Tags » ‘Staying Active’

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!

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.


5 Ways to Use Play as a Coping Mechanism

October 28th, 2013 by

We often write about the benefits of everyday play for both physical and mental growth. But not every day is ordinary, and sometimes our kids have to cope with negative or confusing experiences. From larger tragedies to illness in the family or loss of a loved one, children have to get through difficult times, too, but often don’t know how to express their emotions. That’s where play comes in as a powerful coping mechanism. Read on for five ways to use play to help your child cope with difficult situations.

1. Keep play open-ended

By letting your kids create imaginary scenarios in which anything is possible, you allow them to express emotions without feeling forced. In these situations, your children can lead the play session and mold it as they see fit, allowing you to watch and listen to what your kids are really saying, as opposed to trying to coax your child into sharing.

2. Help older children by creating outlets

Older children can benefit from getting out pent up energy that they might be storing inside when they bottle up their emotions. Doing physical activities like walking or playing basketball can be a good way to help them release energy and become comfortable enough to start a conversation.

3. Let young children soothe themselves with play

Young children without full language abilities won’t be able to verbally express their emotions, but they can help themselves feel better by playing and moving around, which triggers a calming response in the brain. Make a blanket and pillow fort, and crawl around with your children to help them feel better.

4. Be neutral and on their level

One of the most powerful things you can do to help your children cope is to just be there and play with them on their level. By getting on the floor and reacting neutrally and supportively, you help your kids know they are loved. Keeping your responses as supportive and neutral as possible helps your children express feelings without a fear of being judged, scolded, or told their feelings should be different.

5. Let them talk through events

Pretend play allows children to process events and simplify them in ways they understand. They can create characters or plots to match their state of mind, reenact situations that are on their minds, or ascribe their feelings to another character in ways that might help you understand how your child really feels.

Using play to cope can be a very effective strategy for children who have experienced a traumatic, scary, or confusing event. Sometimes, the best way to help your child is to just be there and listen, and let play do the rest.

The Top 3 Reasons Your Playset Should Have a Roof Feature

October 14th, 2013 by

Playset with roof featureThere are still some good play days left before all outdoor activities will be about sleds and snowballs. When it comes to making every day a good day to play on the swingset, having a roof feature is key. It can protect your kids (and your equipment) from the elements, making your fort a great place to hang out and play in way more weather conditions than just 70 and sunny.

Why is a roof feature such a good thing to have?

1. It keeps your kids safe from the sun
The sun can be damaging during any season, and despite all the sunscreen in the world, your kids will likely get a lot of sun exposure when playing outside. A roof feature ensures that at least one part of your back yard has shade for your kids to escape harsh sunbeams throughout their play session. And when summer rolls back around, a roof can provide good shelter for your kids during the day when the sun is pounding down on every other part of the yard. Your kids can take a break from swinging and sliding and play captain and lookout from under the cool protection of the second story.

2. It keeps your play equipment cool
The valuable shade that a roof feature provides keeps the sun at bay in a second way as well—it provides a shaded area to help keep your play equipment cool. Putting a roof over your play area can help ensure that your equipment isn’t so hot from the sun that it’s unbearable to play on. Plus, if your roof overhangs any other equipment, like a climbing wall or rope ladder, it will keep those features of the direct sun and cool as well.

3. It keeps kids and equipment dry during rain
The sun isn’t the only thing that can slow your kids down during play. Rain can put a major damper on outside activities. But with a roof, the fort part of your playset can remain dry—and if your kids run there for cover during an unexpected rain, so can they. The fort is a great spot to wait out a rain shower and plot your next play moves. Plus, keeping the play set safe from the elements helps prevent premature weathering.

So if your playset doesn’t have a roof, what are you waiting for? Your playset can become an all-weather play zone for your kids. Picnics, board games, play strategy, and fun with friends can all happen under the protection of your fort’s roof.

5 Quick Exercise Tips for Children With Busy Schedules

September 24th, 2013 by

Two young girls walking to schoolSchool is back in session and the demands of class, homework, musical instruments, after school clubs, and more are taking up more time than ever. While it’s great for your kids to be involved in so many activities, sometimes their schedules become so complicated it can be hard to find time to sit down for dinner, let alone exercise. The CDC recommends that children get 60 minutes of exercise each day—so how do you fit exercise into your child’s busy schedule? Read on for some quick exercise tips to keep your kids active.

1. Take a family walk after dinner
Instead of turning on the TV after dinner, gather everyone up and head out for a walk. Bring the dog along and take a lap around the neighborhood. Not only will your kids get some exercise, but you will too!

2. Stop by the playground or park in between activities
Since you’re likely spending a good amount of time going from one activity to the next, try fitting exercise into your route. Take a pit stop at a playground or park on the way to your next lesson or club and let your kids play for 15 minutes, or more if you have the time.

3. Pause in between homework subjects
It can be hard for kids to focus on homework for long stretches of time, so use those much needed breaks to get in some quick exercise. Try sit ups, push ups, or jumping jacks—or just have your kids go wild in the yard for five or ten minutes. The exercise will boost their energy levels enough to get through that next math worksheet, while also keeping them healthy and strong.

4. Walk to the bus stop instead of driving
If your child takes the bus, instead of driving to the bus stop, let them walk. If it takes five minutes to walk there, in one day that’s ten minutes of exercise taken care of without even having to try. And it’s better for the environment!

5.  Do a lap before beginning your next activity
When you get to your child’s next activity, before going in the building, take a walk around the building with your child. It will only take a few minutes, but those minutes will add up if you keep using them to your advantage.

Fitting exercise into the day can be tough if your children are not already involved in sports, but it’s not impossible. Plus, your kids are much more likely to seek out opportunities to be active in their down time if you set a good example for them and encourage them. And if you find yourself struggling to get your own exercise in during the day, you can always do these tips with your kids!

Activities to Get Your Kids Outside

August 13th, 2013 by

Activities to Get Your Kids OutsideAfter the novelty of summer wears off, your kids may be bored of playing outside. But that’s only because they haven’t tried to use their playset in more imaginative ways than just swinging and sliding. In fact, although high-octane activities are always a good thrill, some of the best ways to use your playset just involve slowing down a bit and taking in the scenery.

Read on for four activities to get your kids back outside and on the playset again!

1. Make your playset an obstacle course

Switch up your playset routine by making it into an obstacle course. You can use household objects like chairs, buckets, and more to make the course. Take the slide, tag the chair, swing five times, run serpentines around the buckets—your kids can make up a million different courses and challenge each other by adding new twists and turns.

2. Camp in your backyard

You can experience the great outdoors without leaving your back yard when you camp using your playset. Your kids can roll out their sleeping bags and stay in the fort. Or, they can use a tarps or large sheets to make a tent out of the swing set. Break out the flashlights and sleeping bags, tell some ghost stories, and enjoy the stars within steps of your back door. Not only will it be fun for your kids, but it will get them ready for when they go on a real camping trip!

3. Have a picnic in your playset

Spread out a blanket in the fort or underneath and have a fun afternoon picnic. You can do it right around lunch time so it’s no extra work for you, but the novelty of having an outdoor playset picnic will be sure to keep your kids occupied for much longer than the average meal. Have your kids invite their friends from the neighborhood over—they can even help prepare some healthy snacks!

4. Bird watch from the fort

What better vantage point to watch the critters around your house than your playset fort? You can make this activity as high or low intensity as you want. Spot things by the naked eye and keep a tally of how many birds and squirrels you see, or grab a pair of binoculars and a field guide and see if your kids can identify some species that live in your back yard.

By using your playset in creative ways, you can help your kids start to think outside the box about the potential for fun in every situation. So why not change things up and give your kids a new activity they can do with their friends? A new outlook on how to use their outdoor space might just give them the kick-start they need to head back outside and make the most of their summers.

Turning Your Playset into a Water Park

July 9th, 2013 by

Turning Your Playset into a Water ParkBetween the hot sun, the humidity, and the occasional dreaded heat wave, summer weather can have you playing a constant game of trying to stay cool. Instead of sitting in the air conditioning all day or driving out to the community pool, you can stay at home while still enjoying the outdoors. Your playset can turn into a natural cooling station and water park just by adding water!

Read on to find out how to turn your playset into a very cool attraction. Before trying any of these wet modifications, make sure you are loaded up with the right amount of mulch around your playset so that any impact areas are fully padded.

Water Slide

Grab the hose and make your slide into a water slide. You can hang the hose next to the slide so the water runs down, and either leave it running or just spray the slide down every once and a while. If you have a padded surface or a small blow up baby pool, you can put it at the bottom of the slide for an extra splash and shock absorption.

Sprinkler Swings

Just by relocating your sprinkler, you can turn your swings into a fun water game. Set up the sprinkler in front of, behind, or even right below your swings so that when your kids swing, they go through the water stream. Your kids will have to time their swings so that the arcs of the swings match the arc of the water.

Fort Lagoon

The space under your playset’s fort is a perfect spot for a shaded lagoon. Place a baby pool underneath the fort for the ultimate relaxing cool down spot. Add floating toys or rubber ducks to complete the lake effect.

Super Soaker Watch Tower

For some high octane play, turn the top area of your playset’s fort into a watch tower stocked with Super Soakers. Your kids can have a full on water fight in the yard with the added complexity of the second level. They can use the water slide as a quick escape route, or the parents can stake out the top level to gain the upper hand.

Playing with water can cause your playset to become slippery, so be sure to stress to your kids that they should be extra careful. Keep a stack of towels nearby in case anything needs to be dried off. And don’t forget to put the popsicles in the freezer for when you’re ready for a break from the water park fun!

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