Thank goodness for our local, state and national parks. While the bulldozer of progress marches on, leaving restaurants and shopping centers in its wake, our public parks are still here.
These oases of green are calling your name, and on May 21, 2016, hundreds of thousands of Americans will answer the call.
The occasion: Kids to Parks Day 2016. The day offers a terrific excuse to get outside and explore parks and public lands — either with your Scouting family or your actual one.
Why am I telling you about Kids to Parks Day three months early? Because now’s the time to start planning your event. As always, Kids to Parks Day is on a Saturday, offering a perfect chance to plan a trip to a park with your pack, troop, team, post, ship or crew.
The BSA — along with the National Park Service, the Sierra Club, the American Hiking Society and others — is a prominent collaborator in the Kids to Parks Day effort, organized by the National Park Trust.
Last year saw more than 600,000 participants — a 33 percent jump over 2014. This year, I’m betting Scouts and Venturers can help send that number even higher.
To make sure you’re part of the count, be sure to register your Kids to Parks Day 2016 event here.
Five ways to get involved in Kids to Parks Day 2016
1. Pledge to participate
There were 787 registered park events in 2015. For 2016, let’s make that number even higher. If you’ll take Scouts to a park on May 21, click here to make it official.
The goal: 100,000 Scout families (or more) make the pledge to participate.
2. Find parks for kids in your state
A curated list of the best parks for kids. That’s the promise of this page that as of now includes 22 states, from Arizona to Wyoming. They’re adding new ones regularly, so keep checking back. With each state listing, you get a look at the coolest parks that offer unique activities for kids.
Click here to check them out.
3. Try some hiking or camping games
Maybe you’re at a park with some time to spare? Or your Scouts are lagging mid-hike? The National Park Trust has some games to help ramp up energy.
For example, “One-Word Stories”: One person begins a story by saying one word, and then the story is passed on to the next person, and the next, and so on, with each person building to the plot of the story. Since each person can only say one word at a time, the story becomes really silly and fun, and this game allows your kid’s imagination to run wild.
Games like these also work during long car rides.
Click here to see these activity ideas.
4. Learn from the experts
How do you prepare for a hike with kids? What are the best outdoor snacks for kids? Can you recommend any kid-appropriate park books?
Two experts — Ken Keffer and Stacy Tornio, creators of DestinationNature.net — weigh in on these topics and more. They offer some interesting ideas worth checking out.
Click here to get your questions answered.
5. Say hey to Buddy Bison
The National Park Trust’s lovable mascot is Buddy Bison, and he shares a bunch of tips aimed at showing kids how to have fun at parks.
They’re compact, making them easy for kids to digest. Click here for more from Buddy Bison.
Hat tip: Thanks to the BSA’s Keith Christopher for the info.