Fitting the Outdoors Into Your Routines and Errands
August 29, 2012

Fitting the Outdoors Into Your Routines and Errands

As working parents, it can be a challenge to do everything that you need and want to do—for yourself, your job, the home, and most important of all, the children.  Every hour of every day involves shifting priorities and schedules to some degree, and all you can do is hope that by bedtime you accomplished the most critical items on your to-do list. 

Making sure that Riley and Halina, ages 9 and 6, have time outdoors is our number one priority—and theirs.  Every day they join us on basic errands for the sake of the walk.  Riley usually opts to take his scooter and Halina variously rides hers, or loads a slew of dolls into her doll stroller and sets off on foot.  They both have a good grasp of what it’s going to be like to walk or scoot 10 or 20 blocks (a half mile or a mile), and for walks that are off the grid we convert the distance into blocks—the family standard of measurement—so they know what to expect.  Thus prepared, they can go for excursions of 2 to 3 miles with little pause.

The next consideration for any errand or appointment is to figure out what outdoor offerings there are in a destination area, and then block off as much time as possible—ranging from 15 minutes to over an hour—to let the kids enjoy the place.  Following are a few recent examples of how we combined some must-do task with some free time outdoors for Riley and Halina. 

West Harlem Piers Park

We were just back from a trip to New Jersey with scarcely anything in the fridge or pantry to greet us.  Riley and Halina were restless from the 2.5-hour train trip and in definite need of burning off some energy.  Thanks to our GPS, we know the distances to all of our supermarket options and we at first considered going to the one farthest away (1.5 miles) so the kids could get some exercise. 

But then we remembered the lovely and relatively new West Harlem Piers Park, located right outside the uptown Fairway, which is our closest supermarket (.53 miles).  The park has great boardwalks to run around on, grassy areas where you can throw a Frisbee—if you are skilled enough not to land it in the Husdon River—and the piece de resistance in summertime: sprinklers!  

In order to give Riley and Halina enough time to romp while still getting home in time for dinner, Cheryl went into the store to shop and William stayed out with the kids.  Halina got soaked (happily) and William lost Riley’s Frisbee in—guess where?—the river. 

Bryant Park

An appointment at the SUNY optometry center in midtown was the catalyst for rediscovering Bryant Park, which lies at the crossroads of so much but yet is oddly off the beaten path for us.  The appointment was on a weekday afternoon so we arranged to rendezvous in the park—Cheryl coming from work and William with the kids—and reacquaint ourselves with the ever-increasing charms of the park.  There is no playground but beautiful gardens and excellent activities abound: Juggling, bocce ball, hacky-sack, and a gilded carousel are all on offer and well worth an hourlong visit.  A variety of food vendors are around the park, and there are restrooms near the subway station at 42nd and Fifth avenues.

Washington Square Park

It had actually been on our minds to get to Washington Square Park with its legendary fountain this summer, and again we conjured up a way to piggyback the trip onto some grocery shopping that we could have easily done much closer to home.  This time, William went off foraging for food while Cheryl stayed back so the kids could romp in the geysers.  It’s almost too good to be true that people are actually allowed to go into the fountain to play.  Since being reunited with this one-of-a-kind locale, we have worked it into the regular circuit—per Riley and Halina’s insistence. With the city pools closing after Labor Day, it’s good to keep Washington Square Park in mind for those unseasonably hot fall days that can pop up when you least expect them.  There is also a nearby playground with a restroom. 


What ways, and where, do you work the outdoors into your daily routines? 




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Tip of the Day

Help a neighbor: Whether it’s the season for shoveling snow, raking leaves, or weeding their garden, your kids will get double benefits from being outdoors and building community.

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