Summer 2021: Safe, Fun, Healthy and Family-Friendly Activities in Parks and Rec

By NRPA Programs and Partnerships Team | Posted on April 21, 2021

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It’s hard to believe, but summer 2021 is right around the corner! While some traditional summer activities may still be on hold this year, there are plenty of safe, fun, educational and healthy activities for you and your family to enjoy in your local parks and recreation! We asked our Conservation, Health and Park Access teams for some recommendations ­— check out a few of their ideas highlighting fun ways you can spend time together as a family and make new memories this summer:

Host a personal BioBlitz or enjoy some forest bathing. Whether it’s your backyard or a park or open space near your home, you can find plants, insects and animals anywhere. They live in the smallest of places and can help you learn about the biodiversity around you! Using the iNaturalist mobile app, you can discover and track plants, animals and other species. Check out NRPA’s blog for tips on how to host a personal BioBlitz! You can also immerse yourself in the natural wonders of the outdoors with a little forest bathing – check out this cool audio-guided forest therapy walk from Cook County! Submitted by Michele White, Program Manager (she/her).

Outdoor picnics are a great way to spend time together as a family. We all crave interaction, conversation and time for unstructured play, and picnics provide the perfect opportunity to reconnect in a safe space. Adults and youth alike cannot underestimate the value of being together again as a family and community! Submitted by Kellie May, Vice President of Programs and Partnerships (she/her).

Explore a StoryWalk® in your local park. More and more, public libraries and parks and recreation are working together to bring communities fun and educational activities that get people outside and connect them to nature. StoryWalks® are essentially picture books installed along a trail or path for families to read along as they explore the outdoors. They are a great way to encourage reading, imagination, and engage in physical activity within your community. Submitted by Colleen Pittard, Partnership Manager (she/her).

Start a new practice of “plogging” – the Swedish practice of picking up trash while jogging! We all have to do our part to keep our communities and ecosystems healthy and free of litter so everyone can enjoy the outdoors. Grab a trash bag, a pair of gloves and set out as a family to clean up trash and litter around your community.  Use the LITTERATI mobile app to photograph, track and categorize the trash you clean up or challenge other families and friends to take part in community clean-up efforts! Submitted by Tiff Cunin, Senior Program Manager (they/them).

Explore a world that’s larger than us with a stargazing adventure. Grab a blanket, some snacks, and download one of several mobile apps to help you find constellations, planets, satellites and more. Make sure to confirm that you’re allowed to be in the park after dark! Submitted by Maureen Neumann, Program Manager (she/her).

Get into the Olympic spirit by setting up an obstacle course or funny walking contest in your local park. Prepare for the delayed 2020 Summer Olympics beginning this July with a little family physical activity fun – you never know, you might be the next Olympic power walker! Submitted by Rachel Banner, Director of Park Access (she/her).

Feeling artsy? Try your hand at painting with watercolors in the park! Combining two meditative activities (time in nature and art) can help you destress and express yourself in new and creative ways. Submitted by Alyssa Bourgoyne, Program Specialist (she/her).

Keep it simple and plan a family workout! Lots of parks have fitness equipment or the space needed to get in a good sweat. Physical activity in the outdoors has significant physical and mental health benefits, keeping you strong, healthy and happy. Submitted by Jenny Cox, Program Manager (she/her).

These are just a few examples of some fun, safe and healthy activities available in local parks and recreation agencies across the country! How will you spend time in your local parks and recreation this summer? Let us know in the comments section below!