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.

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!

4 Ways Kids Can Give Back During the Holidays

December 10th, 2013 by

The holidays are here, and although ’tis the season for over-the-top shopping and sales, it’s also a perfect time to give back to your community. Quite likely, your kids are bouncing off the walls with pre-holiday excitement, so why not put that energy to good use? Read on for four easy, safe ways for your children to give back during the holiday season.

1. Donate old clothes and toys to charity

In the next week or so, plan a weeding-out session in which all family members pick out clothes and toys they no longer use to donate to a charitable thrift store. Keep in mind that kids get attached to all kinds of things, even shoes they’ve outgrown or stuffed animals haven’t played with in years, so don’t be surprised if they’re reluctant to contribute. Just reiterate that they’re not only helping another family, they’re giving their old toys a new home — and making space for any new toys the holiday season brings.

Whatever your family ends up donating, take your kids along for the drop off and involve them in the process as much as you can.

2. Make greeting cards for the less fortunate

Bring out your markers, construction paper, glitter, and glue, and spend an afternoon creating holiday greeting cards for the less fortunate. Your kids can express their creativity and design as many cards as they like, and then take them to a local homeless shelter or charitable organization that can distribute the cards to those in need of season’s greetings.

3. Volunteer a few hours

Your children can also help by volunteering at an organization in need of help this time of year. Consider volunteering with your kids at a local food bank, or head to a senior center to spread holiday smiles. There are a variety of ways children of all ages can get involved that make a difference.

Older children may be able to come up with a way to give back that suits their interests, like helping at an animal shelter or heading down to the homeless shelter to help serve a meal.

4. Save up change to donate to a charity

A simple way for your kids to give back is by donating their spare change to a charity of choice. If they have a stash of coins on hand in a piggy bank, they can pull their donation from there. Otherwise, just decorate a mason jar, make a coin slot on top, and see how many coins your family can collect before your kids are ready to make a donation. After they make this year’s donation, set a goal and start collecting for next year. How much can you accumulate?

Letting your kids choose what organization to support will challenge them to think about what issues they value and provide a real sense of fulfillment. Older children can research charities online to get a better sense of the options and figure out where they want their money to go.

These four choices make it fun and easy for kids (and whole families) to give back. By encouraging your kids to take part, you’re also teaching them the importance of community service — and giving them the confidence to get out there and make a difference. Does your family have a holiday tradition of giving back? Let us know how you give back in the comments!

 

How Much Play Supervision is Too Much? Three Ways to Let Go of Control

November 12th, 2013 by

Letting our kids run wild in the world can be a daunting idea. From scraped knees to traffic to tough social interactions with other kids, it can be tempting to stay by our kids’ side at all times and swoop in at the first sign of distress.

Yet today’s culture of constant supervision (and helicopter parenting) could actually hurt rather than help our kids, and it’s important to strike a balance. When parents are always present during play time, it can lead kids to think of their mom or dad as the leader of their play time. That doesn’t sound so bad, but when you don’t have an activity planned or you’re unable to play with your kids, they end up not knowing what to do, getting bored, and turning to easy diversions like video games while they wait for your lead.

According to blogger and author Lenore Skenazy, who wrote Free Range Kids, children need

So how can you loosen your reins — and get to the point where your kids can have free play?

1. Teach your kids boundaries when they are young

When your kids are young, teach them how to act appropriately and make good decisions in play. Help them try out the playground equipment and take risks while you’re around to supervise their first try, but gradually back off and let them do more on their own. Show them fun games they can play with their friends, like tag and basketball, and help them learn the rules that make these games run smoothly.

2. Start to walk away

Once your kids are old enough to lead their own play outside of the house, start to give them some independence. Let them play in the yard on the playset or with the basketball hoop while you’re inside or in the yard doing other things. When the time is right, let them venture outside your yard and out into the neighborhood. As they build skills and confidence, let them go further afield.

3. Take it to the playground

Bring your kids and their friends to the playground or park and let them run loose. You can go to a different area of the park and read a book or just relax while they figure out how to entertain themselves. Letting your kids learn how to be outside the perceived safety of the yard and make responsible decisions while playing is a skill they’ll need as they get older. Remember that the independence and confidence they gain when you’re out of sight and out of mind is crucial for their development.

By teaching your kids how to take risks but be safe, you’ll instill values that they’ll take with them when they play on their own. Plus, you’ll get a little free time from not keeping a constant eye on what your kids are doing!

The Top 3 Reasons Your Playset Should Have a Roof Feature

October 14th, 2013 by

Playset with roof featureThere are still some good play days left before all outdoor activities will be about sleds and snowballs. When it comes to making every day a good day to play on the swingset, having a roof feature is key. It can protect your kids (and your equipment) from the elements, making your fort a great place to hang out and play in way more weather conditions than just 70 and sunny.

Why is a roof feature such a good thing to have?

1. It keeps your kids safe from the sun
The sun can be damaging during any season, and despite all the sunscreen in the world, your kids will likely get a lot of sun exposure when playing outside. A roof feature ensures that at least one part of your back yard has shade for your kids to escape harsh sunbeams throughout their play session. And when summer rolls back around, a roof can provide good shelter for your kids during the day when the sun is pounding down on every other part of the yard. Your kids can take a break from swinging and sliding and play captain and lookout from under the cool protection of the second story.

2. It keeps your play equipment cool
The valuable shade that a roof feature provides keeps the sun at bay in a second way as well—it provides a shaded area to help keep your play equipment cool. Putting a roof over your play area can help ensure that your equipment isn’t so hot from the sun that it’s unbearable to play on. Plus, if your roof overhangs any other equipment, like a climbing wall or rope ladder, it will keep those features of the direct sun and cool as well.

3. It keeps kids and equipment dry during rain
The sun isn’t the only thing that can slow your kids down during play. Rain can put a major damper on outside activities. But with a roof, the fort part of your playset can remain dry—and if your kids run there for cover during an unexpected rain, so can they. The fort is a great spot to wait out a rain shower and plot your next play moves. Plus, keeping the play set safe from the elements helps prevent premature weathering.

So if your playset doesn’t have a roof, what are you waiting for? Your playset can become an all-weather play zone for your kids. Picnics, board games, play strategy, and fun with friends can all happen under the protection of your fort’s roof.

A History of the Playground: Part Two

September 9th, 2013 by

Young boy playing on a playground climbing wallIn our last post, we talked about the beginnings of the modern playground in America. This week, we’ll bring you up to speed to today’s playground movement.

Playgrounds Get Safer (and More Fun)
As playgrounds became a selling point for fast food restaurants, parks, and schoolyards, the business of playground manufacturing took off. As play equipment became more popular and common around every corner, safety regulations soon caught up. Potentially unsafe equipment was modified, and certain structures like climbing domes soon left most play areas due to risk of injury.

With new and improved safety features and more technology on the playground’s side, we can now offer features like shock-absorbing rubber mulch, strong, durable redwood on our playsets, and safety nets and padding on our trampolines. Not to mention, all of these years of kids playing have helped the playground industry develop some pretty cool new additions, like rope ladders, climbing walls, and tons of accessories that add to the play experience.

The Research is in
We now know after looking at the research that these add ons aren’t just for extra fun—playing on a playground can actually have many benefits besides putting a smile on your face. Playgrounds help promote healthy physical and mental development in children, including improving coordination and cooperation skills. The health benefits of playgrounds even extend to children with autism.

The New Playground
Just like when concept of the playground began gaining traction in America in the beginning of the 20th century, community organizers today still believe that the benefits of play are critical for children. Where access to playgrounds is scarce due to ill-maintained equipment or unsafe streets, new programs come in with solutions.

One of these movements is the pop-up playground. Neighborhood leaders section off a street on a certain day and promote play for all ages and try to teach kids sustainable habits. Charity groups also step in where playgrounds are needed most, securing the funds and materials to ensure all children have the opportunity to play.

As we learn more and more about the benefits playgrounds have on kids and their communities, the future of the playground is bound to be bright. Stop by your local playground with your kids and see what the all the talk is about—odds are good you’ll all leave a little bit happier!

A History of the Playground, Part One

August 22nd, 2013 by

A History of the Playground, Part OneIt’s hard to remember a time when playgrounds weren’t the norm. Today, any park or schoolyard without one would be lacking. You may be surprised to know, then, that the idea of the modern playground hasn’t been around for that long, although it has gone through substantial changes since its beginnings. Read on to learn more about the history of the playground.

Origins

Many of the components found on today’s playgrounds developed long before the origins of the modern concept of the playground. In fact, swings have been seen in ancient Greek art dating back to the 5th Century B.C., and much art since then has included people playing on swings. Other items like ladders, captain’s wheels, and telescopes existed for functional purposes and were later pieced together to make a fun playground experience.

Development

Although the first playgrounds as we know them originated in Europe in the mid-1850’s, the first American playground did not open until 1887 in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

Both parents and civic leaders quickly realized that playgrounds had an essential role in their communities. President Theodore Roosevelt spoke out for the need for playgrounds, stating that city streets were an unsafe place for play and backyards were too small. He believed play was a fundamental need for children, and that it was important to have playgrounds in all cities within walking distance of all children.

Playgrounds began popping up all over the country throughout the early decades of the 1900s, with seesaws, climbing structures, and more. By this point, it was generally agreed upon that playgrounds promoted development of social skills and physical coordination. The spontaneous play that happened on a playground was proving to be hugely beneficial for children’s development.

With this realization came more commercial development, and thus the business of play was born. Corporations like McDonald’s and other fast food restaurants capitalized on the popularity of playgrounds, and big box manufacturers started cashing in on the new craze—but not without consequence. Stay tuned for our next post about the next phase in the playground’s history!

How a Trampoline Can Make Your Child Fit

July 30th, 2013 by

How a Trampoline Can Make Your Child FitWhen it comes to summer fun, it doesn’t get much better than jumping on a trampoline in the backyard on a sunny day. Bouncing high is a thrill and your kids probably can’t get enough of it, which brings us to our good news: Jumping on the trampoline can actually make your child fit. It’s a great form of exercise! Don’t believe us? Here’s how!

  • Jumping on a trampoline, or “rebounding,” is an aerobic exercise that increases the heart rate and improves cardiovascular strength. A strong heart will help your child play hard and play often.
  • Bouncing on a trampoline also helps your child develop better balance and coordination, as the springy surface requires control and strength to maintain the same path and weight distribution. Every time your child jumps, he will have to find a new center of gravity. Jumping on the trampoline requires your child to use many of his muscles: His legs to jump, his arms to balance, his core to stabilize—it is a workout that engages the entire body.
  • The weight bearing motion of jumping strengthens bones and muscles, helping your child’s body become strong and resilient. Jumping on the trampoline is not as hard on the joints as activities like running because the trampoline mat absorbs some of the shock of impact. Jumping on the trampoline is a lower-impact form of exercise for your child, making it an appealing and safe way to become healthier.
  • And last but not least, it’s fun! What kid would say no to bouncing on a trampoline? Because jumping on the trampoline is seen as a play activity instead of structured exercise, odds are good you’ll have a much easier time convincing your kid to jump on the trampoline for 10 minutes as opposed to going on a walk around the neighborhood. Who knows, your kids might make it to the trampoline Olympics one day!

So next time your kids are ready to run out to the trampoline to play, you can send them without reservation since they’ll also be getting some unintentional exercise. As long as your kids are following regular trampoline safety (only one jumper at a time, and no flips!) and your trampoline is properly maintained, bouncing on the trampoline is a fun way to play and keep the body strong.


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