I can remember growing up as a child in Texas, before coming to New Jersey in my tweens. I was always outside. Some days I would pick strawberries in the backyard. Other days I would pretend to go camping with the neighbor across the street.
And I still remember a day when I walked around the neighborhood leaving notes and flowers on the doorsteps of all our neighbors. Outdoor play wasn't something we had to think hard about, it just happened.
Fast forward to today. Parents are busier. Kids are busier. Both parents may be working outside the home. During the school year, kids are juggling school, homework and sports. My own boys go to school, come home to homework, eat something quick and then are off to sports.
Spontaneous outdoor play may be harder to make happen BUT it doesn't mean we give up on kids playing outdoors. It just means we need to take some time to think about it and plan for play. It doesn't need to be hard either. Just follow these steps for an outstanding outdoor playdate and you'll see how easy outdoor fun can be again.
Find a Great Park
Find a great park. I love the idea of having playdates in the park. No one has to worry about getting their homes playdate-ready or the mess that gets left behind when kids have been playing for hours. Parks also make for a great place for new friendships to start. Moms and dads can get to know each other in a comfortable setting as their kids play.
If you have a favorite park, why not try a new one? New parks have new playground equipment to play on, new trails to explore, a new way to experience the outdoors.
Here’s somethings I look for in a park, whether it’s just my boys, a playdate with friends, or an Out To Play event like Jersey Family Fun cohosted for CLIF Kids Snacks at Jake’s Place in Cherry Hill.
- Bathrooms, do they have them? How close are they to the play areas? Is there toilet paper, lighting, soap?
- Shade, is there sufficient shade? It’s always a good idea to have a place where kids can get some relief from the sun.
- Tables and seating, you’ll probably want to sit at some point. The kids might want to snack. You’ll want places to do that.
- Age appropriate, consider the ages of your kids and the ones you might invite to join you. Will you be bringing younger or older children? Some playgrounds are equipped with equipment for all ages and some are geared to preschool children OR older children.
For help in finding a New Jersey playground check out Jersey Family Fun's playground reviews.
Invite 3-5 friends
Which of your kids’ friends will you invite? Are you looking to invite new classmates/teammates or reconnect with friends? Generally 3-5 friends is a good amount. With less friends it can be hard for kids to play games like tag or hide & go seek. With too many friends, you might spend the whole time counting and checking to make sure you haven’t lost anyone or that no one is feeling left out.
Pack a few toys to add to the outdoor fun
Playgrounds generally have lots to explore but occasionally kids still claim to be bored. Throw some balls, jump ropes, hula hoops, bubbles, or chalk into the trunk. All of them are good choices for adding to your outdoor fun.
Bring healthy snacks and beverages
If your kids are anything like mine they are always hungry and thirsty, especially after active outdoor play. We like to bring along extra bottles of water, and healthy juice boxes and snacks. On our CLIF Out to Play playdate with blogger Life Without Pink and our readers, we brought along strawberries, blueberries, and lots and lots of CLIF Kids snacks. They were a big hit!
Jennifer Auer is a South Jersey mom. This post is adapted from her blog, Jersey Family Fun.