It was not that long ago that children would venture on their own to their local community park or playground. Most families prefer (and we recommend) adult supervision on every playground for additional safety, but we also think there should be something better for parents and guardians to do than literally “sit on a bench” and watch.
There is a new and healthy refocus on the value of family recreation, particularly outdoors, where young children and parents can connect with the natural environment. But if the entire family is looking for new ways to enjoy the park, we’ve created a fun list of ideas to try on your next trip. These ideas will both spark young imaginations, as well as provide healthy, physical activity and hands-on learning opportunities for the entire family.
Our challenge to you? Try some of these fun ideas and get your family and friends involved by rediscovering the value of your local community park or playground!
Bird and Wildlife Watching
Teach your children the joys of nature by purchasing or creating your own scrapbook for photos of your regional wildlife. There are a variety of online resources including the American Birding Association which provides information on local species, as well as a directory of regional events for bird watching enthusiasts and field guides. Even keeping a simple log of the names of the wildlife they see in a notebook can be an enjoyable learning experience.
Getting children involved as conservators of natural, outdoor community spaces is a valuable activity that teaches them ecological awareness and responsibility for the health of their local environment. Look for events that are family friendly that can involve waste collection from waterways, tree and natural vegetation planting, and even fun activities such as assisting animal shelters with their outdoor adoption drives.
Games of Fitness and Problem Solving
Fun games of Hide and Seek serve a number of purposes. First the activity promotes physical fitness, but many childhood games have other benefits such as problem solving, cognitive and critical thinking development skills, and more. Other simple games like Red Light/Green Light and Red Rover will keep kids active, while scavenger hunts will engage their minds. Need ideas for other fun outdoor games that the whole family will love? Check out popular parent and family blogs such as Parents Magazine, Pop Sugar, and government resources including the US Department of Health and Human Services for ideas.
Arts and Crafts
One of the best parts of painting outdoors is that the clean-up job is far easier than it is when participating in that type of creative project with kids at home. Basic art supplies, paint and paper can transform an afternoon at the park into an imaginative exercise, inspiring kids to stretch their creative abilities in a fun new way. You can also encourage making art with nature. Stamping leaves, decorating pine cones, or creating pet rocks can be allow you to bring a bit of nature back home. Pick a park with picnic tables or benches and make a lunch date with some brushes and big imaginations!
Studies have shown that free play time is essential to the healthy social and cognitive development of children. Make time to lead them in exciting new activities which stimulate their growth and create fun, hands on adventurous they will remember.