'Kids Unplugged' offers indoor fun, rain or shine

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Jordan Hill grabs a scoop of gravel in the work-themed room at Kids Unplugged in Tigard.Summing up Jenni and Tommy's Kids Unplugged is simple: It’s a bit of everything.

It’s an indoor play place. It’s a preschool. It’s an art studio. It’s a woodworking shop that teaches young children how to properly use tools.

But for owners Jennifer and Tommy Hill, it’s something much simpler: It’s a place for their kids to play.

The Hills opened Kids Unplugged in late June after trying in vain to find a local place to take their kids, rain or shine.

“There was never a place to take the kids,” said Jennifer Hill. “Everything was closed for stay-at-home moms in the mornings before I had to go to work.”

Other places emphasized physical activities, but did little to engage their imagination.

The result is a cross between the Portland Children’s Museum and a local preschool.

Swing by Kids Unplugged

What: Indoor play-place, art studio, wood working shop and preschool

Where: 11300 S.W. Bull Mountain Road, in Tigard

Hours: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

How much: $5 per visit, classes and preschool prices available on website

For more info: Call 503-504-7747 or visit their website

As the name suggests, you won’t find flashy TV screens with video games at Kids Unplugged.

“Everyone is so plugged in,” said Hill, who works as a preschool teacher in Beaverton. “We have kids on their little consoles bumping into walls when they walk in.”

Instead, Kids Unplugged offers a host of parent-supervised activities for kids to enjoy that can get their imagination flowing.

An art studio lets kids paint and draw, and kids can wear costumes and play in a make-shift veterinary clinic.

A large pirate ship offers kids the chance to play pretend, or sneak away to a hidden alcove to read or play with puppets.

A large gravel pit filled with toy dump trucks gives kids the chance to get a little dirty and dig — something Hill’s two sons enjoy.

And kids can make their own toys in a special woodworking room.

“The kids get so excited about it,” Hill said.

Using pre-cut wood blocks, special classes are available to teach kids how to use hammers and nails and the proper way to treat tools.

“We stress safety first,” Hill said.

Fostering curiosity

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Jenni and Tommy Hill run Kids Unplugged, a daycare and preschool in Tigard. Their children Jordan, top, and Tyeson are happy customers.Growing up in Alameda, Calif., Hill said she took the city’s parks and recreation department for granted, which regularly offered classes and activities for young people.

Tigard doesn’t have a parks and recreation program of its own, and Hill said parents often come home from work mentally drained and don’t how the time or energy to take their kids too far away to play.

“When parents come home from work, they are tired, so it’s usually video games or TV,” Hill said. “We wanted to set up an environment that fosters curiosity and fun and hands-on learning opportunities.”

The preschool was a natural addition to the play place, Hill said, giving children the chance to learn and play both in and out of the classroom setting.

“As far as I know, this is the only true preschool in the area that’s not a daycare or affiliated with a church,” she said.

Kids Unplugged seemingly has everything, then. That is, except children.

“We had no idea it would be this difficult to get the word out,” she said.

Since it opened in June, the company has created a small following of families who regularly come and play, but Hill said the play place and preschool has struggled to catch on with families.

“People just don’t know we’re here,” she said.

Unlike other play places that Hill says over-stimulate kids, the idea is to let their imaginations take over.

“It’s a homey environment,” Hill said. “It’s not overstimulating, and it gives kids the opportunity to focus in on the activity they are doing. They aren’t going in and flitting from one thing to another and don’t get engaged for any length of time. It is so much more interactive, and they’re learning.”

Jenni and Tommy’s Kids Unplugged is currently enrolling for its September preschool, which gives families free access to the play place throughout the school year.

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