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Playground Equipment Blog
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Saving on Team Sports

Last week, we discussed some fun outdoor games that can be played as alternatives to increasingly expensive team sports. This week, we’ll discuss some ways that you can lower the cost of team sports to better fit your price range.

Hand Me Downs

This tip works especially well with families that have multiple children that share similar interests. To get the most out of this tip you need to do the following:

  • Plan.
  • If you know that all of your children want to play the same sport, you can start by buying good quality items for the first child and then handing them down. This is only with sharable items like balls, bats, gloves, shorts, jerseys and the like. For more personal pieces of equipment, like mouth guards, shin guards, and cups, you should plan to buy a new one for each child.
  • Teach them basic equipment care. Equipment lasts a lot longer if it is properly cared for. Some equipment needs to be aired out after each use, some needs to be hand washed instead of machine washed, and some even needs special oils. Learn how to take care of your children’s equipment so that you can teach them. And then the hand me downs will last even longer!
  • Reward keeping items in good condition. Anyone that has come from a large family knows that there is always a Pig Pen or destroyer in every bunch. If one child, even if it is the oldest, consistently destroys their equipment, make them the receiver of the hand-me-downs and the other child(ren) get the better quality gear that year. Even if it’s just one small item, it will make the other children feel valued and the destroyer will learn that there are benefits to taking care of their equipment.Anyone that has come from a large family knows that there is always a Pig Pen or destroyer in every bunch. If one child, even if it is the oldest, consistently destroys their equipment, make them the receiver of the hand-me-downs and the other child(ren) get the better quality gear that year. Even if it’s just one small item, it will make the other children feel valued and the destroyer will learn that there are benefits to taking care of their equipment.

Equipment Exchanges

A close relative to the Hand Me Down strategy, you can exchange equipment. Maybe Suzy didn’t like basketball and wants to try soccer and Sam didn’t like soccer and wants to try basketball. You can save some money by having Sam and Suzy trade equipment if they want to try the other sports. If you have enough of a group, children can try different sports over time.

Buy Second-Hand

There are lots of places to get second hand equipment: yard sales, pawn shops, and some sports stores just to name a few. Second-hand immediately lowers the cost and at times, it is almost as good as new.

Ask for Alternative Payment Methods

Spring and summer are always interesting times of year because its when you see the most team car washes. Car washes and bake sales are not the only ways to make money for your child to play a sport. Sometimes, there are ways to volunteer for events to pay fees and purchase equipment for your child. Another popular way to pay is an exchange of services. Some people pay for sports and musical lesson by exchanging babysitting services or lawn maintenance services. Your child may even be able to pay for their own equipment and fees in this way teaching them more about responsibility. Never hesitate to ask, because they just might have a way for you to pay other than cash.

Sign Up Early

Planning ahead is almost always essential to save money. Generally, there will be an early admission cost that is lower than signing up later.

Have Your Child Try it Before You Sign Them Up

This is probably the best way to help your children learn to be savvy spenders. As an adult, you often learn the true value of a dollar, which can be deduced to time spent at work. You’re much less willing to go out and buy the best equipment for a sport if there’s a risk that you might go to one practice and hate it. There’s several ways to get children to try out sports:

  • PE and Gym Classes. That’s right, have them try it out at school! The PE curriculum is designed to build many different muscles groups and skills as well as introducing children to many different sports. If they come home from school after the unit on bowling and want to play, you can always try the next tip before you spend on a sport.
  • Try it as a Family. You can always go outside with a kick the ball around together to find out if they like soccer, set up a night to go bowling if that’s what they’re in to, or just borrow a baseball and bat to play together.
  • Look for Local Events. There are often community groups that host little events or are willing to let you try a game for free.

Team Sports are Possible!

There are definite advantages to playing team sports that are difficult to replicate in an individual setting. As with almost any financial investment, it is worthwhile to take the time to calculate the costs, both in time and money, before taking the plunge in signing up for team sports.

How did you start playing in team sports? Does your family have any ways that they cut costs? Did your family growing up have any tricks to making it more affordable? We’d love to hear them!

Written by: Parker Jones
Wednesday, September 19, 2018

When Team Sports Hike Their Cost -- Take a Hike!

Fall is coming, and with it the pressure as a parent to enroll your child in team sports. Where this used to be a small fee to have your child involved, it has become a huge strain and burden on most families. The cost of sports involvement has skyrocketed over the years to costing in the thousands of dollars per year. One blogger, Stats Dad, posted his personal costs for his family on his blog. The results paint a clear picture as to why it costs so much. An article published by the Aspen Institute’s Project Play shows that the kids being most hurt are those from low income families. What makes this even worse is that the children that need access to the benefits of team sports the most are the ones with the least opportunity to engage in them.

What happened to free play and exercise? Often times the suggestions include individual sports like golf (expensive), martial arts (very expensive), and horseback riding (MEGA expensive), which are inaccessible to many students, especially for those in city areas. There are local clubs and groups available to play team sports as well, but those aren’t always an option for everyone.

So what can we do as a community? We’ve put together a few ideas together to help you get started with some affordable outdoor activities in your local area.

Group Play

Games like tag, Mother May I?, and even just kicking a ball around to a game of their own making can present children with lots of benefits. They are still cooperating with others and learning basic social skills, and the best part is that a lot of these things are free! If you coordinate with other parents in the area you can each take a turn making sure children are safe, helping everyone involved. Here’s a few ideas to try with a few neighborhood kids:

  • Tag/Freeze Tag
  • Mother May I?
  • Jump Rope/Double Dutch - Click here for a list of jump rope rhymes!
  • Spud! - The rules are simple and the game goes fast.
  • Kickball - While this is normally needs a larger area, it can be adapted for a smaller area.
  • Badminton - This is particularly good because the “birdie” doesn’t fly very far and doesn’t move very fast. Also, you can get equipment fairly cheaply.
  • Hiking - click here
  • to read about some of the benefits that come from hiking!
  • Check out our Blast from the Past: Classic Yard Games to Play Today for even more ideas!

Individual Sports

There are many low cost sports that are individual. Even using a jump rope on their own presents a child with many physical benefits. Try out a few of these ideas:

  • Rollerblading/skating
  • Jump rope
  • Bicycling
  • Skateboarding
  • Scootering
  • Basketball *If you have a hoop at home*

School Sports

While school sports may have some fees, they tend to be significantly less than joining an outside team or group. Most times the school provides the uniforms (one less cost) and some of the equipment (yet another cost). This actually makes playing a team sport doable for children.

Sometimes, in addition to more traditional sports teams, there are athletic clubs. I remember doing a fitness class with my 7th grade science teacher along with several other students. I still smile when I think back on it, and it didn’t cost my parents anything.

Spend Wisely on Team Sports

I try to offer you many alternatives to team sports, but some sports are only team sports. If you look at this list and know your child definitely MUST play basketball or baseball or soccer, there are ways to make it more affordable. Next week, we’ll delve more deeply into ways to save if your child wants to do a team sport.

What are some alternatives to team sports that you have tried? Sound off in the comments below!!!

Written by: Parker Jones
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Fall Crafts for Kids

These autumn crafts will keep kids engaged and warm on blustery days. Because sometimes making crafts indoors and sipping cocoa is preferable to playing outside! Read on for our list of favorite fall crafts.

Acorn Handprint Art

This lovely craft from Crafty Morning is easy for teachers and parents to replicate, requires very few supplies, and garners adorable results that are most definitely fridge-worthy.

For this project, you’ll need:

  • Paint in a variety of browns, earth tones, and neutrals
  • A paintbrush
  • Heavy cardstock or construction paper

To create: Invite children to paint their hands in a color that matches their skin tone. Next, ask them to plant their hands on a piece of paper, so that you collect a well-outlined handprint. After that, flip it upside down and use either brown paint or a marker to draw the acorn tops. Easy and sweet!

Pumpkin Apple Stamps

What’s better than pumpkins? Pumpkins made from apples! This sweet craft from Frugal Mom Eh! is easy, eco-friendly, and, naturally, inexpensive.

What you’ll need:

  • Apples sliced in half
  • Orange and green craft paint
  • Brushes (optional)
  • Paper Plates
  • White Paper

To get started, parents can dry sliced apples inside and out. Using a paper plate or a strong piece of scrap construction paper, squeeze out some orange and green paint. Repurposing the inside of the apple as a stamp, dip your apple into the orange paint, making sure it’s completely covered. Stamp it on the white paper. Press down with medium pressure, lift up directly, and voila! A pumpkin! Finally, using a paintbrush and green paint -- or a green marker -- create a stem. Repeat the process all over the piece of paper for a fun pumpkin collage!

Leaf Brigade

Kids will delight at this charming craft: creating leaf people! The festive fall craft is from the people at My Mommy Style.

For this project, you’ll need:

  • Leaves of all shapes and colors
  • White paper or construction paper
  • Glue
  • Googly eyes and markers

This is a great project because collecting the required materials doubles as a fun outdoor activity. Go on a walk through the yard or neighborhood park to collect some pretty fall leaves. Next, bring them home and let them dry. After that, find some computer paper or construction paper and assemble your supplies, along with the leaves, on a table. Encourage kids to create their own leaf characters, complete with heads, torsos, arms, and legs. Once kids have crafted a leaf person they’re happy with, help them glue it to the paper and add googly eyes and marker details.

Cue Tip Skeletons

This one is a favorite! Help kids craft skeletons that go bump in the night with just a few materials.

You’ll need:

  • Cue tips
  • Black construction paper
  • White paper and a black marker
  • Glue

Kids can follow the pattern here to create their own skeleton. Then, have them draw a skeleton head. Encourage them to express their creativity. They can also use a picture of their face for the skeleton head. Finally, glue all of the pieces onto a piece of black construction paper. Spooky and crafty!

Paper Plate Jack-o-Lanterns

This Halloween-inspired craft from The Simple Parent is cheap, cheerful, and oh-so-easy to make.

To make this one, you’ll need:

  • Paper plates
  • Orange and black markers or paint
  • Green pipe cleaners
  • A hole punch

First, have your kids completely color their paper plate orange. Next, encourage them to draw a face on their pumpkin with a black or dark-colored marker. After that, punch a hole in the top of the plate for them, so that they can thread and twist the green pipe cleaner through the hole. Shape the pipe cleaner into curlicues to add some festive fun!

Stamp Trees

This craft is similar to the apple pumpkin stamps. Combine this project with the last to create a whole fall scene using upcycled materials. Using the same paints from the previous craft, create stamp “trees” from bent toilet paper rolls.

For this craft, you’ll need:

  • One or more toilet paper rolls
  • Paper plates
  • Paint brushes (optional)
  • A tree template (optional)
  • Construction paper or white paper

First, invite kids to draw the outline of a tree, or find a blank tree template online. Next, squirt paint colors onto paper plates. Yellow, orange, and red are great fall hue choices. After that, encourage children to dip their bent toilet paper rolls into the paint and stamp them onto the branches to make leaves. They can either fill in the leaves using paint brushes or leave them as-is for a unique aesthetic.

Candy Corn Flower Art

Delicious and easy, this craft from the Resourceful Mama has us excited for Halloween.

For this fall craft, you’ll need:

  • Candy corn
  • Construction paper
  • More green pipe cleaners
  • Glue (A hot glue gun is best. Offer to help children glue on their petals)
  • Marker or buttons for the flower’s center
  • Scissors

First, encourage children to lay out their flower pattern. Once kids know where they want to place the flowers, help them hot glue a button or draw a circle to form the flower’s center. Next, glue on the candy corn “petals” so that the white tips are touching the center. Repeat these steps for the rest of the flowers. Now, using pipe cleaners, create stems and petals and glue them onto the paper! Simple and cheerful fall flowers.

What are some of your favorite fall crafts? Sound off in the comments below!

Written by: Parker Jones
Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Growing Together: The Importance of Mixed Age Groups in Developmental Play

One of the best things about age-inclusive childhood play is that it provides an opportunity for younger children to learn from their older peers. And likewise, older kids, as they teach their friends the ropes, learn important lessons in teaching, patience, and empathy.

By interacting with kids of all ages, children learn teamwork, tolerance, social skills, and more importantly, a slew of exciting new games. Read on to discover the developmental benefits of mixed-age play and fabulous games your whole tribe can play.

Benefits for Older Children

Mixed-age play allows older children to take the reins and try on a leadership role. For instance, babysitting and interactive play provides them with important skills they can take into adulthood, as well as newfound maturity and a sense of responsibility. Another excellent example of this dynamic appears in tutoring and homework help. Did you know that studies show that by teaching younger peers, older kids reveal increases in measurements of responsibility, empathy, and altruism? They also solidify their knowledge of school subjects. As Phil Collins says in the iconic song from the movie Tarzan, “In learning, you will teach, and in teaching, you will learn.” Mixed-age play provides essential life and developmental skills for kids at every stage.

The Benefits for Younger Children

Young children will learn by example and attempt games and tasks that seemed intimidating without an older peer to guide them. For instance, shy or nervous kids might be more inclined to swing with no booster seat when their older brother or sister gives them a friendly push. Active play, like basketball, vertical climbers, and rock walls are less frightening with an older friend to catch them.

Mutually Beneficial Development

In a sense, mixed-age play can facilitate “good clean family fun.” Because older children are forced to be mindful of their young companions, they’re more likely to be gentle, fair, and compassionate during playtime. And younger kids will benefit immensely from the opportunity to learn and grow with a wise pal by their side. Games are likely to be less competitive, dangerous, and more focused on teamwork. That is, as long as parents lay out some safety guidelines ahead of time.

Communicating Clear Expectations

It’s important for parents to set out rules for children before they interact with other age groups. Here are some handy rules of thumb:

  • Respect each other’s boundaries.That means respecting their physical space and not pushing them to do anything that’s truly uncomfortable. Sure, it’s okay to encourage friends to overcome, say, a fear of heights and go down the spiral slide. But help children to be mindful of the fact that everyone develops at their own speed.
  • Emphasize the importance of teamwork and sharing.Encourage children not to dominate one another in sports, especially when a younger child is just learning the ropes or struggling with coordination. And urge children to share toys and accessories. When playing on playground structures, reiterate the importance of following proper safety guidelines. And parents, it’s a good idea to seek out play structures and parks that accommodate a wide range of age groups and interests. Look for playsets that feature social and creative toys, as well as physical “events” like bridges, tunnels, crawlers, and slides. For children who need ADA accessibility, ground-level activities are ideal.
  • Praise kids when they succeed. Children are going to make mistakes. Being gentle and respectful of other people’s needs and abilities takes time and practice. When your child does an excellent job of playing well with others, give them positive reinforcement. It’ll encourage them to keep up the excellent work.

Great group games for mixed-age play:

  • Crafts and creative play - Artistic activities are fantastic because they can be modified to accommodate different age groups. For instance, toddlers can fingerpaint while older children follow along to painting tutorials on Youtube, employing paintbrushes, sponges, and found materials to express themselves. The same principle applies to dough and clay modeling, toothpick construction, and blocks.
  • Hide and seek - This is an excellent game for younger kids because they can use their tiny statures to their advantage, while older kids search for them. It’s relatively safe, requires minimal effort, and can be played indoors or outdoors. Just make sure you establish boundary zones and articulate any off-limits areas ahead of time.
  • Playground bonding - What is sweeter than watching an older child patiently show a young friend the ropes? Not much. Older children gain a sense of responsibility and pride from pushing tots on the swingset or demonstrating slide-riding abilities for a nervous friend. They’ll learn empathy and compassion—some of the most essential skills.

We want to hear from you! Do your children enjoy playing with kids of all ages? How has it benefited your family? Sound off in the space below.
Written by: Parker Jones