For National Week of the Young Child, about 600 children 5 and under are expected to attend events through today at the Southwest Early Childhood Center.
It sounded like they were all there at once Thursday, when the center, located at 812 St. Mary's Blvd., hosted a field day for area child care providers.
Now in its eighth year participating in the event, center administrators expected nine different day care centers to filter through the stations on the first day, Principal Nicole Langston said. Many more children are expected today.
"This is by far our largest group of kids," Langston said.
There were way too many children for center staff to deal with alone, she added. It partners with Scholastic Inc., in Jefferson City. Scholastic staff volunteered to work with the children during the event. The company also donated bicycle helmets for children to wear at a tricycle-riding station.
Stations for outside play included a route for tricycle races, a low basketball goal, swings and playground equipment. Inside, children ran through a bouncy obstacle course, participated in parachute play, danced and took breaks to eat Popsicles.
Jackson Pinkson, 5, could barely contain himself outside the obstacle course.
"I just want to go through this!" he said as he "patiently" waited his turn in the course.
Kalena Kent, 5, said she liked the obstacle course best.
"I like to go down the slide," she said.
Many of the day care providers don't have outdoor play areas where children can develop physical skills so the center tries to provide a place in the community where children can participate in physical activities.
Some children who attend the center, a Title 1 Preschool, have special needs — including requiring physical therapy.
"A lot of our physical therapists are here," Langston said Thursday. "They'll perform physical therapy with some of our kids as they filter through."
The event helps children reach their individual educational goals.
"If we work together, we can get these kids on a more-level playing field before they enter kindergarten," Langston said.
The preschool gives children "that boost" before they enter kindergarten, she said. It's Early Childhood Special Education can provide Individual Education Plans for children ages 3-5.
The center offers a Discrete Trial Training Room, where children can learn communication skills.
The room "promotes that they talk to each other — to communicate," Langston said. "It's an unpredictable environment for them."
The center also operates a gifted program for third-fifth grades.
And it serves infants of teenage parents; five parenting classes are offered for teenage parents.
"They don't know how to efficiently and safely discipline their child," she said. "We teach them how to discipline in a safe way."
To wrap up Week of the Young Child, a Young Child Carnival is scheduled 9:30-11 a.m. Saturday at Memorial Park, 111 Memorial Park Drive. The carnival is open to children 5 and younger.
The Parents as Teachers program will provide hands-on stations during the carnival. Parents as Teachers is a parent education and support program designed to help young children learn, grow and develop their full potential, according to Jefferson City Public Schools.
In case of rain, Saturday's event will take place in the Knowles YMCA Gym, 424 Stadium Blvd.