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story.lead_photo.caption Remington Ward, 5, a student at Pumpkin Patch preschool reaches the exit of the bounce house in the gymnasium Thursday morning at Southwest Early Childhood Center. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

The large, red bouncy obstacle course standing inside the Southwest Early Childhood Center on Thursday may have held the most-anticipated activities for small children at the preschool during National Week of the Young Child.

But, once children started parachute play, participated in tricycle races and clambered on playground equipment, the bouncy house almost became a distant memory.

Thursday was Field Day, the part of the celebration in which the center invites community child care centers and families to come share a day of physical activities and to celebrate just being a little child, said Sarah Wilding, principal at the childhood center, which is located at 812 St. Mary's Blvd.

Hundreds of children ages 5 and younger were expected to attend events at the center this week. The center is now in its ninth year of participation in the national event, in which it hosts children from multiple child care centers for the day.

"Today we have an inflatable obstacle course, so they're working on gross motor skills and motor planning," Wilding said. "We've got parachutes and volunteers to play with parachutes and balls. They'll have Popsicles. And they'll have an opportunity to play on our playground, swing and ride bikes today."

Staff from Scholastic Inc. of Jefferson City helped with planning and implementation of the weeklong event, Wilding said.

As had the United Way of Central Missouri Early Childhood Advisory Council.

"Week of the Young Child celebrates more than 35 million children from birth through age 8 in America, and the families, teachers, child care providers and other adults who help our youngest learners make the most of the opportunities during their early years," a United Way news release said.

The theme for this week's event honored a celebrated children's author, Wilding said.

"It's all about Dr. Seuss this year," she said. "And previous to this, (Scholastic) sponsored a celebration for Dr. Seuss' birthday out at the (Capital) Mall."

Scholastic staff said the company has made a tradition of its community service.

Jenny Wieberg, a Scholastic employee volunteering at the center Thursday morning, said she enjoys getting out and playing with the small children. The year 2019 marks the third or fourth year she has volunteered during the event, she said.

"I'll help wherever they need me," she said. "I'll do whatever helps them out."

For the first time as an adult, Wieberg said, she got to assist with parachute play.

Children there were all giggles.

Maybe the bouncy obstacle course was the most popular station.

Maybe, even after the children get a taste of other activities, they still liked the obstacle course best.

Five-year-old Anthony Balk did.

So did Kaybree Crawford, also 5.

"Because it's so fun," Crawford said. "The slide was fun, and I liked climbing."

Sprinkled throughout the grounds at the center were students from the Jefferson City Academic Center.

JCAC provides an alternative educational setting for students to help them graduate from high school by promoting academic excellence, character, job readiness and lifelong learning, according to its website.

The students are required to participate in service learning as part of their education, according to 15-year-old Da'juan Wallace, a 10th-grader at the school.

So they assist staff at Southwest Early Childhood Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

"I like it," Wallace said. "We help out with the teachers, and it's like being a teacher."

Gavin Luebbert, who at 16 is also a 10th-grader at JCAC, said he enjoys learning the small children's different personalities. And he hopes to help them develop.

"We're trying to be a good influence," Luebbert said.

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