Happiness Happens Day

Created in 1999 as "Admit You’re Happy Day," this unofficial holiday encourages people to be open about their happiness and share it with others. 

The holiday is based on the premise that happiness is unlimited and contagious. And, that sharing one's happiness can bring a lot of joy to other people's lives. 

Being happy can mean different things to different people. Happiness Happens Day encourages people to take stock of their lives, try to do things that make them happy, and to share this joy with others. Today you get to spread the happiness around!  

Ways to Celebrate? 

  • Play with your kids at the playground.
  • Focus on smiling at people you meet.
  • Think about things that make you happy.
  • Spread that happiness around.
  • Do something nice for yourself and share that happy feeling with others.

You might consider doing something simple like giving up your seat on the bus to someone else. Or, making a more elaborate gesture like volunteering your time and money to a charity of your choice. Studies have found that volunteering helps people bring joy to their lives and helps them live longer. Have a great Happiness Happens Day!

 

Watermelon Day

August 3 is an annual holiday that celebrates everyone's favorite summer fruit. Made of 92% water and full of Vitamins A, C, and antioxidants, watermelon is an ancient food that is believed to have originated in tropical Africa. In fact, historians have found evidence of watermelon cultivation as far back as 4000 years ago. Today, many varieties of the fruit are grown in warm climates all over the world.

Considered a superfood because of its high water content, watermelon is a good thirst quencher. In fact, in the Kalahari desert, where they are called tsamma, watermelons are one of the main sources of water during the dry, hot season. In the past, people crossed the desert only during a good tsamma season.

Prized by nutritionists and raw food enthusiasts, studies have shown that the antioxidants in watermelon (carotenoid and lycopene) can reduce the risk of some types of cancer. And, did you know that all parts of the fruit are edible? The flesh can be eaten as is, cooked or juiced. The rind (or the thick green outer covering of the fruit) can be stewed, fried or pickled.  In some parts of China, watermelon seeds are dried, roasted and enjoyed like nuts. Whatever way you choose to eat it, know you are not alone in enjoying this amazing fruit!

How to Celebrate this holiday? Celebrate by having watermelon for all your meals. Have a big glass of watermelon juice for breakfast; make a lovely watermelon, feta cheese, and mint salad for lunch; and for dinner, make watermelon salsa to go with your fish. And finally, make some refreshing watermelon sorbet to end the day on a high note.

Of course, have slices of the fruit as a snack all through the day. If you have a garden, why not spend some time exploring how to grow a watermelon plant in your backyard. If you plant it today, you won't have to make a grocery store run to get a watermelon for next year's Watermelon Day! You'll only need to take a walk in your garden!

So what are you waiting for? Go get yourself a watermelon and head out to your local park with family or friends and share a few slices to celebrate this delicious holiday.

Today Is National Ice Cream Day!

Did you know that some studies have shown people buy and consume more ice cream on a Sunday than any other day of the week? That makes it incredibly synchronistic that this year's National Ice Cream Day lands on Sunday! Why not take the kids out to get their favorite flavor ice cream cone and visit their favorite playground!

Officially proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, this holiday was supposed to only be celebrated on July 15 of that year. Of course, the ice cream industry seized the opportunity to continue the tradition every year thereafter. Now, not only is today declared to be National Ice Cream Day, July has been designated as National Ice Cream MONTH! This too has now become a tradition.

Traditionally made by freezing a mixture of cream or milk, sugar, and some kind of flavoring, ice cream is often eaten as a dessert after a meal or sometimes as a midday snack. Ice cream treats have a long and varied history, although not much is known about its true origins. Some historians have attributed ice cream to the Chinese, while others suggest that the Romans were involved, mixing snow with honey and fruits to create the first ice cream prototype. 

Either way, the early types of ice cream were nothing like the ice cream we are familiar with today. They were only for the Royals back then. And, in olden days, before refrigeration, ice cream was a food reserved for the royals and the rich only, eaten on special occasions. Refrigeration technology quickly made ice cream a commonly enjoyed dessert around the world. Today, people make ice cream rather easily at home through the use of portable ice cream makers. 

So, how is National Ice Cream Day celebrated? 

  1. Many ice cream parlors and stores offer discounts on their ice cream on this holiday. Why not get a discounted ice cream cone? 

  2. You can have ice cream for all your meals and considered it as a nutritional food group for this day.

  3. Why not make your own ice cream and serve it to family and friends.

  4. Use this day to get creative with your flavorings. What about adding mint to your strawberry ice cream? Or bacon bits to caramel flavored ice cream?

  5. How about using cookies and making some ice cream sandwiches or make an ice cream cake? 

In summary, even if you don't live in the United States, that shouldn’t stop you from celebrating this awesome holiday. After all, ice cream is a delicious treat in every culture.

 

 

Today Is Teddy Bear’s Picnic Day…Have You Visited the Playground Lately?

Did you know that today is Teddy Bear Picnic Day?

The first Teddy bears, invented in 1903, may not have been as cute as the one's made today, but interestingly enough were invented by two different people at around the same time. One person lived in the U.S. and the other in Germany. Obviously, with the lack of communication as we have today, they were not even aware of each other. 

Named after President Theodore Roosevelt, whose nickname was Teddy, teddy bears became so popular that many toymakers started to make them. By 1906, they were so popular and there were so many different kinds of bears, even grown women used to carry around bears like little children. The president even used one as a mascot! 

Celebrated mainly in the United States, Canada, Australia, and in some parts of Europe, the origins of this unofficial holiday are unknown. However, the holiday appears to owe its name to a song of the same name by American composer, John Walter Bratton, and Irish lyricist, Jimmy Kennedy. 

It is also unclear what the holiday aimed to achieve. It could be that the anonymous creators of this holiday wanted parents to encourage creativity by taking their children out with their bears for a picnic in the outdoors. Maybe toy manufacturers created the holiday to encourage teddy bear purchases. Who knows?

What we do know is that today is the perfect opportunity to get out to the park with your children and their favorite stuffed bear to have a picnic! 

How to Celebrate? 

Why not arrange an outing with friends and family, and to enjoy the summer sun, fun and games, and creativity with your children and their favorite toys? Take the kids outside to your local park for a picnic, along with their stuffed bears. If the picnic must be at home, what about setting a pillow tent in the middle of your living room and treat your kids’ teddy bears to a picnic? 

Click for our selection of Park Picnic Tables

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Inclusive Playgrounds Benefit All Children

Playground design has changed over the years. In the 1980s and 1990s, playgrounds consisted of multi-level platforms with slides, jungle gyms and monkey bars, as well as swings – bucket swings for babies and standard swings for older kids. Although enjoyed by the majority of children who played on them, this playground design restricted who could utilize it and the experiences gained from playing on it. (Curbed)

 

As playground designs became more adventurous with climbing walls, splash pads, etc., kids were given opportunities to expand their play and become more engaged. However, these new innovative designs, although exciting to look at and discover, were not built for children with disabilities. Separate playground areas were built to meet their needs. Compliant? Yes. Inclusive? No.

 

The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act  (ADA) was revised by the Department of Justice in 2010. The revision, known as the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design (“2010 Standards”), set minimum requirements for “newly designed and constructed or altered State and locacl government facilities, public accommodations, and commercial facilities to be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.” (Americans with Disabilities Act) By spring of 2012, compliance with the 2010 Standards was required for new construction and alterations. This meant that playground designs had to be accessible to all children. Ramps, barrier-free travel routes, accessible play options, and an appropriate surface beneath the play structures were now mandated. These requirements allowed kids with disabilities to play right alongside their peers. Compliant? Yes. Inclusive? Yes!

 

Companies such as Bliss Products, provide inclusive products that meet ADA guidelines for wheelchair access and special needs play. These products include wheelchair accessible site amenities and playground units, rubber or engineered wood mulch fall surfacing, as well as border access ramps for easy transitions into play areas. (Bliss Products) And not only do Bliss Products offer accessibility for children with disabilities, they also create opportunities for non-disabled kids to become acquainted with their disabled peers, thus becoming “open-minded, empathetic, and cooperative adults.” (HuffPost) Providing environments where children with disabilities can be given opportunities to experience fair and equitable play is what an inclusive playground is all about.

Positive Impact of Parks on Communities

In the technology-centric world we live in, the latest smartphone, tablet, and gaming system are ever present in the lives of adults and children, alike. And no matter how advanced these devices become, they will be outdated as soon as they hit stores. Parks, on the other hand, are timeless, and they are more than just playgrounds. Today, parks include fitness equipment and running/walking trails, along with open spaces for athletic activities, picnics, community events, and even concerts. Playground equipment is inclusive, providing social opportunities for children to interact with others who may have different social, developmental skills, and ability levels.


Parks continue to be a crucial part of any community. They offer both children and adults a place to socialize and make new friends, hold picnics and community events, and participate in recreational activities. Parks boost the social ties within communities. And a growing sense of pride in a community leads to a decrease in criminal activity, especially amongst youth. Having a safe place to interact with peers and participate in athletic activities provides youth a positive environment. (Gardiner Green Ribbon)

Parks are good for the environment as well. They aid in decreasing air pollution, and control water runoff. Green spaces boost community pride and attract residents who want to enjoy nature, which is beneficial to health and well-being. Parks attract businesses and residents, and increase property values, thus having a positive effect on the economy. (Perfect Mind)

While parks can play a valuable role in the community, the equipment placed within the park can be just as important.  Companies such as Bliss Products and Services know the importance of playgrounds in communities and parks. For over 30 years, they have been the leading supplier of commercial playground equipment across the southeast, maintaining a strong reputation within the Commercial Outdoor Playground Equipment industry by providing a wide variety of products to meet the needs of city and community parks, schools, churches, and daycare centers. Play equipment from early childhood to age 12, dog park products, nature play schemes, and green solutions, as well as inclusive and special needs play are just a few of the products they offer.

Bliss Products strives to provide the best customer service before, during, and after the purchase process. Sales representatives provide on-site consulting on playground options to best meet the needs of clients, and they work exclusively with factory-trained installers for a thorough and complete project. They offer 2D and 3D renderings to show how play pieces and playgrounds will fit into designated areas within a park. (Bliss Products and Services)

As cities continue to grow, it’s crucial that the importance of parks in urban development be remembered. From community pride to the economy to environmental impact, everyone benefits from neighborhood parks and playgrounds. And companies like Bliss Products are working hard to bring communities the best quality equipment to meet their needs.

The Role of Playgrounds in Child Development

Handicap Accessible Playground Equipment

“Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul.” - Friedrich Froebel (Community Playthings).

Swinging, climbing, games, and free play are more than activities children participate in to release energy. What we view as mindless play is, in fact, developing a multitude of skills. Swinging helps develop balance and coordination, as well as fine and gross motor skills. Playing on overhead equipment, such as monkey bars, expand these skills as well. Climbing promotes body awareness and directionality, while also developing their problem-solving and making predictions. Playing ball games gives children the opportunity to increase motor coordination skills, learn how to follow rules, how to strategize and problem-solve, and how to communicate with others. Free play encourages communication and, therefore, increases vocabulary and socialization skills. (Understand.Org)

According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), children learn through play. Cognitive skills are developed through problem solving and pretend play; running, swinging, and climbing increase physical abilities; language skills increase just through communicating with other children; and children learn to be social by playing together and having fun. Through play, children grow strong and healthy. Their anxiety and stress is reduced as they grow emotionally. They learn to establish and follow rules, many they create themselves as they devise new games. Play provides learning opportunities for children, which has a positive impact on their self-esteem.


The benefits of playgrounds and parks are not limited to child’s play and building neighborhood camaraderie. It has been found that spending time with new friends, participating in recreational activities, and enjoying nature are important in maintaining good mental health. Finnish researchers found that “ten minutes in a park or urban woodland are could tangibly reduce stress.” This is true for children as well. Playgrounds and parks afford parents opportunities to bond with their children. Pushing them on the swings, waiting to catch them when they reach the bottom of the slide…priceless memories. 

As children grow, so do their development skills. Toddlers become more social and interactive. School-aged children need to be challenged. Eye-hand coordination increases, along with motor skills, problem solving, and social interaction. Climbing and free-standing pieces provide children with opportunities to build confidence. Bliss Products can design playgrounds to enhance a child’s self-confidence and developmental skills and address social and physical inclusion. All children deserve the right to play. (Play & Park)

Bliss Products and Services knows the positive impact playgrounds have in communities. For over 30 years, they have lived up to their strong reputation by providing quality products to meet the needs of cities, communities, schools, and the people who utilize them. Their early childhood equipment and activities can be customized to fit specific needs, and are designed to stimulate the senses while keeping children entertained.

Hurricanes and Playgrounds

Your playground was designed for normal wear and tear, and in most instances will weather the inclement weather just fine.  But there are a few things you can do prior to help it survive the storm, as well a few things to check on afterward.

Before the storm:

It goes without saying that anything loose around the playground area needs to be secured: trashcan lids, signage, et cetera.  Things that are loose now will certainly get worse during a storm.  Pay special attention to surrounding trees - by far the most common cause of playground damage is falling trees and limbs.  If that old oak is half dead, you might consider being proactive and dropping some limbs before Mother Nature does it for you.

If your playground has a freestanding or integrated fabric shade, you need to take it down following the manufacturer's recommendations.  While fabric shades are designed with some pretty high windloads in mind, they are simply not designed to hold up through hurricanes, nor are they designed to deflect branches, shingles and other flying debris common with high winds, which will often rip right through them.

After the storm:

Many times parks are situated in low lying areas which are prone to flooding.  If your playground was underwater, pay special attention to:

  • Footings around posts and end supports might be soft or have eroded. You may need to pull back the surfacing to inspect.  Note that wood playgrounds will often show rot BELOW the surfacing!
  • Moving components may have silted up. Rinse with fresh water to remove grit and lubricate if required - follow manufacturer's recommendations as some lubricants can actually damage components.
  • Nonmoving components may have loosened up! Check all fittings and connections to make sure they are still snug.
  • Rotationally molded plastic components , like slides, can actually fill with water which may distort the plastic over time. Check with the manufacturer first but one solution is to drill a small hole on the underside of the item to allow for drainage - some place not very accessible.
  • Flood waters in coastal areas can be salty. Flood waters everywhere can also include chemicals or even sewage that may have leaked during the storm.  It's a great idea to lightlypressure wash your structures to help minimize potential for rusting hardware and pay special attention to where kids might place their hands to keep things clean.

Surfacing:

Pay special attention to your surfacing - the majority of accidents are still due to falls to the ground. Of course remove branches and debris from your surfacing.  

  • While a lot of loose fills knit together and don't readily float, the current from flood waters can wash surfacing away, so take a moment and check the depth of surfacing.Remember CPSC guidelines require a minimum of 6" of rubber chips and 9" of wood chips or sand.  Your original installation might have included more - look for grade markers on your equipment to confirm depth as well.
  • Poured in place, rubber tiles and turf are typically porous. If your playground had standing water, it's not a bad idea to flush the surfacing to try and remove anything harmful.  Beware of using a pressure washer though, you may actually damage the surface.
  • Poured in place, tiles and turf are commonly built on a layer of compressed stone that may have shifted during the storm. If you feel voids as you inspect the playground, reach out to your supplier for solutions.  A loose base will eventually create bigger problems down the road, like cracks and tears.
  • Turf surfacing include an infill, which can be sand or encapsulated sand to help hold down the surfacing, prevent wrinkles and help the turf 'stand up.' You may need to add infill and brush out the surfacing to bring it back to life.  Tears at seams or pulling away from borders need to be repaired by your turf vendor.

Last, take plenty of pictures before you begin clean up!  You might need them for insurance claims and your vendors might need them to help you identify broken parts and find replacements.   Manufacturers and their sales agencies can help you with further issues - always get their recommendation first before trying your own repair.

Inclusive Play: Fun For Every Child

Experts agree collaborative play is vital in the development of mental and physical health and social skills in children and adults. Important social skills are learned in collaborative play which carry over into adulthood. In recent years, communities have been actively involved in redesigning or creating recreation areas which will serve all groups of people; children of different ages, genders, and those with special needs. Parks can be an important public resource in improving the quality of life and physical well-being of a community. When a playground area is inclusive, these parks can provide the opportunity to create awareness, break down barriers, and build friendships.

Often children need to learn strategies to learn how to play together. Play is a great way to help children understand a child with a disability is able to do many of the same activities, even if they have to do it differently. 

Discussing these ten character traits with children can help provide a foundation for inclusive play:


1) Be Respectful - Respect similarities and differences.
2) Be Kind - Be warm, welcoming, celebrate accomplishments.
3) Be Patient - Ask before assisting; wait while they go at their pace.
4) Be Responsible - Signal an adult if you see a potential danger.
5) Be Trustworthy - Be dependable and honest.
6) Be Fair - Be creative to find new ways to include others.
7) Be Persevering - Keep trying when communicating and playing.
8) Be a Leader - Be a good sport, be friendly, and give them space.
9) Be Courageous - Invite all kids to play even if it is intimidating.
10) Be a Good Citizen - Show that kids of all abilities are valued.

 

Important decisions need to be made before building the play area.

According to PlayCore Inc., inclusive play environments should meet the seven Principles of Inclusive Playground Design:

1) Be Fair- The equipment can be used by people of all abilities.
2) Be Included-Supports the participation of people with diverse abilities.
3) Be Smart- The play environment is easy to understand.
4) Be Independent -Allows children to explore and play at their own level
5) Be Safe- Provides graduated levels of challenge while being safe.
6) Be Active-Supports various degrees of physical and social play, but minimizes unnecessary fatigue
7) Be Comfortable - Environment is usable for individuals with sensory needs, diverse body size, posture, mobility and motor control.

There is a difference between an accessible playground and an inclusive playground. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, (ADA) an inclusive playground has no physical barriers, but not all components have to be wheelchair accessible. The playground's surface must allow ease of motion for wheelchairs. Adaptive swings, playground features accessible at ground level, and ramps which allow access at upper levels of the play structure are usually provided. Wheelchair accessible gliders and treehouses with ramps leading to and through the structure are now available. Some new equipment is designed to have an eight-foot ramp added to any structure.

More than any other types of instruction, outdoor play has been proven to stimulate speech, cognition, gross and fine motor skills, and develop social interaction skills. The right equipment and surface can make all the difference in providing a safe, fun, and inclusive play area.

Playground surface is another important element in designing inclusive playgrounds to allow children of all capabilities to enjoy a play area. Choosing the right surfacing will depend on your budget, the amount of use the playground gets, the ability to maintain the surface, needs for durability, drainage and accessibility. 

There are many choices when it come to surfacing, each with their own benefits: According to PlayCore, Inc., choices include:

Engineered Wood Fiber

Loose-fill Rubber

Poured in Place Rubber

Bonded Rubber Surfaces

Rubber Tiles

Read more about proper fall surfacing for all play environments

Find the Right Outdoor Playground Equipment for Early Childhood Development

When we think of small children playing on the playground, we smile. What many people don't realize is how important in a child's development this time on the playground can be. There is abundant research on the benefits of playground play in the development of children's social/emotional, physical, sensory, cognitive and communication skills.

When children are involved in unstructured playing, they are learning. This learning - emotional, social, motor and cognitive is enhanced by this play. Play involves the body (running and jumping); the mind Imagination), equipment and props (playground equipment and toys), and words (singing joking) The most crucial time for a child's development is the earliest years. Play stimulates a child's brain development and function and helps build the brain's foundation, organization, and capabilities.

There is a definite difference between the structure of a gym class and the spontaneous play on a playground. Random play with children of all ages and backgrounds can develop imagination, motor skills, and social interaction because the child must be able to adjust to unscripted activities. Correctly designed playgrounds will incorporate six key elements of play to address fitness, physical activity and overall child development.

These six elements are:

  1. Brachiating (Move by using the arms to swing from branch to branch)
  2. Climbing
  3. Swinging
  4. Sliding
  5. Spinning
  6. Balancing

Very early childhood is a time of rapid change and learning. Toddler playgrounds help them learn about the world around them while developing strength and stability. Before they can even go to school, preschool play equipment can develop cognitive skills and prepare toddlers for the social environment of school. Motor skills, balance, physical skills, and sensory experiences are developed and enhanced through toddler playgrounds. Active play can encourage exercise and physical activity, which can later on develop into an active lifestyle.

"Crawl & Toddle, Cruise-a-Long, Play Station, Sensory Wall, Object Recognition, and The Big Outdoors" are play equipment developed specifically for the 6 months to 2 year old age group. Multiple textures, brightly colored themes, and play equipment which graduates in challenge, will attract this varying group of toddlers to explore and imagine.

According to PlayCore. Inc., for children ages 2-5 " play equipment should be lower to the ground, have a wider base of support and incorporate upper-body components that are designed to support young children's body weight at a very low level. Activities that focus on upper body bilateral coordination and the patterning for climbing are the prerequisite skills that provide a foundation for brachiating."

Swings and slides are playground activities that help develop balance and spatial awareness plus fine motor skills such as gripping and gross motor skills such as pumping of the legs to go higher. Also, the cognitive awareness and coordination of putting these skills together is developed.

Playground equipment which involves climbing builds a body awareness and coordination of their body parts. Problem solving skills are developed and a sense of pride from accomplishing this task. This self-esteem and cognitive abilities extend from the playground to the classroom.

Providing a balance of these four different types of play will provide multiple opportunities for child development:

  1. Free Play is play that is without adult input or guidance.
  2. Imaginative play is free play that involves the children using their creativity with elements of dramatic play, pretend or make-believe.
  3. Guided play has a loosely defined framework of social rules.
  4. Directed play occurs under the direction of an adult usually to meet a specific objective.

Free play in playgrounds is important in the development of verbal and social skills shown by the creation of fantasy games. A game of tag or making a piece of playground equipment into a castle, the children learn to negotiate roles, compromise, to lead and to follow, and work together. They also learn self-control and to take turns in order to continue to keep playing in the "game." Playground equipment that links different elements together provides multiple opportunities for children to socialize in different types of interaction; nooks and crannies for one or more children or adult and child to play.

It's important to remember that the very act of playing is a vital component in the development of a child's brain, body, and cognition, and lays the grid for neural pathways through repetitive motions. It allows a child to imagine, create, and explore through interaction with playground equipment and peers while building the social, verbal, and problem-solving skills necessary in today's world.

Bliss Products offers equipment for young children which challenges and develops fitness and self-confidence. Equipment such as the Crawl & Toddle, Cruise-a-Long, Play Station, Sensory Wall, Object Recognition, and The Big Outdoors build fine and gross motor skills, fitness, agility, and problem-solving skills. The use of freestanding play pieces and the increase in climbing events, allow children to build their confidence while still creating a safe and fun atmosphere.