Show of hands: Who wants to feel like a calmer, saner, totally blissed-out human being? Cool. Us, too. That's why we're taking plenty of personal days in the park this spring. Just sitting in a patch of green has the power to transform a person. So come along as we show you new ways to soak up all that your local parks have to offer.
Go on a Nature Walk You'd be surprised how much beauty you miss when you're cutting through the grass on autopilot. Check in with your parks department's Web site, or go to enature.com or guidedbirdwatching.com to read up on the flora and fauna native to your area. Jot down a few trees or birds to look out for, and pack binoculars and a camera.
Go the Extra Mile Swap iPods with a friend and set to shuffle so you can admire the view with an unfamiliar soundtrack.
2. WITH YOUR DOG
Play Ball Get your pup into the competitive spirit by having him run bases in a group baseball game, suggests Mychelle Blake of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. After you bat and run to first base, call the dog over to meet you at the bag. Then see how many bases you can run leading the dog on a leash. Use multiple canines in the field at once, or lend your pet to the other team. Just be sure not to tucker him out.
Go the Extra Mile When you hit home plate, have your dog perform a trick, like standing on his hind legs or shaking paws.
3. WITH YOUR BEAU
Get Physical A little competition can strengthen your connection, since heightened adrenaline is linked to attraction. Start by forming a flying-disc obstacle course: Pick five items (like trees and benches) that you each have to hit with a Frisbee. If you miss more than three times in a row, you owe the other person a back rub -- or a week on dish duty.
Go the Extra Mile Bonus round: Take a quarter-mile lap between Frisbee throws.
4. WITH YOUR FAM
Get Fired Up You may be freaked about flames, thanks to Smokey Bear's "Only you can prevent forest fires" PSAs. But knowing how to responsibly build a campfire is an important skill that few kids have, claims Miriam Peskowitz, author of The Daring Book for Girls. Teach your clan the mechanics: Start by gathering wood, tinder and logs, then demonstrate how air and spacing can fuel the flames. Check with a ranger about rules before you start, and remember to extinguish the fire.
Go the Extra Mile Have a weenie roast or cook s'mores on long sticks over the flames. Show the kids how to winnow a branch to a point using a rock or small knife.
5. WITH YOUR PALS
Plan an Old-School Field Day Invite four or five friends, ask them to bring a couple of people along, and assign each a game to bring (bocce, kickball, badminton, horseshoes). Then split up into teams and rotate playing each other in a round-robin. For a more laid-back afternoon, set up blankets in the grass for revolving card tournaments, like euchre and poker.
Go the Extra Mile Hand out small trinkets from the dollar store, such as plastic trophies, blue ribbons or bags of candy.
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