When the school bell rings on Friday afternoons, most kids check out for the weekend. That’s when parents come to the rescue with fun ways to keep their little ones entertained and engaged until Monday morning rolls around. We like to think that weekend entertainment and educational activities aren’t mutually exclusive, and we’ve come up with a list of ideas to prove it. Whether you’re looking for a few hours of learning at a fun museum or settling in for an imaginative story time at a local book store, Portland isn’t short on edu-taining things to do as a family.
KinderCare is dedicated to promoting an educational learning environment filled with fun and creativity. You can rest easy knowing that your kiddos are in a great place where they’re cultivating social and academic skills that will aid them now and for many years to come as they become doctors, lawyers, teachers and parents.
1. On your next trip home from the beach, make a quick pit stop along Highway 6 to not only to take in the beautiful wooded vistas of Tillamook, but also learn a little about the plants and animals that call the forest home as well as a wealth of local history. The Tillamook State Forest Center is bursting with fun, educational activities for the naturalist in everyone. Between the nature-based learning programs and their interactive exhibits, even your mini John Muirs will walk away with a few new fun facts.
2. Whether it’s an adventure tale, fantasy, or a story about being a kid, immersing your bookworm in a good read is a great way to pass the time. Take turns reading to each other in your homespun version of story time. You’ll not only build your kiddo’s vocabulary, but you might just inspire them to write their own story.
3. Healthy eating habits start early, and there’s no better way to get your kids thinking about making healthy choices than getting them involved in picking out their own food. Head to a kid-friendly grocery store and have your future Bobby Flays and Rachael Rays load up your cart with healthy picks that they can help prepare for dinner. See which items they can identify as fruits and which as veggies, or print out a food pyramid and have them fill it out.
4. It’s not every day you see sharks, jellies, and exotic fishes on your weekend trip to the beach, but marine creatures like these are aplenty at the Portland Aquarium. Fish fans of all ages will be amazed by the collection of species on display and the plethora of information about each animal. Plus, budding marine biologists will revel at the chance to dunk their hands in the tide pool exhibit or feed a live Lorikeet. It’s a fantastic way to learn about the wildlife that lives right off our Oregon shores.
5. What kid doesn’t like to play mad scientist? Whether it’s learning about chemical reactions or observing how plants absorb water, your little thinkers will love the chance to conduct experiments just like BIll Nye the Science Guy. Check out these classic science experiments that are all kid-friendly and kid-approved. Best of all? They’ll be too busy having fun to realize that they’re learning as they go!
6. Living in a river city means that Portland kids grow up knowing the Portland waterways like the back of their hands. But how much do they know about the history of Portland’s maritime history. Well, a quick climb aboard the last operating steam-powered sternwheel tugboat in the country will soon have your little captains awash with fun facts about Portland’s local history. Plus, they’ll love the chance to explore the ship’s inner workings, from stem to stern.
7. Adventurous kids will try just about anything, and that’s exactly the kind of kid that the current OMSI exhibit was made for. Mythbusters: The Explosive Exhibition will have kids testing out a variety of myths to see which ones are true and which ones are false. Pretty soon they’ll be conducting their own experiments just like the gang from TV. There’s still about a month left to catch this exhibit, so don’t miss out.
8. Remember back when pet rocks were all the rage? Well, it’s likely your haven’t even heard of them, but that doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy catching a glimpse of one of the best and largest collections of rocks and minerals in the nation. From real-life meteorites to glow-in-the-dark fluorescent rocks, you’ll be amazed at how easily a museum of rocks will hold your child’s attention. Your little rock hounds are guaranteed to never look at rocks the same way again.
9. Art is everywhere around us; all you have to know is where to look. At the Museum of Contemporary Craft, getting up close to every each model, picture, and piece of pottery is only part of what makes this museum so engaging. Budding artists are encouraged to take part in their hands-on projects which not only challenge your kiddo’s creativity, but also touch on fundamental art concepts like color theory and patterns.
10. Train enthusiasts in your family (you know you have at least one) will go off the rails at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center, where its three steam locomotives and railcar can be admired (no climbing aboard) while docents share their knowledge of all things train-related with your future conductors. Top off your afternoon with a trip aboard the light rail and listen to the sounds of your kids going “choo-choo” the whole way home.
What is your favorite edu-taining thing to do in Portland as a fam?