About Rob Unger

Robert Unger is sales manager at Play N' Learn's Playground Superstores 26 year old chain of 5 Maryland & Virginia stores. Since 2002, Rob has sold thousands of playsets, trampolines, & basketball goals to area families.

Simple Tips for Decorating Your Playset for the Holidays

December 3rd, 2015 by

Simple Tips for Decorating Your Playset for the HolidaysNow that Thanksgiving is over and December has arrived, it’s officially time to move on to the end-of-year holidays. That means celebratory decorations will be popping up all around the neighborhood, from wreaths on the doors to that one neighbor whose light show takes up 50 percent of the power grid (you know who you are). You probably have some tried and true decoration plans for your house, but have you ever thought about incorporating your swingset into the decoration scheme? While you decorate the house, your kids can take ownership of decorating the swingset. Here are some fun, simple ideas for how to get started and get the kids into the holiday spirit.

String lights around support beams
Your swingset is a perfect place to string lights; it’s easy to wrap lighted garlands around and when the whole thing is lit up, it’ll be transformed with holiday cheer, enticing kids to get out there and play. Try using icicle lights to run across horizontal beams, or wrap lights around each leg. While you work on the house and front yard, your kids can design the perfect plan for making your swingset the main attraction, from what color lights to use to the size and where they’ll put them.

Hang ribbons around the top of the fort
Your kids can add another layer of festiveness to the swingset by adorning it with the big, shiny ribbons that always appear during the holidays. A few ribbons on the upper level in the fort add a nice touch and make the whole structure look like a big present — and you’ll be able to appreciate them any time of day, not just in the evening when the lights are on.

Hang a wreath above the slide
Create a focal point for your holiday decorations by hanging a wreath above the slide. It can be small or large depending on whether your kids will still be sliding during this time of year. If your kids are still playing on your swingset throughout the winter, remember to make sure you’ve done a winter safety check as the weather shifts and keep lights and other decorations out of their way.

Hang birdseed pinecones
Let’s not forget to bring some holiday cheer to the animals that might hang out in your back yard alongside the kids. While you’re decorating, why not give the birds and squirrels an early present by making some birdseed pinecones? Using pinecones, peanut butter, and birdseed, your kids can make homemade feeders to string up on the swingset. If your kids still play a lot on their swingset during the winter, have them string them up in a less trafficked area of the set; otherwise, they can use the main support beams to hold the special treats.

Once all the decorations are done, celebrate with some hot chocolate in the fort with friends! You’ll be making good use of your swingset even when it’s too cold to enjoy it for playing. Thinking about adding a playset to your backyard? Come visit a Play N’ Learn showroom where we can walk you through all the options for how to ensure amazing play throughout the seasons.

Get Techy Kids Outside with Geocaching

November 5th, 2015 by

Get Techy Kids Outside with GeocachingNow that the weather is getting colder, it’s even harder than usual to get your kids outside — especially those who are always glued to some sort of glowing screen. But what if your kids discovered that there are secret stashes all around your community that they could only find by going outdoors and using a smartphone? That’s exactly the concept behind geocaching: using GPS coordinates posted on a website to find hidden treasures left by others. With geocaching, you can join technology with the outdoors as your kids track hidden “caches” in the parks and natural areas in your community. They won’t even realize they’ve been outside for an hour once they’re done looking.

As of 2013, there were two million geocaches worldwide, and the number keeps growing, which means the odds are good that there are some in your town. And you’d never know they were there if you weren’t looking for them. All you need to do is make a free geocaching account (https://www.geocaching.com/play), and then using your phone or GPS, pick a geocache near you and navigate to it. It’s a high-tech version of a treasure map.

Geocaches come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and difficulties. You may spot one right away when you get close, or you may have to look under rocks or in a hole in a tree. Part of the fun is narrowing down where the geocache is supposed to be and then searching to find where it’s hidden. Once you find it, you can sign the log book. Many geocaches have little trinkets inside, including where else the geocache has been in the world — sometimes individual geocaches have made treks of hundreds or even thousands of miles! Your son or daughter can add his or her name, or bring a knick-knack to leave behind or trade.

A lot of geocaches can be found at local parks or hiking trails, making it a fun way to mix in getting your daily exercise. Your kids can hold the phone to hunt for the geocache and explore a trail at the same time. Between all the searching and tracking, your kids will want to get outside and find as many as they can. With the CDC’s recommendation that kids exercise for 60 minutes a day and the evidence of the benefits of playing outdoors, that excitement is something you’ll want to take advantage of.

So whether your kids are balking at going outside in the colder weather or you have a hard time pulling them away from their devices, geocaching is a great middle ground. Looking for geocaches is also a great way to discover new trails and parks. And, kids can make their geocaching adventures part of a school report or science project. The thrill of the chase is just as rewarding as finding the geocache, helping to teach patience and persistence.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and see what treasures you can find. And if you need more ideas for how to get your kids playing all year round, inside your home and out in your yard, stop by one of our Play N’ Learn showrooms to see the fun we can bring to your family.

How to Join the Fun on National Play Outside Day

October 2nd, 2015 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prioritize Health as Part of National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

September 2nd, 2015 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Ideas for All-Ages Fun at Your Backyard BBQ

July 9th, 2015 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrate National Get Outdoors Day on June 13

June 11th, 2015 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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!

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!