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Bemidji Early Childhood Initiative: Tiny Tots Expo called 'a great community event'

Families and caregivers of young children will have an opportunity to participate in more than 30 free hands-on activities Saturday morning.

The Bemidji Area Early Childhood Initiative will host its fifth annual Tiny Tots Expo 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 10, at the Boys & Girls Club of the Bemidji Area, 1600 Minnesota Ave. N.W.

The event is free and open to families of children ages 0-5.

"We want to let families in the area know there are community organizations that meet the needs of families with small children," said Linda Newby, second-year coordinator of the Tiny Tots Expo.

Every year the expo attendance has grown, Newby said. Last year more than 700 people attended.

"It's springtime," Newby said. "Families want to get out. Kids really enjoy it."

Some of the new exhibitors this year include Bemidji Parks and Recreation, Harmony Natural Foods Co-op and McDonald's. More than 35 organizations and businesses from the Bemidji area are expected to attend and offer a hands-on activity for children.

One of the favorite activities at the expo has been the Home Depot Kids' Workshop, where children are given a free kit to build with an adult or with help from staff members. Past kits have been birdhouses, birdfeeders, bug viewers and picture frames.

Other expo activities have included a musical instruments station, a jumping bouncer and an up-close look at a fire truck, ambulance and police car.

The BAECI, which sponsors the expo, is a coalition of area citizens committed to putting families in contact with different organizations that meet the needs of families with small children. The coalition also gives parents, family members and child care providers ways to promote healthy development of the young children in their care.

Each year the BAECI sponsors community family events, such as the Tiny Tots Expo, to help young children have a smooth transition to kindergarten.

A project of the Northwest Minnesota Foundation, the BAECI, part of the Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative, began in November 2005. It is one of 80 such community coalitions in Minnesota.

"It's just a fun community event," Newby said of the Tiny Tots Expo. "It's free, which is great. Any family can come and enjoy it. There will be over 30 different little things they can do."