Parks are great places for children to make important connections–with their parents, their peers, and the environment. They are also a great place to improve and maintain kid’s physical fitness with play based activities. Just by playing, they are moving and that’s good exercise! And playing outside, in the dirt and sun, has been shown by countless studies to improve and benefit every aspect of a child’s growth and development. Sadly, many parks around the country are closing down due to economic strain and lack of attendance. That’s why the folks here at Let’s Go Chipper are championing parks and open spaces all over the world to encourage visitation and inspire children everywhere to be the environmental stewards of the future! Here is a list of six reason’s why parks are so important for children’s well being!
• Parks are safe places for kids to go. Whether it is reality or just the perception of reality, many parents are fearful of letting their kids play unsupervised outdoors except in very controlled circumstances. Stranger-danger, fear of poisonous plants, fear of stinging and clinging insects—all of these are reasons why nature for some is a place to be feared not embraced. Parks are one of the few places that are generally very safe for kids to go. They are specially designated places for the public to enjoy nature, free from most hazards, and watched over by staff and the public. Park visitors promptly report unsafe conditions or hazards. Many eyes on the park make for a safer place for kids to play.
• Parks are one of the best places for discovery and play. Think back on your own childhood. The life of your imagination was a fertile place. Playing king-of-the-hill on a pile of dirt, building a fort or a clubhouse in the woods, flipping rocks over in a stream, exploring in uncharted territory—all were hugely enriching experiences. Natural parks are places for kids to discover the eggs of a frog in the water collected in a tire track and to see squirrels (Like Chipper!) running through the tops of trees, jumping from tree to tree. Kids will load up their pockets with objects collected on a hike to later marvel at how interesting the things found in nature really are. Parks are places for kids to discover nature and exercise their imagination!
• Parks are places for families to connect – Parks connect kids and adults with nature and to each other. Perhaps more than ever, families need places to connect with each other. Parks are all-purpose places for kids to connect with nature and with families to connect with peers. They are one of the few places that families can go where there are no barriers to communication—no amplified loudspeakers, no big screen TVs, nothing other than the sounds and sights of nature. Parks enable connections between families, between generations, and to nature!
• Parks are close-to-home nature places. As open space is rapidly disappearing from our communities, designated public open space and places for nature are becoming all the more important for all ages. The power of local parks, even small neighborhood spaces, to connect kids with nature is not to be underestimated. Joe Elton, Virginia state park director, recently reiterated a long-standing observation about parks: “You visit your local parks daily, your state parks a few times a year, and your national parks perhaps but once in a lifetime.” Kids can find nature in almost every park, and there are parks and public lands close to where almost everyone lives. If there are not, become an advocate for them. They should be everyone’s backyard!
• Parks provide a sense of adventure for kids. Parks have the unique ability to provide kids with a sense of adventure. Every hike in the woods brings new things to see, and around every turn there is something new to discover. Kids gain a sense of accomplishment from challenges met outdoors, which leads to greater self-confidence and self-worth. Parks are a great place for kids to take risks, within acceptable limits, and to discover that the fears they have about the unknown are conquerable. Every successful adventure in the park that kids have contributes to their maturity and to their developing a sense of stewardship for wildlife, natural resources, and open spaces.
• Parks are a place to remember. Some of our earliest and most special memories were formed in parks—lifetime experiences that we remember the rest of our lives with great satisfaction. Parks were special places where we forged friendships, had adventures, and learned new things about life and ourselves. Parks still provide these kinds of experiences to kids, and they produce powerful positive memories, affecting kids in ways we cannot always easily perceive. These park experiences influence kids’ ethics, their career choices, and even how they will be as parents.
Parks connect kids to nature in all the right ways. Discover where your close-to-home local parks are and get to know the park personnel who supervise them. Enable your kids to play there—they will be grateful to you for the rest of their lives. One simple way to support a parks is to purchase your very own Chipper for Parks Badge. We will donate a portion of the cost to any park of your choice, in your name. Support your local parks and noble Park Rangers–Get Chipper and Get Outdoors!!!