Kids fill “kits of fun” for the holidays at the Four Rivers Early Learning and Parenting Hub, based in The Dalles and serving five counties in the region. Pictured are, left to right, Vincent, Egan and Willow Ziegenhagen.
Winter break is a good time to strengthen family bonds and the Four Rivers Early Learning and Parenting Hub has put together a kit of fun and creative ways to promote togetherness.
About 1,000 of the packets are being distributed in the Mid-Columbia region. They contain a book, “The Mitten” by Jan Brett, a mitten that children can re-enact the story with, or play games, such as counting out animal crackers (enclosed) to fill it with.
There are also instructions for an alphabet game involving the mitten, as well as other activities.
“The whole thing is designed to revolve around the book,” said Christa Rude, executive director of Four Rivers. “We wanted to help families hang out together in a fun way.”
She worked with Kristen Slatt, parent education coordinator, and Adriana Flores, administrative assistant, and some children, to assemble the Winter Break Family Kits that include four “Top 5” lists of things to do. These includes acts of kindness to make the holidays merrier for others, ways to stay healthy, and suggestions for parent physical and mental health.
“It’s really important for parents to do activities with their children but at the same time they need to take care of themselves, so we made this for the whole family,” said Flores.
On the back of the flyer included in the kit are recipes for playdough and homemade snow, as well as suggested library books for family reading time.
Also enclosed is a copy of “Parenting in the Gorge,” a publication of The Next Door, which lists classes, programs and other resources available to area families. There is an emergency checklist to ensure families are prepared for a natural or manmade disaster.
The Columbia Gorge STEM Hub provided a brochure for the kit. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, which the group promotes.
Suggested STEM projects for winter include engineering a miniature sledding ramp, making a holiday puzzle and building snowmen with marshmallows or packing peanuts and toothpicks, or a tower and bridge from LEGO.
“This project has been so exciting because it is doing something good,” said Rude. “We hope the children are just as excited to receive them as we were to put them together.”
Items for the kit were purchased with grant funds from the Oregon Parenting Education Collaborative to expand parenting education in the region.
The grant will allow Four Rivers to expand resources from Hood River and Wasco counties to Gilliam, Sherman and Wheeler counties.
“The way child development happens is through relationships with people who care about them,” said Rude. “Our mission is to support healthy and connected families.”
Four Rivers replaced the Wasco County Commission on Children and Families and operates with a mix of private donations and public funding.
The Next Door is working closely to support the expansion and transition of parenting education to Four Rivers, said Rude.
She said, because of the grant, the organization has funds to develop programming, hire staff and build on existing networks with school districts and North Central Public Health District.
The kits have been distributed to the Mid-Columbia Children’s Council, Department of Human Services, libraries and other agencies that work with pre-schoolers. The kits are in both English and Spanish to support all families.
“We are getting to be Santa’s Elves,” said Flores of the deliveries.
Slatt said the kits are intended to provide examples of the types of things people can do at home with items they already have on hand.
“You can count most anything, sort most anything,” she said. “The idea is — just do stuff with your kids.”
Rude said the adult support for a child might be a guardian or relative instead of a parent, it doesn’t matter who it is as long as someone is there to provide love and stability.
“It’s about the emotional attachment and someone taking the time to care,” said Rude.
She said the work of Four Rivers also benefits economic growth in the region because children who succeed end up being skilled workers, and that attracts more businesses.
For more information about Four Rivers, or the winter break kits, call Rude at 541-506-2255 or firstname.lastname@example.org.