About Rob Unger

Robert Unger is sales manager at Play N' Learn's Playground Superstores 26 year old chain of 5 Maryland & Virginia stores. Since 2002, Rob has sold thousands of playsets, trampolines, & basketball goals to area families.

Playgrounds for Adults: An Emerging Fitness Trend

October 30th, 2014 by

Adult Playgrounds We know the many benefits our kids get from regular play on a play set or at the park: better balance and coordination, improved motor function and cardiovascular strength, decreased stress, and, ultimately, the foundation for a healthy, active lifestyle. At long last, park and playground builders are using those same principles to expand to a new demographic: adults.

Adult and senior playgrounds are popping up all over the country as a fun, less rigid way to stay fit. They feature exercise equipment and “play” pieces to help grown-ups build strength, flexibility, and endurance—all key to health and longevity, and to reversing the many health problems associated with sedentary lifestyles, such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

How much exercise do adults really need?
Both adults and seniors need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (walking, yoga, riding a bicycle, mowing your lawn) each week to maintain or lose weight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Alternatively, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (jogging, playing soccer, swimming laps) could do the trick.

The reality, though, is that less than 50 percent of adults in the United States get the recommended amount, the latest findings of the CDC reveal, with many citing reasons like too little time, costly gym memberships, and a lack of convenience.

What do playgrounds for adults look like?
These playgrounds might not have swings or a captain’s lookout, but they have exercise equipment and games designed to make fitness fun, and they’re situated in convenient outdoor locations. So instead of making the dreaded trip to the gym (or avoiding it altogether), adults can more easily make fitness part of their regular routine.

Consider what some playgrounds offer adults—and the many benefits they bring:

Hopscotch – This classic game builds bone density and works your legs and core. It also helps with balance.
Paved or unpaved paths – In these traffic-free zones, you can walk, jog, and sometimes even roller blade and cycle—all while building your cardiovascular strength, bone density, and overall muscle tone.
Climbing walls – Climbing works nearly every muscle in your body, from your core to your calves—and even your hands and fingers. On top of that, it elevates your heart rate and helps you maintain hand-eye coordination.
Fitness equipment – Leg presses, bench presses, pull up and push up bars—these are the stations you expect to find in your indoor gym, and they’re cropping up in many outdoor adult playgrounds. Used regularly, they can help you maintain and build muscle, fight osteoporosis, and even improve mood.
Zip lines – No, zip lines aren’t just for kids. They’re a great way for adults to blow off steam after a long day at work, all while conditioning your core and helping you improve coordination.

How can you find an adult playground near you?
Adult playgrounds are a growing trend, but they’re not in every town and city yet. Check your local recreation and parks department, and if you don’t see one in your area, consider reaching out to your local representatives and advocating for the need.

Of course, you can retrofit your own yard with basketball hoops, trampolines, and other fitness equipment that the whole family can enjoy. Reach out to us to discuss options.

Creative Ways for Your Kids to Give Back

September 30th, 2014 by

walking dogIt’s never too early or late for your kids to give back to the community. Often, it’s just a matter of finding the right fit. Here’s a look at some of the kid-friendly volunteer opportunities out there, plus tips on matching the activity with your child’s age, interests, and free time so they can see for themselves how rewarding community service can be.

Help out at an animal shelter
Your local animal shelter is a great place for young kids to start volunteering. While a parent or guardian will likely be required, most shelters allow minors to play with animals and give them the valuable human interaction they crave while waiting for their forever homes. Older kids may be able to walk dogs or help with more tasks to assist shelter staff. Or, you can open your home to a foster animal and teach your kids how to take care of a pet, as the shelter waits for an adopter.

Have a craft sale
Most charities need volunteers, but they also always need funds to continue their programs. A great way for your kids to help out is by doing a fundraising activity. Consider having a craft sale and donating the profits to a local non-profit. Your kids can string beads to make necklaces, draw pictures, create bracelets by braiding string, paint wooden objects, and more. Then, have them come up with prices and make posters to advertise a craft sale.

You can help your children select a non-profit based on their interests, and then plan to take your kids along to hand-deliver the proceeds in person.

Donate clothes or unused items to charities
The need for extensive closet and room clean outs is inevitable, so use the cleaning time to teach your kids how to give their clothes, toys, and household items a second life. Have them collect their gently used items and accompany you to your local shelter or donation center to see the affect their donation has on others. Simple acts like this will help your child learn that small, everyday decisions can be used to make a positive impact on others.

Volunteering is a great way to keep our kids active and engaged as the weather gets cooler, and an excellent way to unwind and de-stress as the school year ramps up. Need more ideas? Start with your child’s interests, and then search for what opportunities exist in your area. Are there senior centers nearby with residents who would like to see a play or a talent show featuring local youth? Is there a park service that needs trailblazers or litter patrol? Perhaps your child can organize a food drive or a clothes donation with friends. Choosing activities that your children are inherently interested in or suited for will keep them coming back for more, ultimately creating lifelong volunteers.

Figure out what kind of activities work best with your schedule and your child’s free time — some kids may want to spend a whole weekend volunteering and then take a break, while others prefer to give back more frequently but for smaller time commitments. And since many organizations require some form of parental supervision for minors, you’ll want to make sure you can commit the necessary time to the chosen activity, too. Happy volunteering!

Looking for ways to add more fun and play to your yard? Play N’ Learn offers a broad range of solutions, from basketball hoops and trampolines to play sets designed with your family in mind. Browse our selections.

6 Activities to Help you Enjoy the Last Days of Summer

August 11th, 2014 by

Kids on Picnic There are still a few more glorious weeks of summer vacation left, and it’s time to make the most of them! Whether your kids have been living it up all summer or they’ve fallen into an “’I’m bored” rut, now’s the time to really soak up the sun and have fun outdoors before the start of school. Read on for suggestions to help you enjoy this last stretch of summer.

1. Find a new bike path
What better way to spend a day than to venture off your beaten path to explore a new bike trail? Spend the day cruising around a new park and stopping to check out playgrounds, streams, or good climbing trees on the way. Check your state or city parks and recreation department website to browse options.

2. Take a hike on a nature trail
A park nearby likely has a nature trail, where your kids can learn about the plants and animals living in your area while hiking. If you’re lucky, you might even see one of your local animal residents while on the trail. To make more of a day of it, stop by the library in the morning to get guidebooks so your kids can identify more plants, bugs, and animals while they’re on the trail.

3. Go on a picnic
A picnic at the park (or in your back yard) is a great way to spend a few hours having some fun at lunch or dinner. Pack a blanket, a cooler of drinks, and prepare some sandwiches or an easy meal to eat. After you’re done, take a post-meal walk — or just stretch out with a good book on your blanket.

4. Have a full-scale neighborhood water fight
Get the whole neighborhood together for a full-on water fight. With sprinklers, water guns, water balloons, and slip-and-slides distributed throughout all of the yards in your neighborhood, it’s guaranteed to be a good time for all ages. You can mix in more structured events like water balloon tosses and team games during the day.

5. Catch fireflies at night
After dinner, once your neighborhood games have died down, head out to your back yard or a nearby field to catch fireflies. Use your hands or jars you have handy in the kitchen — just make sure to let them go once everyone is done playing!

6. Go backyard camping
For a fun outdoor activity that won’t require you to leave the comfort of your own yard, try backyard camping! Your friends can invite their friends over to make a night of it.

We hope you and your family enjoy the rest of your summer and can fill your days with your favorite activities! If you’d like to add some fun and games to your yard, browse our range of swing sets, basketball hoops, and trampolines — and contact us today.

Go Camping in Your Own Backyard

July 15th, 2014 by

Kids CampingSummer is the perfect time to go camping. What happens, though, when a full-fledged family camping trip just isn’t in the cards? Other commitments and a lack of modern conveniences can make it hard to get out in nature for a real camping trip, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still break out the tent. If your favorite campground or trail isn’t possible, look no further than your backyard for a fun and convenient adventure. Read on to learn how.

Pitch a tent
While it’s still light out, pick a flat spot in your backyard and break out your trusty camping tent. With some guidance, your kids can figure out how to set it up—or even do the job themselves. If you don’t own a tent, have your kids brainstorm what to use instead, such as a tarp, bed sheets, blankets. Consider tying a clothesline between trees and draping a sheet over top, or just sleep out in the open air, where you can count stars as you drift off to sleep.

Fire up the grill
If you have a fire pit, now’s a great chance to use it! If not, then use your grill to make camping foods like hot dogs, corn on the cob, and baked beans. The benefit of being in your backyard is that you don’t have to resort to building a fire from scratch to cook your dinner. Your kids can collect sticks for roasting, or you can use skewers and potholders.

Play a game
After dinner, get the family together to play an outdoor game. Create a backyard scavenger hunt, or play a few rounds of Hide-and-Seek, Duck Duck Goose, or even Ghost in the Graveyard. If you have fireflies in your backyard, you can play a game of catch-and-release. All of these games are great ways to give your family the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity a day.

Of course, spending the night outdoors provides the perfect chance for extra time on your play set. Your kids can swing before they go to bed—and wake up to take a turn down the slide!

Make s’mores
A good camping trip wouldn’t be complete without s’mores! You can make these on the grill or use the fire pit again. Encourage your kids to experiment so they can find the optimal marshmallow cooking time. Then place your order so your kids can roast marshmallows just to your liking.

Tell ghost stories
If your group can handle it (and not feel too spooked), take turns passing around the flashlight and telling ghost stories before bed. Either make up your stories on the spot or tell some you already know. Better yet, try creating a story collaboratively. Have one person make up the first line, and then take turns building on it. Don’t worry if your story starts to sound far-fetched—group ghost stories often do!

Gaze at the stars
If you’re looking for a less heart-pounding activity before bed, just stretch out on the ground and look up at the stars. Can you find Orion, the Big Dipper, or Scorpius? How about the North Star or the Milky Way? Before you head outdoors, take a look at this children’s site from NASA for tips.

Once you start backyard camping, your kids will never want to stop! And for kids who are new to sleeping outdoors, going backyard camping is the perfect trial run for the real thing.

Looking for other ways to turn your backyard into an awesome adventure? Browse our range of play sets, trampolines, and basketball goals—and keep your family active all summer long.

Five Trampoline Games to Play With Friends

June 17th, 2014 by

Girls on Tramp Back yard trampolines offer endless supplies of fitness and fun. There’s something about trampolines that attracts people like magnets — and has kids lining up and willing to wait for a turn. This summer, add some fun and adventure to your bouncing with these high-energy games on the trampoline. They’re some of our favorites!

1. Crack the Egg
Crack the Egg is a great game for a group. Pick one player to be the jumper, and the rest sit on the trampoline and hold their knees — they’re the eggs! The jumper bounces on the trampoline and tries to get the other players to “crack” open by letting go of their knees. The last person left un-cracked wins!

As kids play, have them take turns so everyone has a chance to be the jumper. And to add some critical thinking to the mix, ask your kids before you begin who they think will break open the fastest and why.

2. Do as I Do
Do as I Do is somewhat like Simon Says, but while bouncing. Choose a leader and then have everyone start bouncing. As you bounce, the leader will do movements that the group has to follow. Seems simple enough, until you have to coordinate bouncing with rubbing your stomach and patting your head! Whoever gets out of sync is out.

As you play, scale the difficulty up or down depending on the players’ age and skill level. This game is a great way to improve coordination.

3. One, Two, Three, Sit
This one’s easy — everyone stands on the trampoline. Jump three times at the same time, then on “sit,” land on your bottom. If the timing’s right, a few people will get bounced in the air. Keep on trying until you get the bounces down to a science.

4. Seat Drop War
Pick two players to face each other. Then start bouncing together and do a seat-drop, which is when you bounce down in a sitting position (and then up to a standing position) on the trampoline. Continue doing this until one person gets out of the rhythm, and try playing it tournament style — or have the winner continue on until he or she is ousted. As you play, you’ll increase muscle strength and control!

5. How Long Can You Jump?
This one is great for building endurance and getting out your wiggles. Set a timer and challenge yourselves to jumping matches. Can you jump for 3 minutes straight? What about 5 minutes — or 10 minutes? For the ultimate challenge, try 20 minutes. Just be sure to fuel up and hydrate, especially if you’re jumping in direct sunlight.

After you finish each time trial, take a 30-second heart rate. How many beats can you count? Make a chart to keep track of your answers. What do you notice happening?

Play N’ Learn’s AlleyOOP and SpringFree trampolines with nets and anchors are a safe way for you and your kids to have fun with your friends this summer. Once your kids start bouncing, they’ll invent their own trampoline games that become instant classics. Contact us today to discuss the right trampoline for your family.

4 Outdoor Ways to Celebrate the End of School

May 20th, 2014 by

Has your family started the Days-Left-Until-School’s-Over countdown yet? While end-of-the-year projects and exams may not be over yet, now is a great time to start thinking about how you and your kids can celebrate the end of the school year and kickoff the start of summer. We’ve put together a list of fun, outdoor activities to bring in the last days of school in your neighborhood. Whether your kids are shouting “no more teachers, no more books” or are sad to see the school year come to a close, these activities will make the final days of school a memorable, fun occasion—and get them pumped for the endless days of summer to come.

1. Decorate bikes with stickers and streamers

Break out the party supplies and let your kids go wild decorating their bikes. Using stickers, streamers, and ribbon, your kids can dress up their bikes and cruise around the neighborhood. By wrapping streamers or paper around the frame and putting ribbons on the handlebars, they’ll have a great time showing off their bikes as they ride around in the afternoon sun. Your kids could even attach balloons to their seats and watch them blow in the wind as they ride down a hill.

2. Have an after school basketball or trampoline party

Keep those decorations handy, and bedazzle your basketball hoop or trampoline and invite everyone over to play after school. Have your kids come up with the design, and transform your hoop or trampoline into a party zone. Not sure what games to play? Try these fun basketball ideas, and then get jumping with these zany trampoline ventures.

3. Have a chalk drawing fest

Another simple way to have fun after school is to lie out some sidewalk chalk and invite the neighbors over for a big drawing party. The kids can work in groups or on their own to create masterpieces on the sidewalks connecting all of the houses, or they can do designs on participating households’ driveways. You could even make it a friendly competition with neighbors by coming up with categories, deciding  winners, and giving prizes.

4. Celebrate in the park

If you’re willing to take the party on the road, plan a park party for the end of school. After school, bring your kids and their friends to the local park and playground so they can let loose. With a few healthy snacks, a soccer ball or basketball, and a Frisbee or jump rope, you’ll have a great time and set the tone for your active summer to come!

So whether your kids are happy or sad for the school year to be over, make these last few days a celebration of the outdoors and the fun summer to come. Need help setting up an ideal outdoor play area in your yard? Contact us today.

 

4 Basketball Games the Whole Family Can Play

April 22nd, 2014 by

 

Having a basketball hoop in the driveway is one of the simplest investments you can make to ensure countless years of fitness and fun. With endless games that you, your kids, and all of their friends can play, a basketball hoop brings everyone together, regardless of age, size, and skill level.

In addition to being a great after-school or weekend break for the whole family (you can play a game in less than ten minutes if that’s all you have), basketball, in its many forms, keeps us active, builds team-building skills, and lets us cut loose and just have fun.

If you have a hoop in your yard or at a park close by, try these easy games your whole family can enjoy.

1. HORSE

HORSE (or whatever animal name you choose) is simple to understand but can be as easy or difficult as you choose, making it ideal for all ages or players who may have mismatched skill levels. Players take turns shooting a basket from wherever they want. If they make it, everyone else has to shoot the ball from the same spot (or even the same style). Whoever misses gets a letter, and the first to have a full HORSE is out.

Fun for the whole family, a game of HORSE is full of surprises, as you never know who’s going to sink that swish shot from the far end of the driveway. Plus, it helps kids (and adults) develop coordination and strength, and pay attention to detail. Did the shooter balance on her right leg or left? Did the ball hit the backboard or the rim? Does he have HOR or HORS?

2. Lightning

Lightning is another game
with a simple concept: the first person to make a free throw gets the point. All players stand in a single file line behind the free throw line, and as soon as the first player shoots, the second player shoots and tries to get the ball in before Player 1. If you out-shoot the person in front of you, that person is out.

In this game, the whole family has to act fast—like lightning—to fire off a shot. In doing so, you’ll not only improve your aim but also learn to play under pressure and be a good sport.

With a basketball hoop like ProFormance or Goalrilla, you can adjust the height of the hoop so that all ages can have fun with this game.

3. A game of pick up

Let’s not forget the fun of a good game of pick up or one-on-one. As parents, you can scale the competitive aspect up or down, and start to teach your kids and their friends some traditional basketball rules. All the while, they’ll develop more technical skills and learn how to play as a team.

Before you start your pick up game, figure out some ground rules. Do you have to take the ball back when you get a rebound? What happens when someone fouls, and where are the boundaries? Your kids will have fun setting the guidelines—and calling you out with you “travel” or double-dribble.

4. Free play

Games are great, but unstructured free play can be just as exciting. Working on dribbling, bouncing the ball, and doing tricks like dribbling between the legs or shooting backwards can keep your kids busy for just as long as a regular basketball game. These free-play sessions teach your kids how to direct their own free time. And who knows what new skills they might pick up?

The next time you or your kids need a break, head out to your hoop and try out one of these games. No matter your kids’ (or your own) ages, basketball never gets old and can provide years of entertainment, activity, and fun. So go ahead—get out there and work on your shot!

Already know these games and looking for more options? Try some of our other suggestions.

Create a Play Set that Grows with Your Kids

March 25th, 2014 by

 

Child plays with mailbox accessoryA play set is a significant investment—if you’re in the market, you’re probably considering what you really need to get the most bang for your buck. When it comes to building out a play set for your kids, you’ll want something durable and safe but also fun enough to keep their interest for years to come. We’ve put together a quick list of things to consider while planning out your first custom play set.

 

1. Do some market research

By research, we don’t mean heading to your local library—we mean hitting up your local playgrounds or your neighbors’ backyard play sets for some hands-on product testing! What better way to find out what features your kids like best than to go straight to the source and try them out? Who knows, this may require going to new playgrounds in different parks—all the better. Spiral slides, straight slides, rope swings, monkey bars—your kids will have a chance to decide what features they like best and would love playing on in their own backyard.

2. Figure out what your kids like to do while playing

If your kids spend all day at the playground swinging, or they like running around chasing each other through obstacles, or they are more the imaginative types and like to survey their kingdoms, then you’ll want to plan your play set accordingly. High-octane chasers and climbers, for instance, might get lasting use from a rock wall, rope ladder, slides, and monkey bars, while kids who enjoy crafts might want a picnic table or fort that can serve as a quiet get-away.

3. Think about what your kids will like in the future

While it’s great to see what your kids are into right now, also keep in mind that they will get bigger—fast! Adjustable swings, for instance, allow your play set to grow as your kids grow. Know, too, that you can add and subtract many playground accessories as your children get older and develop new interests. That baby swing they couldn’t get enough of as toddlers might be replaced by a trapeze bar or tire swing, and a periscope or retractable telescope might be just the right addition for the year your kids develop a fascination with pirates.

If you have multiple kids spread across ages, you’ll want to consider what will be appropriate for all of them. Hammock swings, for instance, are ideal for older kids who like to relax with a good book in the afternoon sun, while an add-on wooden mailbox might be perfect for your younger one’s pretend play.

4. Check out the coolest playgrounds in the world

Need some inspiration for what to put in your back yard? Check out our list of the world’s coolest playgrounds to see how designers have gone outside the box in making engaging and resourceful play areas. It may get you and your kids thinking about how to turn classic playground pieces into something even better.

How did you choose the features on your playground? Let us know in the comments!

Incredibly Cool Playgrounds from Around the World

February 26th, 2014 by

It may sound unbelievable, considering the amount of snow falling from the sky this winter, but it’s almost spring—and that means it’s almost playground season. To get you in the spirit of outdoor play, we’ve compiled a list of the world’s coolest playgrounds. We’re not talking classic slides, swings, and forts here—the following playgrounds are feats of architecture in and of themselves.

1. Monstrum (Denmark)

Monstrum is a Danish group that has designed countless playgrounds all over the world. Their designs are bright, colorful, and spectacular to look at—and probably even more fun to play in. Monstrum uses kid-enticing subjects like animals and surrealism to make their playgrounds extra fun, while incorporating the playground features we know and love, like slides and climbing walls.

2. Nishi-Rokugo (Japan)

Nishi-Rokugo, which translates to “Tire Park,” is a playground made from about 3,000 old tires. Kids stay busy exploring every nook and cranny of the creatively built park’s giant tire dinosaur, tire tunnels, tire mountains, and tire swings. There are even free floating tires for your child’s inner architect to stack up and arrange to his liking, or create his own Nishi-Rokugo.

3. Ghost Train (Peru)

After an abandoned train project left behind wasted materials in 1986, the Spanish group Basumura came in to repurpose the old train materials into a huge playground. The result is Ghost Train, Peru, a one-of-a-kind venue for kids and adults alike that features, climbing walls, tires, and zip lines, On top of that, it’s environmentally friendly. What better way to use a space full of what seemed like trash than to repurpose the project into something inventive and fun for the community?

4. City Museum, Missouri

City Museum of Missouri boasts MonstoCity, built mostly from repurposed old architectural elements for kids to climb on and explore to their hearts’ content. It just goes to show that one person’s trash is another’s treasure—practically anything can be made into an exciting place to play if you think about it the right way.

We’ve barely scratched the surface of all the amazing and inventive playgrounds around the world, but hopefully these few have inspired you to get excited about the upcoming play season. These designers certainly thought outside the box about what it means to make a playground, and now you and your kids can, too! Ask your kids to imagine their dream playground—and then sketch it or create a model with blocks. Maybe at the next local playground renovation, they can pitch their ideas!

 

5 Offbeat Activities to Do in the Snow

January 29th, 2014 by

Around this time of year, winter has worn out its welcome. The novelty of snow and hot chocolate and fires in the fireplace can wear off pretty quickly, and your kids may be getting bored of the same old winter games, too. That’s why we’ve put together this list of offbeat activities your kids can do to mix things up and keep active during the next few inches of snowfall.

1. Snowsuit hula hooping

Who says you can’t have a luau in the middle of winter? Zip up your snowsuits, lace up your boots, and grab some hula hoops from the garage. There’s no fancy trick to this one—just hula hoop as usual and see how different it is when you and your kids are all suited up and standing in a few inches of snow!

2. Make colorful snow art

Your kids can bring some color to the white winter landscape—all it takes is a little food coloring from your kitchen. Dilute the food coloring with a little water, and then dribble it across the snow to create fun designs fun designs like flowers, trees, zigzags, or words. You could even make a colored hopscotch board—and double the fun.

3. Create snow animal sculptures

You’ve probably built enough snowmen this season. Why not make some snow animals? Your kids can use snow to sculpt dogs, cats, snakes, and more. Challenge older kids to figure out how to design the animals so they don’t collapse. Then do a scavenger hunt to find sticks, pine needles, and rocks to decorate the animals. What names will you give your new pets?

4. Make snow castles

Who says all of that beach gear has to stay packed away this winter? Your kids can spend a solid afternoon creating the ultimate snow fortress with the buckets and pails you use to make sandcastles in the summer. Moats, lookout towers, and bridges are all fair game, whether made of sand or snow.

5. Enjoy some snowy ice cream

Eating ice cream may not be high on your list of things to do this winter, but it might be more appealing if you can make it out of the snow in your back yard. Check out these easy recipes for snow ice cream that require only a few ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen.

Even though some days it seems like winter will never be over, there are endless possibilities for fun in the snow. We hope you have fun trying our ideas when the snow starts piling up on the ground. Know some creative play ideas for the snow? Let us know in the comments!


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