By: Jolene Roehlkepartain
Did you know that kids who live in socially cohesive communities are also less likely to smoke and become obese?
In our community, an annual ice cream social brings families together. A week-long community celebration offers a parade, carnival, and countless activities, and many organizations provide great places for families to gather.
Discover what your community offers through these typical family-friendly venues:
Parks and Recreation—Find out which activities your local parks and recreation department offers kids, adults, and families. Most have a catalog of offerings. Don’t stop there, however. Get a map of the parks, playgrounds, hiking and biking trails in your area from this department. Then start exploring.
Community Education—Many community education departments provide classes, workshops, and events for families, kids, and adults. Get a copy of the most current catalog. Discover what community education has to offer.
Schools—A number of schools offer programs and special events for families. Some have fundraisers that are family events (such as a family carnival or family walk- a-thon). Contact your local school to discover what it has to offer.
Nature Center—Does your community have a nature center? Some do. If your community doesn’t have a nature center, see if the communities around you do. A nature center often offers programming for families and kids.
Asset-Building Initiative—Many communities have an asset-building initiative, which often are called Healthy Communities • Healthy Youth initiatives. These initiatives focus on creating well-rounded, successful families, children, teens, and communities. Check to see if there’s one near you >
Community Celebration—Many communities have an annual celebration typically during the summer. Your community may sponsor a parade and other community celebration activities. Check out your community’s web site for details.
Community Events—A number of communities now offer family-friendly events, such as community gardens, tree planting, family fireworks, a community water park, arts programs, community theater, community band, and more. Some even sponsor free weekly music in the park during the warmer months.
Family Hangouts—Ask other families for recommendations for restaurants, businesses, and organizations in your community that offer great activities and places to hang out in our community. In our community, we have a swim school that many families enjoy. We also have a fast-food restaurant with a jaw-dropping indoor park (which is a huge hit with kids when the weather turns sour). Our community also has a strong Girl Scout and Boy Scout program that caters not only to kids but also to the whole family.
A few communities even go as far as creating a directory of all the community offerings for families. They provide them to families and also to real estate agents to give to families moving into the community.
Even if your community doesn’t offer much for families, expand your circle and see what communities near you offer. In the next community, a great art program may exist that’s open to residents and nonresidents.
Our family has even tapped into the offerings at nearby museums and colleges. Often I find out about these opportunities from other families. For example, I had no idea that our community had a strong gymnastic program for toddlers, preschoolers, and older kids. Our community also creates unusual art events where families can participate. The community then displays the winning artwork in local coffee shops and businesses.
So become curious. Find out what your community has to offer kids, parents, and families. You may be surprised at how much exists.
1. ScienceDaily, “Having a Strong Community Protects Adolescents from Risky Health Behaviors, ScienceDaily, February 3, 2011.
2. Peter Benson, All Kids Are Our Kids: What Communities Must Do to Raise Caring and Responsible Children and Adolescents, revised edition (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006).
3. Search Institute’s asset-building initiatives, Healthy Communities • Healthy Youth initiatives.
4. Connecting to Community, ParentFurther.
5. Image via ccstbp on Flick’r.