My family was blessed to live near so many fun city parks and experience unique and fun playground structures and elements. Parks were a huge part of my kids’ childhood and we still continue to visit new parks. We have been to so many interesting parks over the years, near and far and have made many fun memories! I can’t wait for it to warm up so we can get back out there!
Why are parks so great?
- It gets your kids out of the house and off of electronics.
- Vitamin D and sunshine!
- Enjoy nature-there are lots of parks with beautiful nature elements…lakes, streams, trees, hillsides, etc.
- You can play a larger scale game or learn a new sport. We loved having multi-family softball games or basketball games while on family trips.
- There are things for all ages to enjoy.
- Most parks are free.
- It fosters creativity and adventure as they create and explore.
- Exercise and encouraging activity and movement.
- It’s a great place to meet neighbors and new friends.
Create a park visiting routine.
Plan a park day. You could go on short days after school or you could plan an evening visit and pack a dinner. Another plan could be visiting a different park in the area each week. One Summer, a friend started a schedule with the neighborhood families to go to a different park each week for a picnic and so the kids could play together. The kids looked forward to it. Our family always try to visit a few parks while on vacation too or when we are in a new town. You can find a lot of recommendations online for fun parks in the your area.
When our kids were younger we started by taking family walks to several of the small, local parks. We could motivate the kids to keep walking by talking about the next park we would visit. As they got older, we would ride bikes to parks a little further away.
Use your imagination and encourage the kids to do the same.
Some parks are conducive to encouraging your imagination while others need a little help to get the imagination going! We loved to name each park. At one park with a small bridge, we would play the Grumpy old troll game. My husband would stand near them and they would have to come up with things to be allowed to pass the “grumpy old troll”. This was one of their favorite memories and we still call that park the “grumpy old troll park”. Another time during a season of “Wipe-Out” we discovered a park that looked a lot like a scene from the show. That park was named the Wipe-Out park. While another park we imagined was an ice cream stand so we would pretend to eat ice cream every time we went there and it became known as the ice cream park. Each time we would create new games and activities related to books they were reading or shows they loved.
I love that every park is unique. Exploring is a large part of our family. We have been to parks that feel like you are in the canyon, parks with educational signs that you find and read along the way, musical instrument structures, zip lines, canals to play in, and fun obstacle courses. Sometimes there is a theme like a train-themed one we went to. All the activities were train related.
Sometimes we go to a park just to play a sport like golf, softball, tennis, soccer or pickle ball. Our kids love to explore new parks and equipment. Here are a few fun parks we’ve discovered recently.
Invite others along.
Parks are even better with friends! We have gone to parks with grandparents, cousins, aunts, friends from school, church members, on school field trips, and with our neighborhood group. It is a lot of fun to go with other people. It’s a great way to get to know neighbors and make new friends.
Having been to so many parks, we have seen a lot of poorly behaved children and parents. I have a few requests when you go. Please don’t leave your child unattended! I have seen so many little kids alone on the playground. Put your phones away and have fun with your kids! Watch your language. Teach your kids manners and to wait their turns. Talk to them about vandalism and respect. Leave no trace when you are there-no gum stuck to fixtures, or food wrappers or garbage left behind. Take care of the equipment and use it properly. I was saddened to see a new park that had already been damaged after only a few months. Keep your dogs leashed and clean up after them. Be friendly and say hi to people. I find once you talk to someone they are more open and friendly. You may even make a new friend!
What parks would be best for my child?
I would look for smaller playground equipment that is lower to the ground. When they are really little you will have to help them up the stairs and down the slides. My small kids enjoyed stationary riding toys, swings with a front section, smaller slides and little steps to climb. Splash pads are so much fun for the younger kids on a hot summer day! I really hated pushing them on the swings so as soon as they could I taught them how to pump their legs to swing higher. Strollers are great when they get tired and they will. They also loved rocks and sand and water and any combination of those three!
As they get bigger, they just don’t fit in some of the smaller structures so look for larger fixtures designed for older kids. Some parks have both. Find fun spinning and climbing equipment, ziplines, obstacle courses, and other unique activities. You can pack scooters and let them scooter around on the pathways in most parks. We always bring a football and a frisbee in case it isn’t a great park.
Things to bring to the park.
- Any type of balls to toss, kick, hit, or throw.
- Tennis shoes. Many parks have bark or small rocks so bring good shoes. Unless you go to the splash pad then I would recommend water shoes.
- Sports racquets-tennis, pickleball, softball.
- Frisbee-It is always in our car.
- Scooters are easy to transport and another fun thing to use while there.
- Drinks and snacks because they will get hot and thirsty and kids are always hungry! Lunch or dinner if you’ll be staying awhile.
- Sunscreen or bug spray depending on the time of year and location.
- Kites are a lot of fun on a windy day.
- A Blanket for a picnic.