Outdoor Activities & Park Play with Your Children
by Sue Adair
A day at the park may seem like ‘just another day,’ but learning and bonding experiences flourish at the park!
Pack for Safety
Include drinking water, sunscreen, hat, water to wash as well as wipes for hands, sneakers or other closed-toed shoes, a change of clothes or a towel for the seat, small first aid kit for those little scrapes and a small trash bag to keep the earth litter free.
Expect to Get Dirty
Going outside is about the freedom to explore and the only way to explore is to touch it, and yes, it is dirty–it’s outside! Dirty does not mean ‘germy.’ Roll in the grass, stomp in the mud, touch the frog and splash in the puddles.
Bubbles Infant to Six Months
Pack for safety: A blanket to crawl on and a sturdy pair of pants for crawling on rough surfaces. Be prepared to change diapers on the go.
Be prepared to climb and crawl yourself. This is the best way for you to ensure your child’s safety. Watch for items going into your child’s mouth.
Hydration: The outside air and activity increases the amount of fluids you both need to consume. And while you’re packing the water, pack a snack.
Point, name and describe: As your child explores, point out the details; name objects and talk about your experience.
First Steps (12 to 18 months)
Pack for safety: Bring a blanket and a sturdy pair of pants for crawling on rough surfaces. This is not the place for skirts or dresses.
Plan for breaks and pack snacks, water and a few books.
Dig and touch: Collect items to further explore when you get home.
Walk the trail with your little one on a riding toy. Don’t forget the helmet.
Park Play Etiquette: If your little one finds a playmate, ask the other parent if both of you may join in the play. Your child will learn to ask for your approval before playing with strangers and the parent of the other child will appreciate this overture.
Toddler and Get Set (18 to 36 months)
Plot the potty path!
Bring balls to throw and kick or bean bags and a bucket.
Move beyond the park and walk a trail or explore a nursery. Go to the stream, lake or pond and skip rocks. Turn the rocks over to find creepy, crawly things.
No breaks required–but pause for a moment to re-hydrate.
Look through binoculars–even two toilet paper tubes offer a new view of the world.
Tent it! A pop-up tent is an instant playhouse.
Take an umbrella and put on your galoshes–take a walk in the light rain.
Preschool to Pre-K (36 months +)
Lie down and look up: Children like to see the world from a different perspective.
Picnic: Let your child be a part of packing the necessities and preparing the sandwiches.
Play “I Spy” or “I Hear.”
Read or draw under the trees.
Bring a magnifying cup for bugs and objects to view. Research your bugs and objects when you return home to learn more about each.