Monday, May 9, 2011

15 Ways to Connect With Nature at the Park

Today’s post is part of “Your Green Hour Survival Guide,” a series which I hope will provide you with inspiration to make getting outside every day a habit.

When it comes to making time for our daily green hour, we usually keep it simple and head out to our backyard. But at least once a week, we spend time at our neighborhood park instead.

I’ve admitted here before that I’m not a huge fan of parks, mostly because they feel anything but natural to me. With their man-made play structures, swings and sand boxes, there doesn’t seem much to offer in the way of opportunities for enjoying nature.

But since beginning our green hour challenge, I’ve started looking at the park in a new light. I still give the kids time to play on the playground, but then we also explore opportunities for nature play.

Here are a few of our favorite ways to enjoy nature at the park: 

1. Go on a safari. How many animals can you find in 5 minutes? How about signs of animals like tracks, scat or nests?

2. Take a nature walk. Go for a walk along the park’s running trail. Be sure to look for signs of nature along the way.

3. Read a favorite book. Bonus points if the book has something to do with nature or animals.

4. Lie down in the grass. What do things look like from this angle? Are there clouds in the sky? Birds?

5. Run or roll down a hill. A small hill is all you need for a good run or roll. Repeat as needed.

6. Walk (or run) barefoot through the grass. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

7. Enjoy a picnic. Choose from picnic tables or grab a spot on the grass and set out a blanket.

8. Look for treasures from nature. We love hunting for pinecones, flowers and rocks. (We leave our findings at the park, of course.)

9. Fly a kite. Unlike most backyards, parks often have an expansive grassy area that’s perfect for flying kites. All you need is a little wind.

10. Go bird watching. Look to the water, the trees and the ground to see how many different kinds of birds you can discover. Are these different from the birds in your backyard?

11. Explore a tree. What kinds of trees call your neighborhood park home? Are any of them climbable?

12. Take a bike ride. Turn a park’s walking path into a bike route.

13. Hunt for buried treasures.
Bury some favorite plastic toys in the sandbox and let your kids dig them out.

14. Blow bubbles. This one works just about anywhere, but sometimes a new environment makes it extra fun.

15. Take photos of nature. Set your kids loose with a camera and encourage them to search for bugs, flowers, trees, birds and more.

How about you – how do you connect with nature at the park?


  1. Great list of ideas. We are fortunate around here that most of our parks are also adjacent to some kind of natural feature; creek, pond, small forest, etc. Features like that make finding ways to connect with nature at the park MUCH easier.

  2. @Abbie: Couldn't agree more. I'm on an ongoing search to find especially "natural" parks here in Los Angeles, but it's quite the challenge! :)


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