14 posts categorized "Playgrounds"

At the playground: are you watching, playing, chatting, or working?

June 20, 2011

Yesterday, I felt that we enjoyed a rare moment at the playground, a moments when each member of the family was actually out there playing.  Parents and kids alike, we were all monkeying on the bars and going down the slide.  It was great, great fun.

To be honest, it is not a frequent occurrence, to find us adults out there playing.  Many times, a stop at the park is time for the kids to get their wiggles out before dinner, to kill time between activities, to meet up with others so mamas/papas can visit while kids play, to buy a little time of distraction so working mamas/papas can check their email or return calls.  Gosh - did it feel great to play!

Really, though, is the playground more just for kids in your experience?  Do you use it as a way to find a distraction for them so you can do something else?  Or, do you find yourself out on the playground with them, goofing off and playing all together?

Stranger danger at the park: Sort of

May 14, 2010

Yesterday after we picked up Truman from preschool, we decided to enjoy the gloriousness of the day at nearby Kenilworth Park. We weren't the only ones: a group from Grout had biked to school and was enjoying a picnic snack at the western playground; numerous young adults were kicking back in the sun in the "bowl" of grass and staging their own impromptu picnics; a few men had taken advantage of the bowling balls ever-present in their friend's trunk and were playing a raucous game of bowling-ball croquet (with a modified sledge hammer as mallet).

The older boys ran ahead to the upper, eastern playground with the intention of giving Truman a (very short-lived) bike-riding lesson, and I followed behind, seeing from the corner of my eye a giddily happy couple disengage from what looked like an inappropriate-for-public embrace. I averted my eyes in discomfort and walked up to Everett, who was waiting for me. "Those people were just having sex," he said matter-of-factly. "They were?" I asked. "Yep. People have sex there all the time," he replied. (A few minutes later, I saw a condom wrapper a few feet away, confirming Everett's assessment of the situation. At least it was safe sex!)

The couple walked by the playground about then, probably not picking up on the context behind the murderous glance I shot at them (they smiled blissfully back), and it occurred to me that kids look at people in the way adults don't. I feel discomfort at some man's near-nakedness as he reads in the sun; I see excessive PDA; I look away. Not so my little ones.

All I had to say to Everett was, "that's not ok." I couldn't think of another response. But then I watched as Truman approached each and every arrangement of strange adults and teenagers, variously begging for snacks from a couple with eye-popping nose piercings; joining in the bowling ball game (the guys let him have his very own ball and roll it through the wickets while they played); going up to the near-naked reading guy and chat with him for a minute; taking a turn at a ball-throwing toy for a little dog, for whom Truman's misfires were entirely too stimulating; and finally, accosting a teenager practicing his tuba. The tuba player turned out to be extraordinarily patient, telling him about the parts of the instrument, showing him how the tubes and bell worked, and even letting him have a turn blowing into it.

My lesson from this was twofold: first, Truman's complete lack of social boundaries means I have to keep very vigilant (and indeed, during all this I was doing my best to be a careful observer without impinging on his child-joy of social discovery); second, I have to look at people the way my children do. See them, see what they're doing, steer clear or confront if necessary.

But: what is there to be done about strangers who choose to have sex in the public-that-includes-your-kids? I thought about this afterward and couldn't come up with a sensibly effective response. Confronting them after the fact would have been, well, pretty confrontative and angry, not something I wanted my kids to have any more exposure to than they already do; calling the police would have broken something in me (not to mention required a very public retelling for Everett, the "witness"); appealing to them quietly and privately would have meant leaving the children, which was at that point an impossibility. Perhaps there's no solution but to ask your child to please, please, never do that himself.

urbanMamas talk Housing & Parks with Nick Fish

July 14, 2009

3605804627_ca3aef479a_m Way back in Spring 2008, we met with city council candidates to talk about the city's policies for families.  We even hosted a mayoral forum to raise consciousness about family issues and hear what candidates were planning to make Portland a family forward city. 

You helped us to create a casual list of priorities that we called "the mamagenda."  We have not forgotten!  Some of the items on that list remain important to us, like: smoke-free parks; affordable, near-work child care; quality after-school programs; support for walking & biking to schools; healthy school lunches at PPS; paid family leave for city employees, and the list (of course) goes on.  Some of these issues have seen progress, others not so much.  It's been a year since all that talk and action.  What's on your list now?  Has it changed?  Is it the same? 

A few urbanMamas have the opportunity to sit down with Commissioner Nick Fish later this week to discuss ways he may be able to help us further a mamagenda.  Commish FIsh (heh!  We just had to ...  it rhymes!) oversees the Portland Housing Bureau and Portland Parks & Recreation.  Are there issues within these two realms that are on the forefront for you and your families?

[Thx to Derek Coetzee & FLickr CC for the perfect city hall image]

Portland Parks & Rec: What's New?

March 09, 2009

A few emails have come to us with some goings on over at Portland Parks and Recreation, and we thought it would be a great time to highlight:

Learn about Couch Park Play Area Improvements:  Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) is holding a public meeting to provide information about the proposed safety and ADA accessibility improvements planned for the play area at Couch Park. Please join us to hear about these proposed improvements, how they will help make the play area better for all users, and the timing of the improvements.  Meeting is on Thursday March 12, from 7-8pm, at the Metropolitan Learning Center School Auditorium (2033 NW Glisan).

A community center being planned for Washington Monroe High School:  The Buckman neighborhood in SE Portland is slated to develop 4.7 acres of the former Washington Monroe High School into a Community Center.  Portland Parks & Recreation is recruiting community members to consider key questions such as, "What are the community’s needs?", "Who will be using the facility?" and "What are the activities and programs it needs to provide?"  To be a part of this initial planning process, go to the project website here or download the interest form.

Support the new WEEKEND Indoor Playparks:  We received an email from an urbanMama who has brought weekend indoor playparks to PP&R!  "I returned to work when my daughter was two and quickly realized that there are not enough indoor weekend activities for toddlers. I talked to the folks over at Portland Park and Recreation and they’ve graciously agreed to start a Sunday indoor play park for ages birth – 5 years at the East Portland Community Center, every Sunday from 3:30 to 5:30 pm ($1 per child).  The center is located at 740 SE 106th avenue (very close to Mall 205) and the phone number is 503-823-3450.  I hope that some of you working parents will take advantage of this program – they will keep the weekend park going as long as there is a demand."

Let's hear it: Best Playgrounds in PDX?

November 15, 2007

We are playground junkies, roaming 'round the streets of Portland, hopping off the bike or bus to go an play at a playground we'd never noticed before.  What playgrounds - parks and schoolyards - do you love?  Where are they - N, NE, SE?  NW or SW? An urbanMama emailed recently and would love to get the conversation going.

Hi- I'm Kathleen and I live in SE Portland in the Woodstock neighborhood.  I recently read saw a story somewhere about an amazing new playground that was built at a school in Lake Oswego.  Anyone remember what school that was?  I have a 5 yr old son who is obsessed with swinging on bars/rings and I am trying to get some new ideas for fun, challenging playgrounds around Portland.  We have been to almost all the playgrounds in SE Portland Parks and some schools in SE, but we are looking for something new and interesting.  We need something new and difficult to work on in a new place .  Any ideas?

Mid-Summer Thoughts: Concerts in the Park

July 23, 2007

A few weeks of concerts are now behind us - be it concerts at the parks, Kruger's farm concerts, Zoo concerts.  In the past few weeks, we've seen triple digit temps and rain, which has definitely affected whether we pack the picnic or not.  Last week on a rainy Wednesday, we decided to brave the weather and hope for the best: we hit Peninsula Park for some 'hot 20s jazz'.  The rain decided to stay away, but the concert was cancelled for good measure anyway.  It was just as well: we caught up with old friends and spent the evening picnicking right on the stage.

In the past few weeks, we have picnicked at Sellwood Park, Fernhill Park, Peninsula Park.  We've had several evening jaunts at Jamison, too, of course!  We have found that we all enjoy it most when:  1) the play area is within line of sight from the grassy area so the kids can play while parents catch up on the picnic blanket, 2) we are able to position ourselves in the spot that is just-so -- not too close to the music so we can still catch up with friends, and 3) we have enough provisions for the hungry picnickers.  For these reasons, we have enjoyed our concerts at Fernhill - with the merry-go-round in plain sight from the parents' perch on the grass - even though Peninsula Park is more of our neighborhood park.

So, we ask: Which parks have been great for you and your picnicking family?  What's in your picnic basket?  (We typically have tofu slices, prosciutto, grapes, straweberries, baguette, cheese, water, wine)  How many concerts in the outdoors have you hit so far this season?  How early do you get to the park - a little early to score the perfect spot or after the first set has already begun?

Join the indoor park of the future?

February 25, 2007

A long time ago in mama years, I joined the Buckman Indoor Park. At the time it was held in the old wrestling room of Washington-Monroe High School on SE 12th and Stark. Only months after I joined, though, Portland Public Schools sold the building (which was being used for, among other things, a school for teen moms) to the city in hopes that one day, a community center would be there. Which was great, and all, but now we had no where (cheap) to call home.

I soon joined the board of the Buckman Indoor Park, and we changed the name to "Friends of Indoor Park" as we knew it would be a longshot finding space in the Buckman neighborhood. We put the play equipment, purchased by a grant in the 80s, into storage and started looking for new space. Cindi Carrell and I both tried to find time when we could to figure out a space that would be secure, large, centrally-located, and cheap -- but given that we were both busy and, let's face it, our requirements were a tall order -- we still have lots of great equipment in storage.

We have some big possibilities ahead, suddenly, right in the Sunnyside neighborhood, and a group of mamas is getting together this Monday, February 26th, at 10 a.m. in Cindi's house. I have to be in D.C. for a last-minute meeting, so I can't be there -- but if you can, or can't but want to be involved, please leave a comment here and I'll contact you with more details.

Designing Kenilworth Park's play future

February 13, 2007

Do you live near Kenilworth Park? If you do, you probably know that both playgrounds were destroyed by the parks department last fall because the wooden structures were rotting away. The upper playground, for younger children and toddlers, was fairly cheap to replace so the parks people found room in the operating budget to order some small structures, and they will all be in place and play-able soon.

The lower playground, meant for older, school-aged children, was a different matter and would be far more expensive. Somehow, Jeff Milkes, an enterprising parks employee, convinced the powers-that-be to set aside some $25,000 for a new play structure. This, he thought, was just enough, and some parents from the neighborhood met with him a few months ago to give him ideas.

Tonight, at the Creston-Kenilworth Neighborhood Association meeting at Grout School (32nd and Holgate), Jeff and a designer will be showing us some potential plans and asking for community feedback. If you're part of the community, we'd love to see you -- tonight, at 7 p.m. There will be activities for children if you can't find a sitter.

Starting Soon: NE Playgroup

February 07, 2007

Thank you, Diana, for spearheading this effort:

Hello, I am the mother of 16 month old daughter and live in North East Portland. I am starting a playgroup/moms morning off type of thing. My son, who is 3, has been in a similar group since he was 20 months old and has loved it.

What's it about...4-10 families get together and rotate houses and days to allow for the playgroup. The group is usually from 8:30 to about 12:30, it's a socialization and preschool readiness type program with books, singing, crafts, bilingual instruction, dancing and anything else that toddlers do and love.

Who runs it... The families get together and agree and hire a "nanny/teacher" to teach and play with the little ones. We each pay $5 an hour and the group caps out at 4 toddlers a day. You can choose to stay for 3 or 4 hours, a nutritious lunch/snack is served and mom gets the morning off. Parents would always be welcome to stay and help out and get a discount if they do.

My son has been a similar group, we just adore our teacher and the families have become extremely close, the kids have learned tons and surprise us every time they come home with their new stories.

I have a couple families interested already and a "teacher" in mind but we would all find a time to get together and work out the details. Ideally this would be available 5 mornings a week and you can choose how many days you want to attend. Very flexible and always fun.

We're looking for kiddos between 15-20 months who would like to be in the group. Email thedess@hotmail.com or call 503 888 7149 so we can set up a play/info date.

raising funds for kenilworth park play area

September 05, 2006


Everett and Truman love playing at Kenilworth Park, and many of you have joined us at the wading pool there. It's fun to run over to the play structure in between dips in the pool, and it's such a peaceful place to watch the little ones slide, climb and play spaceship captain in the cooler months.

I learned last week that the play area had been shuttered due to termite damage, and is planned for destruction. There's no money in the parks department budget to replace it, so little children must go elsewhere in the neighborhood for their playtime until parents band together.

I'm hoping to take some cues from the parents and neighbors who worked so hard to raise funds for Abernethy's playground, and I can only imagine this isn't nearly as expensive as the other one. If you have any information for me, ideas, or want to help, please comment here. One of the neighbors has already contacted Dan Saltzman's office; he's supportive, but "Dan would love to see more money going to this type of stuff, but he works in partnership with the rest of Council and those Commissioners have their priorities too."

ISO Playgrounds for 12-18 month olds

May 23, 2006

When my Philly was about 13 months old, she was still so wobbly on her feet and would sometimes be so uncoordinated that she'd miss the handrail that she was reaching for.  I was constantly nervous at the playground when she was that itty bitty.  The gaps between the handrails on the stairs can be large enough for her to fall between.  Sure enough, she was about 5 steps up, heading toward the slide, and she reached for the handrail, missed grabbing it, then fell through the space between the handrail and step.  SPLAT!

Lisa, thank you for your question:

What are the best Portland public parks for very young toddlers -- say, 12 to 18 months old? Are there any that have fun play equipment geared for tiny kids just beginning to walk? I 've got a 14-month-old who's almost walking and who loves to clamber all over everything. We've been to several parks, and most of the play structures are for kids a little bit older (maybe 2 and above). (Of course there's usually a baby swing, which is good.)  The structure at Laurelhurst is our favorite so far when it's not too busy -- the slides are low enough for him to go down by himself. Any other suggestions?

Mamas, have you found a great playground for your 12- to 18-month olds?


February 13, 2006

Maybe it's not that big a deal, but here goes... 

Jack, Ella and I went to the children's park at Washington Park yesterday (my heart is actually beating faster right now thinking about it) for a little morning play in the SUN.  This dad and his 4 kids ranging from about 2yo to 12 yo or so where there.  The dad is running around the play structure, playing hide and go seek with his kids... so, he knocked over one kid in his quest to hide quickly and almost knocked Ella over, I figured - well, he's having fun and made a mistake I just need to be heads up if I he approaches again. 

Then, he gets out a football, not a real leather one, but not a Nerf, either - it was hard plastic.  He proceeds to have his kids "go long" into/on the play structure (packed with mostly kids under 4yo and their parents) and chastises them when they drop the ball.  As one would expect, balls are dropped/overthrown, one kid is hit and fellow parents are looking at each other like what's up with this guy.  One of the kids proceeded to throw the ball back to dad and missed, dropping the ball into the sand box where Ella was playing.  The ball did not hit her, but narrowly missed her.

I had had it at this point, I told the guy he needed to stop throwing the ball into the play structure and that he should go down to the soccer field where he could run drills with his kids all day long.  He was fine with this - didn't act pissy at all - pleasant surprise.  Then, and this kind of broke my heart... Ella wanted to slide, so we go over to the metal slide where there is room for two kids to go down at once.  The dad's youngest (around 2yo) was on one side of the slide and Ella was on the other side, the kid asked if she wanted to race.  She's didn't really get it and just slid down, the kid slid first and at the bottom of the slide, looked at her and said, "I won!"  The dad declared "good job son, good job."  I was just like, what, huh??  A competitive 2 yo??  It broke my heart because, this boy was sweet, I could tell and I just pray that mommy balances out dad, or excels in sports or has the cajones to tell dad he wants to be in the drama club. 

I know I am making alot assumptions/generalizations, and I actually believe that a competitive spirit is useful in life.  I played sports all through HS and part of college - it's motivating, collaborative, but having a 2yo get congratulated for beating another 2yo seems extreme - no 2 yo should be the "loser" in any scenario, life will teach them about winning and losing soon enough.  Anyway, there is not really a message, question or lesson learned here - just a venting and well, I guess a reminder as to how much our kids model our behavior good or bad. 

Sunny Days, Sweeping the Clouds Away

February 06, 2006

Well, it's supposed to be sunny all week, so I would love to hear about favorite playgrounds, particularly in the NE.  We are regulars at Alberta Park.  Are there some great climbing structures out there, waiting to be discovered?  (I'd especially love suggestions of playgrounds less inhabited by dogs, or where the off-leash area is far away and the dog owners respect that--I have a phobic son.)

Surprise! The Lila Guide | Baby-Friendly Portland

January 11, 2006

It was SO long ago when I think I filled out a survey for the Portland lilaguide.  What a treat it was to find one in my mail slot yesterday!  Calling itself the "new parent survivial guide to shopping, activities, restaurants, and more...", the lilaguide is written by parents for parents.  Reviews are Zagat-esque, incorporating first-hand comments and quotes by customers and parents just like us.  Unlike Zagat, where we can expect some witty snarky comments, lilaguide is pretty, smooth, and uber-palatable.

The guide is organized by county - Clackamas, Washington, Clark, and Multnomah.  The urbanMama in me wishes it was mostly Portland information organized by neighborhood.  Still, I found some fun stuff like quotes about almost all the parks and playgrounds with helpful firsthand information.  Of a park just a few blocks of me: "a nice park to visit although there's not too much shade during summer months ... the usual facilities including restrooms and off-leash area..."  I also enjoyed leafing through the Exercise section, highlighting activities I'd not heard of like Baby Boot Camp or Divine Pilates of Portland or Moving Through Center or Stroller Strides.  The Baby Basics section is a great resource, with listings and info for all our favorite joints like Fairies & Frogs (on NE Fremont), Generations (on Hawthorne), Grasshopper (on NE Alberta), Milagros (on NE Killingsworth), Piccolina (at SE Clinton and 26th), Sweetpea's (in Sellwood), and Zanzibar (on NE Fremont near 15th).

I'm glad I have a copy.  But, I'm glad I got a free one (for completing at least 14 reviews of Portland establishments).  I don't think I'd necessarily go out and buy one.