My kids have boundless energy, even the baby! They need plenty of opportunities to burn off steam, and love getting outdoors.
Managing a trip to the park with them can be challenging — a little like herding kittens. Over the years, I’ve learned by trial and error, so I’m sharing some tips that work for us.
Consider Your Schedule
Since we’re a homeschooling family, you’ll be likely to see us at the park or playground during the week.
For us, it can be a quandary to plan outings around a toddler and a baby’s nap schedule. Since Baby Daniel is so laid back, we plan park trips for Maeve’s best time of the day – right now, morning or late afternoon play dates are best.
For your children, that timing may look different. You’ll want to shoot for times when the children are well rested and not terribly hungry.
Since I have a lot of little people to manage, I also shoot for times of day that are less crowded.
Plan Healthy Snacks
My kids can work up an appetites when they’re running and playing, so I make sure we’re packing healthy snacks for our fun days.
If you’re volunteering to bring snacks for a group or meeting up with friends, make sure you check with other moms for food allergies.
We try to capitalize on fruits and vegetables that are in season — my kids would love to have some watermelon right now!
Engage Their Senses
Change things up a bit for your kids by engaging their senses. Think about a playdate at a splash park, (weather permitting, of course) or plan for some fun sensory play.
We made a dinosaur dig at home that our kids love during warmer weather. Playing with shaving cream is always FUN! (That’s a quick and easy clean up,too.)
Feeling artistic? Grab your art supplies and head outdoors to create in the fresh air at the playground. My daughter loves to take her sketchbook and colored pencils to draw birds or flowers she sees.
Supplies to Get Them Started
Some kids find it easy to play anywhere, anytime, while others might need a boost.
You might want to grab some of these to take with you:
Adults at Attention
As much as I’d love to read a book while my children play at the park, I know that’s not possible (unless my husband is with me). I have to be focused on the kids, especially my wandering toddler.
I’m not a helicopter parent, but I know that if I’m busy checking my Facebook timeline, Maeve can sneak out of my line of vision.
Snap some pictures of your children having fun, but leave checking your email for later.
I tend to stick to parks that I know well when I’m out with the kids, but if we’re visiting somewhere new, I have a few safety options I consider.
Playground Equipment – do a quick once over and make sure the swings and slides are appropriate for your child. My toddler Maeve thinks she can do anything her older brothers and sisters can do, which means I have to keep a close eye on her. She’s likely to follow her siblings up a giant slide and get stuck!
Escape Options – I prefer a playground with some sort of fence or limited access, especially when I’m alone with all five small fry. If I’m at a playground that’s more open, I look around for potential hiding spots or escape routes that Maeve might try to use.
Ground Rules – We go over simple things before we get out of the car:
– no throwing sticks, rocks, sand or dirt (hey, I’ve got twin boys!)
– stay within Mom’s line of vision
– help Mom watch Maeve
– Have FUN!
I pack a small kit in the van, filled with things that we might need, based on potential playground injuries or mini-emergencies.
Our kit contains:
tweezers (for bee stings or splinters)
Waterproof bag for wet clothes
Claritin (for allergy symptoms that crop up after playing with flowers and leaves)
Having a safe, clean place to play is SO important for children. Kids who play are less likely to be obese, or have behavioral and cognitive disorders. An added bonus? While I’m watching my kids play at the park, I just might meet a new friend myself! Win-win!
Let’s hear from you. What are YOUR best tips and tricks for managing trips to the playground?