Using the park to keep active with your kids
At a glance
- Parks provide an easy, cheap place for families to exercise and entertain.
- Have your family treat the local park like a free outdoor gym.
- Parks provide a great venue for class barbecues and organised games among class parents.
- Try volunteering with the family to occasionally help weed park gardens or clean up.
- If you've got 20 minutes to kill before an appointment or if you're on a long road trip, try pulling into a park for a quick kick around with the ball.
With work, school and extracurricular commitments, it's often difficult to find the time to get together as a family, but with experts adamant that family members make the best healthy lifestyle role models, it's as important as ever to try and get outdoors and active together.
Around NSW, our parks are a great, cheap and easy place to start. Whatever your fancy – from tai chi to bush regeneration or the simple Friday evening class barbecue – it's more than likely you can find a place in the park to have a go.
There are lots of physical and mental health benefits for kids spending time in parks. Centennial Park
Free outdoor gym
Craig Easdown, spokesperson for one of the biggest city parks, Sydney's Centennial Park, says it's all about healthy parks creating healthy people.
"Parks are more than just green splotches on a map. They have a function and role within the community," says Craig. "There are lots of physical and mental health benefits for kids spending time in parks.
"A park is your free outdoor gym. There are so many things you can do in a park that you can pay thousands and thousands of dollars to somebody else to be able to do. In an outdoor setting it's so much better."
With Craig's help, and assistance from Karen Moore at the huge new Western Sydney Parklands, we've listed some of the best ways to arrange regular excursions all over NSW for activity in the local park.
Get together a group of families with similar-aged kids (perhaps other classmates) and arrange to meet regularly to play sport together. It could be soccer, cricket, volleyball or something completely different. Anyone can use park sports fields as long as there isn't already a formal booking. Ring the local council or park authority to find out. Try a children's game followed by an adult match, or with older children try children versus adults to get everyone running harder.
Cycle tracks are now included in many larger parks and provide a safe environment for kids to learn to ride a bike or hone their skills. In some parks you can choose between a long ride and a shorter version, depending on the family stamina. Break it up with a barbecue or picnic along the way.
A regular informal class barbecue in the local park can be a great way to raise children's enthusiasm for getting outside. It also provides parents with a good opportunity to get to know each other beyond the school gates. It could be on a monthly or fortnightly basis, and Friday is often a popular choice.
In the busy, highly urban world, parks can provide a great opportunity for kids to get their hands dirty with a lot of fun. Parks are often looking for volunteers to help with weeding and tending the plants, and everyone in the family can volunteer for as little as an hour a month. Call your local council or park authority to find out more.
Walking the dog
Walk the dog down to the park with the children. If you don't have a dog, why not make friends with someone who does have a dog and offer to take it for a walk occasionally as a favour to the owner.
Bats, balls and boots
Be ready to take advantage of all parks by keeping a bat and ball in the boot of the car at all times. You don't need to have much room to kick a ball around with the kids for a couple of minutes while waiting for an appointment or to break up a long road trip.
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