Portland area kids under 5 summer enrichment focuses on re-socialization and fun

Some young children have spent their entire lives in a pandemic. Others have not interacted with children their age for about a year and a half.

So, building on federal pandemic assistance, the Oregon Community Foundation and the Oregon Department of Education have funded summer programs for children ages 0 to 5. in order to reintroduce – or introduce – ties outside of their immediate family.

In the span of just two swimming lessons, Yaara Abady saw her 3-year-old son, Tomer, go from anxiety about entering the pool to the excitement of starting to swim, jump and jump. to make bubbles. They were part of a dozen parent-child pairs taking part in an early evening swim session at the Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation Aquatic Center.

When awarding grants, the foundation prioritized programs with in-person components like swimming lessons, said Mary Louise McClintock, senior advisor on education strategy and policy. Research shows that a huge proportion of human brain development occurs before children reach kindergarten.

“This is our window of opportunity as a society to support healthy development, lay a solid foundation and help prepare children for success in school and in life,” she said.

The foundation chose eight organizations in the Portland metro area for their goal of bringing children and parents together and engaging communities disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two of these groups received the largest amount of money the foundation distributed for summer programs: $ 50,000.

The Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation District received $ 50,000 for parent-child swimming lessons, including bilingual programs for Spanish speakers and adapted programs for children with disabilities.

The foundation also awarded $ 50,000 to Volunteers of America for weekly workshops aimed at supporting disadvantaged families facing high stress, with a focus on preventing child abuse and neglect.

“We are concerned about the impact of months of isolation from peers and other families,” McClintock said.

Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation will host 300 free swimming sessions of seven classes each at its Beaverton sports complex, said grant specialist Cindy Dauer. They would not have been able to deliver this program without the funding.

“Our goal is to provide programs and opportunities to the whole community, and that includes the 0 to 5 year old category,” she said.

Families with household income equal to or less than the Federal Meal Program guidelines are eligible and may enroll by contacting the district financial aid office. Priority will be given to low-income families, families of color, children with disabilities, and those from immigrant and refugee communities.

The goal of swimming lessons is lifelong fun in the water, said Lori Leach, Aquatic Manager for Tualatin Hills. Knowledge of swimming contributes to safety in swimming pools, lakes, rivers and even bathtubs.

“The bottom line is water acclimatization, just having fun in the water and wanting to come back again and again and develop those life and safety skills,” she said.

The classes, which are aimed at babies, toddlers and preschoolers, will encourage parent-child bonding and help children and parents build confidence in and around water.

Drowning is the leading preventable cause of death in children ages 1 to 4, said Dr. Ben Hoffman, director of the Tom Sargent Safety Center at Oregon Health & Science University. Prevention measures include swimming lessons, permanent in-water surveillance, pool barriers and Coast Guard-approved life jackets.

“I would like people to think of competence in the water, the ability to protect oneself in the water, as an essential life skill the same way we talk about driving,” he said. declared. “The children follow the education of the driver. Everyone should learn to swim.

Amber Herzog heard about swimming lessons in Tualatin Hills through a network of other parents. April Rubin / staff

Amber Herzog and her 2-year-old daughter, Thea, participate in Tualatin Hills swimming lessons to prepare the little one for the pool at their grandparents’ house. Thea said jumping in the pool was her favorite part of the two classes she has taken so far. The foundation-funded classes, which will begin later this summer, will allow more children to have this opportunity.

The goal of Volunteers of America’s weekly “Baby and Me” summer program is to strengthen parent-child bonds and other parents to connect with other parents, said Crystal Ross, program director of Volunteers of America. nursery. It will serve approximately 20 families with high needs.

“We’re coming out of a really tough and difficult year and a half, so helping parents and their kids deal with stress and functioning when facing adversity and trauma is really important to us,” he said. she declared.

Ross saw a high degree of isolation and declining mental health in many of these families and said she hoped the weekly sessions would help them meet their critical need for reintegration.

Grants Officer Adam Salazar said of the enhanced funding: “We are very fortunate to be doing this work and serving these truly wonderful families. “

– Avril Rubin; [email protected]; @AprilMRubin


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