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5 Playful Tips for Your Next Family Adventure

When my friends began making summer camp plans for their kids, I joked that my own son (4.5) and daughter (2.5) would be attending “Camp Mama”. All jokes aside, my kids would be thrilled to head to an actual day camp each morning… and I certainly wouldn’t mind gaining some daylight work hours, myself. However, my gut feeling is this: after navigating a school year of uncertainty, what the three of us need most right now is each other. Nature. Playgrounds. Picnics. PLAY. I am incredibly grateful to have this time together. In just two weeks, our shared adventures have sparked meaningful conversations, inspired imaginative play scenarios, led to elaborate block building sessions, and offered us daily opportunities to connect.

As our family settles into a new summer routine, my goal is to balance our adventurous outings with the imaginative play experiences we share back at home. Eager to make some summer memories of your own? Here are 5 Playful Tips for Your Family’s Next Adventure:

Get an early start, whenever possible!

Each morning, we listen to upbeat music as we chat about our plans and pack up for the day ahead. We typically head out early to beat the heat and the NYC crowds- either by bike trailer, scooters, ferry boat, or our “walking feet”. We seem to have more energy -and more patience with one another- when we get an early start to the day.  

Designate a family “sunscreen spot”.

Sunscreen remains my least favorite part of the summer adventure prep process. This year, I’ve designated the front steps of our building as our family’s designated “sunscreen spot”. This is especially helpful for my toddler daughter who is usually the first person in our family to be fully dressed and ready to go. From our new sunscreen spot, we can enjoy some fresh air, watch cars drive by, wave to our favorite dogs, and chat with friendly neighbors. Sure beats crowding around our apartment door as we slather on the sunscreen!

Prioritize the toys (and fuel) your family needs.

Whether we’re heading to a new playground or one of our favorite nature spots, we pack the same two toys for every outdoor adventure: our beloved Scrunch buckets + Twee chalk. I also pack snacks, water, and lunchboxes. Though we’re typically back by lunchtime, I like having the lunchboxes with us… just in case we need to refuel as we’re exploring. Flexibility is always helpful! And since summer adventures tend to be dirty or wet, I always have a bathing suit and an extra set of clothing for each kid tucked into our giant wet bag.  

Plan for your return home.

Hot, sweaty children + post-adventure exhaustion = total meltdown. 

An inviting play space paired with a refreshing beverage makes a world of difference. Before heading out in the morning, I fill a couple of water bottles to keep in the fridge. I also place a large basket of blocks in the center of our playroom or quickly set up two sketchbooks and a jar of crayons. When we’re close to home, I gently remind my children of our routine, “Please take off your shoes, wash your hands, and meet me in the playroom.” Healthy snacks are an added bonus for all!

Prioritize play after family adventures. 

My 4.5-year-old son spends his afternoons building models of the playgrounds, piers, and neighborhoods we visit and uses these elaborate block structures to share his experience with my husband every evening. My 2.5-year-old daughter creates pretend play scenarios to reenact exciting elements of the day, like her first ferry ride to Brooklyn. One afternoon, I found her sitting in a cardboard box, chatting with her dolls about the “big playground” they would visit together when their boat arrived in Brooklyn. Play allows children to further investigate people or places of interest, reflect on the experiences they’ve had away from home, and share these experiences in a meaningful way. Though it’s tempting to be out and about, enjoying all that summer has to offer, we’ll continue to spend most of our afternoons right here in the playroom.

About the Author
Lauren Vien taught in private Manhattan preschools for over a decade before joining the Rose & Rex team as Education Director. With a masters in Early Childhood Education and Special Education from NYU, Lauren is deeply passionate about positive language and developmental play. She lives on the Upper West Side with her husband and two young children, Henry and Violet. Family pastimes include building with couch cushions, preparing plant-based meals, and scooting to neighborhood playgrounds.
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