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Bring the Playground Indoors

Oct 15, 2007
Summer is an exciting time for kids and parents. The outside world becomes a playground. A hike through the woods or a trip to the lake gives everyone some new scenery and a chance to work off their energy. Just about every town has a place with a playground and admission is free.

Climbing structures, slides, crawling tubes, ramps and swings abound at a typical park play structure. Good exercise and lots of mental stimulation is a natural by-product of ordinary summer fun. When the weather is warm and the sun is shining there is so much to do!

Cooler weather brings challenges for parents and energetic children. I have three children and they're all energetic. I'm not sure that kids come any other way. When the temperature drops I start looking for outlets that will burn their fuel. Staying home for a day can be trying for all of us. This is especially true when the entire neighborhood is in my basement and everyone has decided that it's a playground. I'd like to believe that other people have calmer children in their basements.

I like to imagine kids who pine away their winter months quietly playing in their rooms. I know this isn't the truth about what happens with kids when the chill hits the air. I've been a teacher for over a decade, so I've had the chance to see other people's kids in action. They have energy too, and they need a place to spend it just like my children.

About two years ago I started investing in gym equipment. This was a good indoor playground start. A foldable gymnastics mat gave the jumping beans on the lower level a safe place to bounce, roll and do an occasional flip. After a while, I added a balance beam. It was a real hit. Children would spend hours walking up and down that skinny piece of wood. I think I loved the balance beam more than they did!

Collapsible nylon play tubes were another popular choice for indoor playground equipment. Kids loved to crawl through them. Sometimes they even took a nap inside. They were personal funhouses that weren't made from the contents of my linen closet. I started doing less laundry. I found that I wasn't picking up toys constantly. The best part was the noise: there was less of it. The children yelled less and played more. I became a believer in the advantages of indoor playgrounds.

I've accepted that my kids, and other people's kids, will always look for ways to make my basement a playground. Over the past few winters I've become more and more convinced that I can't stop their need to jump around, run, slide, bounce and crawl. Kids need a really good place to play on a cold day.
This winter I'm considering doing something completely new.

I am actually tossing around the idea of bringing a real playground into my basement. I've looked into it and I think I can pull it off pretty safely and easily. I'm also finding that it's not nearly as expensive as I feared. I can put a pirate loft in my basement. It has stairs and a slide. There's a school bus loft, a fire engine loft and a tractor loft too. They all come with a slide and great places to play.

I've unearthed collapsible tee pees, puppet theaters that are big enough to stand inside and a huge variety of sturdy nylon play houses. I located a lemonade stand that would be great fun indoors and a good quality, inflatable bouncing ball. Some of the available wooden play kitchens are bigger than my real one. My favorite find of all is a playhouse with bookshelves inside. I might actually be able to entice some kids to read!

Summer is exciting for kids and parents but winter can be exciting too. With a little thought and planning you can transform your basement play area and transform the way you embrace the colder seasons. I can put my energies into managing behavior when the weather brings the kids inside, but that won't make me as happy with my children as I could be. That's why I've decided to manage the fun.

I'm bringing the fun downstairs and I'm bringing lots of it. Winter will be exciting inside my house, because I'm creating an indoor playground!
About the Author
Craig J. Clark, owner of numerous child product and furniture web sites, reviews products for children on a continual basis. Find information about Indoor Playgrounds and many other items on his web site: http://www.IndoorPlayhouse.com
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