“Let’s go to the park” may not be what your child wants to hear anymore. Though you fondly remember the days when he’d spend hours there, climbing every structure and going higher and higher on the swings, he now whines that the park is boring and he wants to go home. But you’re not ready to give it up. After all, it’s free, convenient, and gets your child outside for some much-needed exercise. What’s not to love?
Although you don't have to consider it a lost cause, you may have to arm yourself with some ammunition to bring the park back to life. Here are some fresh ideas for the fresh air:
Make a Nature Hunt
Look around the park for a long list of things the kids can collect: different colored rocks, leaves, sticks, or whatever else looks interesting. They can put them into a favorite backpack, a sand pail, or a brown paper “discovery” bag they’ve decorated ahead of time. With a list in hand and a bag in tow, suddenly the park will look completely different. Set them off to find their cache. It will keep them busy and happy and chances are they will discover something new about a familiar place.
Make a pirate treasure hunt, complete with maps and clues: Go to an art supply store such as Michael’s and buy bags of plastic jewels. Spread them out into the sand box and have the kids look for the buried treasure. Or if your children are more adventurous, buy plastic necklaces and coins and hide them at various stations around the park. Make a treasure map and have the kids use your clues to find the booty. You can even hand out bandannas for them to wear so they look like true scoundrels.
Set Up a Picnic
Ask the kids to help make their favorite sandwiches and snacks and pack them into a basket. Spread out a nice blanket and spend some time together eating a homemade lunch under the sun.
Don’t Forget the Athletic Equipment
Load the bikes and trikes into the car. Many parks have great paths for bike riding and you don’t have to worry about sharing the road with cars. Bring along a soccer ball or football and encourage the kids to throw it around. Set up an obstacle course. On a windy day, bring the kite. The wide open spaces and grassy lawns of the park can inspire a little sweat – even for your typical couch potato.
You don't need to do all the work. If you bring something motivating – a bag of marbles, some jacks, shovels, or other sand toys – you set the stage for your kids to be creative on their own. The park can be the perfect backdrop for imaginary games. Let them pretend they're on a shipwrecked boat under that willow tree, or have them collect sticks and build a "campfire" where they can tell ghost stories. With some imagination and encouragement, the park can be a whole lot more than just a play structure and a tired old swing set.