My children have been to dozens of birthday parties -- bounce houses, arcades, laser tag studios and more. But the best party we've ever been to has been outside at Leesylvania State Park.
I measure the success in the number of times my kids have asked to go back, including the number of birthdays they have pre-planned in their mind at the Park for years to come!
According to the National Wildlife Federation, in the last two decades, childhood has moved indoors. The average American boy or girl spends just four to seven minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day, and more than seven hours each day in front of an electronic screen. I for one want to give my children great memories of running around outside, getting a little dirty and learning to become good stewards to our local environment. Virginia State Parks offers that and more!
At our party, although there were plenty of picnic tables and shelters, we found a nice shaded area by the water and planted ourselves on a big blanket on the ground. While the adults set up, the kids had a fantastic time exploring the woods and shoreline. We planned a couple of nature-themed games and activities including a nature I-Spy game, an intro and small demonstration of geocaching, and a classic game of Hide and Seek. I know it all sounds simplistic, and at first I thought my kids would never go for it either, but once there they thrived! Although the kids loved Hide and Seek, the majority lost pretty quickly as they were too consumed with exploring their hideouts behind trees and shrubs -- finding lots of interesting bugs, chattering squirrels and some not-so-pleased waterfowl. We also brought balls, beach toys and jump ropes -- which were a big hit!
We chose Leesylvania State Park specifically because of its proximity to the DC metro area -- 25 miles from Washington, DC and Fredericksburg. We also love the natural sandy shoreline where the kids can explore and play. My kids had a blast looking for snails, clams, driftwood and shells. The trails are easily accessible and very family-friendly -- and include a segment of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.
You don’t have to wait for a birthday to visit though! Leesylvania State Park offers many fun, family programs to try out including:
Kids to Parks Day -- GPS: Uncovering Camouflage at Leesylvania State Park on May 19th. Kids can get ready to search for the hidden world around you. Take a hike along Powell's Creek Trail (approximately 1.3 miles) and use a GPS unit to hunt for the secret techniques that animals use to disguise themselves from predators. Register and learn more here. To find more events at Leesylvania State Park and other Virginia State Parks, visit here.
To find a park close to you, including ones in Northern Virginia (Mason Neck and Sky Meadows) and near Southern Prince William County (Caledon Natural Area, Leesylvania and Lake Anna), visit here.
Visit Kid-Friendly VA here.
This blog was written by Liz Jones, a Kid-Friendly VA partner mom!