Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Playground Equipment Trends in the Twenty-first Century

Today's playground equipment includes clubhouses, swings,rock walls and slides just to name a few. A lot of thought and design goes into developing safe and most important fun playgrounds.

Kids are the ones who use playgrounds so why not have kids design them? Believe it or not this is actually being done by some playground designers today. The idea is that kids know what they want to play with and therefore are best suited to make these decisions. The idea seemsto work very well because the children using the playground get what they want.

Handicap children are usually out of the game when it comes to playing on a playground. But, this is being changed on new playgrounds and some old ones as they are remodeled. Now kids of all ages and body types can get out there and use playgrounds. This also teaches kids to interact with handicap children and learn to have fun playing with them.

One of the biggest trends at playgrounds is now adding rubber to the ground. By adding a rubber around the ground it protects your kids as they trip or fall. It also keeps the grass from being ruined because, well, there is no grass to ruin. It keeps things cleaner looking and looks very nice around a playground.

Another popular thing that's being added to playgrounds are racing slides. These are multiple slides that are put side by side so kinds can race down them and see who gets down first. This provides a good competitive spirit in children plus its fun to do.

The most interesting thing being added to playgrounds is climbing walls. These used to be for adults and teens only because they simulate rock climbing. Now a lot of "vertical walls" are showing up all over the place. These allow kids not to climb up, but rather climb side to side. This keeps them a safe distance from the ground while still providing the fun experience of rock climbing.

With all the new playground equipment and trends coming out you would think we would run out of ideas one day. This, however, will never happen because kids keep coming up with new and different play styles. Even with all this new equipment you can still count on the old fashioned rope ladders and monkey bars to hold any kids attention.
Source: Free Articles

Scrap Stores for the Playground

In researching the previous post, I came across the mention that the 'yellow submarine' had been repainted with paint provided by the Children's Scrap Project in Hackney, London, which collects waste from businesses (including paint) for free, performs a health and safety check, then displays materials in a warehouse for members to use for education and play alike...a boon to the adventure playground or the DIY playscape.

The Children's Scrap Store in Bristol is a similar organization which goes an exciting step further by providing The Scrapstore PlayPod™:  a container full of repurposed materials and equipment (loose parts) for play.  See it in action:

There is also a more detailed video of the playpods here. There are currently 28 schools that have a Scrapstore PlayPod™ in their play ground; it's a fast-growing concept that I'd love to see spread to other countries, especially my own USA.  Of course, here you can pay $7k to $25k (near as I can tell; prices are notably absent from their publicity) for some blue polyethylene foam pieces Designed By David Rockwell and heavily promoted by Kaboom. Make up your own mind. 

There is a nationwide Scrapstores charity in the UK, which maintains a directory of all scrapstores there.    I'm wondering about scrapstores in other countries...I know of a few here in the USA but no comprehensive directory.  So, dear readers, tell me what you know about scrapstores!  Is there one in your area?  Do you use it?   If you know of a scrapstore, add it to the list I've started in the forum.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Kids Health Information: Teach Your Kids About Staying Healthy

Raising children who value and take responsibility for their health develop into individuals who are healthy and productive members of society. As parents, it is our responsibility to enstill into our kids the importance of taking care of their bodies and appreciating the gift our bodies give us day in and day out.
Below are some tips to remember when teaching your kids how to stay healthy. Some are obvious and some can be overlooked. Take a look at the list below and see what you can include in educating your child about keeping themselves health.

Kids Health Information Tip #1: Cover Your Mouth!
In order to keep germs from floating to those around us, it is important to cover our mouth when we cough, sneeze, or even yawn. Teach your child to cover their mouth and they’ll be healthier for it.

Kids Health Information Tip #2: Wash Your Hands!
Washing hands after using the restroom is something we all know. But what about other times? Teach your child to wash their hands after the following activities: sneezing or coughing, playing at the playground, before and after meals, or other activities where their hands are around potential germs.

Kids Health Information Tip #3: Brush and Floss Your Teeth!
Brushing is important. So if flossing! Make sure your child is taking good care of their teeth by brushing at least twice a day and flossing each night before they go to bed.
Kids Health Information Tip #4: Each Healthy!
Teach your child how to choose foods that are low in sugar, fat, and full of nutrients, vegetables, and fruit. Teach them how to regulate their food intake and make responsible food choices to support their growing bodies and minds.

Kids Health Information Tip #5: Get Active!
Exercise and activity is important to learn at an early age that can go into adulthood. An hour a day is optimal for good health and weight management.

Kids Health Information Tip #6: Get Enough Sleep!
Because our children are constantly growing, it is imperative that they get adequate sleep. Make sure your child has a comfortable and safe sleeping area and that they are getting enough sleep for their growing bodies and minds.

Kids Health Information Tip #7: Stay Hydrated!
Consuming enough hydration is so important and something that many of us neglect. Make sure you’re teaching your child the importance of getting in enough water each day and the importance of staying away from soda and sugar drinks and juices. Buy your child a fun water bottle to help them learn to regulate their fluids.

Kids Health Information Tip #8: Keep Your Mind Healthy!
It’s unfortunate, but childhood can be full of stresses. Teach your child healthy methods in dealing with stress and how to deal with difficult circumstances.
Kids Health Information Tip #9: You’ve Gotta Have Faith!
Children who are raised in homes that subscribe to a particular faith and have a code of morals to live by tend to live happier and healthier lives. If your family subscribes to a particular faith, get your family involved and teach your child the importance of faith.
Source: http://www.isnare.com/?aid=376500&ca=Parenting

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Apes at Play, Adventure Playground Builders

The firm 'Apes at Play', adventure playground builders, were responsible for achieving the complex constructions of the recently posted Kilburn Grange Adventure Playground, and their website contains some detailed views of the truly complicated features there as well as other playgrounds with recycled boats and local references: red buses and yellow submarines!  

Friday, May 27, 2011

Top Tips on Stocking Kids' Bookcases (And How to Encourage Kids to Read From Them)

Your kids have many entertainment options available to them – cable television, Internet sites, portable games and outdoor activities. However, the most important recreational activity is still reading books simply because reading builds self-confidence and learning skills that will prove valuable in later life.
Along this thought, you have to ensure that your kids’ bookcases are stocked with the right books. You can follow these top tips.

Buy Into Their Interests
You should buy books for your kids’ bookcases that cater to their specific interests, no matter how silly it might seem to their older siblings. You have to remember that each child is unique and it is up to you to nurture their sense of uniqueness in the most positive way possible.
However, you also have to buy books that will encourage them to go beyond their world. Your purpose in encouraging them to read is to expose them to the outside world without needlessly exposing them to harm. Let your kids explore their imagination, soar to the heavens and dive to the deepest depths in the comfort of their own bedroom, with books as their magic carpet ride!

Progress as They Progress
Your choice of books to stock in your kids’ bookcases should change as they grow older. If possible, once your kids evince boredom in a certain book or read it with their eyes closed, replace it immediately. With favorite books, you might need to place them there indefinitely but replace other books as necessary.
Pictures Perfect
You should opt for books that contain pictures and words in the same page. You can readily teach children word-picture associations as well as nurture their imaginations through make-up stories based on the pictures.
As your children grow older, you often have to purchase books with lesser pictures albeit with richer vocabulary. Usually, books will contain age-appropriate labels to guide parents so you can start from there.

Reading Time
Once you have stocked up your kids’ bookcases, the hard part is encouraging your children to read books in lieu of television and video games. You can practice these tips:
- Be a wide reader yourself. Your kids will follow your example when they see you enjoying good books.
- Read to your children regularly. It might not be on a nightly basis but you have to make sure that you schedule regular reading time, which the whole family should engage in.
- Share experiences in readings, even with the littlest of kids. You have to respect their views and engage in discussions to further encourage them to read more.

If you arrange furniture according to your aesthetic needs, you have to adjust when it comes to kids’ bookcases. You should position their bookcases where they can readily reach for a book, settle down comfortably and read without the distractions of television and video games. You will not be spending much money on acquiring kids’ bookcases with their own seats and recliners anyway!
Ultimately, your efforts to encourage your children to love books and to love reading will benefit them in the future. Imagine the places they can go to, the people they can meet, the experiences they can have, the opinions they can form, and the knowledge they can acquire just by reading!

Article Source: http://www.isnare.com/?aid=304509&ca=Parenting

Saturday, May 21, 2011

How To Find Excellent Dentists For Your Kids

Finding good dentists for your kids is a little different from looking for yourself. This article gives you some tips on finding the right one that will put your kids at ease and effectively take care of their teeth.
Pediatric dentists are ones that specialize in treating kids. Kids have different needs than we adults do, and most of them hate seeing dentists even more than we do. This means that it's a real challenge to find a good one who is friendly and professional, and can also make your kids feel comfortable. Finding dentists isn't always easy, so here are some simple ways you can find the right one for your kids.

Word Of Mouth
The best way to find pediatric dentists is to ask friends and family members. Talk with your children's friends' parents and see what dentist they go to. If they're happy with the work they've been doing and the kids like them, you've pretty much found it. There are times when, for various reasons, their dental practitioner won't be appropriate for yours, but at least give it a shot. If someone you know can give you a referral, you'll know that this is somebody good. Aside from friends and family, you can also get referrals by contacting your local or state dental association and asking them for referrals.

Get Online And Click Your Way To A Good Dentist
These days, everything is made much easier by the internet, including your search for a good family dentist. There are lots and lots of great resources that give you information about local clinics. One site, called Superpages, is like the modern-day version of the Yellow Pages.
They list everything, and if you search for dentists, you'll find lots in your area. Another great resource to check is a dentist ratings site. If you search for "dentist ratings" you'll find loads of sites. These not only list practitioners by area, they also give you former patient reviews that let you know what the service was like.

Visit The Clinic And Have A Chat
Once you find a few you like, call them up and arrange a visit. When you visit their clinics, first of all get all of their brochures and use them to compare. You should have a look at the facilities and also check their credentials. But, the most important thing you do at the visit is talk to the dentist. Personality is really important because they're going to be working on your kids.
They should be friendly and professional, and their manner should put you at ease. It might be difficult to take the kids along to visit dental clinics, but try to imagine if your kids will like them. Also, see if the staff are friendly and welcoming.

Finding dentists for kids is just a little bit trickier than getting one for yourself. Use all of the resources available and make a list, then make phone calls and arrange visits. Remember the whole time that they need to be good with kids and make you feel welcome, comfortable and at-home. A good pediatric dentist can do all of this, as well as make sure that your kids' teeth are as healthy as they can be.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Jiangyin Sports Park and Shanghai Fengling Park, Robin Armstrong, BAU, 2010

When I visited China a couple of years ago I saw few playgrounds of any sort, much less well-designed ones.  But reader Robin is now working there for Shanghai-based but Australian-born architecture / landscape/urban design office BAU, in an environment that he says allows him more creative scope in playscape design than the West. 

"Jiangyin sports park - The playground company we work with for our custom projects specializes in rope and steel structures, so I tailored my design accordingly, and experimented with some unusual geometries. My goal was to create equipment that is as interesting for adults to explore as observers as it is fun for kids to play in."

"Shanghai Fengling park - For this project I related to the riverside context of the park (adjacent to Suzhou creek) by integrating salvaged freighter ship parts from a nearby ship breaking yard into the design, both as sculptural and functional elements. "

Robin also informed me that 'playscapes' is blocked in China, as are all blogspot blogs, apparently!  Here's hoping for both more playgrounds and more freedom. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Playful edges at the Lackenbach Arboretum, Austria, 3.0 Landscape Architects


Waaay back in the blog's history I did a post about utilizing the edge of a playground as a track for high-energy runners...taking what is essentially a border and making it a functional part of the playground space.   This intriguing edge--fun topography, lit from beneath---surrounds an aboretum, not a playground (though those grasses are incredibly playful!)  but should inspire more useful, purposeful, playful 'edges'.  Why waste what could be playable space?  Have you seen any intriguing edge strategies?

(found at both landzine and vulgare)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cartoon Drawing Tips For Kids

Cartoons are fun. Well almost. If you are like me you certainly love to watch cartoon figures. But drawing cartoons is another story particularly if you are not aware of the basics.

If the thought of creating beautiful cartoon characters gives you high, read on, here you will find some tips that you can readily use to improve your skills and reduce the time taken to create beautiful cartoon characters.

There are certain things that are same for every style of drawing, be it realistic drawing or cartoony, now we will go quickly through the basics before getting specific to cartoony style.

1. Select your tools wisely. Clean your hands before starting your drawing. The paper you use for your work should be of good quality. Low grade, off colored paper will make your drawing look pale. Your first sketch should be made with light lines and for finalizing you should use deep-colored and prominent lines --so choose your pencils carefully.

2. Many times beginners find drawing a smooth line difficult. Remember drawing smooth lines will be easier if you do not support your hand on your wrist like we are used to do while writing. Doodling and drawing some circular shapes just before you start will also help you to draw smoothly.

3. Learn to draw facial features and hand carefully. Hands are more difficult. Experts often judge a person's drawing ability from how well he can draw human hands. So practice drawing hands with care.

4. Study about basic forms and proportions of human body. Learn about basics of human anatomy and various ratios of human figures.

As a cartoon creator you will have certain liberties, you do not need to bind yourself with strict body proportions rules. You can draw four fingered (Thumb + Three) hand that makes your work a bit easier.

But one challenge you will face while drawing cartoons --cartoon characters needs to be more expressive and certainly you have to create this expressiveness with some lines drawn with your pencil.

Keep in mind that three areas of human face that play major role to express emotions are
1. Eyelids (wide open, half closed, almost fully closed etc.),
2. Eyebrows (raised, normal, crooked etc.) and
3. Lips (forming downward bow, upward bow etc.).

Other than these you can also use, hair (properly combed or ruffled), garments (well kept or torn) to create characters that tells a story.

Hope you find this tips useful. Coupled with some practice these tips will help you to take your cartoon drawing skills to a new level. Enjoy the fun of drawing beautiful and expressive cartoon characters.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/496864

Monday, May 2, 2011

Benefits of Martial Arts Training For Kids

Admit it. When the going gets tough at home, we've all plopped the kids in front of the television and breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, we can get started on dinner, maybe check email or sort that massive pile of laundry.

But when your five-year old yells at you "Mom, Kids Rule!" or your ten-year old horrifies you with language that would make a sailor blush, you realize there must be something amiss with what these "family programs" really teach our kids. And sadly, its happening all over the media today, from sports to cartoons, and our children are learning things that we, as parents, vowed we would never teach them. Old fashioned values like respect and self-discipline, seems to have been forgotten, replaced by the dreaded "bling bling" pop culture of today.

Just the thought of your angelic three-year old morphing into a designer-clad, smart-mouthed, money-worshipping, me-obsessed, lay-about is enough to make any parent consider that threatening military school brochure, but there is a solution out there to consider.
Martial Arts training.

From Ninja Turtles to The Karate Kid
You and your kids have all seen the flying kicks, battle cries and mighty chops of their favorite TV characters, as they beat the bad guys to submission - but, you may ask, how on earth can these acts of violence teach my child anything worthwhile?

First, know that what you see on television (save perhaps the Karate Kid) is a far cry from what real martial arts are all about. The fact is, martial arts training is based on non-violence.
Originating in Asia (mainly Japan, China and Korea, although Thailand and Vietnam have their own practices as well), martial arts range from a variety of types and styles, all of which are based on well-rounded, moral teachings. The beauty of learning martial arts is that it encompasses not just the physical aspect of the "sport", but mental and emotional lessons as well.

Comparing that to other kid's activities and sports, where fierce competitiveness and "winning at all costs" seems to be the order of the day, it's not surprising that many children grapple with issues of self-esteem and misplaced aggression.

Now imagine your child actually learning valuable life lessons, skills that he will take throughout life, laying the foundation for a happy, well-adjusted and fulfilled adult life. If only karate for kids was popular in the 70's, when I was growing up!

The Advantages
o Karate, and other martial arts for kids, builds confidence and self-esteem as well as self-discipline, respect, concentration and courtesy.
o Many martial arts schools also offer leadership courses for kids, in conjunction with their karate for kids programs, or similar lessons.
o Martial Arts is ideal for children who do not do well in team sports, giving them the ability to flourish this activity, while combining physical and mental practices.
o Many do not realize this, but it is a fact that martial arts training are safer than most school sports.
o Children with special needs, such as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), learning difficulties and hyperactivity are often recommended to participate in martial arts for kids because of the clear benefits in its structured training techniques. 

Kung-Fu Master or Ninja Warrior?
Before you sign up Junior for the first martial arts class you see, take some time to check out the different methods available, and match it with what you know would suit your child best. This is a good way to avoid any problems that may sprout from a conflict of your child's personality and the training techniques.

Is your little Zach a sensitive soul? Then maybe a class that doesn't center on sparring (full-on kicks and punches training) but rather, slower, defensive maneuvers would fare better for him. Kids with an aggressive streak, however, may prefer the more forceful moves and thrive in competitive sparring.

Here's a quick primer on the kid-friendly martial arts training you're likely to find:

Martial Arts From Japan
o Uses defensive and aggressive moves
o Centers on building strength and endurance
o Involves chops, punches, kicks, strikes, blocking and sparring
o May use weapons
o Uses defensive and aggressive moves
o Involves lots of sparring
o Teaches a fair amount of weapons training
o Uses a more "spiritual" and harmonious style in redirecting the aggression of the attacker as the form of defense, using throws, pins, rolls etc.
o Taught on the premise of disabling an aggressor without attacking, through your individual inner energy
o Does not involve sparring or competitions
o Uses gentle, "wrestling-like" movements
o Considered one of the safest methods of martial arts
o Emphasizes physical control as well as mental development
o Engages in competitions 
Martial Arts From China
o The generic term referring to Chinese martial arts with a variety of styles
o Involves attack movements as well as defensive techniques
o Teaches kicks, punches, chops, throws, falls, grappling, katas, leg sweeps and blows among others.
o Engages in sparring competitions 

Martial Arts From Korea
o Competitive in nature, involves techniques using elaborate footwork and unique high kicks.
o Emphasizes strength, force and attack methods.
o Engages in lots of sparring and competitions. 
Choosing The Right Instruction
If you have an idea of the type of martial arts class you'd like your child to participate in, the next step would be to find the right school. Finding the right class that not only matches your child's and your needs, in terms of teachers you feel comfortable with, the price, facilities and so on, are all important factors.

Say you've found a local place that specializes in Karate for Kids. What are the things you should look for?
1. Good Instructors
Check out their qualifications, teaching methods and watch carefully how they interact with the other children. It should be a fun learning experience!
2. Space and Safety
Obviously you would want to entrust your child in as establishment that is safe, well-maintained, and clean with ample space as well as decent facilities and equipment.
3. School Values
Different martial arts schools inevitably go by different values, for instance, one kid's karate class may handle aggression in one way, while a judo class would have a different approach. Take some time to observe which school's ideals match your family's principles.
4. Prices and Schedules
Prices for martial arts training can vary according to school and location, so make sure you the instruction you choose represents fair value. Finding the most effective way to fit martial arts training into your family's lifestyle is also essential, knowing what works best with your schedule and other activities. 

Baby Blackbelts
Starting your child young in karate training is ideal (children as young as the age of four are usually accepted, as it is also a good way to hone fine motor skills), and lots of parents have found that in as little as a year, their children who were involved in martial arts had noticeably gained positive traits such as increased self-esteem, respect and overall physical fitness.
Many parents also opt to join a martial arts training program themselves, making it a great bonding experience for the entire family.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/52697