As we head into the heart of the summer, we want to take some time to appreciate the beauty of the national parks in your area. The theme for this year’s National Parks and Recreation Month is to “Get Wild” about parks and recreation. Everything from wild workouts and wellness to getting wild at the pool—you just can’t help but have fun when visiting your local parks!
Parks and recreation areas are known to improve your physical and mental health while contributing to the overall welfare of your local community. Parks provide many recreation and activity programs. You can find athletic leagues, special events, art programs and environmental education programs. Thanks to our national parks and recreation areas, all Americans have access to safe, affordable physical activity opportunities.
Parks and playgrounds provide crucial and vital opportunities for children to accelerate emotional, social, motor and cognitive development. From a fitness perspective, swinging on the monkey bars strengthens and builds muscle endurance for the entire upper body. Running up the stairs repeatedly to go down the slide over and over again builds strength and endurance in the lower body. Running through tires, swinging on swings, playing on see-saws and climbing rope walls all help develop balance and flexibility.
During July, be sure to spend more time at the park. Below are some creative ideas to make the park a new and exciting place for your child:
1. Beach balls–play a simple game of catch with this summertime favorite. How about using the ball to introduce science by talking about why the ball rolls down the slide. If you have a toddler, it is better not to fill the ball too full so it is easier to grasp. If you pour a little sand or water into the beach ball it will help prevent it from blowing away.
2. Bubbles–no matter the age it seems children love to chase, catch, pop and blow bubbles. Playing with bubbles helps to develop hand-eye coordination and to encourage language skills. Children can learn cause and effect by observing what happens when air gets blown into the bubble wand. Chasing bubbles is a great gross motor activity and helps children burn off energy.
3. Magnifying glass–help your little one view the world in a totally new way. Encourage your child to observe how grass, leaves and bugs look with and without the magnifying glass. Support their curious nature and guide them to make discoveries about the world and how it works.
4. Chalk–why not trace each other’s handprints or footprints? This is a great way to practice pre-printing skills. Use this exercise to discuss how people are different and special in their own way. Dipping the chalk into some water before drawing will help make it smoother and the colors more vibrant.
5. Bed Sheet–a larger sheet can be a great place to do yoga poses together or can be used to make an amazing fort. Smaller sheets can turn your little one into a super hero with a super cape! Grab a few friends and you can also use the sheet as a parachute. Throw the beach ball into the mix and see if you can keep it from bouncing off the parachute!
*parts of this article were adapted from nubaby.com