Nope, I’m not referring to Disney park hopping, friends. My suggestion to you, however, is no less fun! Discover the wilderness nearby through a visit to your parks—neighborhood parks, state parks, national parks, county parks, etc.
Our family moved to the Jacksonville/St. Augustine area of North Florida 11 months ago and we have enjoyed getting to know the area by way of exploring its parks. Not only is it fun to visit a new park instead of the “same old” one nearby, it’s an easy way for your family to learn about and discover your local natural environment! Whether you’ve been in your area a long time, or you’re a new(ish) resident like us, get out there and play in your parks!
MAP OUT A PLAN
Make a plan to visit parks in different neighborhoods and different geographical locations. You may live near different bodies of water and might find parks to visit near the beach, a river and/or lake. In our area, we’ve been able to learn about the tide at St. Augustine beach and that there at blue crabs in the lake near our house! Locate a park that offers a hike into the woods and experience the wildlife first-hand. Or, simply choose a park that has a play structure that is different from the one your kids are accustomed to climbing!
SWITCH THINGS UP
New scenery is usually enough stimulation to keep things interesting when we check out a new park. There are those occasions, however, when we need some extra help to keep the little bodies moving and/or their minds engaged. One fun idea I encountered recently is going on a play dough nature walk. Bring play dough to a trail, or even just the playground and make prints! My kids loved making prints of the different foliage, rocks, sticks, palm branches, their faces, you name it!
PRACTICE A NEW SKILL
Orienteering! A new environment is a great place to introduce map reading to little ones (and not so little ones!). This is an important skill they can build upon during their adventures to come. You will need a map (you can find a map online for most parks) and if you already have a compass go ahead and bring it (but it’s not absolutely necessary). Walk around with the map in hand, explain the symbols on the map, and locate the different landmarks. (Don’t forget! You can make it a treasure map!) Once your family gets comfortable with following a map you might graduate to geocaching! But!!!! Before you bring out your smart phone apps or activate your GPS, let the kids learn to navigate the old fashion way! (With that said, be on the lookout for our review of a kids GPS coming soon!!)
What are your ideas/suggestions for exploring your local environment? How does your family play at your park?! We’d love to read your stories!
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