Shady green trees, singing birds, those fluffy little squirrels frolicking nearby… a visit to the park is a great way to enjoy nature and get some fresh air and exercise.
Spring’s beautiful weather and summer’s long days make it a perfect time to plan a trip to a special park. By taking some time to plan your outing – and brushing up on a few simple etiquette rules – you can help guarantee a good time for your family and everyone else at the park.
Top 10 Tips for Perfect Picnic Etiquette
- Remember the necessities. Sunblock, cold water for everyone in your party (adults, kids and pets), snacks and hand sanitizer are all must-haves for any park outing. It’s also a good idea to carry insect repellant and some light first-aid supplies: a few basic products like bug bite ointment, bandages, and a first-aid spray, and a cold pack can help salvage a park play date if someone gets a boo-boo.
- Keep an eye on the kids. Pay attention. Don’t get so caught up in visiting with other adults (or texting, talking on your cell phone or surfing the Internet on your smart phone) that you don’t know where your kids are or what they’re doing (or possibly, who they are annoying).
- Keep it clean and green. It’s amazing how often this simple rule is overlooked. Put your trash in the proper receptacle. If the park provides recycling bins, use them. Remember, gum wrappers and clear plastic straw sleeves are still garbage even though they’re small. Keep the park in better shape than you found it.
- Dress well. Save those sassy new platform wedge sandals for another time; you have a good chance of breaking an ankle trooping over rocks and grass in them. Wear footwear and clothing that are comfortable, weather-appropriate and washable. If you know the park will be crowded, dress yourself and your children in bright colors so you can easily spot each other.
- Keep your dog on a leash. It’s not only the rule in many parks, but it’s also common courtesy. You know that Mr. Sparky, your 90-pound Rottweiler, is a harmless gentle giant, but the family he’s running full-speed at may not be aware of this. Also, if your dog is not used to being around children, it’s especially important to keep him or her leashed. Dogs are big furry magnets for children who want to pet them, hug them, kiss them or climb on them. If your dog won’t enjoy this – or if you’re not sure how they’ll react – best to leave poochy at home.
- Clean up after your pet. If you bring your dog, you absolutely must be prepared to clean up after them. Some parks offer clean-up bags, but you’re not off the hook just because the bag dispenser is empty. Be prepared by bringing your own. Even if it seems like your dog did his business in an out-of-the-way spot, you must clean it up; it’s just not fair to other park users.
- If you don’t want to share it, leave it at home. If your child wants to bring a special toy or bike to the park that they don’t want other children to even look at, let alone play with, it’s best to take some less-special toys to the park.
- Keep your eye on the ball. It’s hard to relax and enjoy a picnic when you’re worried that an errant football will strike you in the head. If you (or your kids) are engaged in a game of catch, a water gun fight or other activity where there’s a chance that innocent bystanders will get caught in the crossfire, take the game to another less-crowded part of the park.
- Make reservations. If you’re planning a get-together for a large group, check with the park administrators to see if it’s possible to reserve a pavilion or other space for parties. Otherwise you run the risk of showing up to someone else occupying the space you were planning to use.
- Rain plan! Sometimes planning, preparing and packing for a park outing is a great way to generate some much-needed rain. Keep a Plan B in your back pocket in case the weather doesn’t cooperate.
Finally, remember your camera to capture the fun. With these tips and a little planning, you’ll create a memorable park visit that will leave everyone eager for the next outing.