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.

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!

5 Healthy New Year’s Resolutions for Kids

December 23rd, 2013 by

New Year’s resolutions can be daunting. We all know how this is the year we’re going to start eating right and exercising every day. And how about those resolutions where we finally commit to those sweeping life changes we’ve always been meaning to make?

Needless to say, some New Year’s resolutions can be hard to complete for adults, let alone for kids. So when it comes time for your family to set goals for the New Year, how can your kids participate? Read on for our suggestions on attainable, healthy New Year’s resolutions for your kids.

1. Choose a sport or athletic activity to commit to three times a week.

Whether it’s soccer, basketball, dance, or horseback riding, if your kids aren’t already involved in an athletic activity, encourage them to start. Joining a team is an easy way to provide structure and motivation, while also helping your children make new friends.

As an alternative to sports, kids can choose an activity that requires lessons or practice a few times a week. Starting off with an activity that meets several times a week is a good way for your child to become more active without setting unrealistic expectations.

2. Drink more water and less soda and juice.

The New Year is a great time to make the switch from soda and juice and back to water. If your family is big into soda and juice, start by setting goals like “only one glass a day,” and then cut back to once every other day, and so forth, until it’s only a special treat. By cutting the calories and sugar from soda and juice, your kids will be healthier and fitter. More importantly, they’ll learn how to make healthy choices early on in life.

3. Try to eat two servings of fruit and two servings of vegetables every day.

Eating two servings of fruit is as easy as having an apple with lunch and an orange as an after-school snack. And your kids can knock out their veggie needs for the day by having some carrots with lunch and eating the vegetables that you make as part of dinner.

You can help your kids by making sure there are a few options for fruit and vegetables in the fridge that they can grab as a quick and easy snack. Need some inspiration? Take a look at our healthy snack ideas.

4. Wear a helmet.

Here’s an easy one: Your kids can resolve to always wear a helmet when doing activities that call for one. That means biking, scooter-ing, skateboarding, roller-blading—anything where the risk of falling and hitting their heads is greater than usual. To make sure your kids’ helmets are fitted correctly, check out this guide to how to fit a helmet.

5. Pick up toys when the play session is over.

In addition to being a healthy New Year, your kids can resolve to also make it a tidier one by picking up their toys and putting them away right after they’re done playing with them. It may help to remind your kids that it doesn’t take much time at all to just put something away right then instead of having to do it later.

Do your children have other New Year’s resolutions that you think would be good for other kids? Let us know in the comments!

 

Indoor Play Ideas to Keep Kids Active and Out of the Cold

November 27th, 2013 by

It may not officially be winter yet, but temperatures are dropping and it’s dark at 5 o’clock, so we won’t tell anyone if you let the “W” word slip when you’re talking about the season. These chilly and short days make it hard to get all the play in that your kids are used to from the summer, and many of us find it easier (and certainly warmer) to stay indoors.

While not as invigorating as the outdoors, indoor spaces provide plenty of play opportunities. With a little imagination, kids can get the creative outlet and physical activity they need — all within the comfort of a warm home. Read on for four indoor play ideas to keep on hand for those especially nippy days.

1. Build pillow forts

Turn your living room into an architectural masterpiece when you break out the blankets and pillows to make a pillow fort. Your kids can use chairs and side tables for support as they create a new world under their blanket fortress. When they’re done building, you can mix up the hot chocolate or cider and do an activity like playing cards, telling stories, or drawing.

2. Play Hide and Seek in the dark

No night vision goggles allowed—turn off the lights and play a nighttime game of Hide and Seek in your house. As you let your eyes adjust, your kids will have to use all of their senses to navigate around all those walls and tables they took for granted when the lights were on. It’ll be much tougher to find each other in the dark, making this a game that could keep you busy for quite a while!

3. Twist and shout with athletic games

Even with limited indoor space, you and your kids can still stay active during the winter. Spread out the Twister mat for a couple rounds of tangled fun. You can also use a regular board game and add rules like “Once everyone has taken a turn, we all have to walk up and down the stairs two times” to get some exercise while you play.

4. Head to Play N’ Learn’s indoor playgrounds

If your kids are missing their playsets during the winter, you can always come by Play N’ Learn’s indoor showroom. We have as many playsets as your kids could ever want to play on, with all types of special features and add ons. We offer open play sessions during store hours and free play on selected days and hours. It’s a fun way to get out of the house, play hard, and meet new friends — all while staying warm.

So don’t let the cold weather cramp your play style — there are plenty of indoor activities to keep you and your kids busy during those chilly fall and winter days. Do you have an indoor play idea your kids love? Let us know below in comments.

 

5 Ways to Use Play as a Coping Mechanism

October 28th, 2013 by

We often write about the benefits of everyday play for both physical and mental growth. But not every day is ordinary, and sometimes our kids have to cope with negative or confusing experiences. From larger tragedies to illness in the family or loss of a loved one, children have to get through difficult times, too, but often don’t know how to express their emotions. That’s where play comes in as a powerful coping mechanism. Read on for five ways to use play to help your child cope with difficult situations.

1. Keep play open-ended

By letting your kids create imaginary scenarios in which anything is possible, you allow them to express emotions without feeling forced. In these situations, your children can lead the play session and mold it as they see fit, allowing you to watch and listen to what your kids are really saying, as opposed to trying to coax your child into sharing.

2. Help older children by creating outlets

Older children can benefit from getting out pent up energy that they might be storing inside when they bottle up their emotions. Doing physical activities like walking or playing basketball can be a good way to help them release energy and become comfortable enough to start a conversation.

3. Let young children soothe themselves with play

Young children without full language abilities won’t be able to verbally express their emotions, but they can help themselves feel better by playing and moving around, which triggers a calming response in the brain. Make a blanket and pillow fort, and crawl around with your children to help them feel better.

4. Be neutral and on their level

One of the most powerful things you can do to help your children cope is to just be there and play with them on their level. By getting on the floor and reacting neutrally and supportively, you help your kids know they are loved. Keeping your responses as supportive and neutral as possible helps your children express feelings without a fear of being judged, scolded, or told their feelings should be different.

5. Let them talk through events

Pretend play allows children to process events and simplify them in ways they understand. They can create characters or plots to match their state of mind, reenact situations that are on their minds, or ascribe their feelings to another character in ways that might help you understand how your child really feels.

Using play to cope can be a very effective strategy for children who have experienced a traumatic, scary, or confusing event. Sometimes, the best way to help your child is to just be there and listen, and let play do the rest.


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