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12 Essential Items for a Perfect Day at the Park

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For us, there's nothing better than spending an entire day at the park — as long as we have all of the right supplies, like these things:

Setting the scene:

Large blanket: Whether it's a large picnic blanket or multiple towels, you need something comfortable to go between your seat and the ground or park bench you'll be sitting on all day. If you'll have babies or toddlers with you, make sure that blanket is nice and extra thick.

Sunscreen: Back in May I purchased six cans of spray-on sunscreen and put one in every vehicle and "playtime" tote bag we own, because if we don't reapply then we have to leave. Pack a higher SPF sweat-proof formula to get a bit more mileage out of your sunscreen, but reapply every two hours at least. Your kids may be annoyed, but they'll be more upset if they get a sunburn.

Portable shade: If you're going to be out in an uncovered area for most of the day you'll need to pack your own easy-to-carry shade, like a pop-up canopy. It will provide a welcoming escape from the sun's hot rays. 

Finger foods: We like to slice up cheese and bread before leaving the house and pack whole fruits like apples and bananas. Then we'll cheat and buy prepared chicken fingers or sandwiches at the market. Pre-packaged snacks — applesauce pouches, gummy snacks, or dried fruit — are great for late-afternoon munchies. Pack everything in individual containers or bags, label it all for easy access, and store it all in an insulated bag. 

Trash bag: Make sure you have a way to get all of the disposable items to a trash can. We've encountered overflowing trash cans in many parks on the weekends and packing up the trash and taking it with us was the only option.

Cold drinks: You'll want to have plenty of water on hand for the day, and don't hesitate to throw in some juice for the kids or a sports drink for yourself for variety. We freeze at least four water bottles the night before, so that they serve as both the ice for cooling down the other drinks, as well as the final refreshing drink at the end of the day!

Baby wipes: I haven't had a baby to wipe in over two years, but I'd never go on an outing without baby wipes. They're great for cleaning hands between playing in the dirt and eating a snack, as well as wiping off a sweaty face. And you can make everyone wipe up before getting in the car (if you drove) to minimize the mess going home. 

Having fun:

Balls: It depends on the type of park you're visiting, but you can rarely go wrong by bringing a baseball or soccer ball along with you. I'm a horrible soccer player but I love spending time just kicking a ball back and forth with my daughter. And it's a great way for your kids to make friends with other kids in the park who want to play.

Music: If you have your Smartphone or MP3 player, attach a portable speaker and enjoy some music. Make sure you're kind to your park neighbors and keep the volume low for just your group.

Art supplies: Bring along a pad of paper and some markers or crayons in a sealed container, then let the kids have fun observing and drawing. Or, if there's concrete, pack some sidewalk chalk. You'll enjoy having the kids in one spot for an extended period of time, and they'll have fun making a masterpiece.

Bubbles: I'm pretty sure it's not just my child who can spend countless hours running after bubbles in the backyard, so if you've got a bubble chaser in your household bring a bottle along. This is a great way for the older kids to entertain younger ones as well, and everyone is happy to join in on the fun.

Water toys: If it's going to be a hot day, consider bringing a fun toy that can cool everyone off — think water balloons, squirt guns, or even just giant sponges to throw back and forth.

Photo: Getty

This post is sponsored by Mott's