical about a wooden marionette who dreams of becoming a real boy will have kiddos bouncing with rhythm and giggles. Bring chairs or a blanket for lawn seating in front of the outdoor stage. Performances run at 10 a.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays and at 6:30 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays. The $5 admission, free for ages 3 and younger, is sold at the door. Seating is limited to 150 patrons to allow social distancing. Plan ahead and order Monday night boxed dinners for an extra indulgence. Dinner orders require 24-hour notice at 412-831-8552.

Image courtesy of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

6. Get some books – for free!

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh set a goal for this summer’s reading challenge: Read five books by Aug. 31. Kids can sign up individually or as a family. Kids can track the books they’ve read online or on the Beanstack Tracker App. You can do it the old-fashioned way, too, by picking up a paper logging form. To help connect kids with the joy of reading, the library is giving away a free book (while supplies last) to kids from birth to age 18 every time they visit a Carnegie Library location. Through partnerships with community organizations, 10,000 books will be given away to help build home libraries.

Photo courtesy of Laurel Caverns.

7. Take an underground expedition

The largest and deepest cave of any kind in Pennsylvania, and possibly the largest sandstone cave in the world, is Laurel Caverns, located 50 miles south of Pittsburgh. To comply with social distancing, only self-guided tours are offered through the lighted area of passages and stairs. The 3,000-foot adventure travels along the slope of the mountain to about 150 feet below the surface. Up top, be sure to admire the landscape from Chestnut Ridge at the visitors center, where you can spot Pittsburgh’s skyline within the five-county view. Admission is $10 for kids ages 5-17 and $15 for their grownups. It’s free for kids 4 and younger.

Photo by Ba Phi.

8. Help investigate toddler tantrums

A new research study underway at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine is looking at a phenomenon familiar to every mom and dad: toddler tantrums. The Managing Meltdowns study, funded by the National Institution of Health, is looking to develop a measure of emotion management in kids ages 2-5. Participants will be compensated for their time, about 30-45 minutes answering questions online, with a $50 Amazon gift card. Learn more about the Managing Meltdowns survey and eligibility via email at emotionsresearch@upmc.edu.

Image courtesy of Allegheny County Youth Poet Laureate.

9. Apply to be the newest Youth Poet Laureate

The City of Asylum extended the application deadline for the next Youth Poet Laureate of Allegheny County to Sunday, June 27. Creative writers from ages 13-19 who are residents of Allegheny County are eligible. The winner receives $500, local performance opportunities, publication in the National Youth Poet Laureate Network anthology, plus entry into the Northeast Regional Youth Post Laureate Competition. Applications will be judged by experts in the fields of art, social justice and civic engagement. Get more details, view past winners and download the application form here.

Photo by Joshua Franzos, courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

10. Catch Dinosaur Armor before it’s too late!

If you haven’t had a chance to catch the world premiere of Dinosaur Armor at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, now’s your chance: The exhibit has been extended another month to close on July 31. Dinosaur-loving kids will learn how the drive to survive triggered millions of years of evolution, creating dinosaurs with spiked tails and body armor, plus a 2-ton creature that resembles an armadillo. There’s no offense like a good defense, we’re told. Dinosaur Armor proves the point.