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Weekend events planned for kids

Two events slated for Saturday are aimed at keeping the bodies and minds of local youth healthy and strong.

The LOU Excel by 5 Coalition is working with the United Way of Oxford and Lafayette County to host the fourth EXCELebration to recognize the Oxford and Lafayette County community as a child-friendly community that strives to ensure all children entering kindergarten are prepared to succeed.

Oxford received its certification from the state Excel by 5 organization in 2013 and was re-certified on April 25.

The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Jackson Avenue Center. While targeted for children 5 and under, the event is free and open to the public.

Excel By 5 communities around the state must be evaluated every three years to ensure that they are continuing to meet an extensive list of requirements. Lafayette County is one of 25 Mississippi communities currently certified by Excel By 5, which works to ensure that the enormous potential of Mississippi’s young children is realized.

“Decades of research demonstrates the long-term benefits, to children, families and society, of a strong start in life,” said Chelsea Herbert, AmeriCorps VISTA with the United Way.

The EXCELebration will promote awareness of the importance of the early years, connect parents and other caregivers with a wide variety of helpful resources, and highlight fun and simple ways to promote positive child development in the home. Attendees will learn from more than 30 vendors and engage in arts and crafts, songs and stories, and games and fun.

This year’s EXCELebration will have a circus theme and will feature a stage with scheduled storytelling, a bluegrass jam session, children’s gymnastics, and music with Kindermusik, as well as the blow-up planetarium from the UM Center for Math and Science Education.

“Children will have fun painting, making necklaces, digging in the dirt, and meeting police officers and firefighters, while their par- ents receive valuable information on infant/ child safety, child development and nutrition, and local resources from our vendors,” Herbert said.

Attendees will be able to tour the Family Resource Center at 1097 Jackson Ave., a free lending library of toys and books open to families and child care providers.

Also on Saturday, the Oxford YMCA will host its first COOL Healthy Kids Day, also from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Oxford YMCA off North Lamar Boulevard in the Mid-Town Shopping Center.

Activities will include a bounce house, face-painting, games and fitness classes. Some of the University of Mississippi athletes will be on hand to visit. There will be a raffle for a bike and a Fitbit.

The event is free and open to all families.

“It is a national initiative to improve the health and well-being of kids,” said Operations Director Leslie Kennedy. “It is important to teach kids early because for most kids, activities that stimulate the mind and the body end after school gets out. Research shows that kids are prone to gaining weight and falling behind in studies. We are doing this to be a conduit for the community to help educate kids early about the importance of being healthy in body, mind and spirit.”