Online exclusive: Helping student parents at PSU

Just inside the main doors of Smith Memorial Student is a child-sized door that leads to Portland State’s Children’s Center.

Just inside the main doors of Smith Memorial Student is a child-sized door that leads to Portland State’s Children’s Center.

Most of the 69 children that attend are the children of PSU students, although some are children of faculty and staff, according to Program Director Kim Allen. The center splits its attendees up into two classrooms: toddlers ages one to three years, and preschoolers ages three to five years.

The toddlers’ favorite activity is something the staff likes to call “toy dumping” and consists of the children ripping every object in reach down from the shelves and out of the toy boxes.

The preschoolers explore every aspect of their world through art and especially play. The parents are kept up-to-date on their progress through pictures and “verbal excerpts.”

“There are two lead teachers and three assistant lead teachers,” Allen said. “Also 10 student workers.”

A day in the Children’s Center starts at about 7:50 a.m., when the children start to arrive. By 9:30 a.m. it’s time for breakfast, and afterwards the children start their indoor activities, such as painting and playing with building blocks and other toys. The older children also partake in writing activities.

The children are then taken outdoors for an hour-long romp in the Park Blocks, weather permitting. At noon they all return indoors for lunch.

On occasion, there are planned field trips to the Oregon Zoo, water parks and the Children’s Museum.

“The best part is that I am part of something that is safe for our children,” Allen said. “It’s a place where you hear children laughing and crying and you know these are the sounds of a safe and wonderful place for children to come and do their work of play.”

The Children’s Center proudly supports the growth and socialization of the children, as well as including them in the university community, Allen said.

PSU is also home to the renowned Helen Gordon Child Development Center, which is a full-time infant/toddler, preschool and kindergarten center. However, since not all of PSU’s students are full-time, the idea arose in 1992 to create another care center to accommodate the children of part-time students, or those who can’t afford the cost of full-time care. After seven years of planning, the Children’s Center opened on March 19, 1999.

At the Children’s Center, parents need only pay for the hours that their child attends. The only requirement is that a child must attend two four-hour days per week at about $25 per day.

To get on the waiting list, visit