For most of us, when our parents told us to go outside and play, we’d obligingly spend summer afternoons and evenings in our own neighborhoods creating elaborate games with friends. But it takes an effort to get some kids outdoors today, what with the pull of electronics. And many parents don’t feel comfortable letting kids roam their neighborhoods unsupervised.
That’s why an appealing alternative is exploring the 52,000 acres of parkland we have on Long Island. And that’s part of the goal for the Long Island Nature Collaborative for Kids (LINCK), which encourages families and educators to get children outside to play.
Some of LINCK’s efforts to promote and create opportunities to connect children and nature include a public education campaign with the message “No Child Left Inside."
Another is the development of outdoor classrooms in places like parks, schools and child care programs. These have included the Children’s Habitat at Bailey’s Arboretum in Lattingtown, Our Backyard Nature Explore Classroom at the Long Island Children’s Museum in Garden City, the Nature Explorium at the Middle Country Library in Centereach and Suffolk County Farm and Education Center in Yaphank. All these public places are extraordinary experiences for kids and adults not only to play outdoors, but also to have fun learning.
But even your own community park has plenty to offer, from playground equipment to nature trails to picnic areas. Of course, depending on the ages of your children, before heading out, you might like to know more details about the location, like which have benches, nearby restrooms, paths wide enough for strollers or a water fountain, and those that are open to the public or are for residents only.
There’s now a way for you to find the best of Long Island’s park offerings. Thanks to the efforts of The Early Years Institute (EYI) in Plainview, LINCK has developed a searchable database to help parents and teachers find parks with the features they want. As the result of a two-year project and a 120-question inventory, Thursday LINCK is launching "Pick-a-Park," a comprehensive online inventory of nearly 700 parks within Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Dana E. Friedman, Ed.D., president of the EYI, says that in addition to the most detailed, searchable online listing of Long Island's state, county, town and village parks, Pick-a-Park features detailed descriptions and photographs of each spot. The information can be searched by zip code and by specific family-friendly facilities, including your preferences for things like bathrooms, parking and playground equipment. Then you can get a print-out of all parks with those features. You can search any park by name and learn about 25 features of those parks, along with directions and pictures. The website also offers you ideas for how to keep safe and what to do if you visit passive parks or those with limited equipment or ball fields.
Starting Thursday, visit www.eyi.org and click “Pick-a-Park” to begin your search for a park experience to share with your child.