April is known nationally as the month of the young child, and to celebrate, the Frederick County Mental Health Association’s Child Care Choices will be hosting its 32nd annual Children’s Festival on April 30 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Baker Park in Frederick.
The free event will feature about 65 area vendors that offer services to kids and families such as day care centers, preschool programs, activity-focused businesses, government agencies and other child-focused organizations. While parents discuss services, kids can take part in different games offered by each vendor.
“The whole idea (for the festival) was to put a focus on how important play is for children’s development and how children learn through play. One of the things that the festival does is the activities that are available at each of the booths are all developmentally appropriate,” says Patty Morison, Child Care Choices program director. “Play is very important. That is how they get ready to learn and how they get ready for school.”
Some of the activities in the past have included obstacle courses, sensory tables, painting activities, walking a maze, yoga, kite making, yoga and giant bubbles. New to this year’s celebration will be two live musical acts to open and close the festival. A majority of the entertainment is typically for children by children in the form of dance groups, musical groups, karate and other youth activities.
In 2020, the event had to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown restrictions. Last year, the festival was reimagined as a drive-thru event at several elementary schools. “Right now, what we are hoping is to just get people back in the swing of it and to come out and enjoy the time together,” Morison says.
The event is scaled back this year from years past since many of the festival’s donors are small businesses and child care programs and providers who were all affected by the pandemic and don’t have the extra funds to donate. “(The festival) is a little bit more scaled back, but it goes back to our roots—doing these free fun activities for children while their parents learn about services that are available to them in the county,” Morison says.
A plethora of programs exist in Frederick County that many parents may not know about. The festival is an important way to get the word out about these services, according to Morison.
“When we think about why it is important, I guess it is really more a fact of bringing the community together with a fun activity for families. We are linking the developmentally appropriate practice and what is good for kids to services that are good for families and will help families .… (The festival) highlights how important family and children are to our community. They are our future.”
In the event of inclement weather, those planning to come to the festival should check out the Children’s Festival Facebook page for updates.