Park hopping: A summer-long activity

Mary Ann Wilcox

Park hopping is one of my family’s favorite summer activities. Most communities have parks, and regardless of whether they are big or small, all have space to play, picnic, and just enjoy your family. I have a bag of staples I always keep in my car at this time of year. It helps us be ready for anything and makes sure fun can be had wherever we are. My ‘park bag’ has come in handy for bad weather at soccer games and other un-scheduled events, too. Here’s a list of what I keep in it:

Pocket rain ponchos – rain, shine or tidal wave!

Sweatshirts for each family member – just in case it gets cold.

Sand toys and shovels – for digging just about anywhere. Purchase garden spades at Walmart or Target for this purpose. They never break and will last for several years. Most of the time you can get them for about a dollar.

Shelf-stable snack – a quick snack can keep kids happy and playing longer.

Crayons and paper – for making sketches, texture drawings and keeping little ones busy during boring soccer or baseball games.

Inflatable beach ball – fun for a quick game. Tie a rope between trees and hang ribbon on it for a net. The beach ball works great as a volleyball for all ages. I also like a small frisbee or nerf-like balls.

Lightweight blanket – for sitting, sleeping or keeping warm. It all works.

A beach towel – for sponging off the dog after a dip in the pond, or for wiping muddy feet or drying off after a dip in a creek.

Parks are also a great resource because they are usually not too far from where you live. Boise has more than 30 great parks that are less than 20 minutes from my house. They all have different amenities and offer different recreational opportunities. Almost all have playgrounds. You are really just limited by your imagination when it comes to things to do. Here are a few of our go-to ideas:

Color on the sidewalks with bark, leaves that you roll up, or flowers. It’s free, washable, and loads of fun.

Race sticks or leaves in a pond or creek.

Take paper, crayons, and leaves and make leaf prints. Place the leaf under the paper and scribble over the top of it with a crayon.

Roll, sled, or ice block down a hill. It is fun to have races, too. (Ice blocking is essentially sledding in the summer. You use a large block of ice for a sled, cover the top with a towel, and slide down a hill.)

Play Hot Lava on the playground. Hot Lava is basically tag, but you can’t touch the ground because it’s “hot lava.” It is also fun to play when there are hot lava monsters. Those are people who are “it,” and they can touch the ground but no one else can. (This game is best for kids who can cross the monkey bars.)

These are some of our favorites, but we would love to hear some of yours! Go to our website at and share them with us. If you want even more ways to have fun at home or nearby, check out our “Adventures at Home!” book, also on the website.

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