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Educational, fun opportunities on deck for children and teens

by India Garrish | January 13, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
News Tribune file Parents enjoy science activities with their children in 2019 during an open house at LabSpace located in the Capital Mall. LabSpace offers low-priced educational activities for children and teens.

Instead of staying cooped up this winter, here are some opportunities through the weekend for children to burn off energy and learn something along the way -- whether it's amongst the books, building robots or exploring the great outdoors.

At the library

Looking for hands-on art and reading opportunities? The Missouri River Regional Library, 214 Adams St., offers free courses for children of all ages.

A Sensory Play Day from 10:15-11 a.m. Friday is focused on those 3 and younger and allows children to do sensory activities that build curiosity, problem solving, and language and motor skills in little ones. Children ages 3-5 and their families can also enjoy Preschool Family Story Time from 10:30-11 a.m. Tuesday, reading stories and enjoying music. Both events are free.

For those a bit older, teens can embrace their inner zen, making a serenity stone from 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Make It @ MRRL: Japanese-Inspired Wrapped Stones in the library Art Gallery. Using simple materials and traditional weaving techniques, participants can create small works of art to take home. Registration is required.

In nature

If your child wants to get some fresh air while learning something new, Runge Nature Center, 330 Commerce Drive, has many free activities for young explorers. This week, join instructor Austin Lambert from 6-8 p.m. Friday for Discover Nature: Owl Prowl. On the way, those of all ages can learn about the nocturnal world of owls and discover the ways they adapt to nighttime, seeing owls that frequent Missouri and what makes them unique. Registration is required; dress for the weather.

Next week, join MDC naturalists and area birders from 8-10 a.m. Tuesday for the Birding @ Runge event. Those age 8 and older and all experience levels can participate on these short birding walks; Runge will provide binoculars and field guides for those who need them. Registration is preferred.

On sunny days, climbing, swinging and ziplining can be fun ways to burn some energy. At Community Park, 725 Marshall St., parents can sit back while children climb the 30-foot climbing tower and soar through the air on its ziplines. There are age-specific zones on the playground to ensure proper development while enhancing the fun. Stop for lunch at the covered picnic tables or hop onto Greenway Trail after, which runs through the park.

STEM-based fun

There are science, technology, engineering and math-based activities galore at LabSpace Robotics in Capital Mall. Most courses come with a cost, but also include multiple sessions, and registration and masks are required.

Two courses on Saturday -- Experiencing Fractions and Experiencing Math Through Games -- allow students to understand math concepts through hands-on, instructor-driven activities through a partnership between LabSpace and The Worthy Project, LLC. Experiencing Fractions will be for grades 2-4 from 10-10:45 a.m. and reinforce understanding of fractions, helping children become more comfortable with problem solving. Experiencing Math Through Games will follow from 11-11:45 a.m. and help those in grades 3-5 with other STEM courses through fun activities. Former math professor Donna Stallings leads both courses.

Does your child have an interest in game design? Start with the basics in LabSpace's Game Design intro course from noon-1 p.m. Saturday. Those of all ages can learn how to build and design 2D video games using a game engine, and by the end of the four-week course, share and play the game with friends. It is recommended participants take this course before moving on to experienced level classes. Then, learn the basics of programming while building toward future projects from noon-12:50 p.m. at the Tiny:Bit robot building course. Students will program robots they can keep using Microsoft MakeCode, while building a processor they can use in other robotics projects.

Some activities are recurring, so visit mrrl.org/events/upcoming, mdc.mo.gov/events and labspacerobotics.com/events/ to view dates and details. Know any other activities to keep children active this time of the year? Let us know by emailing [email protected]

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