Mandy is a guest contributor to grkids. She lives near East Grand Rapids with her husband and two young children.

As a stay-at-home mom, I’m always looking for creative and exciting things to do with my two young children. We look for fun things to do that are typically free, which usually means pushing up my mommy sleeves and getting resourceful. Here is one of my little secrets to a fun filled day– and one that promises for a great afternoon nap!

Living near East Grand Rapids, one of our favorite past times is hiking the Reeds Lake trail. The trail is 4.2 miles around, which you may think would be a daunting task for my 2-year-old and a 4-month-old, but there are many stops along the way. As long as you wear comfortable shoes and pack the stroller with plenty of supplies, you’re ready to start your adventure!

My kids and I start on the east side of the trail, located by the East Beltline, since it is walking distance from our home. We then head north around the lake on Reeds Lake road. In order for my son to stay entertained on our adventure, I make it his job to find our stops along the way. Our first destination to find is the wooded trails leading up into Manhattan Park.

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Manhattan Park offers a ton of fun. My son is obsessed with soccer, so we usually bring a ball and kick it around the field. There is also a softball field, tennis court and sand volleyball court to play on. The playground offers slides and plenty of swings.

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There are a few different routes to take once we’re done at Manhattan Park. I prefer heading to Pioneer Club road to enjoy this beautifully scenic, paved pathway. The changing tree color is gorgeous in the fall! We like to count how many deer and squirrels we can find.

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This pathway puts you back onto Reeds Lake road where we continue around the lake. Our next stop is about a half mile away at Waterfront Park. Here, you can fish (if you’ve brought your pole), have a snack at one of the covered pavilions or watch the boats sail across the lake. Our favorite thing to do is finding frogs on the lily pads.

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Strolling on, we come to John Collins Park, our favorite destination on this trip. It offers a great open space for the kids to play, ducks to chase and a great view of the lake.

It is here that we lay out our blanket and break out the picnic I’ve packed. My baby girl can get out of the stroller and kick her legs. My son is content watching the ducks and boats. I like watching my kid’s happy faces…and eating.

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After our break at John Collins Park we’re off to the East Grand Rapids Library. Depending on everyone’s mood at this point, this is a stop we make or skip. Typically, we’ll go inside to read a few dinosaur books. If it’s warm out, this is a great break from the heat!

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Our last stop is the Woodcliff Preschool building on Hall street, if school is not in session and the playground is open to the public. It offers a great playground for kids!

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At this point, my kids are usually tuckered out, just in time for late afternoon naps.

Coming home after a walk around the lake makes me feel like I can tackle anything. I think it’s important to get yourself out beyond the four walls of your home and into the fresh air daily. It’s essential not only for your physical health, but also your mental health.

If you’re looking for something fun and free to do this fall with your family, I recommend hitting the Reeds Lake trail! What have you got to lose, besides a few extra baby pounds?