We spend a whole lot of time at parks, even in the winter. Sometime we even go to two parks back to back, because we're crazy like that! I feel a little silly even writing this, but I overhear and see a lot of the same things from parents each time we go. There is so much going on at the park for your toddler besides just a time filler! So I thought I would offer some (seemingly) simple tips to parents with toddlers, that will hopefully make the park not only fun for you and your kid(s), but a learning experience too!
No seriously, let them run! I can't tell you the number of times I hear parents saying "Don't run!" at the park. In fact, I've heard it at nearly every park I've been to. There are so many places that kids probably shouldn't run...the pool, church, inside the house, etc. But the park should not be one of them. If not the park, then where?
Here's where I am probably way more lax than most. I want Rilo to try anything! She is fearless by nature but also by nurture. If she wants to try it, I want her to try it too! Whether it be the two story slide in St. Louis (seriously, St. Louis has the craziest slides, see the picture at the top), the rock wall, the sand pit or the monkey bars. Of course that doesn't mean I don't help her or spot her or watch her, but I let her try whatever she wants. Yes, Rilo may get messy or there may be some bumps and bruises along the way, but there is so much more happening when she tries new playground equipment. She is learning gross motor skills, problem solving and boosting her confidence all at once. She's also learning what she is capable of doing and what she may not be able to accomplish for a few years. You should have seen the look on Rilo's face the other day when she figured out how to climb the rock wall (that was much taller than me) all by herself. She was so proud and I was too! I think sometimes as parents we get stuck in the "no and don't" rut and the park is a great place to try and get out of it!
The playground is a great place for kids to learn social cues, make friends, observe behavior and interact with kids of different ages. Unless I see inappropriate/dangerous behavior, I love to let Rilo meet new park friends and play on her own with them. I sit back and observe and see what we can work on together at home. Right now, she most definitely need some work on taking turns! But she has mastered asking someone's name and telling them her name in return. And these are the types of things I learn from simply watching her play at the park! We often talk on the way home about the things we saw and the interactions that happened and whether they were "nice" (her favorite word) or not.
What about you? Any good park tips to offer?