3 Ways to Make the Most of Picnic Time!

22 Jul

 

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July is National Picnic Month! Take advantage of the good weather and get outside for some quality family time. Picnicking has many benefits, ranging from cutting back on screen time and encouraging closer family interactions to taking time to explore new healthy snacking recipes. If you have a garden at home, it’s also a time to take pride in what you’ve grown as you reap the benefits of going green! We have a few suggestions for making the most out of your picnic time:

 1. Snacking Healthy

Picnic time is a great opportunity to instill healthy snacking habits in children as you enjoy the nice weather. Believe it or not, children adapt the behavior of parents and grandparents, so when they see you snacking healthy, they will want to do the same. A few ways to get little ones excited about healthy snacking include starting your own garden, making food preparation a work of art, and reading child-friendly books that encourage proper nutrition.

-An EarthBox is a great way to start your own garden, indoors or out! Teach children about responsibility through gardening and reap the benefits at the picnic table.

-Cooking Art is another great resource that will allow you to turn your kitchen into an art studio and enjoy snacking on creative snacks outside with the family.

-Finally, for a fun recipe to share with your family around the picnic table, find out how to make Yogurt Dipping Sauce and play the Veggie Game!

2. Encouraging Movement

Being outside for a picnic is also a great way to get kids moving before and after they snack. With so much energy to burn, children will love engaging in games of tag or exploring the terrain and insects around them! When preparing for your picnic, be sure to bring active options for children. Whether it’s a Frisbee, soccer ball, or kite, children love to get involved.

-One great option to set up beside your picnic is a Slackline! Challenge the whole family to see who can keep balance the longest!

3. Taking Time for Family.

Finally, picnics are the perfect time for focusing on the important things: each other. Take the time to set aside the smart phones, tablets, and Nintendos to talk about what happened during your day or how children feel about the approaching school year. Whether you are working on your child’s vocabulary by sharing stories or encouraging creativity by making shapes out of clouds, picnics will bring your family closer together and prove to be a valuable way to spend time.

For even more great ideas for outdoor time, check out our Pinterest board.

6 Summer Toys You’ve Got to See to Believe!

15 Jul

It’s hard to keep up with the latest toys coming out these days, especially when you’ve got places to be and children to entertain! That’s why we’re giving you a quick rundown of the newest (and craziest!) toys we have lined up for the summer. Get ready for five summer toys you didn’t know about!

1. Bling20 Swim Goggles – Summer LoveSwirl

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You can’t kick your summer off right without giving these Bling20 swim goggles a try! These cute goggles come in all kinds of crazy colors, including Mango, Peppermint, Bubblegum and Pink. Keep your child fashionable even in the pool with these swim team-approved goggles! Choose from cheeta-patterned goggles to 20 Boys Vroom Swim Goggles to fit your child’s personality!

 

2. Aquapod Bottle Launcher

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Safe and easy, the Aquapod Bottle Launcher is a fun way to blast into summer! Get outside and set up the launcher, pressurize the Aquapod, and stand back to launch bottles into the air with a quick tug to a 15-foot string! Launch the bottle as many times as you want, testing to see how different amounts of water affect how high it goes! Watch a video of our IT department testing out this toy firsthand here!

3. Gold Rush Panning Kit

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Is your child a little explorer? Spark his or her sense of adventure with the Gold Rush Panning Kit! Turn your backyard into a gold mine as children pan for real gold! Every kit is guaranteed to include real gold in each bag of Pay Dirt.

4. Wheel Brightz

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Love to ride bikes but feel like there’s not enough time in the day? The fun doesn’t have to stop just because the sun goes down! Add a little color to your child’s bike with these diamond bright MicroLED lights for bike wheels. Wheel Brightz put light-up shoes to shame – mesmerizing children with wheel-spinning fun!

5. Nancy B’s Moonscope

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Does your child love to stargaze? Does he or she get excited when there’s a full moon? Then your child will love Nancy B’s Moonscope, a kid-sized microscope children can use to learn more about the moon and constellations! Each Moonscope comes with an activity journal, so kids can keep discoveries logged.

6. Folding Binoculars

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Children love to explore, so naturally binoculars come in handy! The Folding Bincoulars are convenient for storage and are great for nature walks. Encourage children to bird watch or even play I-Spy when on hiking trips. Discovery is always right around the corner!

Want to keep up with our latest and greatest toys? Keep an eye on the New Toys section on our website or sign up for our email newsletter!

 

Creative (and Educational) Ways to Celebrate the World Cup with Your Kids

8 Jul

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Have you been watching the 2014 World Cup with your kids? Did your family collectively hold its breath over Tim Howard’s iconic saves and groan in unison over Belgium’s hard-fought win? We know we did. Although the United States is no longer playing, every country puts forth skill and heart when they step onto the playing field.

Beyond just entertainment, soccer provides an excellent opportunity for young children to learn key educational concepts and develop their gross motor skills. Here are some quick ideas you can share with your kids – inspired by the game of “football” -and a few toys that will encourage them to get their FIFA on.

Lessons from Soccer

Pace

The great thing about soccer is that everyone learns it at their own pace. When children hit the field, they begin at varying skill levels. Just because a child can’t juggle as many times as their peer does not mean that they are a poor player. Understanding that every child learns at their own rate is an important concept that can be applied in the classroom. Whether it’s maintaining ball control or understanding new vocabulary, children can come to embrace different paces of learning and even help peers improve in areas they have already mastered.

Responsibility

Whether you are a center midfielder or a sweeper, every soccer position comes with different responsibilities. Be sure to point these out as you are watching the World Cup with your child. No two roles are the same and each comes with different responsibilities. Every player is relied on by his or her teammates and if they do not perform the tasks asked of them, it affects the whole team. Encouraging children to understand the importance of responsibility will help them better appreciate it in the classroom.

Teamwork

Finally, soccer is a great way to teach cooperative play. A team never relies on one person, even if that player is Messi! It takes the combined effort of the goalkeeper, defense, and offense to put balls into the back of the net. Show children how to pass together and use communication to let each other know when they are open to score! Be sure to stress that effective communication is the best way to achieve a goal together.

-Now that your child has learned a few soccer lessons, give him or her the chance to play! Whether you need goalssoccer balls, or soccer books, we have the toys to get you started!

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Want a whole new way to play soccer? Check out our Light-Up Air Power Soccer Disk, perfect for indoor play! The soccer disk hovers on a cushion of air, allowing it to be used on any indoor or outdoor surface! The disk is lit up with LEDs, so that it can be used day or night. The disk provides a great alternative to outdoor play.

We hope you enjoyed these soccer lessons and toys! We hope you’re getting excited for the upcoming match between Brazil and Germany. Happy World Cup watching!

Beach Learning for Independence Day

1 Jul

shutterstock_159281705It’s here already: the 4th of July! Are you looking forward to family time, food and fireworks? Will you be going on vacation with your children for Independence Day? We have great options for learning on the beach so your little ones can understand the importance of the holiday while having fun at the same time! Here are a few fast facts about the holiday so children will understand why America celebrates the 4th of July:

Facts on Independence Day:

  • Congress approved the Declaration of Independence all the way back in 1776 when America was first established as a nation!
  • The name “Independence Day” was first used in 1791, fifteen years after the Declaration of Independence was signed.
  • America held its first Fourth of July celebration in Eastport, Maine in 1820.
  • Today, many Americans celebrate with barbeques, parades, picnics and fireworks!

Now for the fun! Here are three ways to keep little ones learning on the beach:

1). Alphabet Bean Bags!

21393Many families hit the beach and throw horseshoes for the fourth. Here is a way for little ones to get involved! Alphabet Bean Bags provide hands-on play for preschoolers, allowing them to engage in alphabet games, build words, and learn letters as they throw and catch beanbags. See if they can pick out the letters to a word like “picnic” and then work on gross-motor skills by trying to toss them to a line drawn in the sand. The words games are endless!

2) Number Sand Molds!

Who knew playing in the sand could add up? Number Sand Molds provide an inexpensive way to get tots engaged with math on the beach. Let them dig in and make number molds to build their own equations. You will have to check the answers, of course!

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3) Memory Match Clams

Break out these durable toys for tons of water fun! Memory Match Clams challenge children’s memory skills and hand-eye coordination as they try to remember which clams have the matching sea creatures inside. Dig a hole in the sand and fill it with water with your fun floating memory game to keep children entertained for hours!

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For even more sand and water play, check out our full toy selection here.

We hope you and your little ones have a great Independence Day! Enjoy learning games on the beach during the day and a beautiful display of independence during the night. Have a great 4th of July!

5 Tips for Your Little Girl on How to Become a Princess

24 Jun

shutterstock_169580216Is your child running around the house singing “Let It Go”? Tromping across wooden floors in heels several sizes too big? Rescuing her brother from a pretend tower? With all of the fun fairytale remakes and Disney adding new lovable princesses every year, it’s hard to not want to be a princess these days. But pretending to be a princess isn’t a bad thing! In fact, it encourages creativity and engages children in dramatic play. So without further adieu, here are five tips for your little girl on how to become a princess:

1. Look in the mirror!

All your child needs to do is see her own reflection to know that all that’s needed to become a beautiful princess is what’s on the inside; the rest is simply accessory. Make sure she knows that her cute smile, button nose and big heart are all she needs to make the world a better place. And never let her forget it!

2. Choose a color.

Every princess has a favorite color. Will hers be blue like Cinderella? Gold like Belle? Pink like Sleeping Beauty? Whatever color it is, allow her to make it her own! Encourage your child to be herself and wear her favorite color proudly. Princesses know how to keep up appearances, but only by wearing their favorite colors and clothes. Does your child want to be like Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty? Check out these dresses, so she can dress up just like them:

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3. Learn proper manners.

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Princesses have to know how to behave properly. That’s why every child needs to remember her manners if she wants to be like a princess. Encourage her to say please and thank you when passing food at the table. Make sure she knows not to interrupt her teacher when he or she is talking, and instead, wait until she’s called upon to speak. It’s also important to stress that princesses know how to be patient and make what they have to say count. Follow along with Little Princess to learn the importance of manners:

4. Build a castle.

Every princess has to have a castle! Not only will your little princess show off those building skills, but she’ll also have a place to show off to her princess friends! At Kaplan Toys, we have ice castles like Elsa’s, wooden castles, LEGO® castles and more! What kind of castle does your child want to build?

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5. Let it go!

Encourage your little princess to take after Elsa and let it go! Make sure she knows not to worry about what other people say when she wears different clothes or takes an interest in something that’s not popular. Tell her to do what she loves and channel her own inner-princess as the beautiful, independent young lady she is! And don’t forget, even princesses need help from mommy!

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Want to deck out your child’s room in fairytale fashion? Check out our pink princess furniture set, a magical setup your child is sure to love!

Does your child love to dress up? Share who your child’s favorite princess is and why in the comment section below, and she will be entered to win a free Cinderella dress!

Party in the Pool with Your Kids!

18 Jun

shutterstock_160577036 Is it just us, or is it hot outside? There’s nothing like breaking in the summer with your children by engaging in water play. Pools are great places to not only cool off but also allow children to learn! Here are few ideas to make your party in the pool an educational one:

1. Water Fun Set

141728a Work on kids’ hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills as they toss a foam ball back and forth with two springy paddles! See how many times they can hit it back and forth before it hits the water.

2. Scoop and Pour Tug Boats

30135 Engage young children in learning how to fill tug boats and pour out water. They’ll have a blast steering floating boats around the pool. Encourage children to swim in the same direction around the pool to create a current their boats can float on!

3. Waterworks Play Kit

16378 Boats and corks for floating, sea animals for swimming, cups for measuring, and sponge numbers for counting—all included in the Waterworks Play Kit for endless water fun!

4. WaterBlocks Super Set (35 Pieces)

62364 Bring classic block play to the pool! Encourage building in young kids with water runs, ball runs, waterfalls and more with our floating WaterBlocks Super Set. Children can explore math concepts, structure and balance with sticky blocks that are bound to make for interesting structures straight from your child’s imagination!

Don’t have access to a pool?

91111 Check out our Grub Scouts’ Sprinkler! It’s perfect for engaging young children in active play as they jump over friendly grubs! Sprinklers are always a fun alternative to pools when looking for ways to cool off for the summer.

-Finally, you can’t have a perfect pool day without ending it with a Cool Summer Smoothie! Check out the recipe below for a refreshing snack your kids will love!

Cool Summer Smoothie

Ingredients

  • Milk
  • Vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt
  • Crushed ice
  • Fresh fruit or fruit juice
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Blender

What to do:

  1. Blend 2 cups ice cream or yogurt, 1 cup crushed ice, 1 cup orange juice and milk as needed to thin the drink out.
  2. Add food coloring, if desired.
  3. Enjoy a cool orange smoothie.
  4. Substitute various fruits or fruit juices to make different smoothie flavors. Enjoy!

For even more great ideas like the smoothie above, check out “The GIANT Encyclopedia of Monthly Activities.” 

Managing Your Kids’ Screen Time

17 Jun

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It can’t be avoided: technology is all around us. In fact, a 2013 study from Common Sense Media reported that kids eight and under spend around two hours a day with a screen. With the abundance of smart phones and tablets, it’s easy to see how unmanaged screen time can be associated with negative side effects in young children such as childhood obesity, increased isolation, and cyber bullying. However, if parents are involved in monitoring children’s time with technology, it can be used to aid in their development instead of harming it. With great parenting alongside limited screen time, young children can be brought up healthy in the digital age. Here are a few ways you can use your child’s screen time to his or her advantage.

Benefits of Online Engagement

Despite screen time being associated with negative side effects, it can actually be used to foster educational growth and encourage children to participate in online communities. Benefits of engaging online include:

  • Keeping already established friendships connected
  • Finding new peers who have the same interests
  • Fostering self-expression through artwork, music, and books
  • Establishing and expressing individual identity

For children to reap the full benefits that technology provides, there must also be rules in place to ensure the time spent online is being used productively. Here are a few things to keep in mind as your child interacts online.

Screen Time Usage

It’s important for parents to limit how much time young children are spending online through their smart phone or tablet. Make sure you establish rules with your children regarding appropriate virtual communication, ex: when they can use technology, how long they can spend on it, and whom they are allowed to contact. A few good questions to ask yourself are:

  • Is your child allowed to text or instant message? If so, who and between what times?
  • What apps can your child download? Do you need to set parental locks before an app can be purchased?
  • Does your child need to take his or her phone or tablet to school?
  • What time does the technology need to be put “to bed?”
  • Are there consequences for violating the agreed upon rules?

Teach Your Kids Netiquette

A lot of rules that govern online interactions simply carry over from teaching children manners. Children need to know that just because the person they are virtually communicating with isn’t in front of them does not mean that negative words have less of an impact. Taunting and cruel messages, or even impersonating a peer, are all forms of cyber bullying and need to be monitored. Within your household, specific rules of ethical online communications need to be established, so that young children know what is expected in their virtual conduct. Some questions to encourage kids to ask themselves would include:

  • Would I say the words I am typing to this person’s face?
  • Would what I’m saying hurt this person’s feelings if taken out of context?
  • Will this photo embarrass someone?
  • Would my parents approve of this message?

Discourage Isolation

Many times the presence of technology in the hands of a child can cause them to be isolated from the person right beside them! Talk to your children about being present in the moment and interacting with the people around them. This will play an integral role in fulfilling young children’s need for social engagement and prevent them from being isolated. For great ideas on how to get kids involved, check out our family engagement resources here.

Understanding Privacy

Every app and platform for virtual communication has privacy settings. Making sure your children understand your rules, such as whom they can engage with online or through text is important in keeping them safe. It is better to have all personal information secure so that only select people can see it. Children need to understand that those privacy standards do NOT apply to family members. Technology guidelines need to be set from the beginning to let your child know what is expected in regards to your right to see their phone or tablet.

We hope you enjoy learning more with your kids and allowing technology to help them do so! For a list of educational apps to get your kids started, check out the following website: http://www.parents.com/fun/entertainment/gadgets/best-educational-apps-for-kids/

Resources:

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