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Deborah Pricener, Associate Vice President of Youth Development at the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh, knows how to keep kids entertained and engaged. Here she provides some ideas for after-school activities for children in Pittsburgh.

Deborah Pricener
Associate Vice President, Youth Development
YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh
420 Fort Duquesne Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(412) 227-5318

Deborah Pricener has worked in the social service field for over 25 years and the YMCA for 15 years. She has B.S. degree from West Virginia University in Recreational and Parks Management. Deborah has taught swimming lessons and being a caregiver, to working and training child care providers. Part of that process is administering the subsidized child core program, and her current job is working with the YMCA’s child care directors on the provision of quality child care.

Service Learning Projects

This integrates community service with academic study to enrich learning, teach civic responsibility and strengthen communities.

  • Write letters to soldiers thanking them for their service
  • Write letters to thank members of the community, police and fire departments
  • Make rainbow loom bracelets to give children in the hospital who stay no longer than a couple of days
  • Pick up litter to promotes civic responsibility

Reading Is Fundamental

Children should read at least 10-15 minutes every day. This is a vital skill and can help develop imagination, creativity and discovery of new things. The written and spoken words are the building blocks of communication. Deborah and Sabrina Rudolph, the Child Care Director, brainstorm ideas each day to ensure the best ways to develop a top-notch educational learning experience to develop the mind and a positive self image. Reading will improve concentration, memory and stimulate the brain to focus on details, which will help to encourage positive thinking. There are a wide variety of choices to motivate, dream and enter a new path of adventure and exploration.

Arts And Crafts

When there are no constraints, the kids seem to love creativity. One aspect is to work with paper mache because it is fun, engaging and a messy project. Creative drawing, collage and water color ideas and anything that may be homemade are classic projects that are easy to learn and share with the family or friends. This simplicity is a valuable asset to use things around the home to provide decorative ideas that may be used as a gift or present for the whole family. Let the imagination unleash wonderful project ideas and explore the day-to-day interaction with caring and responsible adults.

Play Math Games

These activities provide opportunities for improving math skills, building self-esteem, developing positive attitudes towards math and reducing the fear of failure and error. Greater learning can occur because of the increased interaction between children and they can operate at different levels of thinking. For example, one child may be encountering a concept for the first time, another child can be further ahead in understanding and the third child can be consolidating previously learned concepts.

Related: Best Afterschool Programs In Pittsburgh


Kids love to cook. What better way to promote healthy eating than to engage kids by creating healthy snacks. This may be a unique opportunity to try Ants On A Log or cook a healthy meal of banana oatmeal pancakes. Just the organization of the materials and ingredients along with learning from the My Plate program teaches all about nutrition and why breakfast is an important start of the day. This carries over to home activities where the family plans a healthy meal after a trip to the grocery store. The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank visited the cooking class, cooked with the kids and discussed nutrition and healthy options.

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Gerry Cernicky is a retired health and physical education teacher with 36 years of experience. He is a former teacher of the year and a sports writer for the Vandergrift News. He delivers podcasts, and maintains a website and blog. He currently resides in Pittsburgh. His work can be found at