Pittsburgh fun out of the sun
Though the sun makes certain vampires sparkle beautifully and gives Superman his incredible powers, it can drain regular humans of the energy and ability to do anything -- including finding ways to keep antsy kids entertained. So if you’re an average human parent with no special abilities, searching for ways to keep your children entertained without exposing them to harmful UV rays, here are some enlightening suggestions.
If your kids are climbing the walls inside, why not make it official and find a climbing wall that will really let them reach new heights. The Climbing Wall
in Point Breeze offers structured instruction in their Kids Climb sessions and free-form fun with bouldering!
Kids Climb offers guided climbing and groups are small -- only five or six per leader. Kids Climb sessions happen three times a week, usually in the evenings. Or, if you’re just looking to beat the heat without too much equipment, try bouldering. Bouldering, basically free-climbing over walls from 5 to 15 feet high, is available whenever The Climbing Wall is open for business.
“Bouldering is really popular with families,” says Andrea Bureau, a manager who’s been at The Climbing Wall for 15 years, although she cautions that “kids younger than six are usually too small to reach the steps and grips on the boulders and may also lack the necessary motor skills.” Bureau encourages all families to give both climbing and bouldering a try. “Children who aren’t athletic or into team sports do well in climbing because the goals are individual and doing your personal best,” she explains. “Kids who may not excel in other sports do well in climbing, and it’s a huge confidence builder when they succeed and make it to the top of the wall.”
Indoor climbing is a great option on rainy days. But on the days when you just want to be outdoors and cool in the shade, check out Raccoon Creek State Park
. Their wildflower trails are outdoors but shaded and peaceful and your children won’t be the only wild animals nearby.
“It’s so cool to see the different plants and frogs, bugs, salamanders,” says Kristen Cain of Crafton Heights. She visits the park with her middle and high schoolers but knows that, if she takes her kindergartner, she’s likely to get stuck carrying the child over some of the trickier paths. “We took one of the classes there," says Cain. "For $5 we had a great lesson on native pollinators and made some really cool bee condos that are working as we speak in our garden.”
When you and the kids need air conditioning and a few laughs, a movie makes a nice option. Carmike Cinemas (Southland 9 and Carmike 10) offer $2 movies, a drink and popcorn every Thursday at 10 a.m. in their Summer Kid Series.
Ali Mathis of the North Hills took advantage of the Summer Movie Clubhouse
offering $1 movies on Tuesday mornings at 10 a.m. at Cinemark Theaters in Robinson Township. “I went online and looked for movies that would work for my three year old and six year old,” Mathis says. “Tickets are only one dollar, so it’s low risk if your three-and-a-half-year-old has a meltdown in the middle of Winnie the Pooh and you have to leave. It’s a fun option for a too-hot or a rainy day but arrive early -- the movies are very crowded.”
After the morning movie is done and the kids are tired of sitting still, grab some lunch and head to a family-friendly bowling alley. Pines Plaza Lanes
in the North Hills opens at noon Tuesday through Saturday and offers coupons on its site. Hannah Sahud brings her second-grader and older toddler bowling. “They can both participate and when my older child does her own scoring it’s great math practice!” says Sahud.
The Frick Art and Historical Center
offers another shady outdoor opportunity with some indoor options as well. According to mom (and Visitor’s Services Representative) Ginger Polozoff, the free, self-guided car and art museums will interest even younger children for a good hour.
“It was hard to get my 10-year-old daughter to visit the exhibit on children’s illustrators, but since children can bring pencils and paper into the gallery, she started sketching things she was seeing and she was so engrossed it was difficult to get her to leave,” says Polozoff. “We have a scavenger hunt children can complete and our new cafe menu is more child-friendly.” Families can also grab a copy of the free guide called “Hop, Skip and Jump Through Time,” which offers a variety of activities in the buildings and around the shaded grounds.
After your children have been inspired by the art at the Frick, it’s time to let them give their own creations a try.
Check out the Drop-In Studio at the Society for Contemporary Craft
. It’s open during business hours and admission is free, but the SCC asks guests to consider a $5 donation.
“All ages enjoy the Drop-In Studio,” says Sharrard Bostwick, director of education. “It’s set up for use by four to five people, not for huge groups, and includes an activity related to the current exhibit, 'Humor and Craft.'” According to Bostwick, kindergarteners and up will really get the connection between the activity and the exhibit. Visitors use materials that have been upcycled (creating something new of value from discarded or leftover) to create something humorous.
One group, Bostwick recalls, decorated leftover sections of metal grillwork and titled it “Grills Gone Wild.” Artists from SCC offer suggestions for other crafty puns and anyone who creates an upcycled project - kid or grown-up - can leave their finished product at the SCC or bring it home. Bostwick knows many families appreciate the air conditioning, easy parking and really nice bathrooms.
So, go ahead and emerge from your coconut-scented cloud of spray sunscreen to try these (mostly) indoor ideas with your family.
This story first ran in the Kidsburgh newsletter. Sign up to receive it free quarterly at www.pittsburghiskidsburgh.com
Photographs by John Altdorfer