Countless kids have had their first nature experiences in parks, and for children who live in urban areas, public lands are an essential gateway to the natural world. National parks like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and the Smoky Mountains may be among the most famous and iconic public lands, but our nation’s thousands of local and state parks are just as important when it comes to connecting children with nature. Regardless of where you live, on Saturday, May 20, you’ll have a chance to celebrate our public lands during the 7th annual National Park Trust Kids to Parks Day. PLUS you can enter to win a pair of Northside shoes as well as a camping package from The North Face. How cool is that?!? More about those giveaways in a minute.
In short, Kids to Parks Day encourages kids from across the country to “discover science, history, nature and adventure in a neighborhood park right around the corner or just across town.” Many parks will host kid-friendly events, or you can create your own park adventure using NPT’s free resources. Anyone can participate and last year, more than 730,000 people in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. did. This year, the goal is to have 900,000 people enjoy Kids to Parks Day all across the country. (And if you wonder why you should join too, check out 5 Reasons to Take the Kids to Parks.)
A day trip outdoors with the kids requires some advance planning. Just how much you need to plan depends on A) your child’s age, B) the weather conditions and terrain where you’re going and C) how long you’ll be gone. My kids are big enough now that I no longer have to lug around diapers, pacifiers, baby bottles and various colorful teething toys (and boy, was that a HUGE milestone for an outdoor parent!), but there are still some things that I always bring along if we’re going to be outdoors and away from home for a few hours. Here some things that I consider handy.
5 THINGS TO BRING FOR A DAY IN THE PARK
A backpack is the most useful and ergonomic way to carry things around when adventuring with children. I personally use a CamelBak with a hydration pack, since this makes it easy to drink on the go. A few years ago, I also bought smaller backpacks for my girls to get them used to carrying their own snacks and water. Genius move. They LOVED them and were super excited about having their own packs. My oldest daughter, who is 9, sports the CamelBak Trailblazer with a 1.5 liter bladder, whereas the slightly smaller CamelBak Scout was a perfect fit for my 6-year-old.
Food and drinks
Nuts, fresh and dried fruit, granola bars and sandwiches are my go-to picnic foods, but sometimes we’ll switch it up with some leftover pancakes or some of these healthy and homemade trail snacks. For drinks, we always carry water and often hot chocolate as a special treat. Bringing food doesn’t just prevent little people from getting hangry, eating together outside also creates a special togetherness, or hygge as the Scandinavians call it. And if you want to surprise the family with an extra special treat, make a batch of these healthy No-Bake Chocolate Cookies. I promise you they’ll thank you.
Bringing extra clothes is always a good insurance policy for a successful outing. For recently potty trained children, an extra set of underwear and pants can come in handy, and for kids (and adults) of all ages, a water resistant shell jacket can be a hike saver in case of unexpected weather changes.
A first aid kit
A first aid kit may seem like overkill if you’re just going to your neighborhood park, but I like to have mine on hand for the band-aids if nothing else (and it has been used on a number of occasions). I personally use REI’s Backpacker Weekend First Aid Kit, which besides different types of band-aids features gauze, elastic bandage, wound cleansing items, topical creams, medications and other basic first aid tools.
If there’s one thing that can make or break a trip to the park, it’s the shoes. Uncomfortable shoes = no fun. Good shoes can be pricey, but it IS possible to find high-quality hiking boots that don’t cost a fortune. Lately, I’ve been impressed by Northside, a fairly new-to-me brand that has a wide range of affordable boots, sports and trail shoes, and hiking sandals. The pairs that I got for myself and the girls are super comfy and have held up well so far.
For more handy tips on preparing for your trip, make sure to read my 5 Tips for Taking the Kids to the Park. If you feel like you’re good to go, follow these steps for the ultimate Kids to Parks Day experience:
Step 1: Enter the giveaway in the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win a pair of Northside shoes in the style of your choice.
Step 2: Pledge to have a park adventure on Kids to Parks Day and be entered to win a camping package from The North Side.
Step 3. Encourage friends and family to join you.
Step 4. Share photos and adventures on social media with #kidstoparks and #BuddyBison.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure policy here. Northside provided shoes for my family in order to facilitate this post. All opinions expressed are my own.
Check out these other great “Kids to Parks” resources from fellow Outdoor Families friends, and watch the #KidsToParks hashtag to catch up on all the fun: