Columbia Play Project events encourage families to play together

Next event Saturday at Marina Park next to the Port of Camas-Washougal

You couldn’t have the first Play in the Park event without bouts of rain, wind and hail. Members of Columbia Play Project kept the fun alive at Esther Short Park Saturday, knowing that sunny days are ahead.

Children play Connect 4 during Saturday’s Columbia Play Project outdoor event at Esther Short Park in Vancouver. Photo courtesy of Jeanne Bennett.
Children play Connect 4 during Saturday’s Columbia Play Project outdoor event at Esther Short Park in Vancouver. Photo courtesy of Jeanne Bennett.

“We had some beautiful weather at the beginning, and about 15 to 20 families came out to play with us,” said Columbia Play Project board chair leader Jeanne Bennett. “Then the hail started, and we did what every self respecting northwesterner should do. We packed it up.”

The event coincided with the Farmers Market in downtown Vancouver, which attracted more families to join in the games and activities such as Connect 4, bowling, the giant parachute and making bubbles.

“It’s important that children have the opportunity to play, and play should be self directed by the child. Giving them toys they can play with in whatever way they want to play with those toys is important for their social, emotional and physical development,” Bennett said. “It’s also really great for parents to be able to play with their kids. Play helps everybody, from the littlest person to the biggest person to the oldest person, to self regulate their emotions, and to have physical activity and mental stimulation. Play is critical to our development.”

Since forming in October, the 11 Columbia Play Project board members have an ambitious road map for the years ahead. They’re hosting five Play in the Park events around Clark County. By summer, they plan to mail out themed play kits for parents and children to do at home. By fall, they hope to have a mobile kids museum that can travel to parks and neighborhoods. The organization’s ultimate goal is to build a Children’s Museum in Clark County.

Making big bubbles is one of the many fun activities available at Columbia Play Project outdoor events. The next one is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at Marina Park next to the Port of Camas-Washougal. Photo courtesy of Jeanne Bennett.
Making big bubbles is one of the many fun activities available at Columbia Play Project outdoor events. The next one is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at Marina Park next to the Port of Camas-Washougal. Photo courtesy of Jeanne Bennett.

“It’s going to take a lot of community involvement and commitment from various people, from volunteers to businesses to government to school districts. All of these organizations can help us make this a reality by donating to the organization, adding their educational experience and their enthusiasm for what we’re doing,” Bennett said. “Our goal is to have all this by 2026, which is a very ambitious goal. But we’re hopeful that this community is ready for it. We have been outsourcing our cultural activities to other communities, mainly Portland for years. And it’s time. We’re big enough now. We’re mature enough as a community that we really should be providing our own cultural activities for our kids right here.”

The next Play in the Park event is scheduled for Saturday, from 9 a.m. to noon, at Marina Park next to the Port of Camas-Washougal.

Upcoming events include Sat., April 24, from 9 a.m. to noon, at Waterfront Park in Vancouver; Sat., May 1, from 9 a.m. to noon, at Overlook Park in Ridgefield; and Sat., May 8, from 9 a.m. to noon, at Esther Short Park in Vancouver.

For opportunities to volunteer or donate to this chidren’s organization, visit www.columbiaplayproject.org.

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