Take It Outside! Fresh Air, Nature and Nourishing Play

Children cannot bounce off the walls if we take away the walls.” – Erin Kenny

Given Covid, all of our in-person programming has been outside. With the open air, we seriously reduce the risk of spreading germs while simultaneously benefitting from spaciousness and natural elements!  We bring a variety of toys, materials and platy prompts outside, further embellishing our outdoor classroom. While we play, we may pause to listen for the nearby woodpecker, dig in the soil to unearth a worm, or encounter a tiny seashell in the sandbox, deepening our connections to the natural world.


Leap frogs.                                                 Swinging, pushing, taking turns.


Snuggling in close to read together. 


Testing our ears with a matching shaker game.


Building rainbow patterns with friends.


Digging and making sand pies.               


 Harnessing the wind, running and decorating using rainbow streamers.

Powerful Words, Important Voices.

Image: VoxAlt JAMES RHEE

Using words to share wishes, thoughts and ideas is essential to co-creating the world we desire. Humans need ongoing support to help identify our feelings, wishes and ideas. Young children need lots of practice to express themselves fully, and they need support to act from their best places of engagement. As we each work to know ourselves, to ground ourselves and to use our voices to advocate for ourselves, family, friends and neighbors, we can co-create life experiences we desire. We can overcome challenging distress patterns and feelings that may otherwise interfere with having a big life and stepping toward our big ideas.

Those targeted by oppression (females, people who are BIPOC, LGBTQ, neurodiverse or have differing abilities) face greater obstacles in having their voices heard. This week’s stories focuses on three different girls overcoming obstacles to access their most powerful selves.

Both of these powerful picture books feature children who overcome challenges and effectively use their voices. In the first story, Willow’s quiet voice is often not heard. Her whispering voice and shyness impede her ability to get her needs met.  With practice and support, Willow finds and uses her big voice! 

The second story is based on the true story of Kamala and Maya–when Vice President Kamala Harris and her sister were children. They’ve got a BIG idea of having a slide outside their building and they work hard together to make it happen. They talk to lots of people– including the landlord of their building– draw pictures and write a letter. They use their words and passion to make their big idea a reality!

Craft: Make a Microphone

  • Use a paper towel roll or a toilet paper roll.
  • Decorate it with stickers, paper and markers to make your own microphone.

The text and ideas shared in this blog post are excerpted from this past week’s curriculum subscription. Playschool subscriptions include curated stories, activities, crafts, videos, artwork, suggested outings, parenting resources, and a suggested activism around a particular theme. 

Treasuring Trees: Tree Enthusiast Visits HFP

We welcomed Joan from the Talk About Trees program to teach us about seeds and cones. After hearing an overview, pretending to be trees drinking water through our roots, and identifying which trees have leaves and which have needles, we walked around the school to inspect and collect a bagful of tree treasures.


A few families ventured to this week’s suggested site: Lone Fir Cemetery, Portland’s second largest arboretum. They searched and found the very first tree planted from which the cemetery was named.

O. brought home her collected tree treasures then collaged them onto a toilet paper roll to make a tree doll!

We look forward to welcoming Joan back next month to focus on the life cycle of trees!

Satisfying Sensory Play at Home

Most young children thrive when engaged in sensory play. Sensory tubs and playdough are two simple. low-cost, satisfying sensory play options families can offer at home. These hands-on activities are typically calming, help children focus and express themselves creatively and are ripe for extended, engrossing play.  At HFP– and likely preschools across the nation– children naturally gravitate to the sensory and playdough tables. These activities are easy to offer at home. 
Sensory Tub
  • Find or purchase a plastic tub with lid. 
  • Fill with water or any dry ingredient such as popcorn kernels, rice or lentils. 
  • Add a range of containers or scoops such as empty plastic bottles, measuring cups, measuring spoons, etc.
  • Rotate tools inside the table to keep interest high.
  • Borrow a range of sensory table tools  from HFP’s Toy Lending Library to add flare and variety to your home tub. 
  • Cover with a lid when not in use. 
  • Make a batch of homemade playdough.
  • If you make more than one color, consider making primary colors (such as red & blue or yellow & blue) so they’ll blend well when inevitably mixed together. 
  • Cooked playdough recipe here.
  • Borrow a range of playdough table tools from HFP’s Toy Lending Library to add flare and variety to your home playdough. 

Virtual Play Date

While these offerings will likely be sources of joy for your child at home, you might consider amping up the excitement by offering a virtual play date. Children from two households can meet-up and use sensory materials together over Zoom or Google Meet. Children can  mold playdough together or scoop and fill cups of multiple cups of “hot cocoa”… building off the ideas of their playmate while playing side by side. 

Toy Lending Library Spreads Joy

Keeping our germs to ourselves doesn’t mean we have to keep our toys to ourselves! At HFP, we are fortunate to have a storage closet full of engaging materials. Over the past 15 years, I have been able to purchase new and used puzzles, cooperative games, props, dolls, lacing cards, manipulatives, toys, trucks and more!  During Covid, we’re steering clear of indoor get-togethers which could mean children would miss out on access to the wide range of inspiring games and amusements, but we figured out a way to share materials– HFP’s toy lending library. Each week children get to pick out a set of blocks, magnets, floor puzzle, bag of playdough toys, sensory table kit or other merriment to borrow. This simple practice is bringing variety, enrichment and delight to our families homes!  As families snap pictures of their children using school materials, we’ll share them to spread further joy.