How to Join the Fun on National Play Outside Day

October 2nd, 2015 by

How to Join the Fun on National Play Outside DayDid you know that every first Saturday of every month is National Play Outside Day? Created in 2011 to encourage families to get outside and get moving, this “holiday” is a great way to make playing outside feel like an occasion. There are no formal, scheduled events associated with National Play Outside Day, but you can make it an event each month with your family. All you have to do to celebrate is go outside and have fun.

We’ve written before about just how beneficial and long-lasting the impacts of outdoor play can be. Yet in recent decades, children have begun to stay indoors more, spending as few as 30 minutes outside playing each day, but six or more hours a day on screens, according to a BBC article. All troubling information given that outdoor play can help young minds and bodies stay healthy.

In the face of chillier weather and shorter days, TV, computers, tablets, phones, gadgets, and other indoor activities become even more alluring. Some days it takes a concerted effort to get kids outside. Putting National Play Outside Day on your calendar for the first Saturday of each month is a great way to make sure you have dedicated time set aside for fun outdoor activities. If your kids love it, they’ll look forward to it over and over again each month.

So what kinds of activities can your family do to celebrate that will make outdoor play feel like a special occasion? Here are a few ideas:

  • Try a new biking path, let the kids help choose where to go, and then show them on a map how far you went.
  • Go apple picking at a local farm — see how many different types of apples you can identify — then make your favorite apple recipe at home with what you picked.
  • Hold a family HORSE tournament, and let the winner choose the dinner menu. Fun in the driveway often attracts other neighborhood kids. Before you know it, your kids will be making new friends around something other than a video game.
  • Invite neighbors to join in on a block party with relay games. Who doesn’t love a party?
  • Try out a different playground. It’s easy to go with what is familiar, but maybe the next town over has a playground that has different equipment, new slides, and new friends to meet!
  • Take your dog to the park to play catch. Even he probably needs more exercise! Let the kids invent a new game for the dog, or check out these 10 fun games kids can play with dogs.
  • Go on a nature walk and look for interesting plants and animals, or observe how the leaves are changing.
  • Make an obstacle course in the yard using household items and then invite friends — or even the family dog — to give it a try!

You get the idea — anything outside counts! Getting the whole family outdoors helps make new memories, models an active lifestyle, and creates respect for the environment — all important things for kids to learn early on. Take the opportunity for kids to use their imaginations, your family to meet new friends, and for parents to feel young again and have an excuse to unplug.

Getting outside doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or require a long trip in the car. You can celebrate National Play Outside Day in your own backyard or driveway!

If you’re looking for inspiration on how to encourage play in your yard or neighborhood, stop by a Play N’ Learn showroom to check out our playsets, basketball hoops, and more.

4 Tips to Help Kids Get Daily Exercise

September 23rd, 2015 by

4 Tips to Help Kids Get Daily ExerciseWith school back in session, you’ve likely noticed that homework and extracurricular activities are now taking over the bulk of your child’s after-school hours. These afternoon and evening commitments make for a busy family life — and leave little room for the 60 minutes of daily exercise recommended for kids by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Why is daily exercise so critical? Exercise can lower risk factors for health issues like diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease, as well as obesity. Plus, it can reduce stress and help kids feel better about themselves. Instilling healthy exercise and play habits in childhood increases the likelihood of your child having a positive attitude about being active as an adult. But how can you make it happen, with so many other priorities on your family’s plate?

Chunk it up
Instead of tackling the entire 60 minutes at once, break it up into manageable portions that work with your other commitments. Have time to kill between after-school activities? Swing by the playground, take a walk around the block, or play a quick game of tag. Find other opportunities for active play throughout the day — before breakfast, while you’re waiting for the school bus, or after dinner — and 60 minutes will feel far less intimidating.

Forgo the car or bus
Instead of taking the car or bus to your destination, swap in bikes, scooters, or your own two feet to travel from point A to B. Kids love the adventure and benefit from the fresh air. And as an added bonus, you’ll get some exercise and fresh air, too.

Take homework breaks
Most kids have homework every night of the week, and the older they get, the longer those homework hours become. That’s why it’s so important to take active breaks during study sessions. Try a round of jumping jacks, push-ups, jogging in place, or hula-hooping. These activities won’t just help reach the 60-minute exercise goal — studies have shown that intervals of exercise are like fuel for the brain, helping kids focus and learn better.

Make play convenient
Busy families are short on time, and convenience matters. One of the most convenient places for active play, of course, is in and around your own home. But how can you make it fun and enticing for your kids? You have options:

• Put on some music and clear out a space in your house for dancing.
• Set up an obstacle course in your yard.
• Add some outdoor play equipment, such as a play set, soccer goal, basketball hoop, or trampoline.

With play sets, for instance, you can swap out or add accessories as your kids get older. Tire swings, fire poles, trapeze bars, rock climbing walls — a number of options can keep your kids engaged in active fun for years on end. Similarly, an adjustable basketball hoop in the driveway can grow with your kids — and offer a chance for the whole family to get in on the action.

Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore or something that you need huge blocks of time to accomplish — use what you’ve got to make it fun, and consider adding play equipment to your house and yard for added convenience. Ready to get started? Drop by one of our showrooms and explore ideas with a play specialist.

Prioritize Health as Part of National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

September 2nd, 2015 by

National Childhood Obesity Awareness MonthSeptember brings the first day of fall, back to school season, and an opportunity to evaluate your child’s nutrition as part of National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Whether you’re confident that you’re making healthy choices or looking for a good way to start, there are things you can do to help your sprouts grow up strong and fit.

Make sure your kids get exercise, and enough of it
The CDC recommends that children get 60 minutes of exercise each day. That sounds like a lot, but replace two episodes of after-school TV with play time, and you’ve already done it. If your kids are bored with their normal play routines, see if they want to join a sport or take classes, get friends involved, or start a neighborhood play club to keep them engaged and interested. We have a broad range of fun play ideas in our blog archives.

Ensure safe and accessible park space
Even your best efforts to keep kids active can be met with difficulty when children don’t have safe and accessible places to play. That makes it difficult to go outside and get the playtime that’s crucial for physical and emotional development, let alone the recommended amount of exercise necessary to keep kids at a healthy weight. Time and again, we see examples of neighborhoods banding together with nonprofits or their local governments to turn unused land or run-down parks into places that are great for play.

Provide healthy and nutritious snacks
In addition to sedentary lifestyles, poor nutrition is a big factor in childhood obesity. So instead of letting kids chow down on processed snacks and junk foods, fuel their play with fun snacks that also meet their nutritional needs—fruits, nuts, veggies, and more. You can also model good eating behaviors by drinking water instead of soda or sugary fruit juice and making healthy food choices yourself—after all, your kids look up to you to see what decisions you make, even if they say they don’t.

Know what’s normal and what isn’t
It can be hard to know whether your child is just going through a normal growth spurt or their weight gain is the beginning of an unhealthy pattern. The USDA has a helpful guide on how to navigate the sometimes tricky growth patterns your kids are going through. Most of all, your child’s pediatrician will be able to advise you about whether your child’s weight is normal. It’s generally better to model healthy habits and encourage kids to get out and play more, instead of imposing diets or focusing on losing weight—what’s important is for your kids to stay healthy and take care of the body they’re in.

The biggest takeaway: there’s no such thing as too much play.

Looking for ways to make your backyard an endless source of fun for your kids? Stop by one of our Play N’ Learn showrooms, and we can help you turn your yard into an active, nonstop fun zone.

How to Choose the Right Play Set for Your Yard

August 13th, 2015 by

How to Choose the Right Play Set for Your YardGetting a new play set or upgrading your existing play structure can feel daunting. From the variations of slides and swings to features like forts, climbing walls, monkey bars, and even chalk boards, the options are endless — and the decision isn’t something to take lightly, given that most play sets are a family’s hub of fun and activity for years on end. Where do you begin? What can help you find the right fit?

Below, we guide you through the process.

How do I get started?
Browsing play sets and accessories online is a great way to get initial ideas, but meeting with a play set specialist and seeing the options in person is always best. After all, you can compare the different sizes and add-on options, and a knowledgeable sales associate can chat with you about your needs and make recommendations based on the ages of your kids and the size of your yard. If you visit one of our showrooms, your kids can try out some of our play sets firsthand — and you’ll be able to see what excites them.

What if I have a play set I need to get removed first?
If you’re buying a play set from Play N’ Learn, we can remove your existing structure for a small fee. That way, your play set experience can be streamlined — and you won’t need to make arrangements with multiple companies. We’ll handle it all for you.

Can I still get a play set if my yard isn’t level or my yard isn’t big enough?
A short answer to this question is — absolutely! But it’s a question many families ask when they walk in our showrooms. Remember: the way we display play sets in the showroom isn’t at all how they have to look in your yard. The displays are there to give you ideas and let kids try out the options. If your yard isn’t perfectly flat, we can adjust the legs or add a different length slide. And if your dream play set won’t fit the current dimensions of your yard, we can shorten the swing beams or reconfigure slides and ladders to work around your space limitations. Plenty of options exist for uneven, awkwardly shaped, and even really small yards. So don’t let any of these stop you.

What if my HOA declines me?
In most cases, since our play sets are not fixed permanently to the ground, and since they come in neutral colors, they’re usually not declined by HOAs. If you’re awaiting HOA approval, we can stagger installation so that you can get the full go-ahead from the time you purchase to the day we install the swing set. And if you get declined, your purchase is fully refundable.

Can I add on more features later?
If you want to start with a smaller set and build out as your kids get older, that’s completely fine. Our swing sets are made so that you can add features like monkey bars, fire poles, tire swings, and other great accessories that can vary the play experience year after year. For instance, you might start with features like the captain’s wheel or telescopes for young kids who like to play imaginary games, and later decide to add accessories like a rock climbing wall for older kids who like a challenge or a hammock swing for those who like to relax and read. In this way, your play set investment keeps going.

At Play N’ Learn, we provide a full range of play equipment and specialize in helping families make choices that can grow alongside their kids and create lasting memories. Stop by one of our showrooms, and we’ll point you in the right direction.

Bring the Fun of Summer Camp to Your Backyard

July 23rd, 2015 by

Bring the Fun of Summer Camp to Your BackyardDo your kids go to summer camp? Playing all day with friends, having adventures, and being outdoors make for an unforgettable summer. But guess what? Your kids can experience this kind of fun whether they go to camp or not! Here are some classic games and activities that let you bring the fun of summer camp into your own backyard.

Capture the Flag
Round up friends and neighbors for an easy game of Capture the Flag. The division between your front and back yard makes a good boundary for the two teams. All you need for a “flag” is a sock or handkerchief. You can play during the day or at dusk or dark, and any place in your yard is fair game for hiding the flag, whether it’s a tree, part of the house, or a good nook or hard-to-reach spot on your playset. Here’s an overview of the game’s rules.

Water Balloon Wars
Fill up a bunch of water balloons and split into two teams. Take turns aiming and firing at the other team — below the neck only! Anyone who gets hit has to sit down. After the first round, it’s a free-for-all, and the object is to get across the enemy line without getting hit. You can make this more challenging by extending the play area to include hills or obstacles.

Drip Drip Drop
A hot-weather variation on Duck Duck Goose, Drip Drip Drop uses the same rules of one person walking around the circle of players sitting on the ground. Instead of tapping the players on the head, the standing person drips water from a cup onto their heads. On “drop,” the rest of the cup is poured over the sitting player’s head, and the chase is on!

Nature Walks
Going on hikes and exploring the outdoors is a quintessential part of the camp experience that you can recreate in your backyard or neighborhood. Do some research about common flora and fauna in your area, and see how many different species you can identify. Have your kids sketch and record what they see in a journal.

Backyard Camping
Want to up the ante on your summer camp experience? Try making your backyard a campground, and plan activities like roasting marshmallows over a fire pit, telling campfire stories, and stargazing before your kids settle into sleeping bags and tents outside. You’ll have all the modern conveniences you need nearby, but your kids can still scratch their camping itch.

So if summer camp is not on the agenda this year, or if a week or two is just not enough for your kids, bring the camp experience to your own backyard. And if you’re looking for a permanent fun fixture, head over to one of our showrooms for built-in play for days to come.

5 Ideas for All-Ages Fun at Your Backyard BBQ

July 9th, 2015 by

5 Ideas for All-Ages Fun at Your Backyard BBQSummer is barbeque season — is your backyard ready for action? Before guests arrive, while the hotdogs are cooking, and after dinner, here are a few ways to get everybody involved in making your backyard party central.

1. Have your kids decorate your playset or patio.
For your kids, the fun doesn’t have to wait until the guests arrive. Keep them busy and creative by putting them in charge of decorating the playset for their friends or the patio where you’ll serve your meal. Break out the construction paper, streamers, glitter — whatever you have in the craft supplies box is fair game. Twinkle lights can add extra sparkle if the festivities will go on until after dark. Just have an adult plug them in!

2. Get a game of HORSE going.
A game of basketball doesn’t have to feel like the March Madness tournament — a casual game of HORSE on the hoop in your driveway can keep guests of all ages involved as they try to match each other’s shots. For something different, try one of these basketball games the whole family can play. Your family and friends will only be a shout away when the food is ready to serve.

3. Bounce on the trampoline.
Jumping on the trampoline is fun for everyone, and has a host of health benefits for both children and adults, so no one has an excuse not to join in. Try one of many trampoline games you can play with friends to get the whole group involved. You’ll be getting exercise and having fun, all while staying out of the grill-master’s hair.

4. Set up an obstacle course for the kids.
Using your playset, basketball hoop, trampoline, or other play equipment you have, challenge the adults at your party to create an obstacle course for the kids. Then switch it around by having the kids create one for the adults. If your guests have a competitive spirit, consider tracking times and giving out some fun awards. Who will finish the course the fastest, the most gracefully, or with the most pizazz? Get creative with your awards categories, and if you’re feeling brave, team up with the adults to take on the kids in a course designed by everyone!

5. Go on an after-dinner nature walk.
You may be too full to bounce on the trampoline after a big meal, but you and your guests can still get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors after dinner. Have your kids prepare beforehand and lead a nature walk around your yard or neighborhood. They can point out different types of trees, flowers, wildlife, and any other interesting facts about the local landscape. If it’s dark out, offer kids mason jars to catch lightning bugs!

With summer upon us, the time to savor the warm air and sunshine of your backyard is now. Happy summer and happy playing! And if you’re ready to add some built-in fun to your backyard, stop by one of our locations to learn get decked out with some great play equipment.

Communities Band Together to Build Parks

June 25th, 2015 by

Communities Band Together to Build ParksOutdoor play is a crucial part of children’s development — it helps kids stay active and fit, builds their immune systems, and helps them develop creativity. For many kids, playing outdoors is only a matter of heading out into the yard or walking to the local playground or park. But what happens when your community doesn’t have readily available, safe spaces where kids can play?

In South Los Angeles, abandoned or vacant lots are abundant — there almost 3,000, compared to just 134 in West LA. At the same time, there are few or no parks within walking distance of many homes, making safe places to play hard to come by. Instead, kids frequently make the best of what’s available, which sometimes means playing in alleys or vacant lots with potential hazards.

So, community organizers came up with a solution: Why not make those vacant lots work for the community? By finding suitable plots and getting grants to buy land, organizers paired with The Trust for Public Land to convert a lot into what is now known as Serenity Park — an enclosed park where kids can play and adults can exercise on free equipment.

The Trust for Public Land works with community members to enable every resident to have a public park within a 10-minute walk from their homes. Why? Accessible and convenient outdoor play spaces help counteract inactivity, promote public health, and create a better sense of pride in the community. From helping combat issues like obesity to reducing “urban heat island” effects, parks benefit communities and the environment in many ways.

In South LA, Serenity Park is just the first of what will hopefully be many success stories. The non-profit organization Community Health Councils plans to continue acquiring underutilized land to convert to public parks as part of its ongoing goal to improve public health and make the community a great place to play and enjoy the outdoors.

While the process for procuring grant money, buying land, and constructing a park takes time, the positive impact on the community is immeasurable. Families welcome the new parks with open arms, knowing that the easily accessible, safe, and enticing spaces make it easier for their kids to experience the amazing benefits of play.

At Play N’ Learn, we support any opportunity like this to create fun, safe play spaces for kids, families, and adults. Kudos to this community!

To learn how to make your yard or community park a great place for people of all ages to stay active and play, contact us today or stop by one of our showrooms.

Celebrate National Get Outdoors Day on June 13

June 11th, 2015 by

Celebrate National Get Outdoors Day on June 13Does your family need some motivation to get off the couch and get outside? Or are you looking for a new place to explore in your area? Good news: the 8th annual National Get Outdoors Day (GO Day) is coming up on June 13, 2015! With the primary goal of bringing first-time visitors to public land and exposing kids to the outdoors, this event is a great excuse to go out and spend some fun family time together.

When GO Day was founded in 2008, organizers were concerned about issues that we still struggle with today: increased time in front of screens, rising rates of obesity, and less access to the outdoors. June 13 is a day to explore all the great benefits of playing outside.

Here are a few ideas to get in on the fun.

Find a location near you.
Many parks are participating in GO Day with support from federal agencies, nonprofits, and recreation industry partners. You can find locations near you that are participating. Ranging from national forests to local parks and wildlife refuges, there are a huge number of sites where you can participate. If you don’t live near an official location, you can plan an impromptu day at one of your local parks or try a new activity in the spirit of the day.

Try out the activities offered.
At each official event site, there will be information centers and places to play and be active. You and your kids can learn new outdoor skills like pitching a tent or using a fishing pole. In addition, you will find information about a variety of healthy living topics, such as sustainable lifestyles and eating well so that our outdoor spaces are always this beautiful and you’re always healthy enough to enjoy them.

Follow up on activities your family liked.
Whether your kids love geocaching or fly-fishing, all of the activities at GO Day are things you and your family can continue doing throughout the summer. Trying something new can be exactly what your kids need to motivate them to get outside, be active, and interact with the environment.

Keep it going.
The whole point of GO Day is to get you and your family out in the world and exposed to new places and experiences, but you don’t need to wait for next year’s event to go out and visit a new park or try a new activity. You can keep the spirit of GO Day alive in your neighborhood by organizing a neighborhood play day, or by just making a commitment to spending time together as a family in the great outdoors!

At Play N’ Learn, we offer a wide range of playsets, trampolines, basketball hoops, and more equipment for outdoor fun. Visit our website or stop by our showroom to see for yourself!

Health Benefits of Trampolines for Adults

May 22nd, 2015 by

Health Benefits of TrampolinesJumping on a trampoline is one activity that is guaranteed to help kids burn off steam — and can even make your child more fit in the process. But did you know the same perks hold true for adults? Jumping on the trampoline is a great workout and has a host of benefits, in addition to being a lot of fun for people of any age.

And the trampoline trend is catching on. Chances are, you’ve have noticed the wave of indoor trampoline parks popping up in towns big and small. Many offer aerobics classes and fitness-oriented programs for those looking to mix up their workouts. But the reality is, you can get the same health benefits by bouncing on the trampoline in your own backyard. Here are a few reasons to tell your kids it’s your turn to jump.

It makes your bones and muscles stronger.
Like any weight-bearing activity, jumping on a trampoline will help increase your bone strength. Good bone strength reduces the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. At the same time you’re building bone strength, you’ll also be building muscles — and not just your glutes and quads. Since you’ll be working hard to stabilize yourself with your core muscles, you’ll be strengthening your back and abs, too.

It takes stress off of your weight-bearing joints.
If you’re recovering from an injury or are new to exercise, jumping on a trampoline is a low-impact way to get started without putting a lot of stress on your body. If you’re a regular exerciser, a session on the trampoline can also be a great cross-training exercise for days that you want to take some stress off of your body while still getting a great workout.

It improves your overall health.
Just like other forms of aerobic exercise, once you’ve jumped enough to get your heart rate up, you’ll start to see cardiovascular benefits in addition to the muscle you’re building. The benefits don’t stop with cardiovascular health, though. Aerobic exercise works wonders for your whole body. It can help lower blood pressure, control blood sugar, improve blood flow, reduce bad cholesterol, and reduce your risk of other health conditions.

It’s fun and can make you feel happier.
How often do you have to drag yourself to the gym or force yourself to get through that morning run? Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore. Jumping on the trampoline can help you inject some fun back into your workout routine — because when you’re jumping, it doesn’t feel like you’re exercising. Even better, since you’re getting all the same benefits of a good workout, you’ll also be releasing those great endorphins that help improve mood, reduce stress, and promote relaxation.

Ready to start jumping? It’s hard to say no to a trampoline when it provides so much fun and fitness for your whole family. Stop by our showrooms to check out the trampolines Play N Learn has to offer, and we’ll help you get on your way to a guaranteed fun workout. And for more on how grownups can get in on the fun and fitness benefits of play, check out our post on “Playgrounds for Adults.”

Boost Productivity with Fun, Active Office Games

May 7th, 2015 by

Fun Office GamesIn 2015, Fortune magazine named Google the best place to work for the sixth time. The company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, features three wellness centers and a seven-acre sports complex, including a roller-hockey rink, horseshoe pits, and basketball, bocce, and shuffle-ball courts. Why go to such lengths to offer all of these recreational activities at work? Well, there’s science behind it: Studies have shown that moving around and having fun in the workplace boost employees’ job satisfaction and performance.

Not all companies can completely overhaul their offices to compete with Google, but there are some easy things employers can do to foster fun and recreation at work.

1. Turn your parking lot into a basketball court.
No, you’re probably not going to be able to create a dedicated space for court sports, but if you have a corner of your parking garage that’s far enough from your CEO’s car to avoid any runaway balls, why not put up a basketball hoop? A quick pickup game or a round of HORSE between meetings, calls, or working on a tough project can help get employees moving. Studies show that exercise helps improve mood and productivity, while decreasing stress, so allowing employees to let off steam through an active channel is a smart idea.

2. Add a game table to your lounge.
If you have a lounge area or a patio, a game table is a great way to add easy fun to the day without taking up a ton of space. Many models fold up and can be rolled away if you need to clear the area for another event. Not many people can resist a good game of ping-pong, pool, or air hockey, and it’s a great way to get an office tournament started on a Friday afternoon. Best of all, if you keep your table indoors, your play time won’t be limited by the weather.

3. Rent an arcade game.
Renting or buying a classic arcade game like Frogger, Pac Man, or pinball will introduce some nostalgia and friendly competition into your workplace. A quick game between projects can help employees decompress. Plus, working on beating each others’ high scores or playing on multi-player mode can help promote workplace camaraderie and let people from different departments get to know each other better.

Having small, portable games like corn hole, board games, or puzzles around the office for your employees to play when they need a break is also a great way to add some fun to your workplace without having to do a complete office remodel. Just like our kids benefit from play, so do grownups!

At Play N’ Learn, we have a wide range of basketball hoops, swings, game tables, and other items to help you turn your office into a more fun, active space. Get in touch to talk through ideas.