8 things to do with kids in Pittsburgh this week (and next)

Bundle up for outdoor adventures and be enthralled by nature. Celebrate the season with virtual programming. Or challenge your kids’ ingenuity with hands-on maker projects. They’re all part of this week’s things to do with kids in Pittsburgh.

1. Go slip, sliding away! (in person)

The timing couldn’t be better: Boyce Park opened its ski slopes and snow tubing area this week, with man-made snow adding to the natural white stuff on the ground. Operations are modified through Jan. 3 to comply with safety measures. The lodge and food concessions are closed, the number of skiers and tubers is limited, and masks are required. Prices for Allegheny County residents are $32 for skiing, which includes ski lift and equipment rental, and $17 for tubing. Buy tickets in advance online and get ready to surrender to gravity.

2. Take a free tour of Dinosaur Armor (at home)

Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s world premiere exhibit, Dinosaur Armor, is perfect for the dino-loving kids in your household. While the museum is temporarily closed, your family can take a virtual tour of this fascinating exhibit on Dec. 30, then plan to visit in person later. Dinosaur Armor shows how the drive to survive pushed the evolution of these prehistoric creatures to develop protection from bigger and fiercer predators. The adaptations that developed over 500 million years include 14-inch spikes and clubbed tails. Neat stuff! Register for the free virtual tour and activities here.

3. Discover another week of the re-invented Children’s Theater Festival (at home)

The EQT Children’s Theater Festival continues fun programming in its @ Home edition running through Dec. 31. Kids will love the cool hands-on projects and activities. Keep watching for new weekly content and lots more festival fun. This week’s highlights:

 “The Wizards of Oakwood Drive” brings a live, at-home experience from Dec. 26-28. The wizardry takes place via Zoom, with parents acting as accomplices. A day or two before the performance, grownups will receive a list of supplies and simple instructions to help pull off the magic and treasure hunt. Buy your $30 tickets here.

Storytime Chess and Chess Workshop with Queen’s Gambit give kids a chance to explore the game of kings. Kids as young as 3 can be introduced to chess with silly stories on Dec. 28. Older kids from grade 3 and up who know basic moves will learn chess strategy in the Dec. 29 workshop. Registration is required for both events.

“Up and Away,” from Trusty Sidekick Theater Company, combines music, puppetry and storytelling in its portrayal of the Fogg Family’s journey in a hot air balloon. The full performance is designed for kids on the autism spectrum. Free through Dec. 31.

4. Take a front-row seat at the symphony (at home)

The Pittsburgh Symphony goes all out with its free virtual concert, “Front Row: Tapestry of Light – A Holiday Celebration.” You can access the lyrics from the program book for the Sing-Along portion and let your voices soar to traditional songs like “The First Noel” and “Angels We Have Heard on High.” The concert includes performances by Pittsburgh Youth Ballet and Pittsburgh Youth Chorus. You can access loads of activities for kids, including printables, movement and hands-on maker projects. Click onto the concert whenever you need a mental health pick-me-up through May 11. A sensory-friendly version is available through Jan. 17.

5. Snack on Bite-Sized Buhl (at home)

While awaiting the reopening of Carnegie Science Center, the Buhl Planetarium is offering young stargazers a menu of Bite-Sized Buhl, a collection of short videos that examine the night sky over Pittsburgh. The Science Center’s educators teach kids about meteors, Mars and the appeal of Venus. There’s even a storytime to pique the interest of the youngest junior scientists. New video is added weekly, so there are lots to choose from.

6. Walk off the old year (in person)

Jennings Environmental Education Center invites adventurous families to “New Year, New Views,” a self-guided hike, from Dec. 26 through Jan. 8. Choose your route length from a 12-stop guide and map available on the park brochure rack or electronically by request at 724-794-6011 or jenningssp@pa.gov. Within the beauty of nature, participants are encouraged to reflect on the past and anticipate the future.

7. Test your winter survival skills (at home)

Do your kids have what it takes to survive a winter camping trip? Venture Outdoors challenges them to learn survival skills from the comfort of your home from Dec. 28-30. Key skills include first aid, shelter construction, fire building and navigation. The three days of live instruction include virtual classes, followed by a catch up with parents about how those proficiencies can continue outdoors with the family. The Winter Survival Series is recommended for kids in grades 2-5. Registration is $50, which includes a supplies kit.

8. Have fun with junk mail (at home)

At this time of year, it seems there’s no end to the catalogs and flyers filling our mailboxes. Here are some creative ways to make use of all that printed paper before they hit the recycling bin. These video instructions come from the Children’s Museum’s Museum at Home and Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s Creative Connections.

Junk Mail Flowers: Just a few supplies – scissors, pencil, skewer or chopstick – are all you need to make pretty 3D flowers with curled petals.

Collage Experiment: Cut out pictures, words or letters and play with attractive placement on a sheet of paper. Add doodles and sketches for a personal touch.

Junk Mail Journal: This cool book project includes foldout pages and specials pockets to hide secrets and notes. Glue, scissors and a rubber band will get you started.