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PEP's Can Do Kids Fair

March 21, 2014
Kathleen Seiler Neary
Parent Encouragement Program
10100 Connecticut Avenue
Kensington, MD 20895
Average: 5 (1 vote)

After several years of hearing great things about the once-a-year Can Do Kids Fair put on by the Parent Encouragement Program (PEP), I was finally able to get my act together to buy tickets before they sold out. Now I can understand what the buzz is about and why tickets go fast. Honestly, this is an event that did not sound like it would be exciting to me. Vacuuming, shining shoes, and cleaning the kitchen are not at the top of my thrill list. Yet my 4-year-old absolutely loved showing off his skills and quickly mastering new ones.
Set on three floors of the Kensington Baptist Church, the fair features activity stations grouped in themes. During the two-hour event (PEP members get an additional hour beforehand), kids can try their hand at roughly 20 activities, all guided by volunteers, including older children who clearly relish their role as teacher.
We arrived at the church to a crowded parking lot but found a nearby street space. A fire truck was on site with several firefighters to speak with. Once inside, we located the registration table and were given an event program and a “Passport to Self-Sufficiency” booklet. Those in the know used the attached ribbon to tie a loop and hang the booklet as a necklace for safekeeping. On each floor is a table for collecting stamps or stickers for completed activities (there’s no prize for completing the booklet, but that didn’t deter my son).
We started off on the bottom floor, where a room was dedicated to simple woodworking. I quickly realized that there is not a formal queue for each station and that we could be waiting a very long time for each activity if we didn’t stay on top of who was next. Being politely assertive about whose turn it is was a skill I practiced a lot! After my son hammered a few nails, we deposited his wooden boat in the free reusable grocery bag we got at the entrance.
Our next stop was a large room with two cooking projects (one for younger kids, one for older) and a gardening project. My son made a simple pinecone bird feeder project, then waited for his turn to pump up a bike tire before bailing (too many kids kept cutting in this line) for the electricity exhibit. A very knowledgeable man explained how to fix a broken lamp cord and had my son thread a cord onto a new plug. Then my son got to practice changing a light bulb several times, which he loved.
On the middle floor, we skipped over a room where children were practicing writing thank-you notes (an important skill that I work on with my son, but since he’s not writing yet I decided we’d leave that for older kids). I was curious about the table manners room, but the door was shut for a session and we didn’t wait. We also didn’t head into a room focused on “six nifty ways to say I’m sorry.” Instead, we moved on to a kitchen area where kids could practice loading a dishwasher rack with plastic plates and cups. In “What’s Wrong With This Kitchen?” a small kitchen had spills to clean, milk to return to the fridge and a dishtowel on the floor. Small groups of kids went in together and cleaned up while parents were instructed not to coach them (volunteers gave a few instructions when needed). In another room, kids dumped a small cup of oats on the floor and then used a broom or vacuum to remove them.
A popular activity, “What’s Wrong With This Family Room?” was similar to the kitchen cleanup but required signing up for a session, which we did not know to do. We peeked in and were offered a spot since there was a no-show. My son and 4 other kids stood outside a family room setup (including couch, throw rug, and toy bin) and were told to survey what needed to be done, come up with a plan of who would do what, then try to beat a 5-minute timer to get everything in order. The kids loved the challenge and cleaned and straightened with a vengeance.
Our last stop was the third floor. I was skeptical that my son could do a sewing project figuring it was for older kids, but it was another reminder that he CAN DO so many things. With the help of a volunteer, he pressed a sewing machine pedal while she guided a long piece of fleece through to make a simple scarf. Nearby he was helped to cut fringe on the ends of the scarf. We were almost out of time so we bypassed folding laundry, ironing, and sewing buttons for a shoe shine station. Brushing shoe wax on with a toothbrush and buffing it off with a large shoe brush was definitely something we’ve never worked on at home, but I’ll now be scanning my closet for dull shoes.
The third floor also had a “game show” performance (on the hour) that focused on people skills, but we didn’t have time to check it out.
While the event was crowded, I was grateful that PEP only sells a certain number of tickets each year. If it had been any more crowded it could have made the event unpleasant.
Throughout the fair, I was thrilled to see my son, who can be shy and uncomfortable around adults he doesn’t know, interacting with the volunteers and gaining confidence. My big takeaway is that I need to incorporate household tasks in our family routine in a positive way. We’ll be back next year for more homespun fun at the Can Do Kids Fair (and hopefully my older son, who was jealous when hearing his brother’s positive report, will be able to come).

More Info

  • The Can Do Kids Fair takes place on a Saturday afternoon in late winter (in 2014 the event was on March 8). The 2014 fair was $15 per person; $50 max per family (adults need a ticket too).
  • Buy tickets to the Can Do Kids Fair online well in advance. It sells out every year.
  • I’d recommend arriving right at the event start. There’s so much to cover, and you won’t even get to do everything in two hours.
  • PEP follows Adlerian psychology and offers a wide range of parenting classes throughout the year at locations in the D.C. area.  View their full schedule online.
  • PEP leases space from a church but is not affiliated with the church.

Photos by Kathleen Seiler Neary


Submitted by Danielle Werchowsky on
We attended this when my son was younger and it was really fun and my kid learned a lot. It ties in nicely with the PEP philosophy of "Don't do for your kids, what they can do for themselves." It teaches kids to be responsible and competent.
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We attended this when my son was younger and it was really fun and my kid learned a lot. It ties in nicely with the PEP philosophy of "Don't do for your kids, what they can do for themselves." It teaches kids to be responsible and competent.

By: DanielleW on Sat Mar 22, 2014
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