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Playground Equipment Blog
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Origins and Myths of Thanksgiving

Ahhh, Thanksgiving: togetherness, parades, and tons of turkey (or tofu stuffing). Our team looks forward to celebrating with friends and family each year. But did you know that many of the holiday stories and anecdotes surrounding Thanksgiving are myths? Read on to learn the real origins and traditions of American and Canadian Thanksgiving.


Abraham Lincoln declared it a holiday.


It’s true that the Mayflower brought Pilgrims to North America from Plymouth in 1620. And in 1621, they celebrated a bountiful harvest with a three-day gathering that was attended by the Wampanoag tribe.


But the origin story for the holiday was established retroactively, in the 1830s. At that time, a 19th-century magazine editor, Sarah Josepha Hale, helped to invent the Thanksgiving we still celebrate. After reading about the 1621 feast, Hale began using it as a model for modern Thanksgiving, publishing recipes for turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie in the popular Godey's Lady's Book. She also lobbied Abraham Lincoln to make Thanksgiving an official holiday— and succeeded! According to accounts, Lincoln declared it official in 1863 as a kind of “thank you” to U.S. citizens for their perseverance and bloody Civil War victories, like the battle of Gettysburg. Lincoln recognized that the people needed something positive to celebrate to bring the country together and give the people hope.


It might not be the turkey that’s making you sleepy.


Do you have an uncle who takes a nap after the big meal every year? Well, his drowsiness might have more to do with booze, the overall size of the feast, or even a general feeling of holiday relaxation. Because the level of the organic amino acid, tryptophan, in most Thanksgiving birds isn't responsible for drowsiness. In fact, Many other rich foods—like beef or soybeans—report higher concentrations of the amino acid.


But that isn’t to say you should steer clear. Tryptophan produces other helpful substances, like melatonin, serotonin, and kynurenines. Serotonin affects mood and gives you a boost; melatonin aids in sleep regulation and kynurenines are thought to be immune system regulators. So, eat up. And treat yourself to a nap, regardless of the reason.


Squanto’s whole history was rather bleak.


Tisquantum, known as Squanto, was indeed a significant figure in the establishment of the colonies. He and his people, the Patuxet—a part of the Wampanoag tribe—previously lived on the Pilgrims’ settlement. He generously acted as a translator and diplomatic aid to the New Englanders as they began trading with the indigenous people. And he also taught the Pilgrims the proper way to plant crops and showed them where to fish.


However, that story doesn’t have such happy beginnings. The English captured Squanto 1614 and later sold him into slavery in Spain. At one point, he traveled back to England and learned to speak English. And finally, in 1619, he returned to his homeland, only to find the entire Patuxet tribe had been wiped out by smallpox. He then met the Pilgrims a few years later. So, at the time of the “First Thanksgiving,” his tribe was gone. But he used his skills to help the new settlers.


American and Canadian Thanksgiving fall during different Autumn months.


Canadian Thanksgiving already happened this year; it fell on Monday, October 8th, which was Columbus Day in the United States. American Thanksgiving will be on Thursday, November 22nd. So what’s the reason for the staggered dates? One possibility: because Canada is farther north, harvest comes earlier, which calls for an October celebration instead.


In Canada, Thanksgiving represents a spiritual holiday giving thanks for a bountiful harvest. In the U.S., we claim to celebrate the pilgrims’ feast with indigenous people, even if that’s not the whole story, while Canadians view Thanksgiving as a more culturally-neutral event. But plenty of Canadian historical dates coincide with the holidays. For example, when Canada was colonized, celebrations tended to mark Martin Frobisher’s successful crossing in 1578 or even war victories.


Did you know these surprising Thanksgiving facts?


I’ll have to admit, we were pretty shocked by some of the true origins of Thanksgiving. Perhaps the version we were taught in school doesn’t represent the whole truth? Maybe the positive takeaway is that we don’t need to feel obligated or bound by traditions that don’t suit us. Transform your holiday and fill it with rituals that makes sense to your family. What kinds of traditions do you celebrate? Sound off in the comments section below.


Written by: Parker Jones

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Navigating Black Friday and Holiday Sales to Get the Most for Your Family

According to statistics, Americans plan to spend $59.57 billion on Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales this year. And while much has been written about the need for Americans to curtail excess consumerism, for many people, especially working and middle-class families, Black Friday and Cyber Monday represent the only time of the year when they can afford to make big purchases. And not all of these purchases are frivolous. Some of the big-ticket items include mattresses, computers, Christmas presents, and entertainment for the kids. In a rough economy, many families have no choice but to brave the malls despite the stress, noise, and crowds.


We’re here to help make the process a little easier! How can you get the most bang for your buck without losing your sanity? Read on to find out our tips for getting the most out of the holiday sales.


Determine your budget.


Even with the impressive sales, shopping on Black Friday doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll end up spending within your means. Before opening your wallet, decide how much you can actually afford to spend, and stick to that number. Yes, that fancy new leather purse would go perfectly with your wardrobe, but pause before you buy. Don’t splurge at the detriment of quality of life and put it on a credit card. Determine which friends and family you plan to shop for, and then follow these tips:


Make a list. Check it twice.


Before you jump into the fray, make sure you’ve made a list of everything you want to buy. If it’s helpful, divide your list into two columns: needs and wants. A replacement dishwasher might go into the “needs” category along with school shoes for the kids and a family computer. While in the “wants” column, you might jot down items like a flat-screen TV, a new curling iron, or a high-tech cooler for camping trips. The key is to figure out who has the best deals ahead of time and plan your attack. From tech to clothes, many websites list the best sales to expect. So start plotting!


Some of the best deals happen on Cyber Monday.


You may not need to spend hours trying to find parking after all! Many retailers are putting their best deals up on Cyber Monday, meaning you can surf from the privacy of your couch (or your office during lunch). Check out this list of Cyber Monday sales, from big box retailers and online outlets. According to some websites, deals are already happening.


Pause. Breathe. Reflect.


Do you get a rush from online shopping? You’re not alone. And you may attribute that euphoric feeling to the purchase of a new item. However, studies show that dopamine is released in anticipation of a reward, meaning you can actually get that rush just by window shopping.


So, put your wishlist items in your shopping cart, enjoy the dopamine boost, and then decide whether or not you can afford to buy it. If it’s the right choice, it will still be there ten minutes later, after you’ve made yourself a cup of tea or walked around the block.


Check out Canada’s “Black Friday” on the day after Christmas.


Canadians and Americans can take advantage of each other’s big sales days by purchasing from each other’s companies online. In Canada, you probably won’t find department stores flooded with people the day after Thanksgiving the way they are in the United States.


In fact, Canadians’ big shopping day, also known as Boxing Day, falls on the 26th of December and is recognized as a holiday. It may have taken its name from a U.K. tradition in which heads of the household boxed gifts for their servants. It’s also a day when stores hope to liquidate gifts that didn’t get sold as holiday presents. And many big-box stores participate.


Couldn’t afford to buy that fancy toy set for your kids at market price? Try searching the web for holiday sales in Canada. If you need to take advantage of a day-after-Christmas sale, consider printing out a picture of the gift for kids or family members to unbox on Christmas morning.


What’s your game plan for Black Friday shopping this year?


Do you have any tried and true strategies? Please share your tips with us! Let’s shop smarter together.


Written by: Parker Jones

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Channel the Sugar Rush into Physical Fitness with These Post-Halloween Activities

Halloween is one of the most festive times of the year--a time to dress up as our favorite characters, indulge your sweet tooth, and celebrate with family and friends. But even amidst the frivolity, it’s also important to maintain healthy habits, especially when consuming an above-average amount of sweets.


Studies show a correlation between an excess of sugar and health risks in children and teenagers. In fact, in a fairly recent recommendation from the American Heart Association, experts recommended that children consume less than six teaspoons of added sugars per day. Now, obviously, moderation is key. And of course, it’s okay for children to satisfy their cookie and candy cravings every now and then. But when it comes to healthy eating, too much of a good (read: delicious) thing can quickly become bad news for your health.


So how does one strike a balance? One way to mitigate the sugar rush is to channel that spike into positive physical exercise and burn off some excess energy. Read on for our favorite autumnal activities.


Play a fun game of “Pumpkin, Pumpkin, Ghost.”


A riff off of the classic game “Duck, Duck, Goose,” children will delight in playing this Halloween-themed update, taking turns and chasing one another around the circle, attempting to tag their peers. This is a great game because it can be modified to accommodate large and small groups.


If a large group of children is participating, consider designating two children to be “it.” This modification heightens the excitement, elevating the game to “challenge mode.” Kids burn more energy, and older kids can participate without getting bored.


Go on a nature hike and enjoy the fall leaves - and use them in your crafts.


This time of year can be absolutely breathtaking. The trees are ablaze with vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows. And the crisp fall weather invites you and your kids to dust off the sweaters and windbreakers and go hiking. And while you’re on the trail, fun hiking leaf collecting and craft opportunities abound. Some of our favorites?


Encourage children to collect their favorite leaves and use them for craft projects later. With some creativity and a few craft supplies, kids can make neat gifts and room decor items like these leaf coasters or autumn leaf mason jar candle holders. Fall leaves can also be used as stamps for their artwork or help kids get fancy with it by attempting these clay leaf bowls. Seriously, Pinterest is full of neat crafts for you to attempt with your kids.


Visit your favorite park and burn off some energy!


Shocker! We’re suggesting a day at the park. But there are several reasons why fall at the park is a wonderful idea, one of which is the moderate temperatures. Kids can run around for hours, exploring climbers and slides and other challenging activities, without the fear of them getting overheated. This means they can play for longer stretches and burn off that sugar buzz! Now is the time to visit new parks that feature balance beams, obstacle courses, and dramatic play activities that encourage physical exertion.


Go on a Jack-o-Lantern Walk


When it comes to fun holiday decorations, Halloween is almost as festive as Christmas with the colorful lights, pumpkins, and spooky yard displays dotting neighborhoods all over. So, why not take advantage of the sights and go on a family hike to see the local haunts, literally?


After-dusk walks can be risky if kids are flying solo, but they make a wonderful activity when parents can act as chaperones. Consider taking the family on a ramble through the most decked out neighborhoods. Take in the sights, play “name-that-jack-o-lantern,” and get inspiration for your own pumpkin carving and Halloween decorating. Bonus: Halloween neighborhood walks provide frighteningly good photo ops for the whole family.


What are some of your favorite Halloween outdoor activities? Leave them in the comments below.


Written by: Parker Jones

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Tips for Having a Safe and Happy Halloween

For kids, Halloween is one of the most exciting times of the year. Who doesn’t love eating candy, playing dress up, and hanging out with friends and family on a brisk, Autumn afternoon?


But as always at PlaygroundEquipment.com, safety comes first -- on the playground and during the holidays. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of our best tips for keeping your Halloween safe, relaxed, and drama free. Because the only scary thing about trick-or-treating should be the costumes!


Plan Your Route in Advance


Leave little to chance by tracking your course ahead of time. When planning your walk, consult online resources that profile an area’s crime rates and browse “offender” lists. Consider visiting neighborhoods where you have family and friends, and focus on walking routes that are well lit with good visibility. (i.e., avoid houses that are tucked away off the road, or places with poorly-lit porches.)


If your kids are older and venturing out on their own, rehearse their route with them beforehand. Ask them to repeat it back to you if necessary. And arm them with as many resources as possible, including maps, phones, and flashlights.


If children are planning to stay close to home, and you’re friendly with your neighbors, work together to organize a fun route of friendly houses. Fun activities include leaving a “clue” at each house for kids to collect. In the end, children will assemble the clues to decode a hidden message or win a special prize.


Have an Allergy? Look for Teal Pumpkins


These cheerful, gem-toned pumpkins mean the house is allergy friendly. If any of your kiddos with allergies need extra incentive to hold off on candy until the very end after a parent has inspected the stash, promise a small prize in exchange for their good behavior and patience.

Be Mindful of Packaging


Only allow children to eat pre-packaged snacks. And make sure to check kids’ bag of loot before they dig in. That way, you can inspect the candy for tears and throw out things that might be compromised.


Sure, that apple or orange might seem like a healthy alternative, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Have fruit and other grocery-bought fresh snacks handy; throw them in a decorative bowl on the kitchen table. And feel free to compost the fruit from strangers.


Be Prepared and Pack the Essentials


Before kids go out, designate a parent to bring the safety gear. An accompanying adult should pack a kit of essentials in a backpack, purse, or jack-o-lantern sack. (Pro tip: your safety pack can be decorated to coordinate with your costume.) Remember to bring flashlights, plenty of water, and a first-aid kit. If anyone in your group has a severe allergy or asthma, include inhalers and EpiPens, too. And finally, since you’ll want to inspect most of the candy before kids eat it, feel free to bring some sweet treats of your own to tide them over.


Adjust Costumes for Safety


Add reflective tape to costumes, trick-or-treat bags, and wagons. And watch out for unruly accessories. For example, if a wand, sword, cane, or staff is part of your kid’s costume, make sure that it’s not too long or pointed on the end. A child could get hurt if they trip or fall, or accidentally hurt somebody else. And as always, be wary of anything with a drawstring. It is all too easy for it to catch on something and pose a hazard.


Use the Buddy System


Cross the street as a group. And make sure everyone in the group is accounted for before leaving for another neighborhood. If there is an even number of children in your group, assign each person a trick-or-treating partner. If there’s an uneven number, create a group of three. Do a head count every so often to make sure nobody gets left behind.


Go Out Before Sunset


Pick a window of time when it’s still light out. It’s a lot easier to keep track of your tiny ghouls and goblins when you can do a quick visual headcount. Block out an hour or two to trick-or-treat, and then head back home to enjoy your spoils!


What are your best Halloween safety tips?


We want to hear from you. What works for your family? Leave your ideas in the comments!


Written by: Parker Jones
Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Easy and Affordable DIY Halloween Costumes for Any Budget

Sometimes, half of the fun in assembling a Halloween costume comes from creating a unique ensemble composed of upcycled and reimagined materials. And as an added bonus, making a costume allows you to bond with your child and engage your imaginations together, providing lots of quality together time.


There are a lot of benefits to the DIY approach; making your own costume can be more environmentally sustainable because you’re reusing clothes already in the waste stream. And the process gives you a chance to reevaluate your closet or dress-up drawer. I mean, who doesn’t love a walk down memory lane? (When was the last time I wore that leather jacket?!)


In the spirit of the fast-approaching spooky holiday, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite DIY costumes from around the web with tips for dressing your little trick-or-treater in a dynamite outfit, no matter what your budget.


Never underestimate the power of cardboard boxes.


Free, abundant, and versatile, we love cardboard boxes as a costume staple. (If you don’t have any at home, take a trip to your nearest recycling center to pick up some free cardboard.)


This article from Buzzfeed is chalk full of great costume ideas centered around cardboard boxes. Kids can dress up as a box of popcorn, a lego person, Steve from the game Minecraft, or a hot air balloon! Follow the instructions to copy one of these ideas, or use them as inspiration to create your own look. After all, rectangles are all around us! So think outside the box. (Pun very much intended!)


“Zombify” an outfit that’s already in your child’s closet.


Take an everyday outfit and make it “spooky” with the help of some face paint, glue, and monster makeup. Think zombie school kid, undead little league pitcher, or skeleton ballerina. Remember, before using a specialty face makeup, test a patch on the back of your child’s hand to make sure they aren’t allergic or sensitive. And have plenty of baby wipes and gentle face wash handy to correct any mistakes.


Organize a costume swap, plan ahead, or get creative with costume sources.


Consider swapping with friends to re-use pre-made costumes from yesteryear. Or raid your local Goodwill and Salvation Army. Have a bunch of kids in your family or friend group? Devise a group costume based on things the kids already have!


Another great resource to tap into? Parents’ private groups on Facebook. Also, check with family members (maybe Grandma has Dad’s old letterman’s jacket in a closet somewhere), scour garage sales during the summers, peruse eBay, or visit party supplies stores at the end of Halloween season, when they sell costumes at a steep discount.


Accessorize for a quick and reusable costume.


Little details can take an everyday outfit from drab to fab with little money and effort. Everybody knows a pair of cat ears and some eyeliner-drawn whiskers transform black tights and a t-shirt into an adorable kitty cat.


Apply this same principle to less traditional animals and characters. For example, a baggy sweatshirt, homemade ears, and drawn on features can instantly turn your kid into a bunny rabbit, fox, puppy, or pig! Use cheap eyeshadow, blush, and lipstick from the dollar store in lieu of expensive face paint and other novelty, pricey makeup.


Or, a string of pearls and a pair of oversized sunglasses can take a sweet dress from a formal look to that of a glamorous movie star. An old-timey cap worn with a pair of overalls and a handkerchief scream toddler train conductor. With the help of a few key accessories, kids can tap into their creative potential, while keeping your budget intact.


When DIY isn’t the right option for you.


Remember, DIY isn’t always cheaper, especially if you’re investing in hair dye and face paint. But be mindful that those items can be reused, which might save you money down the road if your kids play dress up a lot. However, sometimes buying a costume from a big box store IS the most affordable and time-saving solution; so, consider what’s right for your family, and do what works for you!


And if all else fails…


A broom and a pointed hat create a classic look and are available pretty much everywhere. When in doubt, go with what you know.


What Halloween costumes have you made with your kids? Do you have a favorite? Leave your Halloween inspiration in the comments below.


Written by: Parker Jones
Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Five Tips for a Healthier Halloween

Ah, the smell of fall leaves and hot apple cider. What could be more perfect than a cozy October afternoon? Fall is traditionally a time for chai and cookies and decadent Halloween treats.


But with a little bit of planning, you can retain the sweetness of the autumnal season while cutting back on the sugar-rich goodies and investing in your family’s health. Read on to find out tips for planning a healthier, more vibrant fall.


One: Invest in Healthier Pre-packaged Halloween Snacks


By now, we’ve all internalized the importance of giving out prepackaged foods to trick-or-treaters. It is, by far, the safer option, and it gives children and parents the peace of mind they need to actually enjoy their loot.


So why not opt for healthier bags of your favorite snacks? Pick prepackaged goodies that favor organic ingredients and have fewer allergens. (If someone in your family suffers from an allergen, look for houses sporting teal pumpkins in the yard. It’s a sign that the home is allergy-friendly.) Also, when choosing treats, hunt for yummy items that are low in sugar, dyes, and hard-to-pronounce ingredients. Search for treats like Halloween Pretzels prewrapped in small bags, individually-wrapped dried fruit or fruit snack pouches, and whole-grain treats.


If buying healthy items in bulk doesn’t work for your budget, encourage your kids to fill up on healthy treats before they go out trick-or-treating. For example, check out these clementines decorated to look like pumpkins or spooky spiders, which can be made to be nut free. If you make healthy eating fun and engaging, kids will never miss the processed stuff.


Two: Give Out Non-Edible Treats


Not thrilled about buying yet another jumbo-sized bag of candy this year? Consider giving out different types of goodies instead. Parents can hand out crafts and non-edibles like Halloween- themed erasers, packs of crayons, or free printable coloring book pages.


Or, raid your change drawer and give out money. Kids will be thrilled to have pennies, dimes, and nickles to save for things they want. By finding alternatives, you’ll help kids expand their creativity and give them a fun activity to do while snacking on their spoils.


Three: Get Moving with a Halloween Hike or Scavenger Hunt


Get your steps in and engage kids with physical activity by organizing a Halloween hike! The more “characters,” the more fun it will be, so consider working with fellow parents to create a game or scavenger hunt for kids.


Plant spooky clues and dress up as your favorite villains, ushering groups of kids to their next checkpoint on the trail. Organize the hike with Halloween-themed maps or as a “Gold Rush” type game.


Remember, make sure kids use the buddy system. And consider working with your local park or trail to create an interactive experience. Or, if using a public space isn’t an option, do the same thing in somebody’s backyard. Kids will get exercise, think creatively, and meet new friends. Plus, interactive games help them develop problem-solving skills and give children a chance to practice teamwork.


Four: Save Some Candy for Later


Sure, let kids enjoy some of their hard-earned candy! But as a compromise, give them a set number of pieces to eat, requiring them to save the rest for later. This way, you’ll avoid stomach aches, quell an extreme sugar rush, and extend the fun over the course of days or weeks. Who doesn’t love an extended Halloween celebration?


Kids can take a piece of candy to school with them in their lunch each day, or eat one when they come home from school as an afternoon treat. Doling out candy slowly will help teach kids essential skills like moderation, balance, and delayed gratification.


Five: Start a New Healthy Tradition


There are lots of fun activities that don’t involve candy at all. Consider taking your kids pumpkin carving, apple picking, or on a haunted hayride. They’ll make memories to last a lifetime, and look forward to the special tradition every year. By centering the fun around experiences rather than treats, you’ll be making Halloween memorable and healthy at the same time.


How are you planning to make Halloween healthier in your home? Sound off in the comments below!

Written by: Parker Jones

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Fall Activities


Fall is upon us and with it a plethora of delightful fall-specific activities. This is the time of year when the weather is cool enough to wear a jacket, but warm enough still to sometimes get by with just a t-shirt instead. The perfect time for families to be together outdoors. We’ve gathered a list of some popular activities for you to look for in your area to celebrate the changing of the season.


Pumpkin and Apple Picking


One of the quintessential activities for fall is pumpkin or apple picking. Going to the pumpkin patch gives children a chance to pick their own pumpkin to be decorated or carved for Halloween. Before picking the perfect pumpkin, make sure to check out these tips from The Kitchn to make your Jack-o-Lantern last longer.


Orchards are almost as American a pastime as the apple pies that come from the apples there. Remember, an orchard is often more than apple picking: it’s cider, hayrides, and lots of unrealized physical activity for children.


Football/Soccer Games


Whether it's a high school or game, no one can argue otherwise. Fall is for football. Another game that has steadily grown in popularity in America is soccer. There’s a game almost every weekend and most large cities have at least one local team to watch. So, have a tailgate party, a barbeque or just hang out around the tube and enjoy a game or two.


Local Festivals


Since autumn is when the weather is crisp and cool, it’s the perfect time of year for festivals. Check out your local area for fun festivals to take your children to. There is normally a large variety of different festivals as well. From music to food, there is something for everyone. They’re normally only a few bucks per child, and offer lots of fun in unexpected ways.


Historical Villages


There’s always room for a little history in the fall. Historical villages are normally rife with activities that are specific to the Nation’s history. This is also a way to take children out and nature away from electronics for a few hours.


For those of you in the Indianapolis area, this is the time of year to take your child to Conner Prairie. They will get to experience what early days in colonial America were like and might even like it.


Camping and Hiking


Most people think of summer as the time to camp, but really, early fall is the time to go. The days are warm, they’re less busy and the trails are quiet. Even if you don’t go stay for the evening, it can be a good day trip to a local, state, or national park. Just make sure to check the park ahead of time to make sure you know when they close for the winter.


These are some of our fall favorites, but what are yours?


Written by: Parker Jones