CARIBOU, Maine — As an active parent wanting her child to be creative and to engage in lifelong learning, Amanda Lericos has shuttled her 2-year-old son to any age appropriate activity she could find in and around the Caribou area.
But Lericos soon discovered that most events in her area, such as swimming lessons or sports teams, were geared toward children who are 5 years of age or older. So she took it upon herself to establish her own network of parents with young children who want to engage their children in similar activities, and now Lericos is at the helm of a growing group of local parents and caregivers who are meeting regularly for a wide variety of events.
Lericos established Aroostook Kids, a privately owned and operated website designed for parents of Aroostook County children. The goal of the site is to inform parents about current activities for children and to encourage individuals, organizations and local businesses to set up new and exciting events for children.
Thus far, Lericos has attracted a wealth of traffic to the site, which she started two months ago, and more than 150 friends have joined the Aroostook Kids Facebook page.
“There are events around here for children, but they aren’t always for young children, and they aren’t always taking place all year long,” Lericos said Wednesday. “Some of the events run for a few months, and then summer comes and they shut down until the fall. That means that the kids are left bored or completely left out altogether, and that is something that I wanted to change.”
Lericos said that anyone can become involved with the website and the activities that are posted on it. Children don’t have to be under 5 years old, but most of the activities are age appropriate and fun for children in that age bracket. Organizations and businesses can host activities for children simply by contacting Aroostook Kids so their event can be posted on the site. Aroostook Kids also sends out a weekly newsletter.
Thus far, Aroostook Kids has hosted picnics in area parks, organized a tricycle parade and earlier this week scheduled a few hours of strawberry picking at McElwain’s Farm in Caribou. Future events include a sidewalk chalk coloring contest at Mantle Lake Park in Presque Isle and a visit to the Caribou Fire Department.
Lericos said that the group has grown steadily as word of mouth has spread, and the group has done additional advertising.
“We see more new faces at every event that we host,” she said. “There were about 30 parents that brought children to the strawberry event, so that was very successful.”
Lericos said that she still does most of the organizing and website maintenance herself. Most of the activities are scheduled in the Presque Isle, Caribou and Fort Fairfield areas. Lericos said that most of the activities are small events and feature snacks and drinks as part of the experience. Participants take turns bringing food and the supplies necessary to keep the events running. If businesses and organizations donate goods, space or scheduled activities for kids under 5, Aroostook Kids advertises their business or organization on its website.
Right now, Lericos and other parents are working to plan an end of the summer fair for area children.
Lericos said that the group is not “cliquey,” and parents should not be discouraged from bringing their child to an event just because they don’t know anyone.
“Most of us are strangers to each other,” she said Wednesday. “But the one thing we have in common is that we want our kids to have activities to do that they can enjoy.”