Paint, parrots, ice, clay -- and helping out -- are best bets for fall and winter fun
All the leaves are brown -- well, almost -- and the skies can certainly be grey. No need to panic -- there’s still a full spectrum of fun to enjoy in Pittsburgh in the coming winter months, and they offer the perfect opportunity for old and young to share in the fun!
Worried your kids won’t break free of the videogame tractor beam? Blast away cold weather boredom at Three Rivers Paintball
, in Cranberry, family-owned and -operated for thirty years.
“My son Thomas had his ninth birthday there and it was the talk of the school,” says Maureen McPeak, mom of four from Gibsonia. “We did Airsoft party for 20 kids in third grade, boys and girls, and even one child with special needs. They all had so much fun. My six-year-old daughter also played with her friends!”
“Kids love it,” says Alex Krischke, general manager. “The only thing required to play is the paintball goggle that covers eyes, ears and face.”
A technicolor target shoot is available for kids as young as five, while older kids can fan out over well-marked fields and leap, tumble, dodge and shoot.
“In the target area, younger kids can shoot actual paint,” says Krischke. “We have big, shiny metal windmills that spin when you shoot at them and we have a helicopter suspended from high trees.”
This high-energy activity is open for year-round fun and gives parents a chance to remind kids who’s really in charge.
If running for your paint-ball life doesn’t warm you up, then head indoors for the red-hot ovens of Kiln-N-Time
in Lawrenceville to paint or throw your own pottery. Kiln-N-Time owner Sandy Simon is well known for making the ancient art of pottery accessible to all ages.
“Sandy really adapts to everybody’s level of creativity," says Charity Sutton of Brighton Heights. "The first time I went by myself and enjoyed it so much I’m going to take my three-year-old grandson on a Friday evening for parent-child [time] to throw clay. It’s a place for all ages.”
This studio gives guests a chance to emblazon a pre-made piece of bisque with up to five colors or to start from scratch and shape a completely new piece out of clay.
“As a follow-up to a social studies lesson, our students went out to Kiln-N-Time to observe a pottery lesson and to paint and glaze their own pottery pieces,” says Iyana Tennon, founder of Virtuous Academy in Duquesne. “Miss Sandy was patient, she explained thoroughly each and every process, and her staff put together a pottery piece. We talked about the patience needed and correcting mistakes.”
Parents will recognize the hard work of transforming a small blob into a thing of beauty, not minding the dirty hands or minor mistakes along the way.
Sandy Simon encourages parents to tackle their own projects instead of offering critiques on their child’s work.
“Our motto is basically: please let their child use their own imagination in creating their piece," Simon says, laughing. “Parents can pick up a piece and paint it alongside the child.”
Pottery kiln still not hot enough? Then hit the tropics for "Parrots of the Caribbean" at the National Aviary
on the Northside. "Parrots" runs twice a day at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, and is $5 extra with the cost of admission. This show tells the tale of pirates lost in Pittsburgh, but the story ends with these
“The kids think it’s just hysterical,” says Ericka Douglass, Marketing Associate at the National Aviary. “Our parrots help them by rowing, raising the anchor and lowering a flag. They sing and talk and if they are feeling up to it, they 'shoot' out of a cannon at the end.”
“My daughter is two and she seems to be particularly impressed by the parrots,” says Chaton Turner of Pittsburgh. “I think that it’s because of their brilliant colors and engaging personalities.”
Need to cool off, finally? Hit the ice instead. Nancy Murray of Mt. Lebanon takes her children, ages 8 and 6, and joins her children on the ice at the Mt. Lebanon Recreation Center
“I’m originally from Quebec City, Canada, so I take my kids skating as often as I can," says Murray. "For quality quiet time, take your kids during the day to the big rink. No one is there! But if you want more action and pizza, go for Friday night disco. Be ready for the tweens going fast to impress their friends.”
Some families miss the colors and textures not of leaves, but of fresh produce. Get one last taste of any fall by walking the rows of local farms, gathering harvest leftovers as a gleaning volunteer for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank
Long after fall festivals and their multi-hued displays have faded, hunger remains. Families with children ages 7 and up who wish to work as gleaners receive “Glean Alert” emails announcing a local farm has harvested their produce and is ready for volunteers to come gather up leftover produce that can be donated to families in need.
Last year, gleaning volunteers gathered pie pumpkins that were distributed to local families via the Produce to People program, with recipe cards. Produce to People shares 35-50 pounds of food monthly with clients in each neighborhood.
David Behun, a 27-year veteran of Produce to People, has always included his kids: “My three children, Marissa, Dan and Chad, 17, 14, and 11, do Produce for People in McKees Rocks. We live in Upper Saint Clair and we’re blessed in a lot of ways. While it’s certainly true that people overseas are starving, you can go 20 minutes from your house and find it too.”
Megan Bailey, Volunteer Coordinator for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, says they work to accommodate anyone who wants to donate time. If your little ones are very little, give Fall Food Share a try.
“Our main fall need is Fall Food Share and that accommodates children four and up,” Bailey says. “Fall Food Share is at 60 different Giant Eagle stores. Volunteers stand at the store entrances on weekends with lists of most-needed items and ask shoppers purchasing to shop for us while they shop for their own groceries. We need over 4,000 volunteers for this event.
“We accept groups, families, individuals and we try to make it about your schedule and your needs and find a fit for both of us,” Bailey says.
Photographs by Mary Mervis.
From top to bottom: Parrots of the Caribbean, Mt. Lebanon Recreation Center, Kiln-N-Time.