The It List


Because our best artists are inspired by their kids


Back in 2014, Portland-based multi-media artist Wendy Red Star was scrambling to prep for an upcoming exhibition while entertaining her bored 7-year-old daughter, Beatrice. On a whim, Wendy handed
Bea some photocopied images of Crow chiefs (the family’s Crow Native heritage inspires much of Wendy’s art), and Bea covered the images with bright, beautiful embellishments.

Something clicked, recalls Wendy: “I realized what I needed in this exhibition was her generation.”

Their mother-daughter collaboration has since taken countless forms, from performance art and lecturing to a stint as Native artists in residence at the Denver Art Museum.

It’s an ever-deepening exploration of public engagement and identity, says Wendy, and much of the credit belongs to Bea: “She says she’s the best thing that everhappened to my career.”

Follow them on Instagram: @wendyredstar — Erin J. Bernard


Because our librarians have great taste

Captain Obvious alert: Libraries are all about reading. But in West Linn, children’s librarian Sarah Flathman’s out-of-the-box family programming takes things to a whole new level, from using the on-site 3D printer to outdoor events with magicians, comedians and even a very talented border collie. Flathman is also a member of the 2018 Caldecott committee, currently making her way through hundreds of new children’s titles to help select the best illustrated book of the year. Ask for a rec and she’ll likely point you toward titles she loved as a child (anything by Roald Dahl and Louis Sachar) and minimalist picture books (think Jon Klassan and Mo Willems). “It’s a party at work — seeing my friends, saying hello, talking about books” she says. “The fact that those friends are kids makes it even better!” — Catherine Ryan Gregory 

Because we all need some bunny to love

Yes, they’re cute. Sure, they’re fuzzy. But did you know that snuggling up with a soft, furry rabbit can also improve your physical, social, emotional and even cognitive functioning?

That’s the concept behind Bunnies in Baskets, a Northeast Portland-based nonprofit whose trained team of visiting therapy rabbits keeps busy bringing year-round joy to animal-lovers of all ages. Anyone in need of a little bunny love can visit the rabbits at their cozy home base on North Alberta Street; they can also be booked for off-site visits at a nominal fee.

This summer, PDX kids can get in on the interspecies magic at their Summer-Bun Camp. Campers will learn the basics of rabbit care through crafts, songs, stories, snacks and (of course) some hands-on rabbit time. For more information, visit — Erin J. Bernard

Because our local parks just keep getting better

Portland’s treasured parks are the beating heart of the city, and it’s impossible to imagine parenting here without them. And here’s the thing: There’s always something new to discover. This summer, Colonel Summers Park in inner SE Portland joins the list of splash pad destinations, with an expected opening date in August. In the fall, the Loowit View Park opens in outer NE Portland, with views of Mount St. Helens, a wheelchair-accessible playground area and a “fog garden” where kids can play in misty sprays of water. Plans for the iconic Couch Park in NW Portland show the evolution of playground design, with a boulder scramble space and a fort-building zone. Construction is underway at Lents Park in outer SE to make a colorful and wheelchair-accessible new space where kids can make music and practice rock-climbing. Even the Oregon Zoo is getting into the act, with a brand-new nature play area, using wood salvaged from the former home of the resident Asian elephants. What’s more Portland than that? — Julia Silverman

Because despite the rain, we still have snakes

Given our region’s propensity for constantly wet weather, it should come as no surprise that snakes aren’t a particularly common sight in these parts. But for herpetology-loving kids (or their parents) who grew up in warmer climes, it’s unfathomable to go a whole summer without catching snakes. Thankfully, you can get your slither fix at the Wapato Access Greenway trail on Sauvie Island. This 2.2-mile loop hike features the perfect blend of frog-filled ponds and open, sunny meadows — ideal habitat for the island’s two most common species of snake: the black-and-orange-striped Northwestern garter and common garter. They can be spotted year-round on the side of the trail, but for brave (and gentle) kids who are game for catching one, be sure to grab the snake behind its jaws, so it can’t twist around and bite (this is uncommon, but always a possibility). — Kat Merck

Because our brewers love our kindie musicians as much as we do

Red Yarn, aka Andy Furgeson, is legendary in the Portland kids’ music scene for his cool spin on American folk rock. The brewers at The Oregon Public House, Portland’s nonprofit pub, think so, too. Dean Ivester, head brewer for Aletruism, the Oregon Public House in-house label, concocted a special batch of Red Yarn Northwest Red Ale in his honor. “I recognize the irony of a 21-plus drink named after a kids’ performer, but it just goes to show that Portland’s family music and family restaurant scenes are all about catering to the tastes of kids and grown-ups alike,” says Furgeson. You can imbibe the ale with notes of pine and citrus and a caramel finish straight from the tap at The Oregon Public House (700 NE Dekum) through June. — Denise Castañon

Because when it hits 100 degrees, you can escape to an ice cave, (and be home in time for dinner)

 Trying to escape the dog days of summer? Pack a picnic, your winter jackets, some headlamps and head east to the Guler Ice Caves in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. A set of stairs leads you down into a frosty, dark cave. Take the path to your right and scramble up and over boulders for a 10-minute underground adventure. It’s dark and cold, but an easy walk, and a great chance to teach the kids the difference between a stalagmite and a stalactite (when you figure it out, clue us in). Nearby, find a trail to some natural bridges, formed out of collapsed lava tubes — remind your kids to check for trolls underneath before crossing. Pro tip: Bring crampons — the floor of the cave gets pretty slippery! — Joanna Sooper

Because nature can soothe new parent nerves

When you’ve got a tiny baby to care for and need to get out of the house, but are too sleep-deprived to try to have meaningful human interactions, pack your baby carrier and head to the Bishop’s Close gardens at the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon in the Dunthorpe neighborhood. This lovely hidden garden will be a balm for your frazzled new-parent nerves. Stroll along the shady paths and soak in stunning views of Mount Hood, the Willamette River and Elk Rock Island (remember this park when your kiddo is older). Hopefully your little one will have been lulled to sleep by the rocking of the carrier. Take a deep breath of that all-too fleeting baby-head smell and feel yourself unwind, just a little.
— Denise Castañon

Because we play dirty

Ready for the next generation of Portland-area playspaces? Be on the lookout for Mudland, the Kickstarter-funded space envisioned by Portland mama Katie Shook, which would include “indoor natural terrain, including rolling grassy mounds, a water course, and dirt for mixing mud.” What’s that? Your kids will get dirty? Shook’s thought of that: Her plan includes waterproof suits for playing in, and a spray-off cleanup area. There will even be coffee and healthy food for parents. The space of Shook’s dreams would also include an area for rotating interactive art installations. Shook, a mother of a kindergartener, used a part of the Kickstarter money to commission a set of “play panels” that kids can use to build whatever strikes their fancy. Conceptual plans are still being drawn up for Mudland, so in the meantime, Shook’s working on Portland Free Play, a nonprofit dedicated to pop-up events that inspire kids to build whatever strikes their fancy with the play panels and other unconventional materials, a la Berkeley, Calif.’s famous Adventure Playground. Past events have included a pumpkin smash day at Zenger Farm and a cardboard village at the Portland Saturday Market. She’s piloting a project right now to have “loose parts” available for kids at recess at Vernon Elementary School in NE Portland; that could expand other local public schools in the months ahead. And her ultimate goal? “We need a permanent adventure park in Portland,” Shook says. “We can do it!” Follow them on Instagram at @mudlandia or online at — Julia Silverman

Because science is for everyone

With her trademark bow and raucous laugh, NW Portland’s Lindsey Murphy is making science fun and accessible for all on YouTube. The Fab Lab with Crazy Aunt Lindsey tackles everyday STEM projects from mosquito traps to lemon batteries. Murphy’s passion for spreading science literacy spurred her to create short videos of experiments that parents could easily replicate with their kids. “There has never been a woman or person of color teaching science to the public. (Think of) Mr. Wizard, Beakman, our beloved Bill Nye. They are the best, but all have one glaringly obvious thing in common. That sends a message that science is for one kind of person and it’s just not true. Representation matters,” she says. Watch the Fab Lab at — Denise Castañon

Because music is for all ages

We’re lucky to have such a rich, eclectic music scene here in Portland, that starts with coffee shop/library shows for tots. But between kindergarten and legal drinking age, there’s a void of teen-friendly, all-ages music venues, especially with dearly departed stages like Backspace. Enter Friends of Noise. This awesome new nonprofit is working to secure a venue for diverse, young music-heads. They’re scouting spaces in east Portland where the youth population is growing rapidly. Led by a youth committee and their adult allies, Friends of Noise keeps busy in the meantime producing pop-up music events around town — often with pre-show soundcheck workshops so kids can learn how to run the boards — and hosting a community calendar of all-ages musical events. Check their free all-youth showcase on July 10 at 6pm, part of the Monday Soundscape Music Series at Director Park in downtown Portland. And follow them at — Toni Tabora Roberts

Because The Lego Movie, v 2.0, is being made right here, right now

The first time I made a Lego stop-motion movie with my 5-year-old, I wondered why this technique was not a required course back in film school. As we went frame-by-frame, critical filmmaking skills — among them lighting, continuity and patience — came into play. But is your little Lego fanatic ready to take it to the next level? Sign ’em up for a class at Mr. David’s School of Film, for ages 6 and up. Classes touch on a variety of themes such as Star Wars, Minecraft, and superheroes. But Lego stop motion is the biggest draw, says Mr. David, aka David Loitz: “There is a creative empowerment to making a stop-motion movie. You control everything from beginning to end, so that even the simplest movie seems like magic.” Find Mr. David at TaborSpace, and summer camps at Oregon Episcopal School. — Irene Hess

Because Parents Just Need to Dance It Out Sometimes

Portland’s got plenty of kid-friendly dance party opportunities, sure. But what if your idea of getting down doesn’t include a G-rated playlist, or even having the kids around at all? Enter Skipping Bedtime, a new every-month-or-so dance-a-thon at Holocene, one of the city’s hipper clubs, which runs at a totally civilized 6 pm-10 pm, so you’ll be home in plenty of time for the inevitable up-with-the-dawn wake-up call from the kiddos. (And let’s be real: Who among us stays up much past 10 pm these days, anyway?) Organizers/local mamas Crissy Shaffer and Dani Turner recently hooked up with another local mom, Zia McCabe of the Dandy Warhols, who handles DJ duties, spinning a mix of guilty pleasures, deep-cut dance tracks and shake-that-booty hip-hop gems. Best of all: All proceeds from the $10 entry fee go to Baby Blues Connection, the amazing local nonprofit that is a resource for new parents struggling with postpartum depression. The next Skipping Bedtime drops on Sunday, June 4, with guest DJ Paul Donald. Follow them on Instagram at @skippingbedtime for all the details. — Julia Silverman 

Because public art makes a great scavenger hunt

Mural, mural on the wall, which is the fairest of them all? See how many of these murals you and the kids can spot this summer. (Hint: They’re all found on NE Alberta Street between 13th and 33rd Avenues.)

Test your mural-hunting skills further by visiting:
— Julia Silverman


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