Celebrating Month of the Young Child in Pittsburgh & Beyond
“This April Pittsburgh will celebrate our most valuable resource…children. There are many ways to celebrate. I trust you’ll find your own.” –Fred Rogers
In March of 1978, Fred Rogers spoke these words in a public service announcement for KDKA, a Pittsburgh-based television station, to promote Month of the Young Child. Fast forward 38 years and Pittsburgh has transformed itself into KidsBurgh, one of the nation’s best cities for raising a child. What makes the Steel City so great for kids and families, you may ask? In honor of this year’s Month of the Young Child, here’s a Fred-inspired round-up.
“Do you know that when you wonder, you’re learning?”
From the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh to the Carnegie Museums, to the Children’s Innovation Project to the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh has a host of cultural and educational institutions that encourage wonder, communication, and hands-on learning. Whether they’re tinkering with technology or exploring dinosaurs, today’s curious kids are tomorrow’s problem-solvers. Habits of mind—such as persistence, curiosity, and noticing details—are fostered here.
“Play is really the work of childhood.”
Outdoors or indoors, groups like the Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative advocate for the transformative power of play for both children and families. In our city, kids can still run through neighborhood sprinklers. Well, sort of: The water steps at North Shore Riverfront Park are a great way to cool off on a hot summer day. Green spaces like the Discovery Garden at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens delight children’s senses and are home to whimsical inhabitants like butterflies, dragonflies, and caterpillars. Children can even get their hands dirty with Plant-a-Pot Fridays. For families with little adventurers who wish to get even more fresh air, the Allegheny County Parks system offers more than 12,000 acres of natural beauty ripe for exploration.
“One of the most important things a child can learn to do is to make something out of whatever he or she happens to have at the moment.”
In the Mister Rogers’ Plan & Play Book, Fred carefully selected items from around the house (such as egg cartons, sponges, and empty paper towel rolls) that could be repurposed into crafts. In my mind, Fred is the forefather of the maker movement across the region. Today, places like Assemble and MAKESHOP are upcycling, reinventing, and encouraging that creative spark. At Love Front Porch, artist Vanessa German is making a critical difference for children using art as a conduit for healing, peace, and self-discovery. In the public school classrooms, students are exploring and wondering about the raw materials that make up broken toys and old electronic parts at the Children’s Innovation Project.
“A person can grow to his or her fullest capacity only in mutually caring relationships with others.”
Pittsburgh is a city of caring people, and the early childhood community is no exception. Whether you are a community leader, child advocate, educator, parent, or funder, there is a strong sense of commitment to doing what is best for our youngest learners. As home to the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children, we are blessed to have a strong infrastructure that supports high quality childcare and elevates the status of early childhood educators. Through our own work on Simple Interactions, we know that human relationships are essential to children’s development at any age, and like Fred Rogers, there are countless people making important connections with children daily.
As much as we like to trumpet what we are doing here in the ‘Burgh, Fred reminded us that “In every neighborhood, all across our country, there are good people insisting on a good start for the young, and doing something about it.” When you stop to appreciate the young children and their helpers in your neighborhood this month, think about your region’s unique assets that support youngsters as they learn and grow. Strong communities help raise strong children. After all, “There are many ways to celebrate. I trust you’ll find your own.”
Karen Struble Myers, CFRE, is Director of Development and Communications at the Fred Rogers Center. She supports the Center’s fundraising and messaging efforts to share the timeless wisdom of Fred Rogers.
Photo by Ben Folio courtesty of The Sprout Fund.