Pump Up Playtime With Playground Activities

 If you're like my family, you hit the same parks over and over, so playground activities are a must. The games and suggestions below will help you get more out of those playground visits. Try physical challenges, mental puzzles, and new experiences that will keep you all busy and active. You won't have to venture far from home, or listen to endless "I'm bored" and "I'm hungry" complaints.

Playground Activity 1: Dream Up an Obstacle Course

Young girl playing in playground
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Challenge your kids to look at an old park in a new way with an obstacle course. Take turns creating the course and then running it. Maybe you have to start by climbing to the highest point, then working your way down in a certain way. Maybe you'll add on-the-ground moves like jumping jacks or bunny hops. Or maybe you have to make some unexpected moves, like scooting backwards up a slide or clambering across a bridge on hands and knees. Maybe you add a complication like keeping eyes closed or singing "Happy Birthday" as you climb. Be creative. And if you have the place to yourselves, why not break a few rules?

Playground Activity 2: Geocaching

Cool playground activities: Geocaching
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Even if you've been going to the same playgrounds for years, you'll discover new treasures if you add geocaching to your visits. All you need is an inexpensive app to get started and suddenly you'll be seeing familiar places with new eyes. And even once you've found a cache, it's fun to revisit it often. You'll see who else has been there and what little goodies they've left behind.

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Playground Activity 3: Work Out

Playground activity: work out
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Here's another new way to use playground swings, slides, and climbers: as workout equipment! This circuit routine is suitable for beginners, more advanced exercisers, and for parents and kids working out together. Or kids can play on their own while you do the fitness circuit. You'll still be nearby to supervise.

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Playground Activity 4: Play Games

Playground activities: Boy running on grass
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A few good games will get kids running, jumping, and laughing at the playground in no time. Almost any kind of tag is a good choice, because of the physical activity it includes. Plus, tag games don't usually require any equipment. But if you do bring along a ball, a jump rope, a hula hoop, or a few sticks of sidewalk chalk, you'll have tons more options for games and activities.

Also encourage kids to use their imaginations to come up with their own games. They might also want to reenact favorite stories, or dream up their own dramatic play scenarios. The playground is a perfect place for this, with its unique play structures along with natural elements like trees and rocks.

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Playground Activity 5: Pack a Pedometer

Playground activities - on the swings
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Add a little excitement to your everyday playground visits by keeping track of your steps. A kids' activity tracker can motivate your child to move more every day, and that includes while at the playground. Does her tracker tick upward when she's on the swings, or climbing a ladder, or sliding down a slide? Maybe she'll want to visit the farthest corners of the park just to boost her daily step count. Or she'll compare your totals to hers and see who's winning the day.

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Playground Activity 6: Explore New Territory

Playground activities - a new slide
images by Tang Ming Tung / Getty Images

It's always exciting to check out a new playground (even if it has the same old stuff in it!). And you may be able to discover some brand-new-to-you playgrounds and parks without venturing very far from home. Check your city's parks department website for a listing of all the playgrounds in your town. I'll bet you'll be surprised by at least a few of them. You can also often find play areas open to the public at schools and churches. 

Or, expand your horizons by looking for playgrounds just a bit further afield. Traveling a short distance away from your home base turns a playground visit into a day-trip adventure. Pack a lunch and enjoy!

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