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Our Summer Park Challenge

I'll start by acknowledging that I am extremely competitive. If there's a scavenger hunt, I will find everything; a workout challenge group, I'm in; the least competitive children's game, I will prevail.

With my partner working from home, COVID life in full swing and the desire to preserve my own sanity, I needed a reason to get out of the house and find new adventures. Inspired by local park groups offering prizes for visiting a different park each week, my kids and I decided to try to visit 50 different parks and playgrounds this summer. Here are my biggest take-aways:

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1) It's easier for me to get out of the house if we have a plan. The night before I wanted to venture out to a new playground I would get clothes lined up, snacks and water bottles ready and a new park already decided on. It's hard for me to get everyone loaded into the car and out on a whim. If I schedule a park morning like I would a doctors appointment, we rarely miss it.

2) Google images are my friend. I'm not particularly picky about what types of parks we go to. In fact, we had the most success when we visited nature areas alternating with playgrounds alternating with river or lake parks. That said, my kids and I all do best when we know what to expect. When a new to us park didn't have a webpage I would use google images to find photos other people had shared in various places. We knew if trails were likely to be over grown, if the playground was larger or smaller, etc. Expectations are big with my kids and being able to tell them about where we were going got them excited.

3) Getting out of the house is easier with friends. This one was the hardest during our COVID summer. Once stay at home orders were lifted and we were able to have (safe) play dates with friends our goal of 50 parks was within reach. I was surprised how eager my friends were to get out of the house and try new places with us.

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When our list of 50 parks was completed we had amassed 29 parks we had been to previously and 21 totally new to us places. Some were duds (mosquitos, broken playground equipment), but lots were a ton of fun. A few days when we were feeling exceptionally motivated we knocked out three or four parks in a day. Doing this self prescribed "challenge" with my kids got us working together and outside. I'm proud we finished our goal and glad to be able to stop tracking every place we visit. Now that school has started my kids are asking to visit the same handful of parks near their schools and I'm totally ok with that.