As we entered the summer, I wrote about my decision to be Camp Counselor for my kids (take a peek at the past blog). Between the heat, my health, and the moving chess pieces that are our schedules, it hasn't been easy fulfilling this role. However, I have had fun trying - even when it's clear the kids would much rather be laying around half-naked, playing video games and not be my little campers.
I decided to dive in by trying to visit the wonderful parks and trails of our city. We recently had guests in from Boston and it was obvious they were impressed when I told them we had 21 parks. I found myself continously pointing them out - almost like Oprah saying, "you get a park, you get a park, you get a park!"
The various maps and guides that the Parks & Rec office provide are great. I kept them by the front door as my visual to help me come up with a game plan as to which parks to visit that day based on the other errands and appointments we had scheduled for the day. Something I've yet to plan well for, still, is that the Motts Run Nature Center is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I will get this one checked off - even if it's the Sunday before school starts!
When we get ready to head out, I give the kids the responsibility to carry their water bottles, journals, and their Wegmans passports. I think this helped signify we were in "camp" mode and the passports focused them on an activity. The passports have them go to different trails, collect "rubbings" from different trail markers, and when they complete the passport, they will receive a goodie bag at Wegmans. I also came up with my own fun little activities like counting the dogs at the dog park, or you know, having them pick out activities for next year at the Dorothy Hart Community Center!
Our very first park was Alum Spring Park. When we moved to Fredericksburg, we lived near there and I know the kids love it; plus it's been a popular field trip spot for them in the past. This was my way of easing them into the idea that we will be visiting all 21 paths, parks, and trails. At first, they only wanted to play on the playground, but they warmed up to the adventure of finding this mystery trail marker for their passport...which, of course, we never found! But, we will return to try again (with Steve, who has a much better sense of direction than I do, so I've decided this is how his time will be spent as Co-Camp Counselor).
I think the search for "treasure" in these trail markers or exploring parks they haven't been to as much has generally kept the kids interested in this mini-camp concept. Of course, they have had their mornings where they weren't thrilled with going outside. One morning, it was clear that any kind of participation was going to be difficult, so I just drove to the spot I had selected (City Dock) and said, "Here's your camp, deal with it." Not my finest hour, but I felt that I needed them to see that we were going to see our camp project through. When mornings proved difficult, Steve helped by rallying the kids for an afternoon outing. I have been on a long road to recovery health-wise and it was nice to see the kids be so proud of me for climbing over tree limbs to cross water at Old Mill Park - it's fun surprising your kids with what you can do!
The cover of the Wegmans passport says, "Passport to family wellness" and I've realized that this is what's at the heart of our DIY camp. And really, what we've been doing goes beyond this summer. Engaging with our parks builds the foundation for our kids to take charge of their overall health as well as appreciate nature. Just when I was having a moment of thinking Jack and Anna really weren't appreciating these visits to the parks, they proved me wrong - like kids often do.
As an aside, when we go to the library, the last thing we do is look at the cookbooks and the kids always pick out a cookbook for me. I noticed their recent choice was about using Farmer's Market finds. I think we might just make it to Wegmans for that goodie bag yet.