At the beginning of summer, our county produced a pamphlet designed to get the public to visit all the parks, or at least some, in the area. Children are encouraged to photograph or draw something at each park and share it with the parks’ office. I decided to use this invitation to more deeply explore the parks already somewhat familiar to us.
Greysen loves to play at parks and has been requesting specific ones, only at 2.4 years of age her references to the park are based on her perspective and not something as convenient as the park’s name. She has, for example, asked to go to the “horsey” park, and then had to cope with incredible disappointment of arriving at the incorrect horsey park with Mike. Oh, Dad.
To document our visits, I wanted to incorporate some long term record keeping. Journals are commonly used in early childhood classrooms as a means for developing language and literacy skills. I liked the customized style of this journal featured at Playful Learning and decided that it could have meaning to us as a record of our park visits.
I chose a mixed media journal so that we can vary our choice of art mediums over time (I bought this on sale for $5 from Michael’s). I labeled it using these clear labels.
I printed all the park names and potential discussion labels that might pertain to our experiences.
After we played at the playground for a bit, we took a walk to other parts of the park and collected things.
After we had found a few things, we sat and I used the following questions as the starting points for discussion:
- The trees at this park are . . .
- I see, hear, smell, feel . . .
- My favorite thing is . . .
I brought along a few earth-toned colored pencils.
I’m not sure Greysen knows the name of this park after this visit. I did learn, however, that she knows this park even if she can’t recall the name. She mentioned the jackrabbits we see, the banjo player we once heard about (but never saw), and the tractor she climbs.
I think this journal served more as a prompt for me to see the park through her eyes.
Parks are important places to her. They are places that allow for independent exploration, physical challenges, and natural discoveries. I hope that spending time talking about what aspects of these wondrous places are important to her will lead to feelings of being heard and of her interests being respected.
What are your children’s favorite places to play and how do you honor that? I’d be interested in learning other ways to support Greysen’s interests.