TheParkMama.com is a personal blog that I launched last summer to help local families find respite from the pandemic and connect with nature. I feature uncrowded green spaces, most of which are free, shaded, and stroller-friendly within an hour’s drive from Hoboken.
How The Park Mama Began
While I became far more creative with indoor activities during the pandemic, we were all longing for some fresh air. The problem was that at germaphobe level 10, I was scared to venture outside at all. In one particularly memorable Zoom conversation with my weekly Hoboken Grace dinner group, I shared my anxiety about taking the kids (then 3 and 1) outside, and the group did something that I’ll never forget. They encouraged me. They lifted me up. They pushed me. My family echoed the same, and then, a dear friend gave me the best gift: an uncrowded park recommendation.
Richard Rutkowski Park: Bayonne, NJ
We gradually started exploring last summer, and with each new park under our belt, I regained my confidence, faced fears, and felt more and more alive. My newfound hobby became finding uncrowded green spaces to explore with littles, and I enjoyed sharing recommendations with those seeking similar experiences. A friend later dubbed me The Park Mama, suggested that I write a blog, and even took it a step further and let me know that TheParkMama.com was available. I had only explored 5 parks at that time and definitely didn’t feel qualified to be The Park Mama, but I felt that gentle nudge from God to start writing, and so with the support of my dinner group I took a step of faith and did. The feedback has been incredible - from families using the blog to choose their weekend excursions to pregnant mamas finding a safe space outdoors - I’m honored to help families enjoy a breath of fresh air.
Flat Rock Brook Nature Center: Englewood, NJ
Memorable Experiences This Year
We’ve observed what animals eat…
An egret gulped down a fish.
A chipmunk devoured a worm and stuffed his cheeks with leaves.
A doe and her fawns grazed delectable grass.
Hatchlings opened their mouths wide for tasty worms from mama birds.
We’ve seen animals in action…
Birds ice skated on a frozen pond.
A red-tailed hawk swooped in low.
A garden snake slithered between my feet.
11 ducklings waddled behind their mama.
Eagles soared overhead.
Turtles gracefully swam and rested on a log.
Geese playfully honked and splashed.
A beaver hid in the bushes and then greeted us on our path.
An owl hooted at us when I said “hello”.
A scale-model solar system walk.
Fun places to scoot and bike ride.
Scenic picnic spots.
Still water, swimming lakes, waterfalls, and streams and brooks to skip rocks.
Hidden gnomes and fairies.
A daffodil bowl.
A dinosaur park.
The joy of stroller vs. scooter races.
Fallen log balance beams.
Delicious new apple varieties from a 7th generation farmer.
Why the Garden State is so aptly named.
How to identify plants, trees, insects, and birds.
How to use binoculars and a magnifying glass.
How to be still and listen to the soothing sounds of the forest.
How much fun bug safaris can be.
How to paint or draw what we observed at a park.
How to pair stories with park adventures to extend learning.
A piece of NJ history - from colonial trails and pirate hideouts to 19th century farm life.
The Park Mama’s Top 5:
Stroller-friendly Nature Walk: Mill Creek Marsh, Secaucus (10 mins away)
Toddler-friendly Hiking: Flat Rock Brook Nature Center, Englewood (20 mins away)
Educational Garden: Van Vleck House & Gardens, Montclair (30 mins away)
Swimming: Hooks Creek Lake at Cheesequake State Park (40 mins away)
Scooting and Biking: Duke Farms (50 mins away)
Rockleigh Woods Sanctuary: Rockleigh, NJ
Janet Hughes is a former Marketing Director turned stay-at-home mama of two nature loving boys. You can find her skipping rocks, reading stories, and picnicking al fresco with her family by day and leading a couples dinner group with her husband on Monday nights at Hoboken Grace. Read more about her family’s adventures, and get ideas of your own at TheParkMama.com.