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BOONE — The Children’s Playhouse building has been closed to the public since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the heart of the High Country’s only nonprofit children’s museum is alive and well and serving local families through its innovative Play Kit Project and later this week with a registration required Drive-Thru Halloween.

“Since May, we have distributed close to 1,000 play kits to local families,” explains Playhouse Executive Director and founder Kathy Parham. Each kit contains all the materials and instruction for as many as 12 different hands-on activities families can enjoy at home.

The Playhouse creates new kits each month and has so far designed five different kits for ages 2-6 and four STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) for ages 6 and up. An Infant and Toddler kit for 9-24 months debuts in November.

Local mom Jenny Coffey gets a new kit each month and says, “These kits have been so valuable to us. They are a breath of fresh air during a very hard time, and anything that puts a smile on their faces right now is worth its weight in gold.”

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The Autumn Play Kit is being distributed by The Children’s Playhouse.

The Autumn Kit is being distributed now and can be requested at https://goplayhouse.org/monthly-kits-for-2-6-year-olds. It includes a hardcover picture book “The Littlest Family’s Big Day,” a Button Tree box, Leaf Rubbing, Pass the Pompoms, Sticky Paper Collage, Family Tree, Make Your Own Book, A Special Music and Movement with Miss Laura, a Brain Builder Challenge and more. As a special fall treat, F.A.R.M. Cafe has provided the recipe and all the ingredients for homemade Sweet Potato Applesauce. Families pick up the kits by appointment on the Playhouse porch.

The suggested donation for the kit is $10 for members, $18 for nonmembers to cover the cost of materials. Local families experiencing financial hardship are encouraged to request a free kit. The Playhouse also gives away free kits through the Hunger Coalition, the Children’s Council and other service agencies.

“We are very grateful to the Farris Foundation Home Community Fund, a component fund of the North Carolina Community Foundation, the Kennedy-Herterich Foundation and the Clabough Foundation for their generous support of the Play Kit project,” Parham stated. “Without their kind support, the Play Kit project would not be possible.” Grants from these foundations underwrite the labor costs to design and assemble the kits.

Child development experts Jana Duke, Gabby Hukill and Delores Wilder help design the kits. Tiffany Christian contributes empathy and social justice activities each month. Art teacher Anna Welsh and ASU science professors Brooke Hester and Michael Hambourger have also contributed expertise to the STEAM kits.

The Playhouse will be hosting a Drive-Thru Halloween on Saturday, Oct. 31, from 4-8 p.m. The event is free, but registration is required as supplies are limited. Sign up online at https://goplayhouse.org. Bags delivered via a giant pumpkin chute will include a Halloween craft and some sweet treats.

The Children’s Playhouse is an 501c3 nonprofit and will have served the community for 18 years on Nov. 5. Its mission is to provide children with enriching, educational play while at the same time offering parents and caregivers friendly support in the important job of raising children.

Due to the pandemic, The Children’s Playhouse faces a projected loss of $70,000 of earned income this year. If you would like to make a donation, visit goplayhouse.org or mail a check to The Children’s Playhouse, 400 Tracy Circle, Boone, NC 28607.

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Children’s Playhouse Executive Director Kathy Parham packs art supplies for the nonprofit museum’s take-home Play Kits.

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Young crafter Johanna White with a paper person.

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