As the weather gets warmer in our neighborhood, my toddlers and I are venturing out to our local parks. While most of our nearby parks have fantastic playground equipment, some are a little...well, boring! We might be new to our city but we are already so invested in our community. I wanted to find a way my kids could give back and contribute to their local parks. Luckily, I found many other parents have wanted to prettify their local parks, too. If you'd like to connect with other parents around this issue, visit The Center For Urban Pedagogy to learn more about community partnerships.
Build A Bench
Make your park a more inviting place by building a bench! Maybe your toddler can't help you construct a bench from scratch, but they certainly can help you paint it. One parks improvement project challenged local groups to compete for the best bench. Each bench became its own work of art. Toddlers can help make their own parks both more beautiful and more functional! Playground benches are a welcome relief for moms who are carrying a bursting-full diaper bag, a baby, and all the coats.
Socialize Your Street
Create your own personal hashtag for your neighborhood. Snap photos and capture the spirit of your hometown, sharing your perspective and hashtag on Instagram. Of course, your kids can get involved by starring in your park and playground photo shoots. You never know who might notice your social media work and invest in your local park!
Plant Some Flowers
Spring has sprung and pretty much every store has some form of gardening supplies. Pro-tip: buy a few boxes of wildflower seed mix. Get your toddler involved by turning this guerilla gardening into craft time! Mix seed bombs with a bit of clay, compost, and water - lay in the sun to dry. Take a few seed bombs with you on a walk and drop them in neglected public spaces. Enjoy the color!
Paint A Mural
Get permission to paint a mural on a nearby building or public space. Some artists have even found partnerships with their local community to prettify city infrastructure. Australian artist Anthony Lister got his start in large-format public art through a public partnership. The city of Adelaide approved Anthony's pitch to paint their utility boxes with artwork. How lucky for the residents, to see art from one of the contemporary greats while walking to work!
Add A Little Free Library
Anyone can create an official Little Free Library! The project can be as expensive as you'd like it to be - or basically free. Of course, the Little Free Library is a community-sourced project where residents donate books for free borrowing. Some parents build their Little Free Library on their own front yard, but I love having them in parks. They make impromptu storytime in the park a breeze!
Pick Up Litter
The easiest and cheapest way to prettify your local parks is to pick up litter! Take a grocery bag in your diaper bag on your next visit to the park. As you see it, pick up the litter and recycle it as you leave the park. It's easy to show respect for your community by investing in local parks.
As a parent to toddlers, local parks are the backbone of my weekly entertainment. Since my family uses the parks so frequently, I want to give back when and where I can. Helping my toddlers learn to care for their favorite things will help them learn civic responsibility. The pretty park part? That's just the side bonus.