Category Archives: Outdoor Entertaining

When the weather warms and your parties move outdoors, try these simple ideas. Entertaining doesn’t demand any elaborate decor, just simple food, good company, and your patio.

Swing Sets Encourage Free Play and Foster Healthy Child Development

Trailblazer Swing Set Kit

The Importance of Play and Practical Tools for Parents

Life in today’s world is hurried, and the pressures put upon children to succeed can be overwhelming. In many communities, it isn’t uncommon for parents to overschedule their children with extracurricular activities that they feel can enrich the children’s knowledge and experience. Unfortunately, what becomes lost in this arrangement is the child’s need for free play. When there is no room in the day for free play, children suffer. According to a clinical report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, “play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth.” Play is so crucial to child development that the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights recognizes play as a right that every child deserves.

What is free play? Briefly, it is the kind of play that is child-centered. It is initiated by children and guided by children. Free play doesn’t involve screens or electronics, isn’t scheduled, and isn’t controlled or directed by adults. Free play is play that just happens. It can be an individual kind of play devised by one child, or it can be a cooperative effort on the part of a group of children. While adults may be invited to engage in free play with children, the children themselves must be the ones who direct the activities. Free play can come in any shape or form, but parents who wish to help encourage free play can provide children with tools to assist.

In the view of many parents, backyard swing sets are one of the best tools children can use for free play. With a swing set, children can initiate and engage in play, whether alone or with friends, and still be under the secretly watchful eye of mom or dad. Swing sets come in a wide array of configurations, so finding one that offers the desired features is easy. Wood swing sets are most common for backyard use, but metal swing sets are available as well. The most basic swing sets are equipped with a couple of swings and a trapeze bar or rings, but parents can also opt for more features. A club house, slide, and monkey bars are common additions that parents want for their children’s backyard swing set. Other accessories can be added, of course, to meet the individual needs of the family. Some of the options can include a climbing apparatus, different types of swings, or an attached sandbox. Pretend play can be encouraged with the addition of accessories like a telescope, steering wheel, or vinyl playhouse enclosure for the swing set’s existing club house.

Children are wonderfully creative and can use free play time to exercise their imagination. Swing sets are just one tool for free play that parents can provide to children, but they are a particularly powerful tool. Swing sets, in addition to encouraging imaginative free play, also encourage active play. On a swing set, children are required to move their bodies as well as their minds, and this goes a long way toward developing the whole child.

When it comes down to it, though, time is the most important tool that parents can provide their children to encourage free play. Allowing more time for children to engage in their own imaginative play will benefit their development far more meaningfully than a day filled with extracurricular activities ever could.

Misting Fans

Decobreeze Capri Misting Fan

Will Misting Fans Improve the Quality of Outdoor Living and Working?

One of the most popular spots at the zoo or amusement park on hot summer days is not necessarily one of the main attractions. It’s the misting stations that draw in a consistent crowd eager to feel cool and refreshed before moving onto the next wild animal or wild ride. Creating your own personal misting station is much easier, much more pleasant, and much less expensive than spending hot summer days with the family at a pricey zoo or park. The way to accomplish this is with a misting fan.

Misting fans bring together the refreshing mist of water with the cool breeze generated by a fan. This combination cools more effectively than just mist or just a fan alone. In fact, a misting fan can reduce the surrounding air temperature by as much as 30 degrees, making it possible to feel comfortable on your back patio or deck even on the hottest days. Better quality misting fans are able to cool an area 200 square feet or more in size, which makes the misting fan ideal not only for home use, but also for commercial and industrial use. Outdoor cafes, construction sites, and sporting events are just a few of the places where misting fans would be welcomed and appreciated.

When shopping for a misting fan for your home or workplace, there are a couple of features you will want to insist upon having. Most misting fans are mounted on top of a water reservoir, many of which can hold anywhere from 5 to 10 gallons of water. Better misting fans, no matter what the capacity, should be able to run, when starting with a full reservoir, up to 4 or 5 hours long without needing a refill. Additionally, be sure to choose a misting fan that comes with attached, locking wheels or a convenient cart so that it is easy to move and store away.

Optional features are available that can enhance the quality of your misting fan experience. For example, some misting fans have variable speeds, allowing you more control. Another particularly handy feature in a misting fan is a telescoping post that allows the fan to be adjusted easily for height. Also, some fans oscillate to more efficiently distribute the cooling mist in the surrounding area.

No matter what features you choose, having your own misting fan at home or work can significantly improve your level of comfort, even on the hottest of days. Because they provide so much relief from the heat, misting fans at home can help you enjoy your patio or deck more fully, and at work, misting fans can increase your productivity and make working outdoors much more pleasant.

Porch Swings


Your Favorite Features Help Create Ultimate Relaxation

There’s something about the rhythmic movement of a porch swing that can take us to a satisfying state of relaxation. Perhaps it’s because our own parents rocked and swayed us as infants that we continue to seek out that calming sensation. Whatever the reason, porch swings help us relax and unwind. We can breathe more easily, more deeply. On a porch swing, we can let life slow down enough to enjoy the beauty of the natural world around us. We can listen to and appreciate the music of birds, breeze, and children playing.

Porch swings come in a variety of styles, so choosing the best is simply a matter of choosing the features that you prefer. Does the idea of sharing your porch swing with a friend sound inviting? Then a two-seater is a good choice. Even if you swing solo, swings with two seats give you extra space so you can keep your books and magazines handy.

Additionally, porch swings are made from a number of different materials that you’ll want to consider. Do you like the natural appearance of wood? A wooden porch swing can be stained or painted, if you like, to complement the decor of your home. The best wooden swings are made from durable, weather resistant, and insect resistant woods like Western Red Cedar or Eucalyptus. Hard wooden seats can be softened easily with the addition of a seat cushion and throw pillows made with weather resistant fabrics.

Some homeowners prefer the look of wicker rather than wood; unfortunately, traditional wicker is not weather proof and would not be practical for the outdoors. Luckily, porch swings are available in durable resin wicker. Resin wicker looks just as elegant as traditional wicker, but it is resistant to harsh weather conditions, mildew, and ultra-violet rays. The best quality resin wicker swings are hand-woven and have a steel frame, so rust is never a concern. Many also come with their own seat cushion covered with weather resistant fabric. One of the most attractive qualities about resin wicker furniture is how simple it is to clean. Most dirt can be cleaned off by squirting the resin wicker with a hose and letting it air dry. Tougher dirt requires only mild soap and a soft bristle brush.

If your porch at home is too small or is not able to support a porch swing, or if your home does not have a porch at all, you can still enjoy the gentle sway of a porch swing if you have a swing frame. Porch swing frames are sturdy structures designed to support standard porch swings and the people who enjoy them. You actually have a little more flexibility in terms of location when you use a swing frame because you can choose to put your porch swing in the garden, under a shady tree, or anywhere in the yard. Some homeowners prefer to use a swing frame right on the porch rather than bolting the swing to the porch’s ceiling.

Porch swings, no matter where they are located, are an inviting addition to any home. The gentle back and forth sway helps to settle the mind and lighten the mood; as a result, they quickly become a favorite spot for winding down at the end of a tiring day

Outdoor Patio Heaters: A Great Commercial Asset

Commercial Patio Heater

Patio Heaters Provide Heat to Outdoor Restaurants and Bars

As of November 2009, 35 states in the U.S. have enacted statewide bans on smoking in most, if not all, enclosed public places, including restaurants and, in many cases, bars. During the summer, smokers can sit outside on patios, decks, or in gardens. But when the weather turns cold, many smokers may prefer to stay home rather than dine out, which can seriously damage the restaurant business. In response to this problem, more and more owners and managers in the restaurant industry are investing in outdoor patio heaters. By using patio heaters, restaurants and bars can help their smoking customers feel welcome and warm and prevent drops in their revenues during the colder seasons.

Patio Heater Fuel Types

There are three fuel types used to power patio heaters: natural gas, propane, and electricity. For restaurants, natural gas could be the best choice because the heater hooks up to the gas lines and never needs refueling. Natural gas heaters cannot be moved, however. If you plan to move the heater, for catering or other purposes, propane heaters may be the best choice. Propane patio heaters run on tanks and can be set up in about 10 minutes.

Patio Heater Safety Features

Of course, safety is always a major concern for businesses. Many patio heaters are built with this concern in mind, so they come with excellent safety features. One important feature is an automatic emergency shut off. If the heater is turned over, or even hit too hard, it automatically turns off. Another common feature is a piezo electric starter, which does not require a pilot light.

Choosing Between Various Patio Heater Options

When looking through the various commercial grade heaters, one of the most important considerations is the heater’s power, which is rated in British Thermal Units (BTUs). The average heater rates at about 45,000 BTUs, enough to make a 20 foot heat circle. Keep in mind the size of your outdoor eating and gathering space; this will determine if more than one patio heater would be needed to keep your customers cozy. Another factor to consider is style. The heater should fit comfortably with the decor of your establishment, whether traditional or modern. Some models, for example, are reminiscent of a classic iron lamp post and bring a traditional elegance to the environment. Other models offer a more sleek, modern, even futuristic appearance.

A Couple of Tips

If you plan on moving the heater, be sure to get a model with wheels. The wheels are often hidden, and so they will not affect appearance.

Having too much wind where you put the heater can adversely affect its performance. This problem can be solved rather easily, though, by using screens, shades, or other wind breakers.

An Asset to Restaurants

Patio heaters have undoubtedly proved their usefulness to restaurants and bars. Fortunately, as their popularity has increased in recent years, they have become much more affordable. So it is now easier than ever to use patio heaters to help your business maintain old patrons and gain new ones.

Outdoor Fireplaces, Chimineas, Fire Bowls, and Fire Pits

Outdoor Fire Pit

Multiple Ways to Cozy Up In the Cold

Outdoor living areas are increasingly the most occupied spaces in a home during the warmer months of the year. Whether you spend mornings alone by the pool with a good book or evenings on the patio dining with friends and family, spending as much time as possible outside in the fresh air is a priority for many home owners. When the weather turns too cool for lingering outside, though, it’s often with reluctance that home owners retreat from comfortable backyard living spaces into the home for the long winter. Luckily, the season for enjoying those exterior living areas can be extended significantly with the use of an outdoor fireplace. Outdoor fireplaces come in a variety of types, including the traditional outdoor fireplace, chimineas, fire pits, and fire bowls. Making the best choice can sometimes feel daunting, though, but knowing more about each option can help in your decision.

For the most part, the traditional outdoor fireplace looks similar to a fireplace you might see on the inside of a home. Many traditional outdoor fireplaces are rectangular in shape and feature a mesh metal door which swings open to allow easy access, and swings closed to keep sparks from flying out of the fire. Traditional outdoor fireplaces are not boring in design, though. Whether your preferred style is one of clean lines or of romantically ornate decor, there is an outdoor fireplace to match that preference. In addition, most outdoor fireplaces provide you with 360 degree warmth, which creates an inviting space large enough to entertain multiple guests on chilly evenings.

A more utilitarian style of traditional outdoor fireplace is available, too, which suits many families’ needs while at home or while on camping or other outdoor vacations. These fireplaces boast a round body and sturdy, often tubular metal legs. Some models of this kind of outdoor fireplace have two wheels which allow the units to be moved easily to different locations. This more utilitarian of fireplaces offers the essential features without the fussiness of decorative elements.

Chimineas are a different kind of outdoor fireplace. Chimineas were originally developed in Mexico as a means for heating the home and cooking food. The design of chimineas, which is reminiscent of the pot belly stove with a round, mostly enclosed firebox and tall stack, allows fires to light quickly and burn longer than in a traditional outdoor fireplace, which has an open firebox. Additionally, the design of chimineas prevents rain from extinguishing the fire. Chimineas were traditionally constructed of clay or terra cotta and worked well in warmer, drier Mexican climates, but for superior durability and performance in colder climates, the preferred material for backyard chimineas is heavy duty metal, such as cast iron or cast aluminum. In cold temperatures and harsh weather conditions, clay or terra cotta chimineas tend to flake, crack, or crumble. Metal chimineas are beautifully designed and easily become the decorative focal point in any elegant outdoor living space. Chimineas are outdoor fireplaces with real character and style.

Fire bowls and fire pits are yet another type of outdoor fireplace available. Fire bowls and fire pits are usually smaller than traditional outdoor fireplaces, and the depth of the bowl or pit varies greatly. Larger capacity fire bowls or fire pits will hold more firewood and provide more warmth for those surrounding them. Fire bowls and fire pits can also be found in a wider variety of styles than traditional outdoor fireplaces. For example, materials used to construct fire bowls and fire pits range from sturdy and attractive metals like aged bronze, copper, or stainless steel to stone such as slate, marble, or granite. Additionally, some fire bowls and fire pits are adorned with tastefully decorative elements like ceramic tile, metal scroll work, or outdoor motifs. Fire bowls and fire pits are versatile, too. Some fire bowls and fire pits can double as a grill for cooking out, and some can be found at the center of a backyard dining table or patio table, making cozy dinners and quiet conversations all the more inviting. Many fire bowls and fire pits come with a mesh spark arrestor to help prevent embers from jumping out of the flames.

Choosing an outdoor fireplace to fit your personal style and needs may be the most challenging task, but it is important to know that outdoor fireplaces are not appropriate for every exterior living space. Before selecting from the many traditional fireplaces, chimineas, fire bowls, or fire pits, be sure that one can be used safely in your home’s exterior living area. For example, many outdoor fireplaces cannot be used on or near wood decks or other wooden structures. While some of the portable fireplaces can be taken into grassy areas and campgrounds, an ideal location for most of the outdoor fireplaces discussed in this article would be a stone, brick, dirt, or concrete surface.