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.

March Madness Fun and Learning for the Whole Family

March 5th, 2015 by

March Madness Fun for the Whole FamilyIt’s March, and you know what that means? Spring is around the corner, the snow is melting, the flowers will soon start to bloom — and it’s March Madness time! The annual NCAA basketball tournament kicks off March 17, just in time to rescue your family from serious cabin fever after this winter’s cold temperatures and storms. We have some ideas of how to get your family through these last few cold weeks and involve everyone in the fun.

What is March Madness?
First things first: what is March Madness? Your kids can search online or head to the local library to learn about the history of the tournament. When did it start, and why? How many teams first played, and how many do now? How do teams advance? This web site is a good place to start. Once your kids have a grasp of the concept, it’s time to dive in to making brackets!

Where are all these teams from, anyway?
In order to prepare your brackets, your kids will have to find a list of what teams are playing. (Hint: try the NCAA web site.) And for an added activity, work in a simple geography lesson. Print a map of the U.S. off the internet and have your kids mark where each team plays. This is a good time to practice identifying the different states, and your kids will also start learning some of the cities within them.

Make family brackets
Now that you know how the bracket works, what teams are playing, and where they all are, it’s time to make a bracket. You can either use a printed bracket (such as these), or your kids can use a ruler and paper to draw their own brackets. You can each do one bracket, or you can do multiple brackets to see how long you can stay in it. Get friends and neighbors involved if you want to do a neighborhood bracket pool!

Turn March Madness into math madness
Once you’ve made your brackets, you can practice some math skills to determine odds. Have your kids figure out the odds that they’ve guessed the correct winning team or a perfect bracket. There are plenty of ideas for how to turn your bracket into a fun and practical math exercise —your kids won’t be able to say, “I’m never going to use this in real life” to these math problems!

Practice your shots
Now that the paper and pencil work is done, it’s time to practice your skills on the court. Use your basketball hoop or head to the local basketball court to work on your passes, layups, and free throws. It’s not a bad time to start learning some of the official rules of basketball, but if you just want to play games like HORSE to get in the spirit, that works, too!

Have an at-home tournament
Last but not least, as the tournament begins, you can host your own at-home tournament in your driveway or at a nearby park. You can check out our ideas for how to bring basketball season to your neighborhood and host a fun event for all ages.

In the mood for even more basketball? Head to a Play N’ Learn showroom to check out our range of basketball hoops. Add one to your driveway and keep the spirit of March Madness going year round!

6 Ideas for Outdoor Play in a Small Yard

February 5th, 2015 by

Outdoor Play in a Small YardDon’t have an acre or two of yard space? Think a playset is out of the question in a small yard? Not so fast. With a little creativity and the right equipment, you can transform even the smallest space into a fun play area. Here are our top picks for outdoor fun for small yards.

1. Chalkboard walls
Have a fence or a garage wall? Then you’ve got all you need for a chalkboard wall. Using simple chalkboard paint, you can create a space for your kids to draw and color with chalk, making your backyard a changing tapestry of their best artistic displays! If you don’t want to paint directly on your fence or garage, paint a piece of plywood and mount that on the wall instead.

2. Outdoor Twister
If you’ve got a small patch of grass or a driveway, you have plenty of room for your very own DIY Twister game. Using different-colored spray paints and a big piece of cardboard or paper, you can create your own board that adds a colorful burst to your backyard. You could do the same for hopscotch, too!

3. Climbing walls and rope ladders
If you can’t go out, go up! Climbing walls and rope ladders take up very little room and can be added onto existing walls. You can construct a climbing wall or rope ladder to attach to the side of your garage, the house, or a well-anchored fence. The best part is that with a trip to the lumber store and some creativity, you can install these items yourself.

4. Swingbeams and tire swings
A freestanding swingbeam doesn’t take up much space, and can be a perfect piece for those who want to get a lot of bang for their buck as far as play time goes. Swinging is great exercise and low-maintenance fun that will last for a long time! A horizontal tire swing doesn’t require much yard space, either, and can fit multiple swingers at once.

5. Ziplines, see-saws, and monkey bars
Working with a long, narrow yard? No problem. Ziplines, see-saws, and freestanding monkey bars use vertical space while taking up very little real estate on the ground, so you won’t feel like your whole yard has been overtaken by play equipment.

6. Spacesaver Swingset
Have space, just not enough for a sprawling playset? We have you covered with our Spacesaver Swingsets, which pack our most popular play elements into more compact designs. You’ll get the swings, slides, and climbing pieces that your kids want without sacrificing the whole yard.

No yard? No worries. Head to your local playground, or come visit us at our Play N’ Learn showrooms for open play, where your kids can play on our swingsets, trampolines, and basketball hoops. We hope these ideas have given you some inspiration on how to maximize your backyard fun, no matter how much — or little — space you have to work with!

5 Ideas for Active Indoor Fun

January 8th, 2015 by

Ideas for Active Indoor FunDuring the colder months when the whole family is cooped up inside, it can be tough to find ways to stay active and have fun. Instead of going into hibernation for the winter, use these cold days as reasons to explore new places in your town. There are so many options for indoor activities, and some are even free! Here’s a look at our top picks for fun and active places to play this winter.

1. Get a mental and physical workout playing laser tag.
Call up some neighbors and get a group together to head to your local laser tag spot for an afternoon of fun. Your kids will be running, rolling, hiding, aiming, making quick decisions, and forming strategies—a perfect mix of high-octane physical and mental exercise that will leave your kids happy and tired.

2. Swim during any season.
Who said swimming is just for summer? No, we’re not suggesting you and your family do a polar bear plunge to stay active—instead, head to your local YMCA or fitness center and hop in the indoor pool. Your kids can work on their swimming skills and treading water. Even with a lot of play mixed in, an hour of swimming is a great workout and will seem like a novelty since you’ll have to wear your winter coats over your bathing suits until you get inside!

3. Lace up at a skating rink.
Looking to have a lot of fun, but also get some exercise that will help develop balance and coordination? Your local roller skating or ice skating rinks can provide all of that and more. Your kids won’t even realize they are building important stability muscles while they zoom around the rinks and figure out how to do tricks, twirls, and high-speed chases.

4. Use your mall for walking, not shopping.
While you may feel like you never want to see the inside of a mall again after the holiday season, your local shopping center is actually a great resource for indoor fitness. Using the mall as a place to exercise might just be the only thing you can do there for free! You and your family can walk laps past the long stretches of shops, incorporating stairs as well to keep your hearts pumping. For the competitors in your family, you can break into relay teams and station yourself in different parts of the mall. Whichever team gets to one end of the mall and back first wins!

5. Come by our Play N’ Learn showroom.
Last but not least, Play N’ Learn can help you get through a cold winter day with open play at our indoor showroom. Loaded with playsets, basketball hoops, and trampolines, our showroom is like combining a whole neighborhood’s backyards into one. Get your kids and their friends into the car and come enjoy our tire swings, monkey bars, and slides, all for the cost of a ticket that won’t break the bank.

We hope these ideas have given you and your kids some inspiration for what to do this weekend. No excuses—it’s time to get off the couch and play!

Winter Break Activities to Occupy the Kids — and Relatives

December 10th, 2014 by

Winter Break ActivitiesWith the holiday break quickly approaching, you may be wondering how to keep your kids entertained while they’re out of school and you’re busy handling meals, relatives, and general holiday madness. This time of year, with packed calendars and cold weather limiting outside play, it can take some inspiration to figure out how to keep your kids active while you get everything done on your holiday to-do list. We’ve put together a few ideas for activities your kids, and your relatives, can do over the holiday break to avoid cabin fever.

Head to the local park
Your relatives from out of town probably don’t know your local parks and playgrounds as well as you do. If the weather cooperates, have your kids give your relatives a tour of your family’s favorite spots while you hold down the home front. After solid play sessions at all of your kids’ selected spots, your relatives will have an insider’s look at some of the best features of your neighborhood, and your kids will be worn out and happy!

Seek out indoor offerings in your community
If the weather outside is too frightful, your local library or recreation center can come in handy. Most libraries offer kids’ story times and events during the day, or kids can spend some time picking out books and videos to help occupy them over winter break. Similarly, you can sign up for classes at your local YMCA or rec center to get out of the house for either an active class or a fun crafts activity.

Help with holiday cookies
Enlisting your kids to help make cookies is one of the first ways you can start teaching them the basics of cooking, plus it will give them something to do while you’re busy in the kitchen — namely, help you! Even young kids can measure ingredients, dump them in the bowl, and taste-test along the way until the eggs go in. For gingerbread or sugar cookies, have your kids press cookie cutters into the dough and arrange them on cookie sheets. And best of all, little ones make great decorating assistants! If you have relatives visiting, encourage one of them to lead a baking session and add their favorite recipe to the holiday sweets mix.

Come visit us at the Play N’ Learn showroom
If you can designate one of your family members to be a field trip leader, a great way to keep your kids active and having fun is to make a trip to a Play N’ Learn showroom. In fact, why not spread some holiday goodwill by bringing a few of your kids’ friends along, too? Our showrooms are a great place for your kids to stay warm while they get their recommended 60 minutes of daily exercise. With trampolines, basketball hoops, and all the coolest features on our playsets, your kids will be sure to stay busy and entertained till it’s time to go home.

For more ideas on keeping your kids engaged over the winter break, read my recent blog post, “Creative Ways for Your Kids to Give Back.

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.

 


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