Preschool Park Dates: Community Building in SE PDX

One of the great things about being part of a co-op preschool is getting to know the other families and becoming part of a community. We have the opportunity to strengthen this bond over the summer through our structured Park Dates. Each week, two families host at a different park in Southeast Portland. We gather to socialize, play and break through the isolation that parents of young children often experience. Many families strengthen the friendships we have formed throughout the school year. New families have an opportunity to connect and learn about HFP life. Bubbles, chalk and good times are abundant!









JOIN US for Wednesday morning Summer Park Dates!


Cultivating Green Thumbs

By Mike Russell (Current HFP Parent)

We come full circle, returning to Sauvie Island to pick strawberries where the pumpkins we harvested last Fall once grew. It’s a joyous time for everyone. Most of the parents join in. Everyone goes home with days’ (hours’?) worth of strawberries.This is a great opportunity to nourish children’s interest in the connection between their bodies and Nature. They literally get to touch and taste the fruits of the earth. Experiencing that connection in such sharp, sweet clarity can extend an ongoing classroom conversation about where our food comes from. That conversation can lead to an ongoing experiment throughout the summer: gardening. It’s a short hop from strawberry-picking to digging in a patch of dirt back home. Long after the taste of summer’s first fruit has faded away, gardening activities can keep little ones engaged in the Nature-body interface. Here are a few ideas to get started.

Designate a child-specific plot

This is a space where they get to call the shots. While you’re rooting around in the garden beds, or treading lightly so as to leave the roots to work in peace, your little ones could tend to their own garden bed. It might be as simple as that—a place to play in the dirt—or it could incorporate seed-planting, watering, weeding and, eventually, the harvest.


Newly planted seeds grow best in loose, well-turned soil. While turning up the dirt in any garden bed, you will likely encounter clods that have compacted over the winter. Breaking up those dirt clods could be an amusing and helpful activity for you to share in. (Our son delighted in exploding dirt clods with a 2-lb. Rubber mallet.) The activity promotes eye-hand coordination, invites a conversation about plant roots’ preference for loose soil, and will likely uncover some worms in their native habitat; another great opportunity for teaching more about soil’s origins, and practicing care for vulnerable creatures.


This essential activity invites eager engagement—especially when the daytime temperatures heat up—and many conversation prompts, including: Why do plants need to be watered? How much water is good, too much, or too little? Why is that? Where does the water go after it seeps down below the roots? If, when it comes to gardening, you’re all thumbs, and none of them are green, just start small. You and your littles can have plenty of fun on a small scale with radishes or beans. Radishes germinate faster than most vegetables. Place a packet of their seeds in a pot of potting soil, water lightly every other day, and their wee leaves will sprout up in just a few days.

For a faster payoff, and a bigger finale, grab a packet of pole beans. Soak them in a cup overnight, then keep them sandwiched in a moist paper towel. In a day or two, the two halves of the beans will reveal a baby root and stem emerge. (You may have some memory of this activity from a middle-school biology class.) Once the novelty of this phase has worn off (or another two days have passed), plant those delicate baby beans in a pot of soil. Give them something to climb and regular care, and they will grow before your eyes every day before yielding that tasty payoff.

Does this post remind you of a childhood experience gardening? What’s another gardening activity you share with the littles in your life? Please let us know in the comments section, below.

Check out HFP’s list of recommended garden-themed picture books.


“We’re Going to Be Friends” – Helping Children Navigate Social Situations

Written by Katie Messelt, HFP parent

Photo : Katie and her two children on an HFP field trip. 

One of the most wonderful things of Hawthorne Family Playschool is the wealth of knowledge we have at our fingertips! Between Susan and the other parents, I feel so supported navigating this stage of parenthood. Recently I contacted Susan looking for advice. On multiple occasions, my child said to me while looking at another child, “He (or she) is not my friend.” It seemed without reason or provocation. Two times, it was someone new at the playground and another time, it was someone at school. I didn’t want to overreact because I knew at this age it’s developmentally appropriate to be testing out language and seeing how their adults respond. 

Susan responded:

I typically try to help the child articulate their underlying concern. When a young child says “you’re not my friend” or “he’s mean” or some kind of blanket statement that sounds unkind or dismissive, they’re likely reacting to a hurtful behavior– an experience in which they’ve been wronged and they could use support understanding that. 

A child may say something about not liking another child to me. I try to unearth what specific behavior they don’t like that the child has done in the past.

For example, “Oh, you don’t like when people push you. Nobody likes to be pushed.” 

“You don’t like when someone is loud near you. Sometimes ___ is loud. You can walk away to get space from loud noises when they bother you.”

When a child makes an overarching statement about another child given their upset about a prior incident (the child was rough with them, or the child knocked over something they were building), I validate the concern and then try help focus their attention on the broader reality.

For example, “Nobody likes when someone is rough with them.” Or, “It’s frustrating to have your building knocked over.”  

Then I draw attention to the child of concern’s current behavior: “It’s looks like ___ is using gentle hands right now.” Or, “It looks like ____ is building right along side of you and all the structures are safe.” The attention is on what is actually happening rather than a hurt from the past. 

Looking back on the individual situations with my son, this all made so much sense! In one instance, the child who he said was not his friend had yelled at him and it scared him. I was able to separate the past from what was happening now. I have since seen my child and the other child make a connection and play together at school. Thinking back to the situations when my son didn’t know the other children, he was really communicating that he was uncomfortable and not sure what to do. On several occasions, we role played meeting someone new. After processing this for weeks, my child saw some kids that he didn’t know start to walk near us. He said confidently, “They are going to be my friends. I am going to tell them my name.” 


Wheel Week: Ready, Set, Roll!


We indulged in a week of wheel-themed activities, culminating in a Wheel Day for each class. We took over the entire parking lot to ride a variety of bikes, scooters and cars. 

Driving Cars Through Paint



Bikes, Scooters & Wheelchair Coloring Pages

Coloring pages are a rarity at HFP so they were a big hit. We offered a range of wheeled images including children riding on bikes and people in wheelchairs. We don’t currently have anyone in our school community who uses a wheel chair so this offered us an opportunity to talk about the value of wheel chairs– to allow someone who is not able to walk to  move from  point A to point B, similar to a bike or scooter.



Wheeled Toys in the Block Area


In addition to our usual set of toy cars, we added wagons and bikes and children took turns giving figurines rides. While waiting for a turn challenged many at the beginning of the school year, it’s clear we’ve had lots of practice. Children negotiated turn-taking with little support, grace and ease. 

Scooter Boards



Vehicle Sewing Cards & Snacks to Refuel


Wheel-themed books and pictures 

We include a range of images of people on bikes, broadening the representation beyond those in our current community. Below three children notice and discuss a picture of a man in China transporting a huge load of items on his bike. 


Here are a few of our favorite wheel-themed books:

    Image result for gretchen the bicycle dog


Ride like the wind!

We closed the parking lot to cars so we had oodles of space to ride! Children got to share their physical prowess, take on challenges of riding two-wheeled bikes and ride safely going a single direction to avoid accidents.


Taking Turns


A couple of families brought in extra riding toys and scooters to try out. Children tried those and traded turns on their trusty bikes.

Bouncing Back After a Fall

Photo: Stephanie comforts a child who took a spill. 

As children took on physical challenges, there were a couple of falls. In each incident, we made space to tell the story of what happened; allow the child to fully feel their upset , receive comfort  and care-taking from a trusted adult, and have the time and space they needed to re-join the festivities.  

Tickets for Teamwork


We played a cooperative game in which each child was awarded a ticket for completing a loop. Each time they passed by, they put a ticket in our collective jar until we filled the jar! This generated lots of enthusiasm, pride and eager participants, while circumventing the emphasis of winning and being faster than or “better” than others. Each child took on their own personal challenge while helping us accomplish our group goal. Most powered a riding toy that best suited them, while a couple of children ditched their bikes and joined in running. 


On Friday, we got to meet a group of adult bicyclists from the Fuller Bike Adventure who were preparing for a 4,000 mile summer ride to raise funds to build affordable housing. What a wonderful way to end our wheel week!