The instructions were simple: “Set a goal for how many playgrounds or parks you want to visit, based on your work schedule and other commitments.” I’ve been adding my playspaces to the KaBOOM Map of Play since 2008. The other Park-A-Day Challengers are amazing! Those moms and dads have added 50 to 100 parks to the Map of Play — just this summer! If I had a two year old — a Park-A-Day would be a necessity. Here were my goals for this summer:
- Create a “park inventory” spreadsheet detailing the 200+ parks on my blog and which ones I’ve added to KaBOOM’s Map of Play. This will help me keep track of which parks are on the Map of Play (some of my listings were complete, some were missing photos from a bulk upload, some were new to the map).
- Visit at least ONE new-to-us playground a week, especially focusing on the ones missing from my index for South Orange County. (We ended up visiting 20 new parks in 12 weeks.)
- Post a new playground to my blog every weekday in August. These posts take 3-4 hours when you include the time to: choose a park, PLAY at and photograph the park, upload and edit the photos, find resource links to city websites, sometimes create video slideshows, map it on my blog’s playground map, write the blog post, and add the park to KaBOOM. So with 23 weekdays in August — that made for at least a 70+ hour commitment just for the last month of the challenge.
- Play outside every day – whether we visit a playground or not. There were many days that we hung out at playgrounds that are already on the map. We also spent a lot of time with free play in our community pool and just playing in the yard.
The kids soaked in all the benefits of a summer outdoors: wildlife sightings, stress relief, extra exercise, putting a priority on family free time, turning off technology, sharing adventures to new places, and getting to know our community better. I took in all those benefits, too. But I was extra thoughtful about what Mom’s might get out of this time at the playground. I found that I leave a playground extra happy when I: 1) strike up an interesting conversation with a stranger, and 2) discover old-style playground equipment from my childhood.
Top 5 Mom Highlights from my KaBOOM Park-A-Day Summer Challenge
- Joking around at El Dorado. We explored El Dorado Nature Center with my blogger friend, Debi from GoExploreNature, and her son. It’s always fun to share a play outing with someone who appreciates the outdoors. However, this outing was especially enjoyable because, at the picnic tables while we were lazing around after lunch, my kids starting sharing their jokes with Debi’s son. Debi and I were in tears hearing the delivery of jokes and hilarious responses from the kiddos.
- Trying a new slide. I rarely get on the equipment anymore, but I had to try a new slide at Tomol Interpretive Play Area in Carpinteria. It was like a conveyor belt (without the belt) — a series of metal tubes that clanked and rolled as you slide over them. With my adult weight added in for momentum — I got launched off the bottom of the slide at a high rate of speed and landed on my rear! So graceful . . .
- Learning a cultural lesson. At University Community Park in Irvine, I had a really interesting conversation with a mom who was telling me about the tragic murder of Facundo Cabral who was an icon for peace in Latin America and South America. She spoke of his beautiful voice and how sad it was for him to be struck down in his 80s. I never would have know about him or what he represented, if I hadn’t been chatting away with a mom at the park.
- Learning from Grandma. At Christopher Park in Mission Viejo, I talked with a grandmother and met her adorable grandsons. Her grandkids and my kids played nicely together and the “grown-ups” chatted about education and world events. We made a little connection and then moved on in our day. I love meeting people like this and getting a glimpse of another life.
- Finding playground equipment from my childhood. I didn’t realize how much I missed metal slides, jungle gym domes, and merry-go-rounds until we found them at parks like Tamarisk Park in Lake Forest and El Dorado East Regional Park.
I need to finish my updates of the Map of Play this weekend, but I’m sad to see my Summer Challenge come to an end. I salute all the other Challengers for their efforts to put play on the map.