Prepare to be Spontaneous! (How to Go Park Hopping)

Can you prepare to be spontaneous? Isn’t that an oxymoron? 

Absolutely not!  We moms can engineer a little fun on purpose.  When we do the planning ahead of time, the activity can be even more relaxed, and exciting!  (And when I have a free printable chart for you, that makes it even easier!)

We live about half a block from a little neighborhood park.  It’s a fine park and we go there all the time.  But it’s hot- no shade at all.  And, we’ve done everything there is to do there—lots of times.  Last summer, when my kids asked to go to the park, I found myself starting to resist.

So I went to our local parks and rec website to look for a new park to try—and it turned out there were a ton!  I wasn’t sure which to try first, or how to remember our favorites…and so, Park Hopping was born.


How to go Park Hopping

  1. Find your city’s parks on your local parks and rec website, complete with addresses to plug into your GPS.
  2. Make a quick chart with the park names along the top and park features you’d like to rate down the side.   We used criteria like gym equipment, open space to play, shade, safety, and ambiance.  (Try explaining “ambiance” to a five year-old—now that’s fun!)  Or simply use the Park Hopping Chart I have for you!
  3. Print enough copies for each member of your family (or you can fill in one sheet, rating the parks as a family). You’re prepared!
  4. Wait for a lazy summer evening to present itself, grab the charts, a kitchen timer, and your family, and go hopping!  You’re spontaneous!
  5. Visit each park for exactly seven minutes, playing and observing its different attributes. Seven minutes can seem quite long when you know your time is limited.
  6. Get back in the car and rate the park from 1-5 in each category.


My family was totally intrigued with this idea and I felt like such a great mom! (Ah, spontaneous me). At the first park, the kids were eager to explore the play equipment and then more of the park.  To their joy, they heard some frogs croaking and found them on the edge of a little pond!

When the timer went off, we piled back into the van and started marking our individual ratings.  Our daughter liked the gym equipment more than our son.  I didn’t think it had enough shade, but my husband thought the frog-croaking really added to the ambiance.

Each park had plusses and minuses, and the kids loved them all.  Over the course of the summer, we visited over a dozen new parks.  And the kids asked to return to specific ones, identifying them by their favorite features (can we go back to the one with the big climbing thing?).

Best of all, I found the perfect park.  A little kid play area and a big kid one.  A basketball court, a baseball field, and a sand volleyball court (not that you will catch me playing volleyball in the sand, or anywhere else).  A walking path.  Tons of shade.  And clean bathrooms!  It was Shangri-La.

So you see, there’s nothing like a little planned-for spontaneity to get the fun going!  I challenge you to give Park Hopping, or something similar, a try.  You might find your family’s Shangri-La just around the corner.  Happy Hopping!


Giving Thought to Your Ways (a la Proverbs 14:8)

  • Are you and your family stuck in a rut when it comes to your leisure time activities?
  • Would a park hop, a restaurant hop, a pizza hop, or another hop help you to get out there and try new things?
  • Are there kid-friendly places near you that your friends have suggested but you’ve never tried?
  • How can you plan ahead for some spontaneous family fun?


Get the free Organizing You Park Hopping Chart

Find more ways to truly enjoy your family in the Organizing You books

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