9 things to do with kids this week in Pittsburgh, from escape rooms to baby lion cubs

We love playtime that involves a mix of physical activity and mental challenges. A combination of indoor and outdoor entertainment keeps the interest level high. Upping the cute factor adds another level of appeal. You’ll find a complete balanced diet of fun with this week’s things to do with kids in Pittsburgh.

1. Celebrate adorable cubs (at home and in person)

Three African lion cubs joined the collection of fur babies at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. Celebrate these darling cubs by helping to name the one female and two males. Each name submission costs $5, which benefits the Emergency Operating Fund to help feed the zoo’s 7,000 animals. Deadline is Sept. 8.

The zoo hasn’t forgotten about those five cute cheetah cubs, either. Visit through Sept. 30 to participate in the Spot the Dots Scavenger Hunt. As kids make their way through the zoo, they are challenged to solve six riddles. Kids who submit the winning word receive a prize package.

2. Have fun after school (at home)

Kids can join Assemble’s weekly Virtual Afterschool programming and explore the excitement of STEAM. Registration is free and includes a corresponding material kit that can be picked up each month. Kids will play with hands-on activities and stretch their creativity through dreaming up inventions and other big ideas. Local technologists, artists and makers will join Assemble teachers in developing talent and passion in participants.

3. Get buzzed (in person)

The Pollinator Trail opened at Pittsburgh Botanic Garden as a series of interactive stations throughout the property. Each station teaches kids about the importance of pollinators with a variety of themes. One shows how a bee’s vision differs from human sight. At the Apiary, kids see what happens inside a hive and discover the tools needed to care for bees. The trail perfectly fulfills the Botanic Garden’s mission of nature-based education.

4. Make a great escape! (in person)

Bricolage Production Company reopens The Imaginarium after a brief pandemic pause. This interactive escape room experience brings three games that challenge players to puzzle out the mystery. “The Search for Leviathan” involves a nautical adventure of sunken treasure and deep-sea creatures. “Chamber of Illusions” is a funhouse of magic and “Inventor’s Paradise” touches on time travel. Tickets are sold in packs of 10 players so your party is private. The 80-minute sessions are recommended for kids ages 8 through adults. It’s the mind-blowing escape your family’s been waiting for.

5. Lace up your running shoes (at home)

Dollar Bank Junior Great Race opens its virtual format run as it celebrates 25 years. Kids 12 and younger can participate in the One-Mile Family Fun Run, the 50-yard Tot Trot or the 10-foot Diaper Dash anytime through Sept. 30 to earn their medal, shirt and goody bag. Participants can even get Junior Great Race souvenir photos via the virtual photo booth. Race registration is $10. Teens and grownups can sign up for the Richard S. Caliguiri City of Pittsburgh Great Race.

6. Backpack into the outdoors (in person)

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy found another way to help kids get closer to nature. Through the weekend backpack lending program, part of Parks on the Go, families can borrow one of four themed backpacks stuffed with materials and tools to experience parks in different ways. The Forest Backpack, for example, includes a Bird Identiflyer to learn the names of birds and their calls. Kids discover life in ponds and creeks through the Stream Backpack, with a sieve and aquaviewer. The program fee is $10.

7. Let creativity fly (at home)

Summer travel through Pittsburgh International Airport has been down this year, but FlyPittsburgh.com encourages kids to reach for the sky with new opportunities for fun. Kids ages 6-18 can submit artwork to the Student Art Exhibit contest. The theme, “Nobody Owns the Sky,” is the title of a children’s book about Bessie Coleman, who became the first African-American licensed aviator in 1921. Find details here.

Families can also download and print the PIT Safe Travels @Home activity book that features local artists. The book is packed with aviation-themed puzzles, games and other diversions. Find the book here.

8. Join the march on history – and prehistory (in person)

With 274 acres of outdoor space and safe, family-friendly activities, Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village has defied the current downward trend of museum attendance by operating at 108 percent. The site of the oldest human habitation in North America includes an archeological dig to a world 16,000 years old. Kids can explore a 16th-century Monongahela Indian village, an 18th-century trading post and a 19th-century village. The price is right: Kids ages 17 and younger are free through the end of September.

9. Make your own trading cards (at home)

When we think of trading cards, our immediate thought goes to baseball cards and those dusty shoeboxes full of possible cardboard treasures. The Carnegie Museum of Art’s We Collect/You Collect activity explains how Topps Trading Cards got its start in 1949 with the release of a collection of vehicle cards. They went on to publish series such as cowboys, pop culture and military vehicles before becoming more well known for baseball cards. This activity encourages kids to look through the museum’s card collection, then imagine and create a trading card series of their own.