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.

Inclusive Playgrounds Benefit All

April 16th, 2015 by

Inclusive PlaygroundsPlaygrounds are not only a ton of fun but also a crucial place for kids to develop physical, cognitive, and social skills while they play. Unfortunately, most playgrounds (especially older models) aren’t designed to accommodate children with physical or cognitive disabilities. Today, more communities are banding together to build inclusive playgrounds that are accessible to all children, including those with special needs.

What are inclusive playgrounds?
Inclusive playgrounds are play areas that accommodate children with a broad range of physical and cognitive abilities. In 2010, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was updated to include playgrounds. Now, any newly constructed or renovated public playgrounds must be accessible to those with disabilities, to provide all children the same outdoor play opportunities.

Where can I find an inclusive playground?
Moving forward, more and more communities will have inclusive playgrounds due to the new ADA requirements. But inclusive playgrounds come with a bigger price tag than their counterparts, and local governments are having a hard time finding the budget to build them. So frequently, parents and advocates are the ones pushing for these playgrounds to be built, and they’re doing the legwork to secure financing, as well. But for families of children with disabilities, waiting for their towns to update playgrounds isn’t good enough — they want to see their kids partaking in and enjoying the same fun as their able-bodied friends.

What kinds of features does an inclusive playground have?
Inclusive playgrounds are some of the best playgrounds around. They have all of the fun features of regular playgrounds, but may also have ramps for children who need physical assistance from a wheelchair or otherwise. Also, instead of mulch, the rubberized surface on an inclusive playground is smooth so that wheels won’t get stuck. Instead of classic swings, the swings of an inclusive playground provide back support to help children with muscular development issues.

Those are just the physical elements — inclusive playgrounds also have play features that foster emotional and cognitive development. Sensory, cognitive, and social skills are all part of the package, so kids who come to play can be stimulated in ways that match their level and ability.

The next time you’re at your local playground, take a look around and ask yourself: can all kids play and have fun there? If your playground needs an update, take charge! By banding together with your community and securing grants and donations, your town can revamp its local playground into one that’s even more awesome, where everyone can have fun and experience the benefits of outdoor play together.

Looking for fun and safe play equipment for your own backyard? Stop by one of our showrooms to see our wide range of swing sets, accessories, rubber mulch, and more!

The Lasting Benefits of Outdoor Play

April 2nd, 2015 by

Play Trend: Natural PlaygroundsWe know that playing outside is healthy for kids. Outdoor play gets kids moving, helps them reach important physical development milestones, and fosters creativity and curiosity. But new research suggests the benefits of playing outside go beyond exercise and fresh air.

A study in the journal Environment and Behavior found that being in nature actually makes us happy, and the way that we connect with nature differs from the way we connect with family and society. The study suggests that being in nature could be important for mental health, and is also important for conservation efforts, considering that those who spend time in nature are more likely to help protect it.

Happiness and increased eco-consciousness aren’t the only benefits of playing outdoors. A study in Pediatrics showed that children who played outside after school for 70 minutes a day had improved thinking skills compared with their less active peers. Additionally, even children who made small increases in their activity levels saw improvements in their thinking skills.

Considering these research developments, it seems counterintuitive that some schools have reduced physical education classes and recess time. So how can you and your kids spend more time outside? Here are a few ideas:

• Feed ducks at a nearby pond.
• Do a scavenger hunt outside.
Camp out in your back yard.
Make an obstacle course.
Try a game the whole neighborhood can play.
• Explore your yard and find new plants and animals.
• Decorate your bikes and take a group bike ride.
• Take the dog for a hike.
• In between homework assignments or chores, run into the yard for 10 minutes of unstructured play time.
Have a neighborhood basketball tournament.

Don’t worry about whether or not your child can reach 70 minutes of outdoor play every day. Even small increases in your child’s activity level and time in nature can have an impact. But when you can make the choice between your kids sitting still in front of a screen and getting outside for a play session, we hope you’ll choose the latter!

Ready to reap the benefits of outdoor play? Drop by one of our showrooms, and we can help you customize your very own Play N’ Learn playset for your back yard.

Play Trend: Natural Playgrounds

March 19th, 2015 by

Play Trend: Natural PlaygroundsWe’ve all seen classic playgrounds made from metal and plastic. These play spaces are loads of fun, but adding to the mix of options is a new trend: natural playgrounds. Incorporating elements from nature like tree trunks, boulders, mud, and sand, these earth-friendly playgrounds are becoming more common and popular. Often, these natural touches are cropping up alongside more conventional play equipment.

Natural play areas look different from their mainstream counterparts, and the novelty can be enough to encourage kids to get out and play, or check out a new area of the park that they haven’t been to before. In fact, in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, park developers got a two-for-one deal by creating a natural playground using trees knocked down during Hurricane Sandy. They chose to build the playground in a less-traveled part of the park to encourage more visitors. The overall effect is a play space that fits nicely into its woodsy surroundings and encourages kids to get creative with how they play.

Prospect Park isn’t the only place that’s capitalizing on natural resources. Big Adventure Park, in Houston, recently opened with a design that relies heavily on natural elements. Trees that had to be cleared for safety and space were used to create seating and play structures. Then, developers added some conventional play equipment like swings, spinners, and a zip line to mix with the natural elements like rope bridges and climbing pyramids. Developers hope that the park will be exciting and varied enough to attract families and keep kids coming back for new experiences.

Are natural playgrounds superior to the traditional playgrounds we all know and love? The concept is exciting, and we love any new reason for children to get outside and play! We think they’re a great addition to more conventional play equipment. Natural play spaces encourage kids to imagine, explore, and create their own uses for structures. Areas of sand, mud, and sticks can provide an outlet for artistic expression and creative growth.

However, incorporating the safety elements of conventional playgrounds, like rubber mulch to protect from falls, is important to keep kids safe while they play. Plus, natural playgrounds still require regular maintenance, just like their conventional counterparts. If you’re looking for ways to make your backyard into a play paradise for kids, come visit us at Play N’ Learn and check out our wide range of playsets, accessories, and rubber mulch.

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!

Fun Ideas for an Indoor Birthday Party

February 19th, 2015 by

Fun Ideas for an Indoor Birthday PartyWinter birthday parties can be tough. It’s too cold to have a party outside, but hosting an indoor party full of energetic kids, cake, and chaos can be too much for even the iron-willed to handle. Once you consider the pre-party prep, the post-party cleanup, the decorations, and entertainment, it starts to sound a lot simpler, more cost-effective, and more fun to host your child’s birthday party somewhere else. But where? We’ve put together a list of our favorite ideas for indoor birthday parties that everyone will enjoy.

Museums
Your local art, science, or children’s museum is likely all set up to host your child’s birthday party. All you have to do is bring the cake! Staff will lead age-appropriate adventures through the museum for your kids and their friends. Some museums have themes available to choose from like dinosaurs, space, the Ice Age, and more. Others have crafts, scavenger hunts, or interactive workshops. Your kids will learn and explore, all while celebrating and having fun!

Paint Your Own Pottery
If your child likes to flex her creative muscles, how about a party at a paint-your-own-pottery studio? The kids can create their own masterpieces and you don’t have to worry about the mess! Then, once they’re done firing the pottery in a few days, you or the guests can come pick it up and give kids a keepsake from the birthday party to take home. It’s even better — and more creative — than a goody bag!

GameTruck
Got a kid who likes gaming? Companies like GameTruck bring a truckload of excitement to your driveway. You can choose between video games and laser tag, and you don’t even have to drive anywhere! The truck comes to you, the kids climb aboard, and staff members oversee the party. For video game enthusiasts, this is a party-dream come true!

Bowling
Hit up your local lanes to add an element of friendly competition to your child’s birthday party. You can rent lanes with bumpers or without. Break into teams and then take a snack break in between games. Some bowling alleys will decorate your lanes and provide refreshments and music, while others are happy to have you put your own touches on your party area.

Iceskating or Rollerskating
For an event that will keep your kids moving, book a party at an ice rink or roller rink. The birthday boy or girl and their friends can lace up their skates and groove to the music, and when they’re tired, you can blow out the candles in a private party room. After all that activity, your kids will be more than ready to eat cake.

Parties at the Play N’ Learn Showroom
Want to bring the outdoors inside? Our Play N’ Learn showrooms are the perfect place to host a party filled with your kid’s favorite outdoor play equipment without having to worry about the weather. With tons of models available with all the hottest features you may not have on your swingset at home, your party is bound to be exciting. Plus, we’ve got basketball hoops, trampolines, and more to keep everyone in your group happy.

So don’t let party planning hold you back, just call one of your trusted indoor birthday professionals and let them do the heavy lifting. Your kids will love the change of scenery — and best of all, you won’t have to clean up!

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!

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!