The adage "go outside and play" was a staple command for the baby boom generation. Today's faster-paced life, coupled with electronic games, TV and increasing technology aimed at impressionable minds, makes playing outside all the more important for children. Making a habit of taking your little one to the park has many benefits for not only your child, but you, too.
Many studies have been conducted investigating the benefits of setting time aside to take your child outside to play. Dr. Pooja Tandon, a physician at Seattle Children’s Hospital states, "Research shows that outdoor time is important for children's physical activity and also beneficial for their motor skills, learning, vitamin D levels, vision, and mental health." Parks not only offer viable options for apartment city dwellers, but also for residents living in the country. Parks are usually free, available year-round and do not require a lot of planning.
The park is the perfect place to set up play times with other like-minded parents. Even if you venture to the park on your own, chances are you will discover other caregivers to chat with as you safely watch your child interact and play with new friends on the playground. Even if your child is painfully shy, the park offers a non-threatening area where she can see how her peers play and interact. Before long, you might discover your toddler wandering over to the nearest child and engaging in the same activity.
Spending time with your child at the park is just one of the many ways to foster a closer relationship with your child. Whether you are pushing your toddler in a stroller around the lake or carrying your child in a handy-dandy kid’s pack down a forest trail, your physical and mental health is guaranteed to improve with every stride. Taking your child to the park can become a weekly event and provide a reliable structure to their schedule. Many parks are near libraries. By combining library story time with park play time, you can cultivate mental and physical learning skills.
Whatever the season, going to a park builds lifetime memories for you and your child. Put on bathing suits and head to your city park swimming pool on long, hot summer days. Pack a picnic to enjoy afterward and bring a blanket so your child can nap under the refreshing shade of a tree. Bring a ball and listen to the crisp sound of fallen leaves as you play catch amid the changing colors of fall. Bundle up your child and discover a winter wonderland. Ice-skate on the neighborhood pond, sled down the park hill or make snow angels in the freshly fallen snow. Dig out the fishing poles in the spring and visit your favorite park fishing pond. Do not forget to check out the many year-round activities available through your parks and recreation department.