Don’t miss some fun events for the family this weekend! Explore music with your younger children. Experiment with free, hands-on activities at STEM Fest. And travel back in time to visit life in historic times with kids of all ages.
Kids are doing more activities than ever these days. Learn how all those extracurricular activities affect family life and see how to fuel your children so they have the energy to do their best. Dietician Leslie Bonci shows us easy snacks to pack for our kids’ extracurricular activities.
From September through November, theaters raise the curtain on new seasons of shows, museums put out the welcome mat for family-friendly exhibits – and Halloween and Thanksgiving are just around the corner.
Here’s a roundup of some of the fun ways you can turn the season into an awesome autumn.
Sept. 21-Oct. 14: RADical Days, various locations. Free admission offered to museums, performances, and sports attractions funded by RAD.
Sept. 21-Oct. 26: Friday Night Hayrides, Soergel Orchards. Take a hayride to the pumpkin patch to pick a pumpkin.
Sept. 22-Oct. 28: Fall Festival, Triple B Farms. Take a hayride to the pumpkin patch, wander the corn maze, meet the farm animals, and explore the storybook pumpkin land during festival weekends.
Sept. 22-Jan. 6: “Native Voices,” Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. Explore the lives of five Native American tribes through hands-on exploration, including artifacts, photos, music and activities to learn how these resilient cultures carefully balance traditional practice with life in the modern world.
Sept. 22: Super Science Saturday: Fallfest, Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Learn more about the critters that live in crunchy leaf piles, make a bird feeder for some winged friends and find out how local animals prepare for the winter months ahead.
Sept. 22-Oct. 7: “The Pirate Queen,” Gemini Children’s Theater. Queen Anya trades in her crown and fine dresses and becomes pirate Annie to save her kingdom’s treasure.
Sept. 25-30: Cirque Eloize Hotel, Benedum Center. For its 25th anniversary, Cirque Éloize presents a touching, poetic, one-of-a-kind creation.
Sept. 26-Oct. 26: Evening Hayrides, Trax Farms. Enjoy a scenic tractor-pulled hayride to the top of the hill and a challenging 4-acre corn maze and pumpkin patch for pick-your-own-pumpkins.
Sept. 29: Blastoff Opening Day, Heinz History Center. Celebrate the grand opening of Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission with a countdown to the launch of a motor-powered rocket, air rocket launches for kids, moon bounces, a mobile planetarium, and meet-and-greets with experts from the Smithsonian.
Sept. 29-Oct. 27: Phantom Fright Nights, Kennywood Park. Haunts rides and attractions with a Halloween theme on weekends only, not recommended for kids under 13.
Sept. 29: Tropical Forest Cuba Festival, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. A day of celebration and exotic fun, featuring family-friendly activities, entertainment and food inspired by one of the world’s most botanically and culturally rich forest regions.
Sept. 29-30, Oct. 6-7, 13-14, 20-21, 27-28: “Idlewild’s Hallowboo!” Idlewild Park. Family-oriented Halloween fun with trick or treating through Story Book Forest, costumed characters and specially themed rides and attractions.
Oct. 6-28: “Happy Hauntings,” Kennywood Park, West Mifflin. Hayrides, sock hops, Kiddieland and a trick-or-treat trail are highlights of this family-friendly celebration on Saturdays and Sundays.
Oct. 7: Italian Heritage Day, Heinz History Center, Strip District. A full day of interactive activities focusing on Italian American history and culture, designed for K-12 students in honor of Italian Heritage Month.
Oct. 7 and Nov. 4: Let’s Move Pittsburgh Family Fitness Events, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Schenley Park, Oakland. Free, family-style fitness classes presented by Let’s Move Pittsburgh and the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh. Oct. 7 is a family barre class, a ballet-inspired workout; Nov. 4 class is family Zumba.
Oct. 10: Hop into History: Here, There and Everywhere: The Pittsburgh Glass Story, Heinz History Center, Strip District. Explore the history of Pittsburgh glass in this hands-on session with music, dance and games for ages 2-5 and their caregivers.
Oct. 12: Launch Party, Heinz History Center, Strip District. Kids and adults can help celebrate 1969’s history-making moon shot, featuring after-hours access to the Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission exhibit, a mobile planetarium, and star-gazing from the History Center’s deck.
Oct. 13-Nov. 4: Fall Flower Show: 125 Years of Wonder, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Schenley Park, Oakland. Phipps’ celebrated chrysanthemums will bloom by the thousands to accentuate displays inspired by different periods of Phipps history, from the 1890s to the 1960s and beyond.
Oct. 13- May 5: “Rube Goldberg: The World of Hilarious Invention!” Pittsburgh Children’s Museum, North Shore. New exhibit showcases Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist and inventor Rube Goldberg’s iconic contraptions and celebrates his imaginative techniques, humorous storytelling and inventive skills.
Oct. 13 and 20: Second Saturday Studios at the Frick: Oct. 13, Weaving; Oct. 20, Origami. Families are welcome. The Frick Art Museum, Point Breeze.
Oct. 13-March 10: Garden Railroad: Memories in Motion, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Schenley Park, Oakland. Phipps’ Garden Railroad takes guests on a time-traveling journey, showing the transformation of the conservatory from its beginnings to a modern-day leader in horticultural display and sustainability in garden-scale models.
Oct. 16-21: “Anastasia,” Benedum Center. The story of a brave young woman setting out to discover the mystery of her past moves from the end of the Russian Empire to the romance of Paris in the 1920s.
Oct. 20: “Artrageous,” Shady Side Academy Senior School, Fox Chapel. Interactive art performance troupe kicks off Hillman Performing Arts Series.
Oct. 20: Super Science Saturday: Boo-seum Trick-or-Treat, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Oakland. Meet the spookiest members of the museum, get up close to live animals and participate in Halloween-themed hands-on activities. Put on your costume and trick-or-treat through the museum.
Oct. 20, 21, 27 and 28: ZooBoo, Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, Highland Park. Enjoy a fun-filled Halloween event at the zoo. Follow the pathway, collecting candy and making creepy crafts. Participate in a costume parade and contest and stop by the Docent Haunted House and Gymkhana’s Haunted Hideaway.
Oct. 20 and 27: Owl-o-Ween, National Aviary, North Shore. Family-friendly harvest festival includes close encounters and photo opps with raptors, owls and other creatures of the night. Wear your costume and come prepared for candy, granola bars and crafts.
Oct. 20: “A Very Kusama Halloween,” Mattress Factory, North Side. Carve and paint your own jack-o-lanterns inspired by Mattress Factory artist Yayoi Kusama.
Oct. 24: Hop into History: Celebrate Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Heinz History Center, Strip District. Session designed for 2- to 5-year-olds and their caregivers explores the world of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” including a visit to the stage set of the TV show.
Oct. 25-28: “Marvel Universe Live,” PPG Paints Arena, Uptown. Superheroes unite in a race against time in an action-packed stage show to defend the universe from evil. Features stunts, motorcycle tricks and aerial maneuvers.
Oct. 25-28: “Annie,” Byham Theater. A special presentation by the students of the Richard E. Rauh Conservatory, backed by the talented CAPA Orchestra, and fully produced by the professional artists of Pittsburgh Musical Theater.
Oct. 26, Halloween Happenings, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Schenley Park, Oakland. Bring costumed kids for a boo-tanical bash at Phipps, with fun family activities and healthy snacks.
Oct. 26: Spooky Science Sleepover, Carnegie Science Center, North Shore. Have a spooktacular good time with the family by exploring four floors of hands-on exhibits and enjoy Halloween-themed shows and activities.
Oct. 28: “Boo to You, Too,” Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, North Side. A sensory-friendly Halloween party designed especially for children and adults who have sensory sensitivities, which may be related to Autism or other developmental differences.
Nov. 2-10: “Androcles and the Lion,” Trust Arts Education Center, Downtown. Experience this tale of danger, deception and kindness in this unexpected and immersive story for children ages 7 and up and their families, EQT Bridge Theater Series.
Nov. 9-10: “Aga-Boom,” Byham Theater, Downtown. Rooted in theatrical clowning, this show for children ages 3 and up and adults brings together the best traditions of circus arts, physical comedy and European avant-garde, featuring shadow puppetry and play, movement, humor, storytelling and acting.
Nov. 10: Jammie Jams! Space Night, Carnegie Science Center, North Shore. Kids can wear their PGs and have a blast exploring space at this evening designed for early learners. The evening wraps up before bedtime.
Nov. 10: “Heroes in our Neighborhood,” Fiddlesticks Family Concert, Heinz Hall, Downtown. Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra celebrates individuals that have made Pittsburgh a great neighborhood, featuring Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” “It’s You I Like” by Fred Rogers and other favorites.
Nov. 10: Second Saturday Studios at the Frick: Paper Explosion, The Frick Art Museum, Point Breeze. Use a plethora of paper on a paper exploration.
Nov. 16: Light Up Night Sleepover, Carnegie Science Center, North Shore. Start your holiday season with a band of a science-y twist on this special night in Pittsburgh that’s festive, fiery and full of fun.
Nov. 16: Downtown Pittsburgh Light-Up Night 2018. Free annual outdoor event kicks off the holiday season with musical entertainment, activities, food, and fireworks.
Nov. 16: Light-Up Night Sleepover, Carnegie Science Center, North Shore. Kids can start their holiday season with a bang with a science-y twist on this special night in Pittsburgh.
Nov. 16: Poinsettias and Pointe Shoes, Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, Schenley Park, Oakland. This seasonal treat from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre features live vignettes from “The Nutcracker,” performed by dancers from PBT School. After the performance, visit with the dancers and take a tour of Phipps.
Nov. 17: Ventriloquist and comedienne Lynn Trefzger, Shady Side Academy Senior School, Fox Chapel. Vocal illusionist shares her trunk full of comical characters. Part of Hillman Performing Arts Series.
Nov. 18: Nickelodeon Double-Dare Live! Benedum Center. Mark Summers hosts the messiest game show on the road.
Nov. 18: Afternoon of Enchantment, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre studios, Downtown. Enjoy an afternoon filled with “Nutcracker”-inspired dance classes, performances, crafts and photo opportunities for all ages, with appearances by the Nutcracker and Sugar Plum Fairy.
Nov. 20: Peppa Pig Live! Byham Theater. This action-packed live show features favorite characters as life-size puppets and costume characters in “Peppa Pig’s Surprise.”
Nov. 21: History Explorers: Pittsburgh and the Movies, Heinz History Center, Strip District. Explore Pittsburgh’s Hollywood stories, look at costumes and become a director or an actor and make your own mini movie! Children ages 5-8 can explore Pittsburgh stories through games, cooking and other hands-on activities.
Nov. 23-Dec. 16: Santa Trolley, Pennsylvania Trolley Museum. Celebrate the season on the trolley with Santa, sing along with Christmas caroling, make a craft in the Events Room and interact with the Lionel Trains in the Visitor Center.
Nov. 23-Jan. 6: “Winter Flower Show: Holiday Magic: Let It Glow!” Phipps Conservatory. See dazzling displays in every room, plus new light features in Tropical Forest Cuba and Winter Light Garden.
Nov. 24-Dec. 16: “Beauty and the Beast Holiday,” Gemini Children’s Theater, McKees Rocks. Original holiday show about Belle’s first Christmas at the Beast’s castle and the spirit of giving.
Martin Lorenzo couldn’t understand it.
The food service director for Gateway School District knew more kids were eligible for the free breakfast program, but they weren’t taking advantage of hot meals provided in the high school cafeteria.
Meet kids on their own turf by placing grab-and-go carts stocked with healthy breakfast items at convenient spots throughout the school.
“High school kids, being teenagers, Generation Z, they’re all about convenience, grab-and-go on the move,” Lorenzo says. “They want instant gratification. It’s just the way they’ve been wired with the technology revolution and smartphones. They want everything at their fingertips.”
The Grab and Go breakfasts carts are a pilot program of Allies for Children, a non-profit organization that advocates for the well-being of children in Allegheny County. Funded by a grant from the Henry Hillman Foundation, and implemented through the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, the food carts have been successful in five school districts.
- Gateway saw an increase from 159 to 276 participants in 2017-18 from the previous school year.
- At Sto-Rox Junior/Senior High School last year, 203 students used the grab-and-go carts, an increase of 54.
- West Mifflin High School went from 153 to 193 students.
- Participation at South Allegheny Middle/Senior High School increased from 186 to 235 students.
- North Hills Middle School served 55 students in 2017-18 after just three students took advantage of the program the previous year.
“This is a winner in so many different ways,” says Patrick Dowd, executive director of Allies for Children. “When you think about kids and think about their needs, this is an obvious one.”
In 2016, Gov. Tom Wolf set a goal to ensure that 60 percent of Pennsylvania students eligible for free or reduced-cost lunch were also served breakfast. Earlier this year, the governor’s School Breakfast Initiative provided $900,000 in mini-grants to school districts in the commonwealth.
The Grab-and-Go program serves a critical need in Western Pennsylvania. According to Just Harvest, 43,000 children in Allegheny Country – about 18 percent – face food insecurity.
“Think about what we’re asking kids to do during the day,” Dowd says. “We want them to pay attention, we want them to read, we want them to do math work, all the things you’re supposed to do during a school day. … We, as adults, have to figure out how to make this breakfast program work, and I think it’s happening now.”
At Sto-Rox, the breakfast carts are placed at strategic locations throughout the school. Food service director Nancy Hatton says that nutritional options are emphasized, with whole-grain blueberry and chocolate muffins the most popular items. Fruit, yogurt with granola, and cereal are also available, and the menu changes frequently.
Principal Tim Beck attributes increased participation in the program to convenience. “They grab it, sit with their buddies,” he says. “That’s what drives high school kids.”
Dowd thinks the increased participation may be partially due to mitigating an age-old problem: the embarrassment some kids feel because they rely on free meals.
“Some of the challenges that students face with things like breakfast or even lunch is the stigma associated with someone who qualifies for a free or reduced lunch,” Dowd says. “Trying to position (the carts) physically in places where kids are going to be, but also in a way that doesn’t have that stigma, is absolutely critical in making this work.”
Lorenzo agrees that sometimes students avoid free or reduced meal programs. “In their minds, school breakfasts are only for poor kids,” he says. The grab-and-go carts have mitigated that stigma at Gateway.
But at Sto-Rox, so many students are eligible for the program, there’s no stigma attached to accepting free breakfasts and lunches, says school superintendent Frank Dalmas. They may not want to stand in line in the school cafeteria, but they have no problem getting food from the carts.
To increase participation, Sto-Rox offers promotions, too.
“We didn’t just put the carts out there and expect kids to take food from them,” Dalmas says. “We did a lot of incentives over the last two years with prizes and awards. There are posters and advertisements, gift cards, to promote and push this. It takes the push and motivation from the staff to get this out to the kids, and once it gets to be a routine, it builds a momentum.”
Kids have been making macaroni crafts for generations, stringing them into necklaces and gluing them onto paper plates. With this week’s Maker Monday project, part of the fun is coloring the macaroni as the first step in the project.
Colored Macaroni adds to the fun. You can use different colors for different shapes or multiple colors for the same shape. It’s a cool way for kids to experiment with color before getting out the glue and string. And chances are you have everything you need in the pantry.
Dry pasta in a variety of shapes
Sandwich bags with zipper closure
Waxed paper or parchment paper
Organize the sandwich bags with about a cup of pasta in each one. Add 1 teaspoon of vinegar to each bag.
Add about 12 drops of food coloring. This might take a bit of experimentation with more or less food coloring to get the shade you desire.
This part if fun. Zip the bag shut and shake, shake, shake, spreading the liquid all over the pasta.
Spread the macaroni over a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper or parchment paper. Allow the pasta to dry for a few hours or overnight.
Once fully dry, you’re ready to get creative with your macaroni. Pull out the string and glue and start making!