When my two young daughters became mobile, I started to realize how amazing it is to live in a country where we have such a robust park system. In the NRPA Agency Performance Review, you’ll notice there is “one park for every 2,181 residents and 10.1 acres of park land for every 1,000 residents.”
With all these great parks, my wife and I realized how challenging it is to plan a perfect park visit as a family with little ones. How do you execute a near perfect park visit when you have little ones running around? Let’s dig into the logistics of the toolkit my wife and I put together to make the most out of our park visit.
1. Find the Right Park
Finding the right park is essential for a perfect visit. Our goal is to find a park that maximizes our daughters’ enjoyment, so we use specific criteria to determine whether the visit will be a success. Here’s what we look for when we are looking for a park:
- Age appropriateness of the park and play area
- Special events (free concerts, bonanzas, etc.)
- Ratings and reviews
- Park size
- Our visit history (Did we like it before?)
- Shaded areas (if it’s especially sunny)
2. Plan Ahead
We have little ones, so it is necessary that we plan ahead to make sure we have a successful visit. For us, we plan by going through the basics of food, timing and nap schedule. Then we check to make sure we have sunscreen, wipes, hand sanitizer and the right type of clothes/shoes for the park. For example, at a water park you may need swimsuits or at least a change of clothes.
Planning ahead seems obvious, but there have been too many times when we didn’t plan ahead well enough, only to find that we were out of wipes or didn’t have the hand sanitizer. A happy wife is a happy life, so making sure we have everything is an important step for me.
3. Make the Most of Your Park Time
You have found a park and planned your trip — now it’s go time. When we arrive at the park, we do our best to setup a centralized location where we can put the seemingly endless amount of things we packed. Being parents of youngsters, we tend to pack much more than we will use, but we like to have “just in case” things. We tend to try to have our centralized area somewhere in the shade, so that it doesn’t get too warm.
When we are at the park, it’s time to maximize our family’s time together. We will generally spend most of our time chasing around our girls as they try new things. It’s always enjoyable to hear their laughs of glee as they try new slides or climbing structures.
4. Packing Up and Planning for Next Time
As our time at the park is ending, it’s important that we set expectations for our youngsters that we will visit another park soon and to make sure that we left the park in as good condition as when we arrived. We tend to operate around nap times and meals, so I usually start packing up around 10-15 minutes before departure.
After our visit, we talk with our daughters about how they liked the park. As I stated earlier, our goal is to maximize their enjoyment at the park, so we discuss things that we liked or didn’t like. It’s so amazing to live in a place that has such park diversity that allows us to continue to try activities at new parks and revisit our favorite parks.
Parks are an important part of my family’s life (i.e., the distance to a park is now in our home purchasing criteria), so hopefully this toolkit will help your family make the most out of your next park visit.