16 Signs You’re a Portland Parent

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Parenting is a unique adventure regardless of which city you call home. But there’s no question, where you live, influenced how you parent, and Portland parents are a unique crew. Known as much for its health-conscious, eco-friendly culture and jaw-dropping landscape as it is for keeping daily life as weird as possible, there are certain traits that are clear indicators a parent is from Stumptown. Read on for 16 signs you’re a Portland parent.

Photo by Jason Lander via flickr 

#1. Your kids are embarrassed on the days they have to drive, not walk or bike, to school. The biking culture is so popular in Portland that there are streets designated for bikers. Moms and dads are likely to have bikes that can seat one, two and even three kids on them as they commute to and from school and the store. Cars just aren’t cool here.

#2 Going to watch a parade means watching a lot of kids on unicycles. Seeing someone riding a unicycle used to be a rare thing. Not in Portland! It’s almost as popular with the kids as biking is. If you are planning on catching a local parade, you can expect to see a herd of kids on unicycles at some point. (Note: prepare for your kiddos to ask for their own unicycle after they see what the cool kids are doing).

#3 Your kids don’t think twice about people with brightly colored tattoos, multiple piercings, or tattoos. And you might just have all of the above as well. Let’s be honest, are you even really a Portland parent if you haven’t dyed your hair a strange color at least once or at least one tiny tattoo? Even if you have none of the above, you and your kids are used to seeing people who do.

# Your kids’ favorite hero doesn’t wear a cape, but he does dress in costume, ride a unicycle, and play flame-throwing bagpipes. It’s the Portland Unipiper! You’ve seen him on the internet, in the news…and at some point—in the streets. Your kids are as in awe of him as you are. If you’re a Portland parent, you know the Portland Unipiper is a local hero.

photo: Dana Orlosky via Flickr

#5 Mermaids are on parade. That’s right, Portland has its very own mermaid parade and its on beloved Una the Mermaid. Covid may have canceled this year’s celebration. But there’s no doubt, the queens of the sea will return. 

#6 A city of books is one of your favorite family spots. That’s right, we are talking about Powell’s City of Books is a famous local book store that is giant like a small city within our beloved city. And there’s a room in it for everyone in your family though the Rose Room is likely a favorite (children’s books). photo by Jen V. on yelp

#8 Someone in your house has an allegiance to a Beaver or a Duck. Football is a thing here and the Civil War is big between the Oregon Ducks and the Oregon Beavers.

#9 Acupuncturist? Naturopath? Chiropractor? Your little yogis stay healthy in countless ways. Portlanders are health conscious and we like our natural approaches to holistic health. Chances are your kids learn yoga in Preschool and are familiar with supplements and herbs and aromatherapy.

#10 You know the importance of rain boots from November to June. But really, who needs an umbrella? It’s true, your kids likely have raincoats and rain boots, but are very unlikely to own an umbrella.

photo: Sharon via pexels


#11 You don’t go to the coast to get a tan. (That’s what those non-stop flights to Hawaii are for.) If you aren’t from Portland, you are likely to be confused by Portland families’ love for trips to the rugged—often chilly—coast. We don’t go to the coast to get tan, we go to explore trails and play with creepy sea creatures and freeze our toes off in the coooold water. We’re just weird like that.

#12 Drag Queens are a parent’s best friend. From drag brunches to Drag Queen storytimes, local families love hanging out with and being entertained and educated by the local drag queens. We are always an inclusive!

#13 You’re likely a bit of an activist. Moms and dads get involved in anything and everything involving human rights. From the Wall of Moms to parents showing their PRIDE, Portland parents are involved in making our community  and the world a better place.

#14 You reserve campsites nine months in advance. (And you’re laughing aloud as you read this, because you know it’s true.) I mean, we love the outdoors and we will not miss out on a good campsite because we were too lazy to think ahead!

#15. You know that this article really could have been five stories — Signs You’re a SW/NW/SE/NE/N Parent — because we each love our own section of the city that much. 



—Annette Benedetti


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Hidden Gem: Westmoreland Park Nature Play Area

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Looking for a new adventure? Westmoreland Park Nature Play Area may just be what the sherpa ordered. Scale massive logs, cross wooden bridges and scramble over real boulders at this newer play space that opened at the end of last year in the Sellwood-Moreland neighborhood, inviting kids to make up their own games and races using things found in nature. Here are six reasons why your family should go check it out now.

photo: Portland Parks and Recreation

1. You won’t find any monkey bars.
Yep, you read that right. This is Stumptown’s first permanent nature-based play area. (Excuse us while we wipe away a few tears of pride.) Instead of typical twisty slides and tire swings, your little ones can climb on boulders, traverse logs, dig in sand and use cut pine branches to make forts and caves. (Okay, there is one slide, but it’s pretty simple.) It’s all part of the Portland Parks and Recreation’s Nature Play Initiative, encouraging imaginative kids’ play, based on interactions with natural objects.

2. You won’t miss the traditional playground experience. And trust us, neither will your kids.
Here’s the deal. Kids like to play. And they don’t need to be told how to do it. Go to any park with a jungle gym and we guarantee you’ll still see kids engineering some wacky game you’ve never heard of before. (“Lava Monster,” anyone?) Westmoreland’s Park makes kids’ imagination — not a fancypants slide — the main focus. Its unofficial motto is, “Here’s nature. Go wild.”

3. You won’t see any parents on smartphones.
On two recent trips, we saw dozens of parents — and zero phone usage. The reason? Nearly every parent was playing with their little ones, be it chasing after them, helping them dig a moat in the sand, or dragging logs to help construct a fort. Ironically, the fort was to keep parents out. This park doesn’t just entice kids to play, but parents, too.


 photo: Courtesy of Stephanie Booth

 4. “Playing” has never been so important.
Think of this as the “Waldorf School” of parks. Kids are learning a love of nature, feeding their imaginations, solving problems, assessing risks, and best of all, figuring out how to entertain themselves. And (gasp!) all without a screen.

5.  You should bring a picnic — and your own water.
File this park away for a perfect picnic destination, thanks to plenty of tables and a shady grove of giant sequoia trees. Carry in your own water, though; at least for now. They’re shut down for the winter, like all of the other parks. They’ll be back on somewhere around mid-to-late March. True, the dull roar of traffic from nearby 99 can be a tad distracting, but at least fresh scent of pine and mulch overpower any exhaust.

6. No dogs in the play area.
Dogs like to, sniff, dig and (ahem) mark their territory, so they’re not allowed in the new play area. We get it. They can, however, be walked on the little bridges and trails just outside the fenced-in nature play area. And if your furry family member needs to sit and stay for a while, at least there are plenty of ducks in the restored Crystal Springs Creek to keep him entertained.

Have you visited this park yet?  Let us know in the Comments below!

–Stephanie Booth

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Even if you haven’t read Stephan Pastis’s charming “Timmy Failure” books, you’ll still enjoy the Oregon Children’s Theatre production, “Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made.” We sat in on the show and found the exploits of a seriously clueless 8-year-old detective and his sidekick, a 1,500 lb. polar bear to be a hilarious, fast-moving and surprisingly sweet play older kids will love.

Owen Carey/Oregon Children's Theatre

photo: Owen Carey/Oregon Children’s Theatre

The Story
Timmy Failure is sort of like Calvin, of “Calvin and Hobbes” fame. (Except with the aforementioned polar bear, Total, as a sidekick, rather than a tiger.) Timmy has enough self-confidence to power a small city, plenty of quick-witted comebacks when faced with his evil nemesis, smart girl Corrina Corrina, and a booming detective agency, “Total Failure,” headquartered in his mother’s closet.

Timmy is convinced he’s destined for greatness. But until then, he has to confront “time-wasting distractions” like school; his giggly classmate, Molly, who has a serious crush on him; and his mother’s goofy new boyfriend. Did we mention Timmy’s trusty Failure-Mobile — a.k.a., his mother’s Segway — also mysteriously disappears?

Why You Should Go
All the actors are adults, clearly having a blast with the witty script, and their enthusiasm is contagious. Sometimes, the grownups in the audience are having so much fun, they’re laughing even more than the kids. (Hint: A cat, named Señor Burrito, steals the show.)

Even though it’s totally hilarious, the play manages to have some touching moments. When money gets tight for Timmy’s mom, they have to sell their home and move into a small apartment, where Timmy sleeps on a fold-out couch. Timmy gets a letter from his school, announcing he’s in danger of having to repeat a grade. And as a consequence, Timmy’s beloved polar bear gets sent to live at the zoo. Naturally, everything works out in the end, but until then, it adds some poignant suspense to Timmy’s goofy exploits.

Credit: Owen Carey/Oregon Children's Theatre

photo: Owen Carey/Oregon Children’s Theatre

The Inside Scoop
Running time is about 75 minutes without intermission, unless you count a brief interlude where Total, decked out in a hot pink tutu, performs a dance solo that incorporates ballet, disco, and even The Robot.

We’re pretty sure there are no bad seats in cozy Winningstad Theater, but if you can, get seats in the “pit” or sides of the first tier so even littlest kids can see all the action on the stage.

Afterwards, don’t run right back to your car. Think about sharing a plate of fries or flat bread at ArtBar & Bistro, the in-house theater cafe. It’s just swanky enough to make kids feel special.

Even better, immediately following the performance, kids have an opportunity to meet the actors  and get their autographs. While you’re standing in line, make sure to check out the drawings taped up just outside the theater. OCT invited a handful of local artists to live-sketch a recent performance of “Timmy” and the results — like this production and Timmy himself — are genius.

The Details
Saturdays and Sundays until March 22

Winningstad Theatre
1111 SW Broadway
Tickets are $18-$28/adult, $15-$24/child (Group rates are also available.)
Online: octc.org
Recommended for kids 8 and up.

Are your kids fans of the books?  Let us know in the comments below!

–Stephanie Booth


Where to Get (Healthy) Food On-the-Go

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You’re on the way to a _____ (Insert your destination du jour: soccer game, piano lesson, birthday party, etc.) and probably running late, when your adorable offspring inform you, “We’re starving!” Sure, you could do the typical fast food drive through for something to tide them over, but this is Portland, people. There’s no need. No matter what quadrant of the city you find yourself in, we’ve got some seriously healthy options that you can grab before your kids declare, “I’m hungry”. 

girls-eating-peachphoto credit: Bruce Tuten via creativecommons flickr

Laughing Planet “Satellite” Cafe
We heart Laughing Planet’s mission to bring healthy – yet ridiculously tasty and affordable! – food to the universe. And their latest location in Goose Hollow is made especially for busy peeps on the go.  Think a “greatest hits” version of the chain’s traditional menu with ready-made burritos, salads, and soups. If any place is going to get your kiddos to eat kale – and like it – our bet is on LP.

1755 SW Jefferson St.
Portland, Or 97201
Online: laughingplanetcafe.com/

laughingplanet-yelpphoto credit: Maureen N. via yelp.com

New Seasons Market
You won’t find limp chicken fingers and soggy potato salad at this local supermarket’s “in and out” area. Every location offers awesome on-the-go options, from freshly made soups, sandwiches, and wraps to a hot food bar where you can load a bowl with noodles or rice and your choice of nuts, tofu, or veggies.

12 locations in Portland surrounding area
Online: newseasonsmarket.com

Santa Fe Taqueria
For hungry kiddos in the Alphabet District, we highly recommend making a pit stop at Santa Fe. The simplicity of their menu will appeal to the pickiest eater. Choose from bean and cheese, veggie, or meat burritos; quesadillas; or grab some chips and salsa or guac (and lots of napkins) to go.

831 NW 23rd Ave.
Portland, Or 97210
Online: santafetaqueria.com/

taco-kid-flickrphoto credit: Kristopher Volkman via creativecommons flickr

Bakehouse Water Bagels
For carb-loving kids, head over to Bakehouse for what are arguably some of the best bagels in town. Purists may shun some of their weirder flavors (like s’more and strawberry cheesecake) but for a healthy nosh on the go, you can’t beat a whole-grain  (they’re boiled and baked daily, of course) and cream cheese.

6141 SW Macadam Ave
Portland, Or 97239

19111 SE 34th St
Vancouver, WA 98683

yelp-bakehouse-bagelphoto credit: Erica M. via yelp.com

Nectar Café
Tucked into a nondescript strip mall (in the old JazzKat’s coffee space), Nectar Café is one of the best options we know for families that trend towards gluten-free or vegan fare. Nectar offers whole fruit and veggie smoothies, gluten-free waffles, protein-packed bagel sandwiches, and even fresh Petunia’s Bakery goodies.

1925 NE 42nd Ave.
Ste E
Portland, Or 97213
Online: nectarcoffeebar.com/

Yes, this teeny-tiny Kerns hangout is known for their teeny-tiny dessert offerings, but they’ve got some great savory choices, too, that kids will like: chicken pot pie, for instance, seasonal quiche, or the insanely good breakfast pie with  sausage, hash browns and eggs. All make a perfect (and perfectly manageable) handful on the go. (Just be prepared to be tempted with dessert.)

521 NE 24th Ave.
Portland, Or 97232
Online: pie-spot.com/

mushroom-grueye-pot-piephoto credit: Ana B. via yelp.com

Yes, it’s unmistakably fast food but this local chain prides itself on a commitment to fresh and sustainable practices and supports local communities. Kids’ meal options are what you’d expect – burger, cheeseburger, chicken tenders, or fish — but come with hormone-free milk and apple slices. And we dig (excuse the pun) getting a pack of seeds as the enclosed “prize.”

39 locations in OR and WA
Online: burgerville.com/

Where are your favorite healthy eats to visit in Portland? Let us know in the comments below!

—Stephanie Booth

Parks and Playgrounds that Rule in the Rain

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True, most Stumptown parents boast an impressively high tolerance to precipitation, but on some dreary, drizzly winter days we all need a bit more motivation than usual to put on our boots and head outside. Here, some of our fave parks and playgrounds to visit with your offspring during the rainy season.

Grant Park, NE 33rd and Grant Place
You know Grant Park for its Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden, playground, off-leash dog park (or all of the above), but follow the path behind Beverly Cleary’s Hollyrood campus and you’ll find a group of towering pine trees that serve as a near-perfect shelter during any downpour. Smaller kids can bring buckets and shovels and dig in the dirt. And it’ll stoke the imagination of older kids who can pretend they’re setting up house/on the run/hiding from parents, etc.


photo credit: John G. via Yelp

Gabriel Park, SW 45th and Vermont St.
What we love about this lush 90-acre park? No matter the weather, you won’t be the only family here. Maybe it’s the draw of the 10,000 sq-foot skatepark. Or the easy trails that wind through a sweet patch of woods. Personally, we think it’s the crazy cool hills that kids love to run up and down, over and over (and over) again.


photo credit: Rafael G via Yelp

Irvington Elementary School Playground, 1320 NE Brazee
Rain or shine, the playground behind this public school is the place to play on weekends. Bike, scoot, and run under the covered area or venture out onto the blacktop where a brightly painted map allows kiddos to jump from one country to another.

macleay park

Macleay Park, NW 29th Ave. and Upshur St.
This gorgeous, 140-acre park is so dense with Doug firs and western red Cedars that even on the rainiest day, you won’t get drenched, and kids will love hiking into the deep ravines. Park in the Upper Macleay parking lot and it’s only a half-mile trek to the abandoned Stone House, the  oddly enchanting remains of a former public restroom. (We know. That sounds weird, but check it out and you’ll see what we mean.)


photo credit: Sean G. via Yelp

Chimney Park, 9360 N. Columbia Blvd.
Okay, so there aren’t a tremendous amount of trees here. (Translation: you might get soaked.) What Chimney Park does have: Dogs, and lots of ‘em. This 18-acre area is an off-leash, completely fenced-in dog park. You and your little ones can hit the small trail loop while cockers and Labs happily chase and fetch balls beside you. If you’ve got a little pet lover, we guarantee they’ll be too distracted by the canine company to complain about the rain.

pups playing

photo credit: Josh H via Yelp

Laurelhurst Park, SE Cesar E. Chavez and Stark St.
Paths to run on. Hills to run down. Steps to race up. But perhaps the most important thing you need to know about this lovely tree-filled park is that they have ducks. You can’t feed them, but you can watch them bobbing through the water and quacking importantly, completely nonplussed by the rain. Once you’ve had enough, head over to one of the cafes on nearby Belmont and warm up with some hot chocolate.


photo credit: Crystal D. via Yelp

What’s your favorite rainy day playground? Tell us in the comment section below!

–Stephanie Booth

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Foodies gush over Portland for its amazing coffee, locally crafted beer, and of course, making “pork belly” a household term. But Stumptown also has a serious sweet tooth. In the past year alone, a number of bakeries and candy shops have opened across the city, and after visiting them, you’ll never look at a vending machine candy bar the same way again. And what makes us heart these places even more? Each has its own “kids welcome” vibe. Here, our faves to visit with your own small cupcake.

Petunia’s Pies and Pastries

“Vegan and gluten-free” used to mean desserts the density and flavor of hockey pucks. But this is 2013 <em>and</em> Portland. Petunia’s won’t disappoint even the most hard-core butter and wheat lover. The owner (who has a gluten allergy of her own) started out of her home kitchen in 2010 and has been selling her baked goods at local co-ops and cafes ever since. This adorable West End store (think: <em>lots</em> of pink) is her first. <strong>Don’t miss:</strong> The salted caramel chocolate bars. Find It: 610 SW 12th Street Online: <a target="_blank" href="http://www.petuniaspiesandpastries.com/">petuniaspiesandpastries.com</a&gt; <em>photo credit: Petunia Bakery</em>fuck

Did we miss your favorite new bakery? Tell us below and then fill us in on the sweet treats you bring home.

–Stephanie Booth

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Reason 16,235 to love Portland? Art festivals and sales are as much a holiday tradition here as the outrageously lit up homes on Peacock Lane. (Reason 16,236.) Whether you’re in the market for one-of-a-kind stuffed animals, hand carved block printed notecards, or locally-made, small-batch chocolate truffles, we’re betting you can knock out the majority of your Christmas shopping by visiting the destinations below. And these events are all family-friendly so you might just start a new holiday tradition: shopping that’s actually fun.

Snowy Studio/Camp Cactus

Dec. 6-8: Camp Cactus Holiday Sale

What you’ll find: Fairy couture (think teeny-tiny gowns and boots painstakingly crafted from the likes of rose petals and gingko leaves), ceramics, hand-crafted jewelry, ornaments, photos, accessories, kid stuff and more.

What’s in it for kids: Because the sale is held in artist Jane Russell’s home studio, your excursion will be blissfully free of traffic, parking woes, or overwhelming crowds.

NE Brazee between 44th and 45th Avenue
6 pm – 9 pm (Friday), 10 am to 6pm (Saturday and Sunday)
Online: Campcactus.blogspot.com


Dec. 7: Holiday Market

What you’ll find: French linens, bamboo clothing, soy candles, bonsai, pastries, wines and gourmet cheeses. as well as jewelry, ceramics and crafts. Choral groups will play throughout the day and baguettes can be had at the café.

What’s in it for kids: One word: crepes.

French American International School at 8500 NW Johnson St.
9 am – 4 pm
Online: Faispdx.org

Dec. 7-8: Keep da Vinci Weird Arts Fair

What you’ll find: More than 70 juried artists selling sculptures, paintings, pottery, jewelry, ceramics, and clocks. Da Vinci student artwork will also be for sale.

What’s in it for kids: The opportunity to check out some amazing artwork done by other kids. (Plus small-batch edibles in this year’s new “food court.”)

Da Vinci Arts Middle School, 2508 NE Everett
10 am to 5 pm (Saturday) and 10 am to 4 pm (Sunday)
Online: Pps.k12.or.us/schools/davinci

Dec. 8: Laurelhurst School Winter Artisan Bazaar

What you’ll find: Origami crane ornaments, handmade clothes for American Girl dolls, small-batch hot sauces, crocheted hats and scarflettes, and DIY kits for making your own queso del blanco.

What’s in it for kids: Kid-friendly activities will be offered throughout the day. Depending on when you go, your offspring will be able to stencil a t-shirt (bring your own), learn the basics of making wire and bead jewelry, and use decorative tape to create their own holiday ornament.

Laurelhurst Elementary, 840 NE 41st Ave
9 am to 4 pm
Online: laurelhurstschoolbazaar.blogspot.com

Dec. 14: 4th Annual Seasons Eating Benefit for Oregon Food Bank

What you’ll find: An impressive display of local food and drink artisans. And as all Portlanders know, food and drink are absolutely an art form! Shop for Pok Pok drinking vinegars, Water Avenue coffee, and Alma chocolate.

What’s in it for kids: A great lesson about helping others: Admission is one non-perishable food item per person (other donations are gladly accepted) so this event is an opportunity to give hundreds of pounds of food to families who need it. That said, since alcohol will be served to those of age, kiddos are expected to be supervised.

New Deal Distillery, 900 SE Salmon St.
Noon to 6 p.m.
Online: newdealdistillery.com


Dec. 14-15: Crafty Wonderland’s Super Colossal Holiday Sale

What you’ll find: Over 250 vendors, selling things like kids aprons, wooden toys, crocheted pet cacti, raw honey tonics, organic kids’ socks (and sock monkeys), and handmade bags.

What’s in it for kids: Each day, the first 150 shoppers will get a goodie bag. (Arguably, every kid’s two favorite words.) Plus, free craft activities  will be offered by Collage, one of Stumptown’s most addictive arts and craft supply stores.

Oregon Convention Center, Exhibit Hall C, 777 NE MLK Blvd
11 am to 6 pm
Online: Craftywonderland.com

Do you  make it a point to attend a kid-friendly craft and art sale? Tell us which one in the comments section below!

–Stephanie Booth

Photo credits: Mark Bouschert/FAIS; Camp Cactus/Jane Russell/Siri Schillios/Da Vinci Arts Middle School; Crafty Wonderland/Heidi Hoffman Photography

For more kid-friendly Christmas activities and events in Portland click here!

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Manners still matter, and a polite, well-behaved munchkin stands apart from other kids (in a good way). So, we can only hope that by the time they hit school age, our kids can mind their Ps and Qs without much reminding. But try as we might, sometimes practicing those politeness skills are more readily learned outside the home – and occasionally, from someone other than you. Read on for some easy opportunities to help kiddos learn the finer points of etiquette in ways that will actually make it seem fun. Now that’s a win-win.


RSVP Melanie
Melanie Perko, a Portland etiquette coach who counts plenty of area schools, corporations, and colleges among her clients, offers private classes for kiddos, as well. Among the topics politely covered: the importance of looking an adult in the eyes while speaking, technology/portable game etiquette, the art of writing thank you notes, and even tattling. Courses run $50 per student, but make sure to ask about special group rates.



The Heathman Hotel
Sometimes atmosphere is enough to inspire kids to be on their best behavior. (With the exception of Eloise.) On that note, why not whisk your kiddos off to afternoon tea ($14 for children, $32 for adults, reservations recommended) at the glorious Heathman Hotel? Whilst sitting underneath an Austrian hand-cut chandelier in the tea lounge, your offspring can sip tea from china cups and enjoy such delicacies as Ants on a Log and chocolate cupcakes. (Chewing with their mouths closed, natch).


Portland Art Museum
Every Sunday at 12:30, the oldest art museum in the Pacific Northwest offers family-friendly docent tours. (Admission is $15 for adults, but children under 17 are free.) It’s a stress-free way to gently introduce your wee ones to appreciating art, as well as practice using their inside voices. The first Thursday of each month, the museum also offers “Baby Hour,” a slow stroll for moms and their babes through the galleries, followed by coffee and time to chat.


Oregon Children’s Theatre
At two impressively swanked out performance spaces downtown, Oregon Children’s Theatre provides kid-friendly productions like “Pinkalicious” and “The Stinky Cheese Man.” (Tickets start at $15 for kids, $18 for adults.) And your kiddo’s admission includes an impromptu lesson in manners, from the moment you say “thank you” to the usher who points you to your seat to the “excuse me” you’ll whisper to other patrons as you climb over them mid-play for a bathroom break.



Hands On Greater Portland
At the root of all manners is, of course, respect for others. An obvious way to teach that? Encouraging kiddos to give back to their community. Hands On Greater Portland makes it easy for even toddlers to get the idea. (Really.) Check their site for one-off family volunteer opportunities, none of which run longer than two hours (shorter than “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!”) and all of which are designed to be FUN: creating care packages of toys for foster children, say, or designing spring greeting cards for seniors who receive Meals on Wheels. And understanding the difference they’re making in someone else’s life might just encourage your offspring to say “Thank you” a bit more often.


How do you encourage good behavior in your kids?

–Stephanie Booth

Photos courtesy of Flickr (Michael Newton, Nathan Jones, and Woodleywonderworks)

Your Cheat Sheet for Scoring Last-Minute Birthday Gifts

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Oh. That birthday party is… today? In um, an…hour? We’ve all been forced to buy a present on the fly, and finding something that doesn’t scream, “I stopped at Fred Meyers on the way here” is no, ahem, piece of cake. Here, an insider’s guide to where the most time-pressed parent can find a perfect gift.

“I need a book!”

Green Bean Books

1600 Northeast Alberta Street

Online: greenbeanbookspdx.com

Of course, we heart Powell’s. But when you don’t feel like maneuvering through a “city of books,” this cozy independent seller – which stocks only kids’ books — is the way to go.

Our pick for younger kids: Melanie Watts’ hilarious Scaredy Squirrel Has a Birthday Party.

For the older set: It’s tough to go wrong with Wildwood, an irresistible adventure by Colin Meloy, set in a darker, (more) magical version of Portland.

Friends Library Store

801 Southwest 10th Street

Online: friends-library.org/store

“Friends of Multnomah County Library,” the volunteer group that supports Portland’s awesome library system, runs a cute little shop in the lobby of the Central Library downtown. (Bonus: your purchase will help fund things like author visits and children’s programs.)

Our pick for younger kids: A canvas tote bag featuring Mo Willems’ beloved book characters, Elephant and Piggie.

For the older set: An eclectic assortment of sticker books, including those featuring the art of Edward Gorey and designs of Frank Lloyd Wright.

“I need a great toy!”

Child’s Play Toys

2305 Northwest Kearney Street

Online: childsplayportland.com

You’ll find any toy at this beloved Stumptown toy store, and even that may be an understatement. Aside from well-loved products like Lego, Playmobil, Haba, and Melissa and Doug, Child’s Play stocks items you’ve never heard of. Like…

Our pick for younger kids: Bubber, the freaky yet delightful gluten-free alternative to Play-Doh.

For the older set: You can’t go wrong with Klutz books, which instruct kids on everything from safety pin bracelets to battery science.

OMSI Science Store

1945 Southeast Water Avenue

Online: omsi.edu/science-store

No admission required to shop at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s fab gift shop (and all proceeds still go into funding new exhibits and educational programs.)

For younger kids: Look for “Block Buddies,” a game where kiddos use different shaped wooden blocks to replicate one of 76 designs. (Or just play with the blocks.)

For the older set: We’re partial to “Fun Straws,” a kit of connectors and straws which allows kids to build (and drink through) a crazy contraption.

“I need something really unique!”


7907 Southeast 13th Avenue and 1639 Northeast Alberta Street

Online: collagepdx.com

PDX has no shortage of art supply stores, but Collage kind of feels like stepping into the relaxed studio of a talented artist friend.

For younger kids: Try a sketchpad, alongside a hand picked assortment of kid-friendly finger paints, crayons, or markers.

For the older set: Stoke a kiddo’s imagination by filling a craft box with an assortment of Collage’s treasures, including animals, military men and garden gnomes the size of a fingernail; charms; letter tiles; polished rocks; and teeny-tiny glass bottles with decanters.

PSU Farmer’s Market

Southwest Park Avenue and Southwest Montgomery Street

Online: portlandfarmersmarket.org/markets/psu

“Birthday gift” isn’t the first thing that comes to mind with the phrase “farmer’s market” but thanks to the number of vendors here, you’ll have no shortage of inventive options. (Just remember they’re only open on Saturdays through Dec. 15.)

For younger kids: Ask one of the incredibly talented balloon artists to twist up an intricate animal or impressive crown.

For the older set: Put together a bouquet of handcrafted chocolate lollipops or local honey sticks, or surprise the birthday kiddo (and his or her parents) with a nifty carnivorous plant.

“I am really, really running late. And I don’t even have wrapping paper!”

Two words: gift card. Our faves:

Hollywood Bowl

4030 Northeast Halsey Street

Online: hollywoodbowlpdx.com

At this family-friendly bowling arcade, just $8.50 scores a shoe rental, two games of bowling, and five bucks to spend in the arcade.

Salt and Straw

838 Northwest 23rd Street and 2035 Northeast Alberta Street

Online: saltandstraw.com

Gift certificates to what is arguably Portland’s best ice cream shop start at a cool ten bucks. More than enough to score the birthday boy or girl several scoops of locally batched caramel apple or cinnamon snickerdoodle ice cream.

Did we miss your favorite spot to score amazing gifts? Let us know in the comments section!

— Stephanie Booth

Photos courtesy of Barth PhotographyMr Mossjesse.millan and  foilman!