When’s the last time you stopped what you were doing, unplugged from your phone or devices, and just played outside with your child(ren)? Technology has found its way into all our lives and has become both an important tool and a distraction. I will be the first to admit that technology can sometimes be a distraction in my own life. Ok, often times, actually. Part of my challenge is that I work to maintain my blog, which requires me to be online. It can be a struggle to find that balance between being a good mom and unplugging in order to give my daughter my undivided attention.I think all parents want the same thing: happy, well-rounded children. Right? So, let’s make the time to join their world of make believe. As a mother and a first-grade teacher, I know the importance of outdoor play. There are so many benefits for a child who has time to play freely including physical and emotional development, as well as development of social and cognitive skills. Research also shows that playtime with adults helps build self-esteem in kids. Whether it be one-on-one playtime with a child or playtime together as a family, there is no time like the present to build the bond you have with a child and your family.Explore, Create, Roam, Wander – Play!
Our family lives in the hilltop village of Esencia in the heart of Rancho Mission Viejo, aka The Ranch. After moving to The Ranch a couple of years ago, I was so excited to explore all the places to play. It’s such a beautiful community and the amenities just can’t be beat. If you haven’t visited yet, you’re missing out! There are places to exercise, retreats to relax, parks to play in, trails to wander, pools to swim in, and much more. The newest place to play is “The Backyard,” a 5.5-acre linear park within Esencia’s NorthWalk Neighborhoods.Our family has been spending a lot of time there since its opening about a month ago, so I’ve put together this list of 10 Ways to Play in “The Backyard.” It’s a great place to hang out with your family or even to invite friends to. It’s also the perfect setting to connect with other families like yours, which is one of the things I love about living in Rancho Mission Viejo. Residents here are so friendly and tend to bond with each other and become friends. Check out our favorite “Backyard” activities:
- Be adventurous and ride on the “zip-rail” –This little area is within The Backyard and has drawn visitors of all ages. The “zip-rail” I speak of is actually a swing that can carry either a child or an adult from one side to the other. Sometimes we head over to just take a couple passes back and forth. It’ll leave you feeling giddy after you’ve ridden it!
- Play “House” – Also within The Backyard are two of the most adorable playhouses, created especially for the community. Whether your little one chooses to “play house” in the white picket fence playhouse or hang out in the mini boathouse, they’re sure to get their imagination working. Playing house is creative play at its best!
- Challenge someone to a couple games of Hopscotch – Adjacent to the playhouses is also a Hopscotch to play on. Did you know that hopscotch can help children to manage body rhythm and the hopping movements involved with the game help build body strength, balance, and eye/hand coordination? If you didn’t bring a “marker” just look around for a small rock or something to use at the nearby park.
- Have a picnic – Whether you pack a lunch or dinner or grab some tea and teddy bears, there are several lawn areas, perfect for having an afternoon picnic.
- Bring out your competitive side with a game of Tetherball – The Garage, one of the event spaces in The Backyard, includes a DIY workshop, a lounge area and bar, ping pong table, large event lawn, children’s playhouses and Tetherball! If you’re an adult, it’ll bring back fond elementary school memories. I know it did for me. It’s also great to teach kids to play, as not all elementary schools have Tetherball nowadays. (The Garage is also home to the Esencia Visitor’s Center.
- Gather your friends for a get together at “The Hangout” – This is one of our favorite new places on The Ranch. The Hangout is an outdoor, social gathering place at The Backyard complete with BBQs, picnic tables and unique chandelier trees designed by LA artist Adam Tenenbaum. (The Capo Dispatch even did a feature on it!) One-of-a-kind water features add to the ambiance, making The Hangout perfect for a relaxing night on The Ranch with friends, family and neighbors.
- Play Hide and Seek – There are a ton of great places to play Hide and Seek in The Backyard. Whether you hide amongst the trees and greenery or climb up into one of the play structures to hide, you could spend countless hours playing the game that’s a favorite of so many.
- Break out the sidewalk chalk – Stoke your child’s (and your!) creative side and let the sidewalk be your canvas. The Backyard is also home to a giant, community blackboard that welcomes chalk sketching from artists of all ages.
- Get your “climb on” – The playground in The Backyard is especially unique. Imported from Germany, this tot lot is not your everyday structure. In fact, it’s the only one of its kind in Orange County! Complete with rope walls to scale, ladders to climb and platforms to balance on, kids will test their limits and be proud of how high they can go! Just be sure to bring your loudest cheering voice.
- Go on a nature walk – Within the villages on The Ranch are a network of multi-use trails that connect residents to not only The Backyard, but additional parks, playgrounds and community farms.
Feeling more adventurous? The Oak Canyon Preserve in Esencia has more rigorous hiking trails, and exclusive programs and events, like Ridge to Ridge Hikes, butterfly walks, astronomy nights, and docent-led adventures are available to Ranch residents at The Reserve at Rancho Mission Viejo. Can you see why we love living in Rancho Mission Viejo so much? There’s just always something to do here, but more importantly, there are tons of places for our family to play. Check out @RanchoMissionViejo on Facebook or Instagram and see for yourself why #TheRanchRocks!