These are just some of the comments I heard while enjoying a visit to a local indoor inflatable park with my children. In addition to comments like this, I also noticed something unusual at a “kid’s fun place…” the laughter, squeals and screams were not just coming from the kids. Entire families and groups of friends, teens and adults… not just kids were all… enjoying… together. They were all challenging each other. They were all running together, sweating together, laughing together, competing against each other and teaming up, brothers against sisters, moms against dads, kids against parents. No matter what the team makeup was, physical activity and fun was ensuing. Families were experiencing things and trying things together that no other environment provides. No one was on their phone, mindlessly scrolling social media but almost everyone had their devices out filming the experience and photographing some amazing images.
Attractions in this gigantic place included 25+ unique physical challenges that involved every muscle in everyone’s body. Not only are the attractions physically demanding and fun, they also inspire creativity and cause visual and emotional excitement. All of this got me thinking, “What a great place to have a FIELD TRIP or PE CLASS!” Being a certified fitness trainer and a new home school mom with 4 kids from Kindergarten to Grade 6, I recognized that something special was happening in this facility. Having recently organized my children’s Schedule of Outcomes Program Plan, based on the Alberta Education Guidelines, it hit me like a ton of bricks, this place should get an A+! In reviewing the Alberta Government’s Program Rationale and Philosophy, I came to realize that this inflatable park was the perfect location to accomplish all the outcomes of a Physical Education Curriculum.
The Leap of Faith – “Jumping off a 15-foot high cliff is so much fun,” is something I didn’t think I’d ever say. Landing in a giant inflated “stuntman” bag sure made it more enjoyable. Kids and adults alike are encouraged to face their fears and push themselves outside their comfort zones, by trying something that makes their heart race. One of the key beliefs of the Alberta PE Curriculum is using “physical activity as a strategy for managing life challenges” and to build, “Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem.” Watching person after person face their fears, climb the mountain and then stand at the edge of the cliff was exciting. You could see a range of emotions flood these people as they calculated the risk and eventually (in some cases up to 10 minutes) they would… jump! The thrill of accomplishing the goal was immediately evident on their face, as they climbed out of the bag… ALIVE and with a new level of self-worth and confidence. Achieving success like this is something everyone should have the opportunity to relish in and resulted in almost every single person making the trek back up the mountain for another jump with a fresh love of a goal successfully achieved.
The Obstacle Courses – There were multiple styles of obstacle courses in this indoor inflatable park and all of them involved different challenges. There was a life-sized fire truck themed one, a giant figure-8 rat race themed one and vertical obstacle course with a monster gorilla theme. All of them required that people use parts of their bodies they likely forgot about. We had to climb things, squeeze through certain elements, sway back and forth through other elements, crawl, jump, slide, run and more. Truly, these courses provided experiences from all movement dimensions. All the obstacle courses involved friendly competition in a situation that allowed for elements of risk and challenge, growth and achievement, and all provided in a safe environment.
The Meltdown – Featured on many hilarious “YouTube” videos and on the TV show “Ellen,” this attraction offered a workout that is almost beyond compare. Imagine standing on one of 8 available platforms as 2 swinging padded arms of varying heights are spun around toward you forcing you to either jump or duck to avoid being knocked off the attraction. It sounds fun, for sure… but the physical demands of this attraction were unbelievable! Everyone does “burpies,” in the gym at school but this game takes it to a whole new level of extreme exercise and incredible fun! What’s even greater is that it can be operated anywhere between very slow to quite fast, to allow for a diverse range of skills and abilities. In the end, the competitors either give in to the exhaustion and step off the platform or they are (not so gently) removed from the platform by one of the rotating arms. No matter the outcome of the competition, every competitor achieves a similar result, being… healthy, interactive, competitive, challenging and silly fun, which makes kids want to come back over and over always seeking to beat their previous “best!”
The Inflated Stadium – Interestingly, this facility also offered a huge multi-sport stadium, that allowed for children and families to choose their desired activity and either enjoy alone or with a group. The sports lovers were able to choose, basketball, soccer, volleyball, dodgeball, and other activities. With the staff’s involvement, the arena was also used for other activities and games, including types of gymnastics, dance competitions and other games. The best part of this attraction is that none of us realized that the fun we were having was actually an amazing workout.
After a few hours enjoying this facility, I came to realize that one of the key aspects as to why this inflatable park should be a part of every school field trip and PE curriculum was exactly that… fun but a rewarding, physically demanding educational experience. Like ours, other families were demonstrating exactly the purpose of the PE Curriculum in Alberta… A lifelong interest in physical education! Learning truly can be a ton of fun and this indoor inflatable park proves that over and over. As I write this, I’m hopeful that the local school systems read this article and begin introducing children to these types of facilities.