About Buddy Humphreys

Buddy Humphreys is Customer Service and Operations Manager at Play N' Learn's Playground Superstores. He's been with Play N' Learn for 7 years and in his free time spends time with his family, including 2 children.

Why Rubber Mulch Makes Playing Fun — and Keeps Kids Safe

October 17th, 2014 by

Why Rubber Mulch Makes Playing FunWhen setting up your play area, your focus is likely on the cool features of your play set. But equally important is what surrounds your play set. Having proper cushioning and support around your play area is key for keeping your kids safe while running, jumping, swinging, and sliding. That’s why we recommend rubber mulch as your ground material for your play set. Read on for why rubber mulch is our favorite material to keep play time fun.

It’s soft and absorbent
It’s important that your playground flooring protects your kids for the inevitable tumbles that happen during play. Rubber mulch is the most absorbent alternative for play sets, ranking better than wood mulch, gravel, and sand in shock absorption. Your kids will love the springy, cushioned feel of running around on rubber mulch, and if they do fall, they won’t need to worry about splinters or scrapes.

Rubber mulch is resistant to the elements
Rubber mulch does not absorb water like wood mulch, so after rain showers it dries off quickly, and it doesn’t freeze in the winter. That means no slips and falls! On top of that, rubber mulch inhibits mold growth and doesn’t harbor pests, which means there will be no unwanted playmates in your play set with rubber mulch.

It’s recycled and eco-friendly
Our rubber mulch is made from recycled tires and industrial rubber scraps. No trees are destroyed, and items that would normally go to waste are put to good use. The tires used for playground mulch are non-toxic to humans, pets, plants, and flowers, so in addition to being cushioned and comfortable, your playground will be eco-conscious and free of harsh chemicals.

It provides fun for years to come
Once you have rubber mulch, you’re set for up to 10 years. Your kids won’t have to take long play breaks while you set new mulch each season—it’s good to go! It’s also easy to clean and maintain, and the color will stick.

While the topic of what mulch to choose for your play set may not fascinate your kids, they’ll be thanking you later for giving them a safe and durable surface to do all their best playing.

If you’re interested in learning more about our rubber mulch and play set options, please reach out to us.

Get Organized to Start the School Year Strong

August 28th, 2014 by

organizationThe new school year is beginning, and with it comes the struggle of changing your family’s routine from summer camps and unstructured playtime to bus schedules and homework assignments. The first few weeks are tough for everyone, but getting organized can help your family feel prepared to get back to school. We’ve put together some tips to help ease the transition and stay on track.

Get on your new sleep schedule
Your whole family may have grown accustomed to sleeping in late over the summer, but now is the time to readjust your sleep schedules so your alarm clock doesn’t go ignored. Start shifting bedtimes up incrementally by five to ten minutes each night, and help your kids get used to going to sleep and waking up earlier.

Split up chores among the family
With everyone pulled in different directions, your family can lighten the load by splitting up chores. Create a chart on the fridge to keep track of who’s responsible for what, and track when everything gets done. One person can take out the trash, another can set out lunch boxes, and still another can help fold laundry — you get the gist! To take the guesswork out of preparing lunches, have your kids come up with a menu for the week and help you grocery shop.

Make time for work and play
As homework ramps up, your kids will need to figure out a good routine for getting it all done. However, making time for play in between assignments is also crucial for your kids to fit in their daily 60 minutes of exercise and relieve stress after school and homework. Try an after-school routine in which your kids grab a snack, play for an hour, and then do homework for a set amount of time based on how much they can handle. While it’s still light out, try to incorporate outside play breaks between assignments.

Create a master family calendar
Trying to coordinate after-school activities, doctors’ appointments, sports events, and special field trips can feel overwhelming — fast. By creating a master calendar in a central location like the kitchen, you can have a quick visual reference for who’s where (and when). Each member of the family can choose a column and a color to write his or her own activities. For younger kids, make it fun by picking out themed stickers to match certain events like sports games or tests. If your family is more tech-oriented, sync your calendars so you can easily pull up each other’s schedules and get reminders sent to your phone.

We hope your family had a fantastic summer break, and we wish you a wonderful start to the school year!

If you’re looking for ways to keep your kids active and engaged in the after-school hours, Play N’ Learn offers a wide selection of play sets, basketball hoops, and trampolines. Contact us to discuss options for your family.

5 Reasons Families Love Basketball Hoops

July 30th, 2014 by

family playing basketball2We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: We love basketball hoops. They’re fun, they’re versatile, and they don’t take up much space in your driveway or yard. With endless games to play, you can use your basketball hoop for years with your family without getting bored. Read on for our top five reasons why we love basketball hoops.

1. Everyone can play
Whether your family could hit the pro courts tomorrow or you have kids who are just learning to shoot the ball high enough to make a basket, a basketball hoop can be adjusted to meet everyone’s needs. Whatever age, fitness ability, or competition level you need to work with, you can make it happen playing around the basketball hoop. That means it’s something the whole family can do together!

2. Any size group can play
Another great feature of basketball hoops is that they accommodate anything from a solo player to a large group. From free throws and HORSE to full on pick up games, there are plenty of fun games that can incorporate everyone who wants a chance to play.

3. Basketball helps build collaboration skills
Playing basketball, whether in a full game or in smaller groups, helps kids learn to be part of a team and collaborate. In smaller games like HORSE or Lightning, taking turns, being patient, and listening to other players is crucial, and all of these skills make better team players!

4. Basketball helps build motor skills and coordination
Dribbling, lining up the shot, releasing the ball at the right time—it’s a lot to keep track of and requires a good amount of hand-eye coordination and motor skills to sink the shot. For your children, playing around the basketball hoop is a fun way for them to continue developing these skills without even realizing it.

5. Hoops help make new friends
Having a basketball hoop in the driveway is a surefire way to turn your yard into a neighborhood hotspot. Once the neighbors see your kids playing basketball outside, it won’t be long before they start trickling over to join in on the fun. Having a low-stress activity to bond over can help your kids make new friends and create a solid social network based around a healthy activity.

If you don’t have a basketball hoop already, what are you waiting for? It’s a great investment that will last until your kids are out of the house. And if you already have a hoop, why not head out today and get a game going?

View our wide range of hoop options, and get in touch to start the conversation about how we can help your family make the right pick.

5 Ways to Beat the Rainy Day Blues

July 1st, 2014 by

Boy in Rain While it may be nice most of the summer, inevitably, there will be rainy days that put a damper on everyone’s mood. When that happens, don’t let the rain slow you down—try these fun, energy-boosting activities that turn rainy days into real adventures.

1. Burn some energy at an indoor activity center
While your playground may be out of commission on a rainy day, that doesn’t mean there isn’t playing to be done. Visit an indoor activity center, like a roller skating rink, laser tag facility, a rock climbing wall, a trampoline park, or one of Play N Learn’s own indoor showrooms where your kids can play on our showroom playsets, trampolines, and basketball hoops. All of these options will help you meet (or exceed!) the recommended 60 minutes of exercise every day.

2. Attend a local rec center class
Rainy days are a great reason to see what programs your local gym or community center have to offer. Frequently, there are family or kid-friendly classes available, such as a family yoga class or sports skills clinics for the kids. Visit your recreation center in person, and discover all kinds of great activities to attend all summer long!

3. Have a dance-off in your living room
Who needs to go outside when you have the best dance floor in town in your living room? A dance-off is a sure way to get the whole family having fun and let off some steam at the same time. If you have a dance-reluctant child, he or she can act as the DJ. See how many dance moves you and your kids can make up during one song, or try to choreograph and learn a family dance together.

4. Do a walk-a-thon at your shopping mall
While the endless corridors of your local shopping mall may seem like a curse during the holidays, they make for a great exercise option when the weather isn’t cooperating. Load the family up and try a walk-a-thon at the mall. You can measure your distance in laps or minutes, or split the family up into teams and do a relay or a scavenger hunt. Walking in the mall can help you look at it in a whole new way.

5. Go get wet!
As the saying goes, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!” Grab your raincoats and rain boots and turn those rainy day lemons into rainy day lemonade, with a no-holding-back puddle jumping party. The whole neighborhood will be splashing around by the time you’re done!

It’s not so bad having a rainy day here and there if you know what to do with it: play! So the next time the skies open, rally the troops and make the most of the opportunity to do something outside the box, despite being inside.

Do you live in the Maryland or Virginia area? Visit one of our indoor play centers for a day of active fun.

Four Outdoor Games the Whole Neighborhood Can Play

June 6th, 2014 by

Bike Riding in the StreetWith school coming to a close, you may be wondering how your kids will transition from having most of their day scheduled to having more free time. While that thought can be intimidating, it’s also a great opportunity for your kids to start taking responsibility for making their own schedule of activities.

A great way to keep your kids active is to encourage them to start a summer “play league” that involves ongoing games and activities with friends and neighbors. Summer play leagues have a host of benefits, not the least of which is that it combines learning and physical fitness with our favorite thing: playing! Here, we’ve collected some of our favorite summer games that your kids can implement in their own neighborhood.

1. Capture the Flag
A summertime classic, Capture the Flag is a great game for medium to large size groups. There’s no special equipment required — all you need are two socks to use as flags and a consenting house with a front and back yard to split into sides.

Capture the Flag is a great after-dinner game for cooler evening weather. Your kids can set a time, like 7 p.m., with the other neighborhood kids for everyone to meet up at a designated house. This game is also great for organizing groups and learning to resolve conflict, as disputes about the rules are not at all uncommon!

2. Kickball or Baseball
All you need for a great kickball or baseball game is a cul-de-sac or grassy field. Using mailboxes or sidewalk chalk drawings as bases (or sticks or rocks if you’re on a field), your kids can form neighborhood teams and play together all summer long. Often, these games form on their own — or evolve out of a few kids getting together to play catch. Whatever the case, it doesn’t take long for the rest of the neighbors to get in on the action, and a proper game is in full swing.

3. Dodgeball
A friendly game of dodgeball is a sure way to get kids outside and ready to play. Plus, neighborhood parents can play, too! Put your kids in charge of making sure the teams are equally matched, and have them collect and bring a soft assortment of balls to use. Then meet up in a spacious back yard, and let the games begin! To encourage fair play and help your kids learn to resolve conflicts, have them take turns being referees and making sure everyone is playing fair.

4. Riding Bikes
Your kids can set a time during the day to go on a group bike ride around the neighborhood. Older kids can map out a route and figure out the distance, and everyone can make maps together. And you can make it a bigger event by meeting the kids at the end of the route with a drink and a snack.

In addition to getting in a good workout and outdoor air, your kids will learn how to plan ahead and follow a route — while also communicating their route in a way they can understand.

Looking for ways to add fun and fitness to your yard this summer? Play N’ Learn can help. Contact us today to learn how.

Bring the Park to Your Own Back Yard

May 6th, 2014 by

Now that spring plants are in full bloom and the animals are back from their winter vacations, it’s a great time for your family to become park rangers in your own back yard. Teaching your kids about the natural world surrounding them will help them sharpen their observation skills—and notice details they may have missed but only have to step outside to see. To get started on becoming at-home park rangers, try these tips.


1. Head to the local library to get guidebooks

During a trip to your library, check out books on flora and fauna local to your area. There will be lots of options to choose from, so encourage your kids to spend some time browsing—and to pick those they can understand and enjoy. Then head out to the back yard, and see if your kids can match what they find with the pictures in the books. How many can they find?

2. Have an outdoor exploration session

With the guidebooks in hand, have a park ranger exploration session. Everyone can grab a notebook and pencil and walk around the yard or neighborhood. Reconvene in an hour, and compare what flowers and vegetation you saw. If you have cameras, you can also practice taking photos with your kids to capture each new find. Did you all see the same types of plants? Were there some that stuck out as unusual or not native to the region? What might those be?

3. Put up a bird feeder or suet

To attract more wildlife to your back yard for observation, put up a birdfeeder or hang suet from your feeder so your yard becomes a hot spot for birds and squirrels. A hummingbird feeder is also fun. If you hang one, spend some time identifying throat colors and watching the tiny birds buzzing around the feeder.

Use your guidebooks to see what kind of food the birds in your area like to eat, and then fill your feeders accordingly—and watch as they flock to get their fill. How long will it take them to eat the entire amount?

4. Add a new plant to your garden

Your kids can read about different kinds of plants or flowers indigenous to your area, and choose one to investigate and grow in your yard. Once they make a selection, head to your local nursery to buy the plant, and then dig a hole and plant the new addition in your yard. Where will the plant get enough sun or shade? What kind of soil will it thrive in? Does it need water right away?

Help your kids do research to answer these questions and learn how to water and take care of the plant. Then sit back and enjoy watching the plant grow up alongside your kids!

Once your kids have the hang of the back yard, you can take your park ranger routine to a trail with different plants and more wildlife to see. Getting your kids outside and observing what makes up their surroundings is a great way for them to exercise their minds and their bodies at the same time. What nature activities do your family enjoy? Let us know in the comments!

Spring into Warmer Weather with a Trampoline

April 7th, 2014 by

Spring is officially here, and while the weather is still figuring that out, now is the time to start thinking about all of the fun things you can do with the longer days and warmer temperatures. Here at Play N’ Learn’s Playground Superstores, we can’t wait to get back outdoors on our trampolines. Don’t have a trampoline? Read on for why a trampoline makes a great addition to your backyard.

1. Trampolines offer endless fun

Who doesn’t love bouncing up and down? The fact of the matter is that jumping on a trampoline is just plain fun. Kids love it, adults love it, and that’s never going to change.

Whether you’re alone or with friends, trampolines offer endless fun and entertainment. You can play classic games like dodge ball or tag — or challenge your friends to few rounds of “Crack the Egg,” where one person (the egg) curls up in a ball in the middle, and everyone else bounces around trying to crack it.

Have your kids get creative by inventing new games — with a big open space for bouncing, they’ll rise to the challenge, for sure.

2. Trampolines keep us healthy and fit
Even better than the fun is that jumping on a trampoline is good for you — and can improve your cardiovascular strength, coordination, and bone and muscle strength. In fact, trampolines provide such great aerobic exercise that astronauts and athletes use them for training purposes. And in 1999, trampolining even became an official sport of the summer Olympics!

On top of that, jumping on a trampoline is low impact — and in just 10 to 20 minutes, you can burn the same amount of calories you burn from 30 minutes of jogging, without the wear and tear on your joints.

3. Trampolines fit almost any size of yard

Trampolines come in many shapes and sizes, from smaller eight-feet circles to larger rectangles or jumbo squares. So you can get one that fits the area you have available — all you really need is some level ground.

With the many size options come a number of design choices. Our AlleyOOP trampolines, for instance, come with a basketball hoop, while our revolutionary Springfree trampolines hide the frame beneath the jumping surface.

4. Trampolines come with safety features

All Play N’ Learn trampolines come with built-in safety features, including a net to reduce the risk of falling. Our AlleyOOP trampoline uses bounce technology to make it safer for multiple jumpers to jump without knocking each other off balance. And our Springfree trampolines are designed to prevent jumpers from landing on any potentially hard surfaces. Each design aims to minimize the risk associated with jumping so you can focus on the fun.

But the fun doesn’t end with jumping. With add-ons like basketball hoops and tents for trampoline sleepovers, you’ll never run out of things to do on your trampoline. It’s a simple concept that will never get old.

If you don’t have a trampoline waiting for you in your backyard, why not? Get in touch, and we can help you find the right fit.

How to Reduce Kids’ Stress with Play

March 12th, 2014 by

This time of year, with spring break on the horizon but still not here, things can start to look gloomy from your kids’ points of view. Long school days, followed by long hours of afternoon or evening homework, can put us all on the edge and make us crave downtime to play and unwind. How can you reduce the stress? These fun games and activities can help your family stay active, release pent-up energy, and ultimately add some fun and relaxation to your hectic, jam-packed days.

1. Take a break after 30 minutes of homework

If your kids are struggling to focus on homework after a long day of school, you can break their work into more manageable chunks by rewarding them with a play break after 30 minutes of focused studying. A round of HORSE in the driveway, a game of tag in the yard, or a card game can provide enough of a mental break that the next 30 minutes of work will be much more tolerable.

2. Unwind after school with a play session in your backyard or at the park

If your kids aren’t shuttling straight from school to their next activity, head out to your backyard playground or stop by your local park for a relaxing play session right after school. Alternatively, take the dog for a walk in the woods or just stroll through your neighborhood. As you know, physical exercise is proven to reduce stress, and nothing beats the fresh air of outdoor play.

3. Act out problems using characters or dolls

If your kids don’t only need downtime to unwind but also need to talk through their feelings of stress or pressures at school, try using role-playing and imagination to facilitate communication. It may seem like a game (and it is!), but it can also provide a valuable outlet for your child to express feelings of stress that they may not know how to verbalize.

4. Start an art project or a puzzle

If your kids are worn out from weekly (or daily) sports activities, or a physical activity just isn’t possible, consider an art project as a break instead. Have your kids start a drawing, sculpture, or painting that you complete in phases as the night and week wears on. Alternatively, work together on a challenging puzzle, and see how much this simple activity focuses everyone’s attention and eases the on-edge feelings.

Letting your kids flex their creative muscles can take their minds off of the stress they may be feeling from school, sports, friends, or home life.

Some bonuses that come with these stress-relieving activities? They don’t involve time in front of a screen, and your whole family can do them together. By participating in these healthy activities with your kids, you show them that positive stress relief is a lifelong habit. So go ahead — break up homework time with a little play time, and watch as your kids approach their work with a clearer, more positive mindset.

What does your family do to relieve tension after school or work? Let us know in the comments!

Stay Active for 60 Minutes Every Day

February 11th, 2014 by

Sixty minutes. Yes, it’s the length of most after-school dramas your kids may watch when they come home, but it’s also the amount of exercise they need each day. Compare that with the average six hours a day of screen time kids 8-10 get each day (and it only increases with age), and you can see why our kids have a hard time staying fit and healthy. So how can you make exercise more than just a chore that interrupts precious TV and Internet time? We’ve come up with five ways that make it fun to get off the couch and keep active.

1. Make it a neighborhood affair

Sometimes all you need to get active is a partner in crime. If your kids need more exercise, they’re likely not alone. You can use this to your advantage by planning neighborhood play nights where you invite the other kids out for kickball, capture the flag, biking, or playing on your play set. Getting to play with friends makes being active tons of fun — and won’t make exercise seem like an obligation.

2. Join a sports team

What better way to increase exercise and decrease the amount of time your kids spend in front of a screen than by joining a sports team? From intense travel leagues to lower key intramural teams, there are plenty of sports each season your kids can try. If your kids are more of the solo-athlete types, activities like dance lessons, karate, yoga, swimming, and tennis might be a good bet because they involve less socializing. If your kids enjoy being part of a team, consider basketball, lacrosse, soccer, or softball.

3. Family game night

Who said bowling and laser tag weren’t good ways to exercise? Pick one night each week that the family heads out for some active fun. Bowling will keep your kids moving around, and it helps with coordination and strength building as they control the bowling ball. Laser tag is a high-octane way to have a ton of fun, while dashing in and out of passageways. You can also try ping-pong or games like foosball and air hockey that require movement and hand-eye coordination.

4. Take the dog hiking

The family dog can be a great excuse to get active — he’s one member of the family that will never say no to going outside for an adventure. Make your dog’s walk a routine that involves the whole family, and forego your usual jaunt around the neighborhood for your local park or trails. Not only will the whole family (two and four legged) get some exercise and fresh air, but you’ll also teach your kids about exploration and appreciation of the great outdoors — not to mention proper care for family pets.

5. Make it a special event

Your kids may be more likely to respond to small exercise goals throughout the month if every now and then your family does something off the wall and totally fun. Consider horseback riding, taking a rock climbing lesson, or going to an indoor pool in winter — your kids will have more reason to stick to their daily exercise goals if they know there’s a reward coming soon. Plus, one of these off-the-beaten-path activities might just be your child’s new favorite active hobby!

So turn off the TV, close the lid on the laptop, and get outside and get moving! What creative ideas do your family use to stay active and fit? What screen time limits do you set? Let us know in comments!

4 Ways to Engage Your Kids’ Minds This Winter

January 15th, 2014 by

This winter’s historically cold weather makes it hard to enjoy the outdoors at all, let alone as much as your kids would like to play. It can be easy for your kids to turn to TV and video games to stay occupied and warm. Finding activities that are both stimulating and not frostbite-inducing can be an extra challenge this time of year. That’s why we’ve put together a list of fun things you can do with your kids this winter that are fun, warm—and stimulate their minds. Browse the options below, and if your kids are pent up inside with a case of the wiggles, try these family-friendly ideas for keeping active indoors.

1. Make pinecone bird feeders

Using only what you find in your yard and home, you and your kids can make pinecone bird feeders for all of the feathered friends trying to keep warm outside this winter. Bundle up and collect a few pinecones with spread out scales in your yard or the local park. Then, once you’re back inside, smear peanut butter on the scales and sprinkle or roll birdseed onto the peanut butter.  Your kids will have a blast covering the scales—just make sure to put a covering or plate on your work surface so you have an easy clean up!

Next, tie a string or ribbon onto the top of the pinecone, and bundle up again to pick a tree to hang the new bird feeder. To add on to the activity, have your kids identify the types of birds in your yard—and what birdseed they like best. Your kids can even make several different feeders for the different types of birds.

2. Go to the museum

Going to the museum may sound like a drag to the kids, but just about any museum can offer a load of fun. Consider an afternoon browsing paintings and sculptures in an art museum, and ask about any free family activities (many art museums offer them). Nothing for families on the day you go? Don’t let that stop you—play a game in which you challenge yourselves to make up stories about a work of art. What might the statue say if she could talk? What does she do for fun? If the gallery permits, take along a sketchpad and spend some time drawing what you see.

If your kids like to explore with their hands, a science museum might be just the ticket. Most science museums offer interactive exhibits that kids can touch, from hair-raising static electricity demos to distribute your weight evenly on a “beds of nails.” The best part? Kids learn a ton about science—and have a blast.

Stuck inside because of a snow day with bad roads? Many museums have online activities and games that your kids can play from the comfort of your home. For example, the Smithsonian has tons of options for online enrichment—one of them is bound to please your kid!

3. Go to the library

While your public library is a fantastic resource for checking out books and more, it’s also a resource for free, fun programming geared toward your kids. Most public libraries have events during the day and at night for kids of all ages, from crafts to story telling and more. It might even work out that when you drop your kids off for their activities, there might be something going on for adults, too!

4. Play board games that work your mental muscles

When you can’t leave your house, break out the board games for some fun mental stimulation. Many card and board games are actually great for your brain, but your kids probably won’t realize it because they’re having fun. Uno, Bingo, Connect Four, Scrabble, Checkers, Chess, Monopoly—you probably have a few of these games lying around, and they’re all perfect for a cold snowy day because they engage your child’s memory, develop strategic thinking, and build math and reading skills. Most can be customized to be easier or harder, depending on your child’s age.

So the next time temperatures drop and your kids start getting antsy, try one of these activities to keep your kids occupied and mentally stimulated. Soon enough, winter will be over. Until then, enjoy all of the fun you can have inside!


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