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A quintessential part of childhood is a day playing at the park. I remember many an afternoon playing at the playground near my grandmother’s house. We would pack a lunch and walk the three blocks to the neighborhood park. I played on the monkey bars until my hands would blister and my grandma would have to coax me off. Even now, so many years later, I can clearly envision my grandma giggling as she went down the slide with me. Creating these same beautiful memories with your child are within your grasp. Here are some tips for creating a beautiful day at the park with your child.

Make It Special

I live near my children’s elementary school. They play at their school playground daily. On the weekends, we often venture back to those same swings and jungle gym out of proximal convenience. When we plan a day at the park, though, I make a point of trying a park that is unfamiliar to them. We pack the car or bicycle buggy, and explore new territory. In planning a special day at the park, choose a location that is not overly familiar for your family. Check your city’s website for ideas of great parks in your area.

Pack Smart

There are many things that you will need to make the day a success. It is vital that you pack a bag with all of your essentials. Here are a few things to consider when you pack for your outing:






Enjoy the Day

You have planned, packed, and you’re ready. Now it’s time for the most important part of any day trip: Enjoy the day! It is easy to get to the park and let your children entertain themselves, but to make this a memorable day, you must be present and engaged. Be intentional with your time. Put away your phone, keep the book in your bag for another time, and play—truly play—with your child. Swing on the swings. Go on a walk to look for bugs. Play a few games of tag or hide-and-seek. Or, like my grandmother, zoom down the slide. You see, the thing that is most important about your day with your child isn’t a thing at all; it’s you, being present and engaged.

Now it’s your turn: Go plan, pack, and play!


A visit to an aquarium is a perfect family day trip. Aquariums offer children a chance to experience and learn about sea creatures in a hands-on, fun way, and the colorful marine life and exhibits will delight and engage family members of all ages. Here are some tips for making the most of your day at the aquarium.

Do Your Research

As you begin planning your trip, check out the aquarium’s website. Browsing the website with your child is a great way to stimulate curiosity. Many aquarium sites have webcams that offer previews of exhibits and marine life. You can also check out maps, feeding hours, and other scheduled events. Some sites even post crafts and games, which will help children get excited about the trip. The website is also a good place to find other helpful information, such as where to park, food that’s available on-site, and opportunities to buy tickets in advance so you can avoid waiting in a long line. 

Before You Go

Enter the aquarium prepared! Talk with your family about which exhibits are must-see. Make a plan according to your family’s interests. Go ahead and pack snacks for munching in designated eating areas. Having a scavenger hunt or a journal for older kids is a great way of keeping them engaged throughout the day. If your child is young enough to tire easily, by all means bring a stroller. You can also check the website or call ahead to see if the facility rents strollers or provides areas to park yours.

Enjoying the Day

Your bag is packed, you have your list of must-sees…now what? When you arrive, take advantage of learning behind-the-scenes information by talking with the staff. Staff members are often well-trained and incredibly knowledgeable. Labels or graphics generally describe exhibits, but talking to an expert will help children better understand the animals, their habitats, and the messages of conservation. As you explore throughout the day, try to switch things up by using snacks, lunch, and a romp on the playground (if available) to break up the learning and observing times. Don’t forget the “touch me” displays. Your child is sure to enjoy holding a sea star, feeling a sea cucumber, or touching the back of a crab. 

Bring the Fun Home

It is best to decide your souvenir policy before your trip. Will this be a time when a collection of photos is the memento of the day, or are you okay with bringing home a gaggle of stuffed sea creatures? If you plan on purchases, will you be footing the bill, or will your child be bringing his piggy bank? In most aquariums, all roads lead to the gift shop. To avoid a meltdown, stick with the rule: If you’re not going to buy, don’t browse. One budget-friendly idea would be to create a small photo book of the pictures taken while on your trip. You could even upload photos to your local photo store as you leave the aquarium. While custom books take time to print, you could pick up your photos on your way home and simply slide them into an inexpensive photobook. Voila! A quick and easy keepsake of your adventure.

A trip to an aquarium is an engaging and educational way to spend a day. Time spent together–plus newfound knowledge about sea animals and their habitats–is sure to make this a fun day trip for your family.


A day at the zoo is the perfect summer activity. Family members of all ages are sure to smile and laugh as they watch the antics of animals of all sizes. A little bit of planning goes a long way to ensure that this day is a fun success. Here are some tips to make this a day trip to remember.

Make a Plan

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums boasts 236 high-quality animal exhibitions in North America. The The AZA website is a great place to start planning your trip. Once you have chosen which zoo you will attend, check out a map. Chances are, even if you plan for a full day at the zoo, you will not have a chance to see everything that the zoo has to offer. Setting priorities for which exhibits are most important is a great way to ensure that everyone in your family is able to see their personal favorites. Don’t forget features such as the petting zoo, play equipment, learning labs, and other fun spots as you plan your time. Consider your child’s stamina and attention span as you create your plan of attack. 

Come Prepared

It is always best to go to the zoo prepared! As you put together a manageable-sized pack for the day (backpacks are great) consider adding: sunscreen, baby wipes (they always come in handy), hand sanitizer, hats, a change of clothes (if you have little ones in tow), and your phone or camera for great photos. Depending upon the ages of your children, you might want to consider bringing along a stroller or wagon. They not only provide a resting place for tired feet, but also a place to store your bag while trekking through the zoo. There are often concessions available throughout the zoo, but packing plenty of water, snacks, and a lunch is a great way of staying on-budget. Who doesn’t enjoy a midday picnic?

Tailor the Experience

Consider your child’s interests and age as you plan for your trip. Children and adults often enjoy participating in zoo scavenger hunts (many zoos have these available at the admissions office or online). Older children may enjoy researching favorite animals prior to your trip and adding to their research throughout the day. You can prepare younger children for your trip by reading books that feature the zoo. A few great options are:

Goodnight, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman

If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss

Put Me In the Zoo  by Robert Lopshire

ZOO-OLOGY by Joelle Jolivet

Neck and Neck by Elise Parsley

ZooZical by Judy Sierra and Marc Brown

Midnight at the Zoo by Faye Hanson 

Know Your Family’s Limits

As a parent, your goal is for everyone to have the energy and patience to talk about their zoo experience on the way home. This means that you might have a plan to stay at the zoo from sun-up until sundown, but shortly after lunch you realize that everyone is fading fast. Let your children’s energy level and behavior guide you. 

The zoo is a terrific educational and fun activity to do with your whole family! These tips can help make your trip to the zoo an experience to remember.