There’s really no better spot for your little ones to, quite literally, harness their penchant for climbing, given Portland Rock Gym’s safe and supportive environment—cushy mats, plenty of protective gear, and expert instructors will ease parental worries. Yes, rock climbing demands some physical bravado, but masterminding how best to slither over a hanging wall of rock while dangling from a rope 40 feet in the air teaches kids to problem-solve and develops their self-confidence. Plus, it’s a blast! So while your child is having the time of her life at the gym’s four-day summer camp, or at its after-school program (which runs once or twice a week), you get to sit back and enjoy the fact that she’s amassing a crucial set of social skills. Or you could just be happy that your 10-year-olds will be worn out when they get home, and your only job will be to tuck them into bed.
This program offered to Portland elementary schools introduces topics like the importance of local farming and healthy ecosystems—not with snoozy lectures, but by getting the kids out of the classroom and onto Sauvie Island. They’ll tour Sauvie Island Organics to learn about the differences between fruits and vegetables while tasting carrots plucked straight from the ground. They’ll plant cucumbers in soil that came from a compost pile teeming with earthworms. And as they explore nearby 120-acre Howell Territorial Park, they’ll even study food chains, avian predators, and the like by examining owl pellets and discussing what the bird ate for lunch. “Kids aren’t grossed out by this stuff,” notes Jill Kuehler, the center’s director. “They’re fascinated by it.” Kuehler has a point: Regional elementary schools like James John, Aster, and Sitton have requested to attend tours for three years running, and the center has hosted more than 500 kids this year alone.
KIDS’ SHOE STORE
If the down-home brick storefront—complete with quirky purple-and-yellow awning—doesn’t put a smile on your face while you search for your child’s next pair of puddle-jumping, tree-climbing, run-everywhere kicks, then the dedicated staff inside Haggis McBaggis will. Whether through some kind of Jedi mind trick, or the simple fact that they’ve been selling footwear exclusively to kids for eight years, the folks here can fool any tyke into having fun while trying on shoes. The selection helps, too. The store stocks more than 20 brands, including popular European labels like Naturino and Primigi, as well eco-friendly sneakers from Simple. Meaning they’ve surely got something your 7-year-old can’t wait to run around in. And should the apple of your eye have wide feet or narrow arches? No problem. Haggis McBaggis also has shoes for hard-to-fit feet, and the knowledgeable staff can find the Keens that won’t squeeze toes—or the ones that’ll still fit six months from now.