7 ways to celebrate Month of the Young Child with your little ones

In April, we invest hope in the future. As snow turns to rain and flowers poke through the frost, the promise of spring unfolds. Since 1971, April has also been a time to celebrate the future through our littlest citizens. Month of the Young Child (MOYC), facilitated by the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children (PAEYC), focuses public attention on the needs of young children with special emphasis on at-risk families in underserved Pittsburgh neighborhoods.

For the past decade, local organizations have joined PAEYC to coordinate events that occupy the sweet spot between learning and fun. This year’s theme is Celebrating Our Youngest Learners and the offerings from local museums, libraries and community groups highlight the importance of the years between birth and age five in establishing the groundwork for success. Here are seven ways to celebrate Month of the Young Child with your little ones this April!

Homewood Block Party with PAEYC and Homewood Children’s Village

PAEYC’s Homewood Early Learning Hub and Homewood Children’s Village kick off Month of the Young Child with their third annual block party. From 12 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 28, the free event will engage children through performances from Pittsburgh Faison children’s choir, Westinghouse High School marching band and Gemini Children’s Theater. Other highlights include the Reading is FUNdamental Storymobile, crafts—even a fire truck to explore! Organizations serving families in Homewood—including Buzzword Pittsburgh—will share resources. An initiative of PNC’s Grow Up Great, Buzzword Pittsburgh helps kids develop conversation skills through real life experiences in dance, music, science, art and nature. Partner organizations include Carnegie Science Center and Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Tot Discovery at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, Photo courtesy of The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh
Tot Discovery at The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Photo courtesy of The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

Tot Activities at The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

“We wanted to showcase Month of the Young Child and connect parents with other programs and events across Pittsburgh,” says Samantha Ellwood, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh’s associate director of educational programs. At 11 a.m. on Tuesday, April 7 and Wednesday, April 8, Tot Time shines a spotlight on toddlers, who will explore found materials and textures in the Gadget Box, make applesauce from scratch and dance among shimmering bubbles. At 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 11, the fun continues with a Tot Discovery class where kids will make rhythm shakers and play with beach balls, tunnels and parachutes. And from 11 a.m. to noon on Monday, April 13, MAKESHOP® will honor Week of the Young Child with its “Maker Story Time” featuring stories about sound. The session will culminate with kids building musical instruments.

Tot Time and Tot Discovery are part of UPMC’s We Can! series encouraging physically-active play. Space is limited. Admission is $6 (members) or $8 (non-members) and does not include museum access.

Bedtime STOry ROX! with Focus on Renewal, Photo courtesy of Focus on Renewal
Bedtime STOry ROX! with Focus on Renewal, Photo courtesy of Focus on Renewal

Bedtime STOry ROX! with Focus on Renewal 

Kids and parents are invited to don their best jammies and bunny slippers as they gather ’round celebrity storytellers—including Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald—and enjoy a “bedtime” snack of milk and cookies at the third annual Bedtime STOry ROX! From 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 12, Focus on Renewal will host this free, family-focused festival at Father Ryan Arts Center in McKees Rocks.

“Stories help us learn how we can communicate and how we feel,” says Focus on Renewal’s Executive Director, Greg Quinlan. In addition to helping children build social and emotional skills through storytelling, the event maximizes its arts center setting to expose children to art and dance. “Whenever we’re playing, we use that as an opportunity to learn as well,” Quinlan adds.

One World, Many Stories at Jeremiah’s Place

Just 10 minutes after it opened in April 2014, Jeremiah’s Place saw its first client—a child whose mother worked three part-time jobs. His mom had an interview for a full-time position but her childcare fell through. She stumbled across Jeremiah’s Place—Pittsburgh’s only crisis nursery—on Facebook. Since then, the agency has hit the ground running, serving 160 kids and 90 families in its first year. “There are certain times that life provides layers of challenges and you need time to get it together,” says Jeremiah’s Place’s Executive Director, LouAnn Ross. It’s for these times that crisis nurseries—only 60 nationwide—exist.

From 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, April 17, Jeremiah’s Place will celebrate its first whirlwind year with One World, Many Stories. The free event also recognizes Child Abuse Prevention Month, since the organization strives to stabilize families, preventing the stressful situations that may lead to abuse. Families are invited to the Kingsley Association to enjoy food and meet local children’s authors Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan (Bumpy Grumpy Road) and Katherine Ayres (Matthew’s Truck.) Guests will receive their own books to take home. (And in case you were wondering about the first mom who walked through the nursery doors: she got the job!)

AIU Imagination Station 1
Imagination Station with Allegheny Intermediate Unit, Photo courtesy of AIU

Family Fun Night to Celebrate Young Learners with Allegheny Intermediate Unit

From 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, April 21, the Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU) at the Waterfront in Homestead will host its fourth annual Family Fun Night to Celebrate Young Learners. A free resource fair and character meet-and-greet, the event will include a visit from PBS, whose popular Peg + Cat characters will be on hand for free photo ops. Parents will learn about literacy, speech and language therapy, summer camps and more. A therapy dog from Western Pennsylvania Humane Society will be on-site teaching kids important dog safety skills through role-playing and song. Other partners include Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, and AIU’s Head Start and Pre-K Counts. “Families have found it really beneficial [and AIU] staff gets ideas from each other through collaboration,” says Kathleen Sullivan, DART Early Intervention Service Coordinator. Kids will enjoy a sand table, manipulative materials and the Imagination Station—large foam blocks in an assortment of shapes and sizes. “It’s like a construction zone!”says Sullivan.

PA One Book Celebration with the Carnegie Library of Hazelwood

For 10 consecutive years, One Book, Every Young Child has connected families, educators and children across Pennsylvania through reading. From 10 to 11 a.m. on Thursday, April 23, 2015, the PA One Book Celebration will unite young readers and their families at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Hazelwood branch in honor of this year’s selection, Number One Sam. Written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli, Number One Sam tells the story of a racecar-driving dog who learns that winning isn’t everything. After Pizzoli’s reading, children will participate in activity stations featuring crafts, music and apps based on the story. Philadelphia native Pizzoli shares, “When I look and hold and smell and read my childhood copies of [my favorite] books, I am instantly transported back into the curious young boy I was when I first read them. The idea that any one of my books could have that kind of effect on someone is incredibly humbling.”

Ultimate Play Day! with Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative, Photo courtesy of Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative

Ultimate Play Day! with Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative

What better way to end Month of the Young child than with a festival embracing play in all its forms? Playful Pittsburgh will host Ultimate Play Day! at Burgwin Park in Hazelwood from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 26. Playful Pittsburgh originated when PAEYC, Carnegie Museum of Art and Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy united to advocate for play. With funding from The Heinz Endowments and Hillman Foundation, the collaborative now encompasses 10 partner organizations. The free event will include games designed by kids with recycled materials, drumming, hula-hooping and nature exploration.

With a full docket of events highlighting early literacy, play and creativity, MOYC offers local families plenty of opportunities to have fun with their little ones in the coming weeks. For advocacy tips and up-to-the-minute event updates, check out PAEYC’s MOYC resources.

Featured photo:: Child at Jeremiah’s Place, Photo courtesy of Jeremiah’s Place