Stay Safe on the Playground this Winter

January 22nd, 2015 by

Stay Safe on the Playground this WinterDo colder temperatures, ice, and snow mean your backyard playset or local playground is off-limits till spring? Not at all. Even though you may balk at the idea of going outside in the cold, most kids are still raring to go. Instead of going stir-crazy inside all winter, why not embrace the outdoors as you do at other times of year? But first, check out our tips on how to stay safe on your playset or playground this winter. Then, get out there and play!

1. Inspect your playset equipment.
Your local playground should have maintenance personnel assigned to its upkeep, but your backyard playset will need to be checked each season to make sure all of the parts are still in good working order. Ideally, you should check your playset at the beginning and end of the peak play season for wear and tear, parts that need to be replaced, and other damage. But especially if you haven’t done a fall inspection, take a look at your playset now that the cold weather has come to see if any new vulnerabilities have been exposed—for example, loose boards, a cracked slide, or protruding nails or screws.

2. Check for ice.
Before you start your play session, check your playground equipment thoroughly for ice or snow build-up. Ice can be especially dangerous on hand- and foot-holds (like those on ladders and monkey bars), where it’s easy to slip and fall. If you can chip away any ice build-up, then you’re all clear. But avoid any parts of the playground that aren’t free of ice or snow. The same goes for your rubber mulch or footing—if it’s frozen, don’t play! Your kids rely on the absorbency of the material to protect them from falls.

3. Watch the weather.
If it’s below freezing or there’s freezing rain, stick to an indoor play session. Particularly when there’s precipitation in colder temperatures, ice can form rapidly and create unsafe conditions even if things were safe when you started playing. When it’s cold, limit your outdoor play to short sessions to avoid frostbite.

4. Suit up in the right snow gear.
Since your kids will be bundled up more than in the summer, it’s important to make sure their clothing is as safe as possible. That means avoiding scarves and drawstrings, which can get caught on play equipment, and not wearing nylon pants, which can make your child go too fast on a slide. It also means making sure your kids are warm and dry, so break out those hats, boots, gloves, and layers!

The last step is to make sure you have hot chocolate in the pantry to enjoy when you’re done playing! Need more ideas on what to do outside this winter? Check out our suggestions for how to turn your playset into a winter wonderland to get the most out of your playset this season.

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!

Last-Minute Gift Giving Ideas for Kids

December 18th, 2014 by

Winter Break ActivitiesThe holidays seem to sneak up on all of us, and when your kids find themselves without presents for family and friends, they’ll need last-minute options that won’t break the piggy bank. From meaningful crafts to useful coupons for services or cost effective, creative gifts, your kids will have a back up plan to make sure they’re ready for the holidays! Here are our top picks for last-minute gift giving ideas for kids.

Handmade picture frames with special photos
Using an inexpensive frame from a craft store, or even popsicle sticks, your kids can make a personalized frame to hold a photo with special meaning. They can unleash their inner artists and decorate the frame with buttons, feathers, glitter, or letters to make the frame more personal. You can help them pick a family photo or a meaningful picture and get it printed. A thoughtful gift with a personal touch goes a long way!

Coupons for helping out mom and dad around the house
Who doesn’t love some free help? Coupons are a great gift for kids who don’t have a big budget to draw from. Your kids can create a coupon book that they can draw and decorate, or your older kids can make coupons on the computer if they are feeling extra professional. Have your kids think about coupons for items that would be truly helpful, like doing the dishes, helping with laundry, or walking the dog. Giving Mom or Dad back some of their valuable time by taking some chores off their lists can be even better than a physical gift!

Decorated mugs or cups
Using just ceramic mugs or cups and sharpies, your kids can create personalized and creative items for the whole family. For kids who like art, this gift is a great opportunity to show off their design and drawing skills. Simple white mugs or cups are inexpensive and provide a great blank canvas for creating a memorable and functional gift.

A future “Day of Fun”
For a gift that works for anyone in the family, your kids can give a full day of fun that they’ll spend with the gift recipient. Your kid and the recipient can plan the day together or your kid can plan it alone so that the day is a thoughtful surprise. Spending a day enjoying each other’s company is a nice way for your kids to show a family member they care.

Make a playlist
For tech savvy kids, making a mixtape of songs, podcasts, or books on tape for a family member is an easy way to make a gift at home that still shows that they put time and effort into putting something together. Your kids can research popular podcasts or artists and create a playlist that the recipient can download—a perfect last minute gift that your kids can do from home!

We hope these ideas have sparked your kids’ imaginations to make cost-effective, creative, and meaningful gifts this holiday season. Happy Holidays from all of us here at Play N Learn!

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.

Bring Basketball Season to Your Neighborhood

December 1st, 2014 by

basketball tournamentThe cold and dark days of late fall may be driving you to take cover indoors, but that doesn’t mean sports mania has lessened any around the country. College basketball season is in full swing, and many undergraduate students will be lining up for hours and even camping out to get tickets to games. Why not bring some of that excitement to your neighborhood by organizing a community basketball tournament? Here are some ideas on how to do it:

1. Decide what the events will be.
Will you play regular games? Will they be 3-on-3, or will the teams be larger? Will there be modified, family-friendly games like HORSE for younger players? You can also decide whether all of the games will take place at one house with all of the participants cheering each other on, or whether your tournament will be spread out across multiple basketball hoops in the neighborhood. Or, you can reserve a basketball court at a nearby park and really get things going with a full-court game!

2. Get the neighborhood pumped up with publicity.
Have your kids hop on the computer or hand-draw signs promoting the basketball tournament and announcing the location, date, and time. You could even post a sign-up sheet near your mailbox for everyone to reserve spots and form teams (or if your neighborhood is tech-savvy, you can organize it on a Facebook group or an app like Sign-Up Genius). You can have kids’ teams and adult teams, or you can mix everyone together so the teams are balanced. For people who don’t want to play but still want to participate, have them sign up to bring snacks, take photos, or be the announcer. You could even have neighbors show off their other talents during a half-time performance!

3. Plan the day.
Your kids can help you put together a schedule of the order of the games and who will play when. Then they can post the schedules around the neighborhood and spread the word to their friends. On the day of the tournament, set up a snack station and sign-in table, and have people bring folding chairs to sit in while they wait for their turn to play. You can set up other games to keep players occupied during downtime, like obstacle courses for younger kids. And how about recruiting someone to man a hot chocolate station to keep spectators warm and happy?

4. Have fun!
Enjoy a great day of basketball and fun with your whole neighborhood. When the day is over, you can send pictures to everyone who participated and post the winning teams and scores. Spending a day outside playing together is a great way to relieve stress from holiday planning, school, and work—all while fostering a sense of community. Who knows? You may be starting a new neighborhood tradition!

If you’re looking to add some friendly competition to your driveway or neighborhood, Play N’ Learn carries and installs a range of basketball hoops. Get in touch today to find out more.

Lure the Kids Outdoors with an Obstacle Course

November 21st, 2014 by

Adult PlaygroundsWith the cooler weather and earlier sunset, it may be hard to motivate your kids to go outside to play. It’s cold—and there’s so much homework! Fitting in 60 minutes of daily exercise may seem like the last thing your kids want to do.

When motivation is hard to come by, it’s time to invent some new ways to use what you have on hand to get your kids excited about playing. Enter: backyard obstacle courses.

The backyard might seem like old news to your kids after many months of playing outdoors. By using what you already have in your yard and garage, however, you can set up an obstacle course that changes the way your kids think about their play equipment. To get started, pick and choose some of the obstacle course ideas below. Arrange the activities in any order, and encourage your kids to come up with new configurations and help determine the rules. Then let them loose for an afternoon of climbing, jumping, running, aiming, sliding — and a whole lot of outdoor fun.

1. Hop through hula hoops on the ground
2. Take to the basketball hoop for a game of HORSE or Lightning, or shoot until you make 5 free throws or layups
3. Dribble the basketball for 2 minutes straight
4. Swing 20 times on a swing
5. Make a chalk drawing on the driveway
6. Do 5 creative bounces on the trampoline
7. Climb up the rope ladder and go down the slide
8. Climb up the slide backwards
9. Walk heel to toe on top of a jump rope
10. Collect balls from around the yard and throw them in a bucket
11. Make a fitness box out of pool noodles and do 10 jumping jacks or pushups
12. Make a balance beam out of a long 2×4 or log

Try a course that takes your kids around your whole yard. You can start with combinations of a few obstacles and work up to a long course that everyone has to remember. Your kids can judge the winner on both time and accuracy so that memory, coordination, balance, and skill are all part of the game.

Between practicing and learning the courses and actually completing them, your kids will burn through an hour of playtime with no problem. For older kids, add a challenge by having them plan out the courses and design obstacles, and try to work in different features of your playset to provide more variety. Your kids will start to see the backyard in a whole new way!

If you’d like to add something new to your outdoor play area or indoor rec room, Play N’ Learn has a wide range of swing sets, slides, mulch, basketball hoops, trampolines, pool tables, and other play-inspiring fun. Reach out to discuss options for your family.

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.

Why Rubber Mulch Makes Playing Fun — and Keeps Kids Safe

October 17th, 2014 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Get Organized to Start the School Year Strong

August 28th, 2014 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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