Welcome to the Kids Guide to Centennial Parklands! In Part 1 we look at the health benefits of getting kids outdoors – and ideas for getting the 2-5 year olds engaged with nature and exploring our spaces.
So, what are the benefits of kids playing, learning and exploring outside?
There are numerous researched benefits of getting kids outdoors and playing (sport or otherwise), including:
- reduced risk of obesity and increased cardiovascular fitness
- healthy growth of bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons
- improved coordination and balance
- improved sleep
- mental health benefits, such as greater confidence and improved social skills
Research overseas has shown that play outdoors and contact with nature can:
- assist with building children’s motor skills
- assist the performance of children with ADHD
- produce behaviour improvements in children displaying delinquent behaviour
Centennial Parklands can benefit children’s health
And, what should be the goal?
For the 2-5 year olds, the goal should be spending 30-60 minutes outdoors a day, with a mix of play and exploration.
Not only will this contribute greatly towards the recommended activity guidelines for young children, and help to develop their conceptual and intellectual curiosity with the world around them, but it will also help achieve the 2-3 hours a week of sunlight that young children need to avoid Vitamin D deficiency.
What can you do in Centennial Parklands to achieve these benefits?
Here’s some suggested ‘itineraries’ for a good time outdoors for 2-5 year olds:
1. Walk in the Park
Lily Pond is discovery central!
Keeping in mind the IUCN video on yesterday’s blog post, with the youngsters just start with a walk in the park. It’s that simple. Young kids like to explore in safe environments – and what is safer than going for a walk in Centennial Park with mum, dad or a grandparent.
We recommend starting near Lachlan Reserve and Lily Pond (download map). This part of Centennial Park features many interesting and varied shady trees, ponds with birdlife and plenty of space to run that energy off (tip for parents: on weekends the Mobile Food Van is also nearby for that quick coffee or bite to eat!).
Have a walk beneath the trees. Let the kids climb over the gnarled tree roots and watch the ducks and swans in Lily Pond. From the vantage point of Lily Pond Bridge, you can watch the water swirling beneath you, and you may see some fish or an eel!
2. Ride, play and enjoy
Generations of children have learnt to ride here
Bring the bike for a ride around the Children’s Learners Cycleway in Centennial Park. This cycleway is the place that generations of children have learnt to ride their first bike. This popular surfaced loop roadway is a one-way track with plenty of space for children of all ages to ride their bikes in complete safety.
The best thing about this location is that there is also an adjacent amenities block, free gas barbecue and children’s playground, making this one of the most family-friendly spots in the Parklands. We’d recommend bringing some picnic food (here’s some healthy food ideas or drop by Centennial Parklands Kiosk and pick up a kids lunch box and juice box/water – they also have great gingerbread men!).
3. Sports and exploration
Pine Grove – a magical place
Combine physical exertion with cognitive exercise and play. Pack a ball, bat and/or other basic sports equipment in the car and stop off at Brazilian Fields in Centennial Park.
This space is not only a great, flat area to run around kicking or hitting a ball, but adjoins Pine Grove – a place of endless fascination for many young explorers.
Playing hide-and-seek amongst the trees in Pine Grove will pass the time, and keep the kids active and entertained. Pine Grove is a magical place for the kids (and as a completely off-topic connection, it’s also one of our most popular wedding photography spots!).
What about more structured experiences outdoors for the 2-5 year olds?
Yes, we can help there too. We run regular programs for 2-5 year olds, and this spring these will include:
You can download our entire ‘What’s On in Centennial Parklands’ brochure (in PDF) or see our programs online.
Tomorrow the Kids Guide to Centennial Parklands (Part 2) will look at the older kids, the 5-12 year olds.
Have you created your own ‘itinerary of fun’ for a 2-5 year old in Centennial Parklands? Tell us about your favourite ideas here.
My Little Ponies