Ruby Bridges: You Belong Here!


HFP’s social curriculum and emphasis on being friendly and inclusive provides the foundation from which to notice and speak up when things are not kind, friendly or fair. After learning a bit about MLK Jr. and the civil rights movement over the past few class sessions, we introduced the story of Ruby Bridges, the first African-American child to desegregate the all-white Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana school in 1960. We looked at pictures of angry white-skinned people who held signs that did not want Ruby to join the school and we checked out pictures of mostly black-skinned people who  held signs in favor of desegregating. We invited parents/adult caregivers to model the way with the morning’s family share prompt: “If you were there when Ruby was walking into the school, what could your sign say to welcome Ruby? ”

Ruby, come play with us!  * We are with you!    Please join us, Ruby! You are an important part of our school. * Ruby, let’s play and make art together. *Bienvenida! Quieres jugar conmigo? (Welcome! Do you want to play with me?) * You belong here! Can’t wait to meet you!

Once in the classroom, we played and discussed the story of Ruby Bridges and invited children to make their own welcoming signs they could later carry in our march.




  Learn More: This 3 minute video about Ruby Bridges might be a good one to share and discuss with your children.

Celebrating Holidays with Intention

In our multicultural society, Christmas, although important to many people, is still not everyone’s holiday. For children and families from other groups—be they Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, pagan, atheist, or anything else—Christmas can be a difficult time. For almost all families, the commercialization of the holiday, with its pressures to buy, decorate, and entertain, adds tremendous complication to already overloaded and busy lives.” -NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children)

We relay our values to our impressionable children. This time of year poses an additional challenge as retailers, commercials, and in some cases extended family and friends, bombard us with messages about how to prepare for Christmas. Inherent in this commercial construction of Christmas underlies the misleading assumption that everyone celebrates Christmas and does so in the same way: feasts, decorations, visits with Santa and numerous gifts under the Christmas tree.

We can guide our children’s thoughts and expectations this holiday season as we choose experiences, rituals and gift-giving that are consistent with our values and let go of those that are not. As we hold true to our wishes for our families and tease those out from what’s being sold to us, we can gift ourselves a nourishing, balanced and joyful holiday season. We can reduce stress and increase satisfaction.

Emphasize Connection and Balance

Whether we are aware of it or not, there is a persuasive Christmas script that can run the show. In an effort to attain this elusive picture-perfect Christmas, we might over-commit to activities, spend beyond our means, consume more sugar and/or alcohol than we truly want, focus children’s attention on material desires and regret subsequent meltdowns, host in pristinely decorated and spotless homes, and forget the experiences of those who don’t celebrate Christmas.

There is much to treasure this season:

  • Time with loved ones
  • Family rituals
  • Annual decorations
  • Favorite recipes
  • Festive music
  • Gift sharing
  • Outdoor excursions
  • Joyful connections

Let’s pause to consider the activities that most nourish us and leave behind those that don’t bring us fulfillment. Sometimes, less is more. We can plan based on the knowledge that what our children most want is our loving attention. Let’s act in accordance to our values, rather than get swept up in what author Jean Staeheli refers to as the “Christmas machine.” *

Challenge Assumptions

Instead of narrowly defining winter celebrations, we can teach our children that there are many ways to honor winter holidays. Assuming every family celebrates Christmas is hurtful. It reinforces a false narrative that there is single experience and it keeps others’ experiences invisible.  A couple of simple shifts in language during December can help to reflect a broader range of family experiences:

  • Wish people “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”
  • Call the two-week school closure at the end of December “Winter Break,” rather than “Christmas Break.”

Shifting from dominant culture assumptions takes time and practice. The more we do it, the closer we’ll come to achieving the true meaning of the holidays– goodwill to all.

Consider Families With Less Financial Means 

We can support our children’s understanding that families’ access to material wealth varies. While the holiday season offers some families luxurious social events, feasts and the exchange of multiple gifts, other families are struggling to meet their basic needs.

We can let our children know what we are thankful for (each other, our homes, heating, warm clothes, good food, etc) and we can help them understand that many people don’t have access to these things.

Consider donating to or volunteering at a food bank, donating warm clothing and/or donating some new or gently used toys. These actions will help support our children’s awareness of others and will help remind us that we can all make a difference.

Gift Ideas that Emphasize Connection Over Consumption

These gifts nourish our relationships, produce less waste and are better for the environment:

  1. Trade gently used books or toys that your child is ready to pass on. Wrap them up and swap with another family.
  2. Make a batch of homemade play dough.
  3. Purchase books that feature perspectives and experiences that differ from your child’s to help boost empathy and awareness. Some of my favorite picture books are here.
  4. Subscribe to a children’s magazine. Here are some recommendations.
  5. Activities: Rollerskating, bowling, family soccer game or card night.
  6. Coupon book: Include a night time family walk, a trip to OMSI, picking what’s for dinner, or an extra bedtime story.
  7. Crafting date: Time together to make something special.
  8. Baking date: Offer recipes and ingredients and bake.
  9. Gift Certificate for Shared Nature Adventure: Let’s take a hike! Ride bikes together! Sled! Shift the emphasis from stuff to shared appreciation of the great outdoors.
  10. Gift Certificate for Parent Play Time: A coupon for child to pick a half hour of uninterrupted play in which they dictate what you do together.  Set the timer and let the good times roll!

Here’s to a joyous holiday season!

Further Reading:

From Hand-in-Hand Parenting: “Holidays and Meltdowns Go Together like Peanut Butter and Jelly” 

*  “Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season” by Jean Staeheli

Midwife Visits, Deepening Our Appreciation of Babies

A few of our students have recently become, or will soon become, older siblings. To celebrate their growing families we invited our friend/HFP alumni parent and midwife, Maura, to share about babies and the birthing process. Maura brought some of the tools she uses in her work: scales, fetal dopplers, and a baby doll in a bag of water with detachable umbilical cord. Children loved listening to their own heart with the doppler and stethoscope, and getting to play with the baby doll. 


Maura: “I love talking to young children about babies and birth. They are not that far removed from the experience that I think they can still really relate to the fact that they were once inside the uterus. I find the real connection is made through the belly button (that original point of real connection!) When you tell a child that they used to be attached by an umbilical cord, and now that’s their belly button, many of them are more than ready to raise their shirts and show you theirs. And of course they want to see mine. I’m happy to share. It’s a place we can all connect. 

I also love using accurate terms for things, and for kids to know there are many ways to make a family and different ways for babies to be born. I think it’s never too early for young children to hear the words uterus, vagina, penis, sperm, egg, umbilical cord, cesarean section, sperm donor, etc. The minds of children are like sponges, and most do not yet feel shy or shameful about their bodies. I hope to pass on positive messages that all of our bodies and all parts of our bodies are beautiful. “


In our Monday class a mom with a newborn joined us, and the children got to see her feed and weigh her real life baby. In our Tuesday class, children were enamored with A’s baby sister, Amaia. During circle time an expecting mother of one of our students, visited and Maura was able to show the children how to use her tools, like the doppler on a real pregnant belly. 


It was wonderful to see the change in the children as they became quieter and calm with curiosity as the midwife did her work. 

Late last week our expecting mother who came during circle time gave birth to a happy healthy baby. We are so happy for H’s whole family. 

*Thanks to Maura Jansen for generously sharing her time, tender attention and expertise with our classes. Thanks to Mandy for sharing her enthusiasm, body and time and for letting us listen to her baby’s heartbeat!


It’s Sunflower Season! We celebrated a week of sunflowers at Hawthorne Family Playschool. Susan brought in sunflower leaves and heads from the garden, and introduced a chant for children to notice and name all the children at  circle. “Sunflower leaf, big and wide. Who does it hide?” Each child hid behind the leaf and then revealed their smiling face while we sung out their name. Children also practiced using their fingers and tweezers to carefully pick seeds from the sunflower heads. And we learned that sunflowers can be delicious as well as beautiful with an array of sunflower seed and sunflower butter-themed snacks courtesy of HFP parents.

Did you know: young sunflowers follow the sun across the sky, but older sunflowers consistently face East.



Summer Fun at the HFP Community Potluck

Each summer our community comes together for a potluck and evening of fun in Sewallcrest Park. The event is open to all HFP families; alumni, continuing and newly enrolling. Thanks to all who ventured out to share in the festivities, and thanks to Rachael & Hailey for setting us up with sprinkler play!

Katie Messelt, mama to Z and C and HFP President sums it up perfectly:

“What a fun evening full of delicious food, playground fun and water play! It was wonderful to see everyone that made it out and we missed those of you who couldn’t. As I reflect on last year, I am in awe of Z and C’s first year of preschool: their growth and all the experiences but most importantly, the connections they made with their teacher, their classmates and families. The most amazing part is the community – not only for them, but for me! Parenting young children can feel lonely and isolating and I have felt so supported here at HFP. I hope you all will, too! Please don’t hesitate to reach out!” 










JOIN US for any or all of our remaining summer park dates. Wednesday mornings at 10 a.m. All welcome!

Aug. 14th Woodstock Park,

Aug. 21st –Mt. Tabor Park (SE Side/Nearest cross street is SE Lincoln & SE 72nd).

Aug. 28th- Sewallcrest Park