The Playground Games mixes old-school fun with modern favorites

Ryan Miller wanted to create a business that provides the excitement of events like the Color Run and Tuff Mudder but makes them accessible to people of all fitness levels and entertaining no matter how many times participants repeat the experience.

Chicago Parent Spring Playdate

  • 10 a.m.-3 p.m. April 30
  • Athletico Center, 1900 Old Willow Road, Northbrook
  • Please wear sneakers or flats since shoes with heels aren’t allowed on the turf
  • Advance tickets are kids under 2, kids 3-15, free parents and kids under 1. Prices increase April 29.
  • Get tickets at chicagoparent.com/playdate
  • Find more info about The Playground Games, visit pggames.com

The idea for The Playground Games started when he was a junior at Bradley University studying mechanical engineering and volunteering for a variety of popular events.

“I looked at the landscape of one-off events like the Color Run. Once you participate in them, it’s not necessarily repeatable as a new experience,” he says. “They’re awesome right off the bat, but once you’ve done one, they all have the same format and it’s hard to repeat them to make them a different experience.”

He wanted to create something that could be accessible for people with various levels of physical ability, but could be repeated in different ways and still be a great experience.

“I decided to create a program that is a throwback to the games we played in grade school, field day- type activities. If you played them as a kid, you can walk in and have a great time,” he says. “Our motto is ‘Because Play Always Came First.’ Sometimes people get caught up in their work schedule and forget to have fun, to let loose and laugh.”

The Playground Games, based in Deerfield, can be hired as a fundraising opportunity or for birthday parties, bar mitzvahs or team-building activities.

They will be a big part of the Chicago Parent Playdate in Northbrook on April 30. Miller says they will be offering inflatable kick darts, a bounce house, an inflatable slide, an obstacle course and the always popular bubble soccer.

Two of their most popular games, wacky ball and GaGa, will also be available for kids to try.

In wacky ball, kids stand on platforms and try to knock each other off using a swinging ball. GaGa is a fast-paced, high-energy game played in a hexagonal ball pit in which players use their hands to hit the ball at other players.

“Chicago Parent has always been a great organization to work with, and we want to continue that great partnership and make a statement at this event. We’ll have a live DJ and an emcee there, too,” he says. “It’s going to be a great event and we will hopefully show people things they’ve never seen before.”

The company is in its third year and offers a “cosmic experience” and can bring a variety of games and even a DJ to any occasion. Events can range in size from about 20 people to several hundred and can be held indoors or outdoors and are appropriate for kids as young as 5 through adulthood.

“We provide a musical and entertaining atmosphere added to the playground games,” he says. “We can turn most venues into a ‘cosmic playground’ with lasers and black lights.”

The great thing is each event is customizable, so you can either have the same games time after time, or you can select from a new menu of options, he says.

“You can have five events this year and five totally different ones next year if you want to,” he says. “So you can have a cosmic 4-square tournament and bubble soccer one time and have our GaGa pit and kick darts the next.”

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