Friday, June 10, 2011

Outdoor Adventures: Your Local Park

Another day, another outdoor adventure!  Today we are talking about your local parks and what they have to offer you and your toddler.

1. The Typical Playground Park
Whether it is our local park across the street or one of the bazillion you can find around your city, the park is a ton of fun on a sunny day.   In the Portland Metro area there are so many different parks that I think it is helpful to break them down into three main groups. 

These parks offer play structures for kids to climb on, slides to slide down, and sometimes swings.   Superman particularly likes parks that have wider steps that he can climb (stairs vs. a ladder), slides, and a toddler swing.  He is also a fan of the ones that have wheels to spin.

Pros: Usually contains your child to a somewhat confined space; other kids to play with; FREE; and a variety of activities to keep them occupied for longer amounts of time.
Cons: You can't sit back and just watch them play, in fact it may require you to be on the play structure with them to prevent falls; big kids that don't pay attention to younger kids; full exposure to the sun; sometimes your favorite playground also has a fountain and it can be really difficult to keep them from the water.

Our Favorite(s): Magnolia Park in Hillsboro and the playground at H.M Terpenning Rec Complex (this one has a sun shade over it!) in Beaverton. 
2.  The Park With A Water Feature
These parks may have a playground, but they also have some sort of water feature to play in as well.  In the Portland Metro area there are more than just a few to choose from.  Some have water fountains that the kids can play in and others have little wading pools and they all are a ton of fun.  Be sure to bring your towels!

Pros: Easy way to cool down on a hot day; FREE; toddlers can play fairly independently (at the water fountains, not the wading pools); doesn't require you to wear your bathing suit in front of a bunch of strangers
Cons: You will likely get wet too; not an activity you can do on the fly (unless you keep a change of clothes and towels in the car); fully exposed to the sun

Our Favorites:  Jamison Square (fountain and wading pool) and Waterfront Park (at Saturday Market location) in downtown Portland
**I have heard that 53rd Avenue Park in Hillsboro is fantastic, but I haven't visited it yet.  Magnolia Park (mentioned above) also has a fountain that looks like it will be a lot of fun as well!

3. A Park For Walking or Hiking
Living in the Portland Metro area many of our local parks are quite large with fabulous trails to go walking or hiking on.  When S was too little for the backpack carrier I thought our hiking days were still far off and then I discovered many parks have paths that our jogging stroller would work fine on.  Now a days we still bring the backpack carrier or the jogging stroller, but S has a grand time exploring on his own as well.

Pros: You can get out and exercise; you don't need to wait till your child is old enough to complete the whole hike on their own, just bring a stroller or backpack carrier; you can teach your child about different plants or the joy of observing things around them; FREE; and thanks to the trees along most trails, you are out of the bright sun

Cons: You would need some sort of carrier or stroller if your child is not completely independent; many of the trails aren't paved so you can use a jogging stroller, but a regular stroller might be a rough ride (and hard to push); the possibility of your child touching poison oak/ivy is increased in the "wild"; I hate to say it, but there is also a possible safety risk.  Personally I do not take S on trails by myself when they are too secluded.  I wish I trusted the world more, but we reserve these parks for enjoying with my husband or other moms and their kids.

Our Favorites: Noble Woods Park  I like how secluded I feel when we are walking there even though we are just minutes from our home. This is a park that I never go to alone.
Cooper Mountain Nature Park - This is the first place we went for a "real hike" after Superman was born.  Our BOB stroller did really well on the pebble path and there are some great views along the way. 
Rood Bridge Park- This is a park that I will go to with just Superman and I.  The trails are really open to everything and there are typically enough people there that you are never really alone.  Superman likes the little stream there.  There is also a play structure at this park, but we have never played on it.

Alright ladies and gentleman , now that the weather is finally getting nicer, I encourage you to check out a new park with your little (or not so little) one.  Maybe even set a goal to try one new park each week!  Pack the cars full of snacks, water, sunscreen, and towels and you will be ready for anything!  Then come back and tell me about your adventures!  I would love to hear about your favorite parks!


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