Holiday activities in the Mahoning Valley

There are plenty of activities in the Mahoning Valley to take the little ones to.

Joy of Christmas Firestone Park

From light and toy displays to noon New Years Eve celebrations, there is enough to do to stay busy during the long winter break.

Indoor displays

Does your little one have a fascination with trains? If so the drive to North Bloomfield Town Hall, 8830 Park Drive, North Bloomfield, will be well worth it. A holiday train display will be lit and running from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 20 and 27, and from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16, 23 and 30.

Beautiful trees decorated by local non-profits are on dispaly at the National Packard Museum, 1899 Mahoning Avenue NW, Warren. Open from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. Visit for more information.

Winter Celebration: Toyland at in the Davis Center at Fellows Riverside Gardens, 123 McKinley Ave., Youngstown, features favorite games and toys from the past, along with giant game pieces, 10-foot toy soldiers. There are dozens of ornamented trees and seasonal blooms to take in. Non-perishable food donations will benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley.

The Ward Beecher Planetarium is hosting “Let it Snow,” a holiday music show in a dome transfolet-it-snow ward beecher planetariumrmed with bells, reindeer, presents, cookies, snow and nutcrackers in colorful spectacle. The planetarium is in the Ward Beecher Science Hall on Lincoln Avenue on the Youngstown State University campus. Visit for information, shows are free.

Outdoor light displays

Fellows Riverside Gardens is also hosting Winter Celebration Nights, from 5 to 7 p.m. Dec. 16, 23 and 30. Take in the out door light display, and take the kids to the Toy Workshop, even play some reindeer games. Bring $1 for crafting.

See the Akrowild-lights-3n Zoo like you never have before , lit up with thousands of holiday lights from 5 to 9 p.m. Dec. 15–17, 21–23 and 26–30. Tickets are $15 for adults and $11 for children, and parking is $3. Visit for more information, and dress warm.

Joy of Christmas in Columbiana’s Firestone Park, 338 E. Park Ave., features 75 displays and millions of lights. Open 6 to 9 p.m. through Dec. 26, the cost is $10 a car. Visit for more information.

Noon New Years Eve celebrations

This free party will include music, games, crafts, snacks and a balloon drop at noon. The party starts 11:30 a.m. at the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library, 444 Mahoning Avenue, NW, Warren, OH 44483. Visit for more information and call 330.399.8807 x128 to register.

Ring in the New Year with a “giant dinosaur egg” drop at noon, at a New Year’s at Noon celebration at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, 1 Wade Oval Drive. The celebration is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 31. Visit for more information.

Music and movement in the Mahoning Valley

After you meet your miracle connect your little one with the cognitive and social benefits of music and movement at Valley Little Melodies.

music and movement

Even before your miracle is born, he or she is listening and research shows, that’s a good thing.

Mixing music and movement can be an important part of learning your child’s whole life. But engaging them soon after birth and through the early first years offers many benefits.

Knowledge of the cognitive, social and bonding benefits to exposing children to music and movement from the earliest age is what drove Cara Vernal to leave her job as a third grade teacher and open up Valley Little Melodies in Canfield.

Pregnant with her toddler Ella, Cara knew the Mahoning Valley didn’t have anything like the program she offers now from her 4358 Boardman-Canfield Road studio.

The studio uses the Kindermusik curriculum, developed in 1978 in Germany based on child development theories.

“This is a really amazing way to for kids to bond with their caregivers, it’s not just mom or dad, but grandparents, aunts, uncles, nannies. The kids are learning in a loving environment where they can find comfort with their mom, dad or whoever brought them. That level of comfort, combined with the curriculum allows the child to engage more, because they feel that love and safety,” Cara said.

Babies as young as six weeks old can attend the class and  benefit from the interactive experience.

music and movement

Caregivers stay with the kids they bring, and even find social opportunities themselves, Cara said.

The most popular age group at the studio is toddlers 1 to 2. Cara recommends you sign up early for classes in that age group.

And once you get started, the always evolving routines and daily activities will keep your child coming back for more.

Even shy kids eventually come out of their shells, comforted with the routine. Even though the themes and activities change, every session begins and ends the same way and includes a relaxation period.

“We have the same hello and goodbye song ritual, so they feel safe, they know what is coming,” Cara said.

Every four to five weeks Cara changes up the themed unit, focusing on subjects like food or animals. Each week of the unit builds on the week before. The schedule allows kids to bond with each over the course of the unit and learn together.

“And it helps build neural pathways in the brain, because they might hear a song they recognize from before, but notice they are doing a different activity to the song.

Each session is about 45 minutes long with 12 to 14 different activities. Cara has instruments for the children and all sorts of surprises.

Age groups

0 to 1

1 to 2

2 to 3

mixed ages for kids up to 5

Contact information

Visit for session times, class availability and more information about the value of the Kindermusik program. Reach the studio at 330-980-5198.

Kid-friendly warm spinach dip recipe for the holidays

Kid-friendly warm spinach dip recipe for the holidays

This creamy and savory recipe for warm spinach dip isn’t only a delicious dish to gather around during the holidays, it is kid-friendly in several ways. Though it is chock full of vegetables, it has plenty of cheese and baking it takes some of the crunch out of the traditional cold spinach dip, making it more friendly to young palates.

It goes great with any bread or rolls you have at the Thanksgiving table, or any cracker in your cupboard.

While not all children raise their hands at the sight of spinach, I find when you take off the spinach stems and chop it finely before wilting, it is more kid-friendly to chew and children come back for more if you can get them to take the first bite. And if they don’t? More for the adults!

Feel free to substitute the cheese with what you have on hand. Make it night or two advance of your holiday dinner or party, just bake before serving.

Tip: If you let the little ones add the ingredients and stir they will feel more inclined to taste their creation.

kid-friendly warm spinach dip recipe


  • 8 oz bag of spinach, thinly chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • ½ cup finely diced sweet red or yellow pepper
  • 1 cup finely diced white button mushrooms
  • ½ cup chopped pecans, walnuts or both
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • a splash of soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp yellow mustard
  • ¾ cup Asiago cheese
  • ¾ cup cream cheese
  • ½ cup of shredded mozzarella
  • ¼ cup ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • pepper and garlic salt to taste


Start by prepping the vegetables and cheese. If they are able and willing, have the kids take the stems of the spinach, shred the carrot and shred the cheese, it’ll save you time!

kid-friendly warm spinach dip recipe

In a saute pan on medium heat, warm the olive oil and cook the onion, peppers and mushroom until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms have shrunk, about 8 minutes. Add the minced garlic and a splash of soy sauce and cook until aromatic, about 4 minutes. Take off the heat and season with garlic salt and pepper to taste. Set the mixture aside in a mixing bowl.

kid-friendly warm spinach dip recipe









Toast the nuts in the same pan with a sprinkle of garlic salt on medium-low heat, stirring consistently for about 5 minutes. Empty the pan into the mixing bowl with the onion mixture.


Keep the heat in the pan low and cook the fresh spinach until wilted, stirring consistently for about 5 to 7 minutes.

kid-friendly warm spinach dip recipe

Press the cooked spinach in a fine-mesh strainer with a rubber spatula to release all of the water. Add to the mixing bowl, along with the shredded carrot and mustard.

kid-friendly warm spinach dip recipe

Microwave the cheeses for 30 to 40 seconds to soften and then mix with the other ingredients. Stir the mixture until it is well combined and the mozzarella isn’t stringy. Add the sour cream and stir until consistent.

kid-friendly warm spinach dip recipe

If you have left over shredded cheese, sprinkle some on top and bake in the oven at 375 degrees, covered with foil for 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Mahoning Valley’s 30 days of November

30 days of November in the Mahoning Valley, an activity a day to keep the Meet Your Miracle family and kids busy in fun:


Nov. 1
Music and Movement program for toddlers 19 to 35 months 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library, 444 Mahoning Ave. NW. Sign up for story time, music and hands on activities by calling 330-399-8806.

Nov. 2
Story time for babies between 6 to 23 months 10 a.m. at the Canfield Library, 43 W. Main St. Language enrichment with rhymes, songs, stories and socializing.

Nov. 3
Preschool dance party for kids 3 to 5 at 11 a.m. at the Howland Branch Library, 9095 E. Market St.

Nov. 4
Sensory story time for children 3 to 8 with autism and other sensory-integration challenges, 11 a.m. Warren-Trumbull County Public Library, 444 Mahoning Ave. NW. Call 330-399-8807 ext. 206 to register.

Nov. 5
The last day of Maze Craze is the only day canine friends are allowed at the Beauty and the Beast themed day of family fun. Open from 12 to 7 p.m., but ticket sales end at 5 p.m. at the 14070 state Route 165 (Woodworth Road) location in New Springfield.

Nov. 6
Have a child interested in wildlife? Check out Bear Aware 1 p.m. at the Brookfield Branch Library, 7032 Grove St., for a look into the world of black bears, which live in Ohio and have even been known to make appearances in the Mahoning Valley. Or, for an after school activity connecting reading to food, check out the 6 p.m. Cook, Chew and Create program pairing picture books with cooking and crafts at the main Warren branch. Register by calling 330-399-8807 ext. 206.

Nov. 7
Baby story time 10 a.m. at the Boardman Library, 7680 Glenwood Ave. Or take a drive to Akron after voting, where there is free admission 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Akron Zoo, 505 Euclid Ave., Akron. Parking is $3.

Nov. 8
Your little scientist in the making can put her science skills to the test at the 6 p.m. Mini-Mythbusters event at the Brookfield Branch Library, 7032 Grove St., call 330-448-8134 to register kids kindergarten through 6th grade.

Nov. 9
Family Night Bingo is fun for all ages at 5 p.m. at the Struthers Public Library, 95 Poland Ave.

Nov. 10
Free admission for veterans today 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Youngstown’s OH WOW! is the perfect excuse to visit the Mahoning Valley’s hands-on, children center, 11 W. Federal St.

Nov. 11
Call 330-740-6086 now to reserve a spot at the Disney Princess and Super Hero Breakfast fundraiser 10 a.m. Saturday at the Poland Library, 311 S. Main St. For a $15 ticket and the donation of a gently used children’s book, your child can meet 99 other kids dressed as their favorite princess or super hero, and earn a free ticket to the Disney on Ice show, “Dream Big.” The donations benefit kids’ reading programs at the library.

Nov. 12
Take the kids to an afternoon of free holiday fun 12 to 3 p.m. at the Butler Institute of American Art, 524 Wick Avenue, Youngstown, where there will be cookie decorating, face painting, hot cocoa, crafts, story hour and a chance to take a photograph with Santa Claus.

Nov. 13
Kids from Kindergarten to 6th grade are welcome to cuddle up to a therapy rabbit during a 15-minute reading session at the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library, 444 Mahoning Ave. NW. Call 330-399-8807 ext. 206 to register.

Nov. 14
Family story time 6:30 p.m. at the Main Branch of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County, 305 Wick Ave.

Nov. 15
Strengthen the reading skills of kids in Kindergarten to 6th grade in the company of a Pet Partner therapy dog, after school from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Brookfield Branch Library, 7032 Grove St. Call 330-448-8134 to register.

Nov. 16
Get your preschooler ready for reading with an early-literacy geared story session for kids 3 to 5 p.m. at the Liberty Branch Library, 415 Churchill-Hubbard Road .

Nov. 17
Watch a “Journey to a Billion Suns” for a journey through the Milky Way with older children comfortable sitting in the dark and keeping their voices low at 8 p.m. at the Ward Beecher Planetarium. The shows are free. Visit for more show times and parking information.

Nov. 18
A 2 p.m. matinee of “Legends: Perseus and Andromeda” at the Ward Beecher Planetarium is even more kid friendly than “Journey to a Billion Suns” at 8 p.m., with an animated owl guide exploring Greek mythology and the constellations in a free show.

Nov. 19
Santa’s Christmasland at Kraynak’s, 2525 E. State St., Hermitage, Pa., is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays, but 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every other day. The holiday displays are extensive, picture perfect and visits are a local family tradition.

Nov. 20
Story time and craft time come together 1 p.m. at the Lordstown Branch Library, 1471 Salt Springs Road, for kids 3 to 5.

Nov. 21
High energy kids 2 to 5 years old who might have trouble sitting still during other library events, are invited to participate in a Movin’ and Groovin’ session 11 a.m. at the Liberty Branch Library, 415 Churchill-Hubbard Road.

Nov. 22
Finger plays, songs, rhymes and books perfect for toddlers 2 to 3 during Baby Brilliant: Tales and Talk, 10 a.m. at the Boardman Library, 7680 Glenwood Ave.

Nov. 23
Begin the holiday season after Thanksgiving dinner with the Joy of Christmas Holiday Light Show in Columbiana’s Firestone Park, 338 E. Park Ave. The $10 drive is open between 6 and 9 p.m. and continues through the season.

Nov. 24
OH WOW! is hosting a Black Friday membership sale, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., memberships and membership renewals will be 50% off when requested in person; the discount is 25% off from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and can be awarded in person, 11 W. Federal St., Youngstown, or over the phone, 330-744-5914.

Nov. 25
Teach your child about the holiday spirit and donate new hats, scarves and mittens for children in need from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the 19th century Lanterman’s Mill, 980 Canfield Road, Youngstown, while enjoying the smell of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, artisan crafts and the charm of Olde Fashioned Christmas at the Mill.

Nov. 26
Bundle up to visit Santa’s Winter Barn from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Mill Creek MetroParks Farm, 7574 Columbiana Road, Canfield, and see Santa and “some of his animal friends.” Bring your camera and $1 to participate in crafts.

Nov. 27
Messy Monday for toddlers 18 months to 3 years features multi-tactile exploration. Dress for mess, 11 a.m. at the Liberty Library Branch, 415 Churchill-Hubbard Road.

Nov. 28
Bring your Minecraft maniac to Minecraft Mania from 5:30 to 7 p.m. At the Howland Branch Library, 9095 E. Market St. Laptops provided and free admission, but registration required. Call 330-856-2011.

Nov. 29
Grandparents get into to OH WOW! free. Open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.,11 W. Federal St., Youngstown.

Nov. 30
Watch Rudolph’s nose save Christmas in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer the Musical, 7 p.m. at DeYor Performing Arts Center, 260 W. Federal St., Youngstown. Call 330-744-0264 for tickets.