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Lisa Black

ITASCA, IL--During Kids to Parks Day (the third Saturday in May), May 20, and Mental Health Awareness Month (May), the American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to take kids to parks because outdoor play is linked to health, lower stress, and greater mental wellbeing among children. The AAP offers these tips to help parents make plans to get outdoors as the upcoming Memorial Day holiday kicks off summer fun.

“Whether it’s sunny or snowing, playing outside is good for children, physically and mentally,” said pediatrician Monique Jonae Soileau-Burke, MD FAAP, President, Maryland Chapter, AAP. “Scientific evidence tells us that playing outdoors can improve health, and children love it. On Kids to Parks Day, we encourage families to make plans to get their children out into nature for summer fun and wellbeing. Consider visiting a national, state or local park.”

Getting outside is more than a fun break for children. Stress and depression are lower for all people who spend time in nature. Your children can get a physical and emotional boost from playing. Here are some tips on the all-ages fun to be had on Kids to Parks Day:

  • The earlier you share nature with your baby, the more likely they are to develop a life-long love of the outdoors. Take a walk through the trees with a stroller or throw down a blanket to explore weather, bird songs, forest smells and plant textures with your baby while giving them some outside tummy time.
  • Bike with the family through your neighborhood or on a bike trail in a local or national park. A bicycle trailer makes this an all-ages activity, and once your child is able to ride a bike, they’ll get exercise while enjoying the outdoors. Be sure to make stops to explore and enjoy.
  • Schedule a meet up with friends at a local or state park for a group adventure that builds social connections for both children and adults.
  • As your children get older, your national park explorations can grow with them. Strolls can become hikes and camp outs. Ranger stations offer maps and educational programs for children.
  • Many sports are better in wide open spaces—kicking a soccer ball, spiking a volleyball, throwing a beanbag, swimming in fresh water, swinging a golf club, throwing a frisbee, hitting a softball, jumping rope or just about any sport can keep the outdoors fun as children get older.
  • Pack a picnic or plan a barbeque outside with friends and family. Share a meal, take a walk or play a game together while you enjoy the outdoors. If you can’t get away from home, have a picknick in your backyard or porch.
  • Do some research at home on a local or national park that’s appropriate for your family—perhaps your next family vacation—or advocate for more parks or park access in your community.

Take advantage of the healing power of play in nature—near your home or neighborhood, at a local or city park, or drive to an outdoor space that is a true national treasure. Remember to dress appropriately for the weather, consider sunscreen and bug spray, and use protective equipment for sports, like bike helmets.


The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.

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