Hurray! You just found “The Park Lady!”
At least that’s what most moms call me. You can pretty much ask me anything about parks in Orange County, California — and I’ll either know the answer or know where to point you in the right direction.
Are you craving something new when it comes to playgrounds or family outings? Do most play ideas seem insanely complicated for your parental brain? Are you baffled by ALL the choices of things to do with your kids in Orange County?
Don’t spend another minute randomly searching. I can narrow things down for you and make it easy to get outside and have fun with your kids.
Just want to say THANK you! I’m a working mama and your blog does the research for me. I’m always finding new parks and beaches. Love the quick pros and cons lists. Again, you’re amazing. Thanks.” – FunOrangeCountyParks.com Reader
So . . . I started writing about parks for FUN.
My name is Michele Whiteaker and I’d love for you to think of me as your personal Play Concierge. When I used to search online for family-friendly activities, nothing quite fit my playful outdoor interests. I just wanted playgrounds, nature, simple play ideas, nature walks, and outdoorsy stuff to do. Things to do with my kids that didn’t cost a lot or take a lot of planning.
I’m a mom first. But, in addition to my passion for keeping things simple + exploring new places, I also happen to be a writer. So I naturally started writing about parks for fun to share with my friends. It was easier to write about my experiences once and share a link, than creating individual emails. This all started back in 2008 when my kids were 2 1/2 and 6.
Over the past decade, we’ve personally visited and mapped over 325 parks as a family. What started out as an audience of a few friends transformed into a readership of over 300,000 families per year!
Questions from readers like you inspired all of my most popular posts.
- Where are the best water play spots?
- Are there any parks with fences?
- Is the Adventure Playground in Irvine open yet?
- How about sand-free parks?
Your questions also inspired a spin-off blog called NaturePlayTrips.com where I write about taking easy outdoor family vacations without going to extremes.
For the 2017-2018 school year, I’m also Social Media Strategist for Inside the Outdoors Foundation sharing all sorts of tidbits about environmental education in Orange County on their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds.
There are no dumb questions and I’m just an email away (email@example.com). Just give me a few days to reply – I try to live the lifestyle I promote by taking time off on the weekends or certain weeks during the year to eliminate screen time and focus solely on playing outdoors with my family.
You’ve entered a No-Pressure Zone where PLAY rules!
Besides breathing, eating, sleeping, and love — I believe PLAY is an essential part of development for every child. All you have to do to make them happier, healthier, and smarter is LET THEM PLAY. Ahhh, doesn’t that take the pressure off? The seemingly simple, but genuinely academic/complex act of playing enriches their lives so much! Even though I write about parks, my real mission is helping you infuse FREE PLAY into your everyday life. That’s the good stuff!
- If you want to take the do-it-yourself approach — this post called Two Simple Parenting Strategies to Never “Entertain” Your Kids Again is a great start.
- But if you don’t know where to start on your own, you can check out my directory of nature camps and classes in our community. You can take classes for guidance and inspiration and then head out on your own once you’re feeling confident and you’ve made some like-minded friends.
I was not raised in a family that emphasized or valued the importance of the outdoors, so I used to doubt that I could expose my kids in a meaningfully way to nature. Your blog and book chapters have taught me that I can do it if I give it the time and start small – day trips, half day visits to nature centers and parks, etc. I have three kids ages 6, 4, and 3, and work full time. Yet, your insights and guidance has made exposing my kids to nature attainable for me. I think my kids believe that our family culture includes low key exploration of new parks, nature centers and long walks. I hope to move up to longer hikes and camping as the kids get older – but for one who never did any of this as a kid, I am happy with what we have already done. Thank your inspiration and guidance — you have been a positive presence in my early parenting years and hope to continue using your expertise.” – FunOrangeCountyParks.com Reader
My strategy of “hummingbird parenting” resonated with both Richard Louv (author of Vitamin N and also Last Child in the Woods) and Dr. Scott D. Sampson (of Dinosaur Train fame) – so much so that they quoted me in their popular books and on their blogs.
Guidance on Grizzly Bears in Yellowstone and Parks with Potties in Orange County
Then came the e-books! As part of this awesome decade of blogging, I actually went through the process of becoming a Certified Interpretive Guide (CIG) through the National Association for Interpretation. It’s basically the same training park rangers and interpretive specialists get for providing public programs in parks. I just apply my training to make this blog and my e-books not only helpful, but fun!
I co-wrote a super fun photo-filled 91-page full-color e-book (PDF) you can download for $9.99 about taking a First Time Family Trip to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons. You can see what a difference it made for families exploring these National Parks for the first time with their families by clicking over to my NaturePlayTrips.com blog.
Or you can subscribe to what I call my “weekly love letter” which is actually a weekly email of play trips and park tips for Orange County, California. It’s not just a boring feed of my blog posts. Remember? I’m a writer! So it’s more of a weekly magazine. You can count on it to come on Thursday evenings so you can plan your weekend. This is the FREE 16 page e-book download you get when you subscribe to my weekly email.
FunOrangeCountyParks.com is a free community resource, but it’s also become a community of local outdoor explorers who “hang out” together weekdays on my Fun Orange County Parks page and enjoy conversations back and forth with me by hitting “REPLY” on my weekly Play Trips emails.
Go ahead and take your weekends off to play!
I’ll be here during the week to help you find parks and figure out play trips for your family.