Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fun at the Park

I have a new favorite thing this summer: discovering awesome parks in the Twin Cities.

There's a park in our neighborhood we've frequented since Tory was old enough to crawl. It's great because we're within walking distance of our house should an emergency arise (like last week, when Aden had a poop-plosion out his shorts and up his entire back) and we can get there without much preparation. The one downside of our neighborhood park is it's hot -- there's zero trees and no shade, which is especially tough for Aden. I usually end up parking him in the stroller under one of the play structure's slides which does /or doesn't work depending on who else is there.

Tory playing at the park @ 13 months old

A few weeks ago when Andi was traveling for work and I was solo parenting for a gazillion days straight, I loaded the kids into the car and drove to French Regional Park near Medicine Lake. I had to get out of the house - had to - and I had blissful visions of Tory, Aden and I enjoying the gorgeous afternoon together, walking the wooded trails or going to the beach to play by the water. You see where this is going ... of course, our outing was basically a disaster. Aden had a major meltdown about 15 minutes into our park time and screamed the entire (long) walk back to the car. I must've looked pitiful because an elderly couple out for a stroll stopped and asked if I could use some help. YES! PLEASE! The woman pushed my Sit N' Stand double stroller (you know, the stroller my kids refuse to ride in) out of the park while I carried Aden in one arm and directed a very slow-moving Tory with the other. Thank goodness for people who offer to help! I learned two valuable lessons that day: never go for a walk without a pacifier clip (so you don't lose your baby's pacifier in public and have no way to shush him) and be careful what you roll into a gigantic park with (stroller; two kids, gear, etc.) because you'll inevitably be carrying it all back out.

Our school-year ECFE preschool class set up weekly play dates at various parks this summer and last week Tory, Aden and I joined up with the group at Plymouth Creek Park. This place is a hidden gem in Plymouth's park system. Plymouth Creek Park has several sets of playground equipment and swings to accommodate a large number of kids and a big sand box which Tory absolutely loved. There's a few trees for shade and even a picnic shelter. Awesome find! We've been back to this park a few times since then and I love how there's always other kids around to play with Tory.

Digging in the sand at Plymouth Creek Park

Next month, our ECFE group is meeting at a splash pad in Robbinsdale and I'm super jazzed to check this place out. I've always wanted to take Tory to a splash pad, which is basically like a giant sprinkler park. I think she'll love it, especially on a hot summer day. There's another splash pad in St. Louis Park on my bucket list to check out this summer, too.

Yesterday, the weather was 80 degrees and beautiful outdoors, so I decided it was the perfect day for a picnic at the park. I packed a lunch for Tory and I (which I've learned is key to keeping the fun times rolling and avoiding meltdown mania induced by hunger) and we set out for a fun morning. Picnics are one of Tory's favorite things to do this summer -- sometimes, I think she enjoys dining al fresco more than playing in the park itself. Last year, I purchased these Easy Lunchboxes and they're perfect for lunches on the go. Paired with my favorite JJ Cole park blanket and we've got ourselves a festive lunch outdoors. We had a ball at the new-to-us park by our house, which offered nice playground equipment, a sand box and big trees for shade. Extra bonus points in my book because it's set back from the road giving the park a nice, quiet woodsy feel.

I put together an essentials kit to keep in the back of my car, so we're always ready for fun wherever the summer may take us. The kit includes: sand buckets and shovels, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, a ball, picnic blanket, sunscreen and wet wipes. Having extra toys to play and share with new friends makes our weekly park adventures all the more fun.

Three cheers for summer - it's finally here!


  1. Fun! I love exploring new parks in the summer. We've started to get out and do the same quite a bit. Really want to hit up Elm Creek one of these days, but it's nice to find really local ones as well, less driving/planning etc.

    Yes, packing a lunch is KEY.

    Do you guys go to Zachary often? It's a great one, and there is a nice bit of shade, at least in under the picnic structure. :)

    There is a tiny park in our neighborhood that is my favorite because it is tucked away in a neighborhood and completely shaded in the mornings, by a bunch of beautiful huge trees, and it's right on Crystal Lake so you can skip rocks and enjoy the breeze off the lake. Definitely awesome. Bad = NO porta potty! That is very annoying. I am thankful I have boys.

    We were at Bass Lake Playfield this week for soccer camp and I had no idea there was a playground there. You can't see it from the parking lot because you have to walk a few steps down the path. Shady and hidden from the road by trees. Simple playground, but it's a gem of a location/atmosphere. :)

  2. Nice! I have Elm Creek on my bucket list this summer, too. I've heard nothing but good things.

    Do you mean Zachary play fields? I haven't been to that one, but it's close by so I should add it to my list. Same with Bass Lake Playfield. We were just up there earlier this week, but I thought it was only a golf course / driving range. I'll have to check it out. Thanks for the suggestions!

  3. My gosh, you are just the most organized person EVER with your essentials kit! I've found I've become less and less organized (I like to call it more relaxed, ha!) as my kids are gotten older. Usually it's just a diaper and wipes in my regular purse. They are lucky if I remember waters for all of them! Hey…they are big enough to get a drink from the water fountain now, so…oh well!
    But we loooove discovering new parks too! We got to the park at least 3 times a week now a days. I can already tell that Walker is going to be my most "outdoorsy" kid - he will literally stand at the back door and pound on it until we let him outside!

  4. Your essentials kit is a great idea! I need to find our picnic blanket. I still use our diaper bag so we do have sunscreen in there - but packing some buckets and a ball is a great idea. I'm so excited that it's finally looking like it will be a decent/warm weekend - really want to go to a beach or pool - we haven't been at all yet this summer!