Spring into Warmer Weather with a Trampoline

April 7th, 2014 by

Spring is officially here, and while the weather is still figuring that out, now is the time to start thinking about all of the fun things you can do with the longer days and warmer temperatures. Here at Play N’ Learn’s Playground Superstores, we can’t wait to get back outdoors on our trampolines. Don’t have a trampoline? Read on for why a trampoline makes a great addition to your backyard.

1. Trampolines offer endless fun

Who doesn’t love bouncing up and down? The fact of the matter is that jumping on a trampoline is just plain fun. Kids love it, adults love it, and that’s never going to change.

Whether you’re alone or with friends, trampolines offer endless fun and entertainment. You can play classic games like dodge ball or tag — or challenge your friends to few rounds of “Crack the Egg,” where one person (the egg) curls up in a ball in the middle, and everyone else bounces around trying to crack it.

Have your kids get creative by inventing new games — with a big open space for bouncing, they’ll rise to the challenge, for sure.

2. Trampolines keep us healthy and fit
Even better than the fun is that jumping on a trampoline is good for you — and can improve your cardiovascular strength, coordination, and bone and muscle strength. In fact, trampolines provide such great aerobic exercise that astronauts and athletes use them for training purposes. And in 1999, trampolining even became an official sport of the summer Olympics!

On top of that, jumping on a trampoline is low impact — and in just 10 to 20 minutes, you can burn the same amount of calories you burn from 30 minutes of jogging, without the wear and tear on your joints.

3. Trampolines fit almost any size of yard

Trampolines come in many shapes and sizes, from smaller eight-feet circles to larger rectangles or jumbo squares. So you can get one that fits the area you have available — all you really need is some level ground.

With the many size options come a number of design choices. Our AlleyOOP trampolines, for instance, come with a basketball hoop, while our revolutionary Springfree trampolines hide the frame beneath the jumping surface.

4. Trampolines come with safety features

All Play N’ Learn trampolines come with built-in safety features, including a net to reduce the risk of falling. Our AlleyOOP trampoline uses bounce technology to make it safer for multiple jumpers to jump without knocking each other off balance. And our Springfree trampolines are designed to prevent jumpers from landing on any potentially hard surfaces. Each design aims to minimize the risk associated with jumping so you can focus on the fun.

But the fun doesn’t end with jumping. With add-ons like basketball hoops and tents for trampoline sleepovers, you’ll never run out of things to do on your trampoline. It’s a simple concept that will never get old.

If you don’t have a trampoline waiting for you in your backyard, why not? Get in touch, and we can help you find the right fit.

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!

How to Reduce Kids’ Stress with Play

March 12th, 2014 by

This time of year, with spring break on the horizon but still not here, things can start to look gloomy from your kids’ points of view. Long school days, followed by long hours of afternoon or evening homework, can put us all on the edge and make us crave downtime to play and unwind. How can you reduce the stress? These fun games and activities can help your family stay active, release pent-up energy, and ultimately add some fun and relaxation to your hectic, jam-packed days.

1. Take a break after 30 minutes of homework

If your kids are struggling to focus on homework after a long day of school, you can break their work into more manageable chunks by rewarding them with a play break after 30 minutes of focused studying. A round of HORSE in the driveway, a game of tag in the yard, or a card game can provide enough of a mental break that the next 30 minutes of work will be much more tolerable.

2. Unwind after school with a play session in your backyard or at the park

If your kids aren’t shuttling straight from school to their next activity, head out to your backyard playground or stop by your local park for a relaxing play session right after school. Alternatively, take the dog for a walk in the woods or just stroll through your neighborhood. As you know, physical exercise is proven to reduce stress, and nothing beats the fresh air of outdoor play.

3. Act out problems using characters or dolls

If your kids don’t only need downtime to unwind but also need to talk through their feelings of stress or pressures at school, try using role-playing and imagination to facilitate communication. It may seem like a game (and it is!), but it can also provide a valuable outlet for your child to express feelings of stress that they may not know how to verbalize.

4. Start an art project or a puzzle

If your kids are worn out from weekly (or daily) sports activities, or a physical activity just isn’t possible, consider an art project as a break instead. Have your kids start a drawing, sculpture, or painting that you complete in phases as the night and week wears on. Alternatively, work together on a challenging puzzle, and see how much this simple activity focuses everyone’s attention and eases the on-edge feelings.

Letting your kids flex their creative muscles can take their minds off of the stress they may be feeling from school, sports, friends, or home life.

Some bonuses that come with these stress-relieving activities? They don’t involve time in front of a screen, and your whole family can do them together. By participating in these healthy activities with your kids, you show them that positive stress relief is a lifelong habit. So go ahead — break up homework time with a little play time, and watch as your kids approach their work with a clearer, more positive mindset.

What does your family do to relieve tension after school or work? 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!

 

Stay Active for 60 Minutes Every Day

February 11th, 2014 by

Sixty minutes. Yes, it’s the length of most after-school dramas your kids may watch when they come home, but it’s also the amount of exercise they need each day. Compare that with the average six hours a day of screen time kids 8-10 get each day (and it only increases with age), and you can see why our kids have a hard time staying fit and healthy. So how can you make exercise more than just a chore that interrupts precious TV and Internet time? We’ve come up with five ways that make it fun to get off the couch and keep active.

1. Make it a neighborhood affair

Sometimes all you need to get active is a partner in crime. If your kids need more exercise, they’re likely not alone. You can use this to your advantage by planning neighborhood play nights where you invite the other kids out for kickball, capture the flag, biking, or playing on your play set. Getting to play with friends makes being active tons of fun — and won’t make exercise seem like an obligation.

2. Join a sports team

What better way to increase exercise and decrease the amount of time your kids spend in front of a screen than by joining a sports team? From intense travel leagues to lower key intramural teams, there are plenty of sports each season your kids can try. If your kids are more of the solo-athlete types, activities like dance lessons, karate, yoga, swimming, and tennis might be a good bet because they involve less socializing. If your kids enjoy being part of a team, consider basketball, lacrosse, soccer, or softball.

3. Family game night

Who said bowling and laser tag weren’t good ways to exercise? Pick one night each week that the family heads out for some active fun. Bowling will keep your kids moving around, and it helps with coordination and strength building as they control the bowling ball. Laser tag is a high-octane way to have a ton of fun, while dashing in and out of passageways. You can also try ping-pong or games like foosball and air hockey that require movement and hand-eye coordination.

4. Take the dog hiking

The family dog can be a great excuse to get active — he’s one member of the family that will never say no to going outside for an adventure. Make your dog’s walk a routine that involves the whole family, and forego your usual jaunt around the neighborhood for your local park or trails. Not only will the whole family (two and four legged) get some exercise and fresh air, but you’ll also teach your kids about exploration and appreciation of the great outdoors — not to mention proper care for family pets.

5. Make it a special event

Your kids may be more likely to respond to small exercise goals throughout the month if every now and then your family does something off the wall and totally fun. Consider horseback riding, taking a rock climbing lesson, or going to an indoor pool in winter — your kids will have more reason to stick to their daily exercise goals if they know there’s a reward coming soon. Plus, one of these off-the-beaten-path activities might just be your child’s new favorite active hobby!

So turn off the TV, close the lid on the laptop, and get outside and get moving! What creative ideas do your family use to stay active and fit? What screen time limits do you set? Let us know in comments!

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!

4 Ways to Engage Your Kids’ Minds This Winter

January 15th, 2014 by

This winter’s historically cold weather makes it hard to enjoy the outdoors at all, let alone as much as your kids would like to play. It can be easy for your kids to turn to TV and video games to stay occupied and warm. Finding activities that are both stimulating and not frostbite-inducing can be an extra challenge this time of year. That’s why we’ve put together a list of fun things you can do with your kids this winter that are fun, warm—and stimulate their minds. Browse the options below, and if your kids are pent up inside with a case of the wiggles, try these family-friendly ideas for keeping active indoors.

1. Make pinecone bird feeders

Using only what you find in your yard and home, you and your kids can make pinecone bird feeders for all of the feathered friends trying to keep warm outside this winter. Bundle up and collect a few pinecones with spread out scales in your yard or the local park. Then, once you’re back inside, smear peanut butter on the scales and sprinkle or roll birdseed onto the peanut butter.  Your kids will have a blast covering the scales—just make sure to put a covering or plate on your work surface so you have an easy clean up!

Next, tie a string or ribbon onto the top of the pinecone, and bundle up again to pick a tree to hang the new bird feeder. To add on to the activity, have your kids identify the types of birds in your yard—and what birdseed they like best. Your kids can even make several different feeders for the different types of birds.

2. Go to the museum

Going to the museum may sound like a drag to the kids, but just about any museum can offer a load of fun. Consider an afternoon browsing paintings and sculptures in an art museum, and ask about any free family activities (many art museums offer them). Nothing for families on the day you go? Don’t let that stop you—play a game in which you challenge yourselves to make up stories about a work of art. What might the statue say if she could talk? What does she do for fun? If the gallery permits, take along a sketchpad and spend some time drawing what you see.

If your kids like to explore with their hands, a science museum might be just the ticket. Most science museums offer interactive exhibits that kids can touch, from hair-raising static electricity demos to distribute your weight evenly on a “beds of nails.” The best part? Kids learn a ton about science—and have a blast.

Stuck inside because of a snow day with bad roads? Many museums have online activities and games that your kids can play from the comfort of your home. For example, the Smithsonian has tons of options for online enrichment—one of them is bound to please your kid!

3. Go to the library

While your public library is a fantastic resource for checking out books and more, it’s also a resource for free, fun programming geared toward your kids. Most public libraries have events during the day and at night for kids of all ages, from crafts to story telling and more. It might even work out that when you drop your kids off for their activities, there might be something going on for adults, too!

4. Play board games that work your mental muscles

When you can’t leave your house, break out the board games for some fun mental stimulation. Many card and board games are actually great for your brain, but your kids probably won’t realize it because they’re having fun. Uno, Bingo, Connect Four, Scrabble, Checkers, Chess, Monopoly—you probably have a few of these games lying around, and they’re all perfect for a cold snowy day because they engage your child’s memory, develop strategic thinking, and build math and reading skills. Most can be customized to be easier or harder, depending on your child’s age.

So the next time temperatures drop and your kids start getting antsy, try one of these activities to keep your kids occupied and mentally stimulated. Soon enough, winter will be over. Until then, enjoy all of the fun you can have inside!

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!

 

4 Ways Kids Can Give Back During the Holidays

December 10th, 2013 by

The holidays are here, and although ’tis the season for over-the-top shopping and sales, it’s also a perfect time to give back to your community. Quite likely, your kids are bouncing off the walls with pre-holiday excitement, so why not put that energy to good use? Read on for four easy, safe ways for your children to give back during the holiday season.

1. Donate old clothes and toys to charity

In the next week or so, plan a weeding-out session in which all family members pick out clothes and toys they no longer use to donate to a charitable thrift store. Keep in mind that kids get attached to all kinds of things, even shoes they’ve outgrown or stuffed animals haven’t played with in years, so don’t be surprised if they’re reluctant to contribute. Just reiterate that they’re not only helping another family, they’re giving their old toys a new home — and making space for any new toys the holiday season brings.

Whatever your family ends up donating, take your kids along for the drop off and involve them in the process as much as you can.

2. Make greeting cards for the less fortunate

Bring out your markers, construction paper, glitter, and glue, and spend an afternoon creating holiday greeting cards for the less fortunate. Your kids can express their creativity and design as many cards as they like, and then take them to a local homeless shelter or charitable organization that can distribute the cards to those in need of season’s greetings.

3. Volunteer a few hours

Your children can also help by volunteering at an organization in need of help this time of year. Consider volunteering with your kids at a local food bank, or head to a senior center to spread holiday smiles. There are a variety of ways children of all ages can get involved that make a difference.

Older children may be able to come up with a way to give back that suits their interests, like helping at an animal shelter or heading down to the homeless shelter to help serve a meal.

4. Save up change to donate to a charity

A simple way for your kids to give back is by donating their spare change to a charity of choice. If they have a stash of coins on hand in a piggy bank, they can pull their donation from there. Otherwise, just decorate a mason jar, make a coin slot on top, and see how many coins your family can collect before your kids are ready to make a donation. After they make this year’s donation, set a goal and start collecting for next year. How much can you accumulate?

Letting your kids choose what organization to support will challenge them to think about what issues they value and provide a real sense of fulfillment. Older children can research charities online to get a better sense of the options and figure out where they want their money to go.

These four choices make it fun and easy for kids (and whole families) to give back. By encouraging your kids to take part, you’re also teaching them the importance of community service — and giving them the confidence to get out there and make a difference. Does your family have a holiday tradition of giving back? Let us know how you give back 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.