One of the best online tools for Long Island parents is just a click away. Pick-a-Park lets parents, caregivers, and schools search an inventory of about 700 local and state parks and preserves to find one that best meets their needs.
Pick-a-Park was created by the Long Island Nature Collaborative for Kids (LINCK), the national demonstration site of of Dimensions Foundation for the development of outdoor classrooms.
Dana E. Friedman, President The Early Years Institute, tells Long Island Mamas Network that the absence of children playing outside today is prevalent. Friedman states, “The Early Years Institute wants to change this picture and asked hundreds of parents what it would help them take their children to one of the fabulous parks we have on Long Island. We learned that bathrooms, playgrounds, shaded benches and wide pathways for strollers are most important. Pick-a-Park will help parents find the perfect park with the amenities they need.”
The search function allows parents to look for parks by zip code and radius. The “Advanced Search” feature includes filters by amenities. There’s also an area for visitors to type the name of a park they want to visit; the results will come back with the address, links to directions, the park’s website (if one exists), photographs and 20 park features such as parking, fees, picnic tables, special plant species, animals or birds and whether dogs are allowed on the premises.
According to The Early Years Institute and LINCK, Pick-a-Park was created because parks and open spaces:
- Provide the richest learning experiences for children that stimulate all the senses and their nature sense of curiosity, crucial for the development of the whole child, regardless of age or ability. Playing outdoors improves all areas of a child’s development, including physical, intellectual and social skills – especially when the activity is directed by the child, not the adults.
- Strengthen families. Nature offers ways for busy two-earner or single parent families to spend time together – to stop and smell the roses – without technology. They are perfect for intergenerational activities.
- Improve the health of children and families. The rise in obesity and allergies are directly related to lack of time spent outside. Research has shown how much outdoor activities help calm children with ADHD and autism. Being outside is soothing for all ages.
- Revitalize communities. By bringing together different segments of the community to beautify our neighborhoods and provide places of recreation and relaxation.
- Create future stewards of the environment. Connecting children to nature is the best way to create lifelong advocates for land conservation and environmental protection. Children will not save what they do not love.
With Pick-a-Park, parents can discover parks they never knew existed located within minutes of their homes. Moms in the midst of potty training toddlers can ensure they visit only parks with restrooms. Friends with infants can plan playdates at parks with stroller-accessible routes. Families who don’t want to pack lunches and blankets from home can search for parks offering refreshments and picnic tables.
“Pick-A-Park is a great tool for both families and individuals to get outside and explore some of Long Island’s greatest places,” says Patricia Manzi, Director of LINCK. Pick-a-Park indeed achieves the goal of bringing kids closer to nature, and at the same time provides a convenient and much-needed service to Long Island families.
To find a park, please visit www.pickapark.org.
About The Early Years Institute
The Early Years Institute is a non-profit organization based in Plainview, New York. The Early Years Institute provides education about the importance of the early years, and strives to make changes in the community to ensure young children are given the best start in life. The Early Years Institutes partners with parks, libraries, museums, pediatricians’ offices, schools, and places of worship to achieve its goals. Its programs include those about school readiness, Screen-Free Week (no TV), outdoor classrooms, and more. For more information on The Early Years Institute, please visit www.eyi.org.
By Maria Adcock