October 20, 2017

15 Ways to Celebrate the National Family Play Date

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hiking with kidsThe weekend is here and it’s time to get up, get out and explore as a family. Whether you want to take a nature hike, have a picnic or participate in a family art program at a local gallery, get up and get going today (5/11) to mark the first annual National Family Play Date.

The National Family Play Date was created to complement the Active Family Project, a new health and wellness initiative from Merck Consumer Care that was set up to empower moms to enjoy active and healthy lifestyles with their families. I am pleased to be part of this project, serving as a family travel expert on the Active Family Project Play Council.

Over the coming months, I will be sharing tips, advice and fun activities to help moms (and dads) make the most of their time spent together as a family. Today, take a look at these 15 easy ways to get active and grow as a family to mark the National Family Play Date.

1. Take a Nature Hike. Grab your backpacks and hike a park trail with a waterfall or lake. Caves and hollowed out trees are also fun to check out on hikes. Use TrailLink to find trails for hiking and biking.

2. Become a Junior Park Ranger. Most of our national parks, monuments and historic sites offer a Junior Ranger program, enabling kids to learn about these sites while completing a series of educational and observational activities. Upon completion, children receive an official badge or patch from a ranger.

3. Have a Picnic. Pack a picnic lunch and head out for a day in the park. Have a fun, exploratory hike on your way to the picnic area, and bring along a Frisbee and a badminton set to get active as a family.

4. Perfect Your Bird Calls. Grab the kids and your binoculars and notebook to prepare for a day of birding. Some parks offer special birdwatching walks, and others offer resources with photos and descriptions of birds to be found in their parks. Learn some bird songs to increase your enjoyment of native birds.

5. Get Your Passport Stamped. Through the Passport to Your National Parks program, your kids can get their passport books stamped at national parks across the country. Each stamp records the date of the visit and the name of the national park for your child.

6. Create a Butterfly Garden. Children love digging in the dirt and planting flowers, so go ahead and plant a butterfly garden sure to attract these fluttering insects. Choose a sunny location, then add some flat stones and a small butterfly pond. Colorful, blooming flowers are optimal.

7. Rent Bikes and Explore. Many cities have bikeshare programs that enable you to pick up and return bikes to various spots within a city, so you and your kids can explore at your leisure. Also, look out for guided bike tours in cities as well as national parks.

8. Go on a Scavenger Hunt. For a fun way to explore a new city with kids, try a scavenger hunt. Watson Adventures coordinates a variety of themed scavenger hunts in cities across the country. Stray Boots recently launched mobile apps with scavenger hunt-like trivia challenges for more than a dozen cities.

9. Pick Up Trash in Our Parks. Let’s keep our national parks beautiful. Go out as a family and if you see an empty bottle or a candy bar wrapper in the parks, pick it up and throw it away or recycle it if you can. Celebrate your efforts with a picnic.

10. Feed the Ducks. Sometimes it’s the simple pleasures, like feeding ducks, that make for the best days. Just bring a few bread slices and relax as your kids gently approach ducks, toss in the bread and make a few duck quacks as they try to communicate with these feathered friends.

11. Plan a Day of Free Family Fun. Plan a “free day” and only do activities that are free, like parks, outdoor concerts and riding bikes. Do a quick Google search for “free things to do” and the name of your city or the city you plan to visit. You’ll be surprised at how many fun free events and attractions are retrieved.

12. Take in a Family Art Program at Your Local Art Museum. These days, art museums offer so much more than self-guided tours. Look for family-friendly art programs, like hands-on workshops, story hours and scavenger hunts, as well as family gallery tours to help kids discover different works of art.

13. Visit a Nature Center. There’s much to learn about animals and nature at your local nature center. Speak with an interpretive naturalist to find out more about wildlife programs and environmental education, as well as local hiking and fishing opportunities.

14. Try Out Different Playgrounds. Go ahead, try out a new playground. By now, your kids are probably well aware of all the swings and equipment at the two or three playgrounds near your house. So, pack a picnic lunch and try out a few new playgrounds to the delight of your kids.

15. Take an Alphabet Photo Tour. Grab a camera for each child and go on an Alphabet Photo Tour. Start with the letter A and have your children take pictures of things they see that start with that letter, like an apple tree or an ambulance. Print out the pictures to make alphabet memory books.

What are you planning to do for the National Family Play Date? Let me know in the comments section below.

Disclaimer: I am a compensated member of the Active Family Project Play Council. However, the views and opinions expressed here are my own.

Photo Credit: red9hagar

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