Tags » ‘Staying Active’


Go Camping in Your Own Backyard

July 15th, 2014 by

Kids CampingSummer is the perfect time to go camping. What happens, though, when a full-fledged family camping trip just isn’t in the cards? Other commitments and a lack of modern conveniences can make it hard to get out in nature for a real camping trip, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still break out the tent. If your favorite campground or trail isn’t possible, look no further than your backyard for a fun and convenient adventure. Read on to learn how.

Pitch a tent
While it’s still light out, pick a flat spot in your backyard and break out your trusty camping tent. With some guidance, your kids can figure out how to set it up—or even do the job themselves. If you don’t own a tent, have your kids brainstorm what to use instead, such as a tarp, bed sheets, blankets. Consider tying a clothesline between trees and draping a sheet over top, or just sleep out in the open air, where you can count stars as you drift off to sleep.

Fire up the grill
If you have a fire pit, now’s a great chance to use it! If not, then use your grill to make camping foods like hot dogs, corn on the cob, and baked beans. The benefit of being in your backyard is that you don’t have to resort to building a fire from scratch to cook your dinner. Your kids can collect sticks for roasting, or you can use skewers and potholders.

Play a game
After dinner, get the family together to play an outdoor game. Create a backyard scavenger hunt, or play a few rounds of Hide-and-Seek, Duck Duck Goose, or even Ghost in the Graveyard. If you have fireflies in your backyard, you can play a game of catch-and-release. All of these games are great ways to give your family the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity a day.

Of course, spending the night outdoors provides the perfect chance for extra time on your play set. Your kids can swing before they go to bed—and wake up to take a turn down the slide!

Make s’mores
A good camping trip wouldn’t be complete without s’mores! You can make these on the grill or use the fire pit again. Encourage your kids to experiment so they can find the optimal marshmallow cooking time. Then place your order so your kids can roast marshmallows just to your liking.

Tell ghost stories
If your group can handle it (and not feel too spooked), take turns passing around the flashlight and telling ghost stories before bed. Either make up your stories on the spot or tell some you already know. Better yet, try creating a story collaboratively. Have one person make up the first line, and then take turns building on it. Don’t worry if your story starts to sound far-fetched—group ghost stories often do!

Gaze at the stars
If you’re looking for a less heart-pounding activity before bed, just stretch out on the ground and look up at the stars. Can you find Orion, the Big Dipper, or Scorpius? How about the North Star or the Milky Way? Before you head outdoors, take a look at this children’s site from NASA for tips.

Once you start backyard camping, your kids will never want to stop! And for kids who are new to sleeping outdoors, going backyard camping is the perfect trial run for the real thing.

Looking for other ways to turn your backyard into an awesome adventure? Browse our range of play sets, trampolines, and basketball goals—and keep your family active all summer long.

5 Ways to Beat the Rainy Day Blues

July 1st, 2014 by

Boy in Rain While it may be nice most of the summer, inevitably, there will be rainy days that put a damper on everyone’s mood. When that happens, don’t let the rain slow you down—try these fun, energy-boosting activities that turn rainy days into real adventures.

1. Burn some energy at an indoor activity center
While your playground may be out of commission on a rainy day, that doesn’t mean there isn’t playing to be done. Visit an indoor activity center, like a roller skating rink, laser tag facility, a rock climbing wall, a trampoline park, or one of Play N Learn’s own indoor showrooms where your kids can play on our showroom playsets, trampolines, and basketball hoops. All of these options will help you meet (or exceed!) the recommended 60 minutes of exercise every day.

2. Attend a local rec center class
Rainy days are a great reason to see what programs your local gym or community center have to offer. Frequently, there are family or kid-friendly classes available, such as a family yoga class or sports skills clinics for the kids. Visit your recreation center in person, and discover all kinds of great activities to attend all summer long!

3. Have a dance-off in your living room
Who needs to go outside when you have the best dance floor in town in your living room? A dance-off is a sure way to get the whole family having fun and let off some steam at the same time. If you have a dance-reluctant child, he or she can act as the DJ. See how many dance moves you and your kids can make up during one song, or try to choreograph and learn a family dance together.

4. Do a walk-a-thon at your shopping mall
While the endless corridors of your local shopping mall may seem like a curse during the holidays, they make for a great exercise option when the weather isn’t cooperating. Load the family up and try a walk-a-thon at the mall. You can measure your distance in laps or minutes, or split the family up into teams and do a relay or a scavenger hunt. Walking in the mall can help you look at it in a whole new way.

5. Go get wet!
As the saying goes, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!” Grab your raincoats and rain boots and turn those rainy day lemons into rainy day lemonade, with a no-holding-back puddle jumping party. The whole neighborhood will be splashing around by the time you’re done!

It’s not so bad having a rainy day here and there if you know what to do with it: play! So the next time the skies open, rally the troops and make the most of the opportunity to do something outside the box, despite being inside.

Do you live in the Maryland or Virginia area? Visit one of our indoor play centers for a day of active fun.

Five Trampoline Games to Play With Friends

June 17th, 2014 by

Girls on Tramp Back yard trampolines offer endless supplies of fitness and fun. There’s something about trampolines that attracts people like magnets — and has kids lining up and willing to wait for a turn. This summer, add some fun and adventure to your bouncing with these high-energy games on the trampoline. They’re some of our favorites!

1. Crack the Egg
Crack the Egg is a great game for a group. Pick one player to be the jumper, and the rest sit on the trampoline and hold their knees — they’re the eggs! The jumper bounces on the trampoline and tries to get the other players to “crack” open by letting go of their knees. The last person left un-cracked wins!

As kids play, have them take turns so everyone has a chance to be the jumper. And to add some critical thinking to the mix, ask your kids before you begin who they think will break open the fastest and why.

2. Do as I Do
Do as I Do is somewhat like Simon Says, but while bouncing. Choose a leader and then have everyone start bouncing. As you bounce, the leader will do movements that the group has to follow. Seems simple enough, until you have to coordinate bouncing with rubbing your stomach and patting your head! Whoever gets out of sync is out.

As you play, scale the difficulty up or down depending on the players’ age and skill level. This game is a great way to improve coordination.

3. One, Two, Three, Sit
This one’s easy — everyone stands on the trampoline. Jump three times at the same time, then on “sit,” land on your bottom. If the timing’s right, a few people will get bounced in the air. Keep on trying until you get the bounces down to a science.

4. Seat Drop War
Pick two players to face each other. Then start bouncing together and do a seat-drop, which is when you bounce down in a sitting position (and then up to a standing position) on the trampoline. Continue doing this until one person gets out of the rhythm, and try playing it tournament style — or have the winner continue on until he or she is ousted. As you play, you’ll increase muscle strength and control!

5. How Long Can You Jump?
This one is great for building endurance and getting out your wiggles. Set a timer and challenge yourselves to jumping matches. Can you jump for 3 minutes straight? What about 5 minutes — or 10 minutes? For the ultimate challenge, try 20 minutes. Just be sure to fuel up and hydrate, especially if you’re jumping in direct sunlight.

After you finish each time trial, take a 30-second heart rate. How many beats can you count? Make a chart to keep track of your answers. What do you notice happening?

Play N’ Learn’s AlleyOOP and SpringFree trampolines with nets and anchors are a safe way for you and your kids to have fun with your friends this summer. Once your kids start bouncing, they’ll invent their own trampoline games that become instant classics. Contact us today to discuss the right trampoline for your family.

Four Outdoor Games the Whole Neighborhood Can Play

June 6th, 2014 by

Bike Riding in the StreetWith school coming to a close, you may be wondering how your kids will transition from having most of their day scheduled to having more free time. While that thought can be intimidating, it’s also a great opportunity for your kids to start taking responsibility for making their own schedule of activities.

A great way to keep your kids active is to encourage them to start a summer “play league” that involves ongoing games and activities with friends and neighbors. Summer play leagues have a host of benefits, not the least of which is that it combines learning and physical fitness with our favorite thing: playing! Here, we’ve collected some of our favorite summer games that your kids can implement in their own neighborhood.

1. Capture the Flag
A summertime classic, Capture the Flag is a great game for medium to large size groups. There’s no special equipment required — all you need are two socks to use as flags and a consenting house with a front and back yard to split into sides.

Capture the Flag is a great after-dinner game for cooler evening weather. Your kids can set a time, like 7 p.m., with the other neighborhood kids for everyone to meet up at a designated house. This game is also great for organizing groups and learning to resolve conflict, as disputes about the rules are not at all uncommon!

2. Kickball or Baseball
All you need for a great kickball or baseball game is a cul-de-sac or grassy field. Using mailboxes or sidewalk chalk drawings as bases (or sticks or rocks if you’re on a field), your kids can form neighborhood teams and play together all summer long. Often, these games form on their own — or evolve out of a few kids getting together to play catch. Whatever the case, it doesn’t take long for the rest of the neighbors to get in on the action, and a proper game is in full swing.

3. Dodgeball
A friendly game of dodgeball is a sure way to get kids outside and ready to play. Plus, neighborhood parents can play, too! Put your kids in charge of making sure the teams are equally matched, and have them collect and bring a soft assortment of balls to use. Then meet up in a spacious back yard, and let the games begin! To encourage fair play and help your kids learn to resolve conflicts, have them take turns being referees and making sure everyone is playing fair.

4. Riding Bikes
Your kids can set a time during the day to go on a group bike ride around the neighborhood. Older kids can map out a route and figure out the distance, and everyone can make maps together. And you can make it a bigger event by meeting the kids at the end of the route with a drink and a snack.

In addition to getting in a good workout and outdoor air, your kids will learn how to plan ahead and follow a route — while also communicating their route in a way they can understand.

Looking for ways to add fun and fitness to your yard this summer? Play N’ Learn can help. Contact us today to learn how.

4 Outdoor Ways to Celebrate the End of School

May 20th, 2014 by

Has your family started the Days-Left-Until-School’s-Over countdown yet? While end-of-the-year projects and exams may not be over yet, now is a great time to start thinking about how you and your kids can celebrate the end of the school year and kickoff the start of summer. We’ve put together a list of fun, outdoor activities to bring in the last days of school in your neighborhood. Whether your kids are shouting “no more teachers, no more books” or are sad to see the school year come to a close, these activities will make the final days of school a memorable, fun occasion—and get them pumped for the endless days of summer to come.

1. Decorate bikes with stickers and streamers

Break out the party supplies and let your kids go wild decorating their bikes. Using stickers, streamers, and ribbon, your kids can dress up their bikes and cruise around the neighborhood. By wrapping streamers or paper around the frame and putting ribbons on the handlebars, they’ll have a great time showing off their bikes as they ride around in the afternoon sun. Your kids could even attach balloons to their seats and watch them blow in the wind as they ride down a hill.

2. Have an after school basketball or trampoline party

Keep those decorations handy, and bedazzle your basketball hoop or trampoline and invite everyone over to play after school. Have your kids come up with the design, and transform your hoop or trampoline into a party zone. Not sure what games to play? Try these fun basketball ideas, and then get jumping with these zany trampoline ventures.

3. Have a chalk drawing fest

Another simple way to have fun after school is to lie out some sidewalk chalk and invite the neighbors over for a big drawing party. The kids can work in groups or on their own to create masterpieces on the sidewalks connecting all of the houses, or they can do designs on participating households’ driveways. You could even make it a friendly competition with neighbors by coming up with categories, deciding  winners, and giving prizes.

4. Celebrate in the park

If you’re willing to take the party on the road, plan a park party for the end of school. After school, bring your kids and their friends to the local park and playground so they can let loose. With a few healthy snacks, a soccer ball or basketball, and a Frisbee or jump rope, you’ll have a great time and set the tone for your active summer to come!

So whether your kids are happy or sad for the school year to be over, make these last few days a celebration of the outdoors and the fun summer to come. Need help setting up an ideal outdoor play area in your yard? Contact us today.

 

4 Basketball Games the Whole Family Can Play

April 22nd, 2014 by

 

Having a basketball hoop in the driveway is one of the simplest investments you can make to ensure countless years of fitness and fun. With endless games that you, your kids, and all of their friends can play, a basketball hoop brings everyone together, regardless of age, size, and skill level.

In addition to being a great after-school or weekend break for the whole family (you can play a game in less than ten minutes if that’s all you have), basketball, in its many forms, keeps us active, builds team-building skills, and lets us cut loose and just have fun.

If you have a hoop in your yard or at a park close by, try these easy games your whole family can enjoy.

1. HORSE

HORSE (or whatever animal name you choose) is simple to understand but can be as easy or difficult as you choose, making it ideal for all ages or players who may have mismatched skill levels. Players take turns shooting a basket from wherever they want. If they make it, everyone else has to shoot the ball from the same spot (or even the same style). Whoever misses gets a letter, and the first to have a full HORSE is out.

Fun for the whole family, a game of HORSE is full of surprises, as you never know who’s going to sink that swish shot from the far end of the driveway. Plus, it helps kids (and adults) develop coordination and strength, and pay attention to detail. Did the shooter balance on her right leg or left? Did the ball hit the backboard or the rim? Does he have HOR or HORS?

2. Lightning

Lightning is another game
with a simple concept: the first person to make a free throw gets the point. All players stand in a single file line behind the free throw line, and as soon as the first player shoots, the second player shoots and tries to get the ball in before Player 1. If you out-shoot the person in front of you, that person is out.

In this game, the whole family has to act fast—like lightning—to fire off a shot. In doing so, you’ll not only improve your aim but also learn to play under pressure and be a good sport.

With a basketball hoop like ProFormance or Goalrilla, you can adjust the height of the hoop so that all ages can have fun with this game.

3. A game of pick up

Let’s not forget the fun of a good game of pick up or one-on-one. As parents, you can scale the competitive aspect up or down, and start to teach your kids and their friends some traditional basketball rules. All the while, they’ll develop more technical skills and learn how to play as a team.

Before you start your pick up game, figure out some ground rules. Do you have to take the ball back when you get a rebound? What happens when someone fouls, and where are the boundaries? Your kids will have fun setting the guidelines—and calling you out with you “travel” or double-dribble.

4. Free play

Games are great, but unstructured free play can be just as exciting. Working on dribbling, bouncing the ball, and doing tricks like dribbling between the legs or shooting backwards can keep your kids busy for just as long as a regular basketball game. These free-play sessions teach your kids how to direct their own free time. And who knows what new skills they might pick up?

The next time you or your kids need a break, head out to your hoop and try out one of these games. No matter your kids’ (or your own) ages, basketball never gets old and can provide years of entertainment, activity, and fun. So go ahead—get out there and work on your shot!

Already know these games and looking for more options? Try some of our other suggestions.

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!