We end up at a park quite often. I’d say 80% of the time it’s not a planned outing. Sometimes we are in the middle of running errands and the kids just need a release; they need to run and jump and stretch and get some fresh air. Sometimes we have a little extra time to kill and instead of going home we find a grassy field to run around in.
Sometimes my kids get bored with the playground slide and need something more.
Because of these scenarios (and a million and one other reasons), I keep a Park Bag in the car at all times. The Park Bag is my saving grace- it has balls, bubbles, chalk, (wet wipes), a few sand toys, small cars, etc. and even a few hidden protein bars for growing appetites. We also have multiples of most items because I’m one of those parents that falls under the mind set that if you bring toys to the park, it’s pretty much fair game. If another kid wants to play with my son- we have two (or three) cars and they can play together! Also, on the flip side, having multiple items calms and/or prevents “toddler fights”. You know, the ones when you put on your most understanding voice (in front of a dozen other spectating parents) and try to reason with your 2-3-4 and even 5+ year old. You try to explain, “sharing” and “playing together” when all your kid can wrap his or her head around is “that’s MINE!” Explaining the purpose of sharing, playing together and playing nicely is always easier when you have multiples. Plus, I get it. We are bringing OUR toys to a very public place, which is strange, and new, to a small child who is still learning social behaviors.
Here are some tips for creating your Park Bag.
- Make your Park Bag easy to carry. We usually use a canvas bag that fits nicely on our stroller (or it has long enough straps that I can carry it comfortably while carrying a toddler). A backpack, messenger bag or even a collapsible tote would work fine, too.
- To blanket or not to blanket? We have a weatherproof blanket that we use for park picnics or for lounging on the grass (if we know we’ll be there for a while). Typically I don’t keep the blanket in our Park Bag but I do keep it in the car, under the bag, in case we want to use it.
- Fill it with things your children enjoy. Chalk, bubbles, toys, kites, and anything else that you enjoying doing with your kids.
- Keep away from choking hazards. While your 8-year-old might love bouncy balls and other small (choking hazard) toys, keep them at home. The last thing you want is for a stranger’s young child to get a hold of a choking hazard that was in your bag.
- If you have items that are not easily replaceable, label them. Most parents I’ve encountered are very good about making sure toys are returned to their owners.
- Multiples. Multiple items are great if you have more than one child but also to share with other playmates while at the park.
- Change it up every so often. Just like at home, kids get bored with the same toys after time. Rotate toys every few weeks to keep it fresh.
- The secret pocket. Our bag has a hidden inside pocket that I fill with protein bars (which get rotated if they are not eaten… usually they get eaten), hand wipes (for chalk play, messy fingers and sanitizing) and anything else we might need but don’t access all the time.
What would you put in your Park Bag?