10 Favorite Educational Toys for the Holidays!

25 Nov

The holidays are upon us! Are you excited to see family, eat home-cooked goodies, take road trips to have new adventures? Holidays are a great time to stop and be thankful for the people around us, but they can also become stressful to parents and grandparents when children give the “deer in the headlights” look when asked what they want for the holidays! Maybe a surprise is exactly what’s in store this holiday season! We have a list of our top 10 educational toys that will not only leave children excited, but also keep them learning as they play!

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1. Frieda’s Fruit Fiesta Preschool Game!

  • Age: 4 years & Up
  • Price: $21.95
  • Description: Prepare for an alphabet board game up to four players can enjoy! Kids will love matching letters as they try to gain fruit bowls and win the game.

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2. Pretend Pay Wooden Tea Party Set

  • Age: 3 years & up
  • Price: $29.95
  • Description: The perfect play tea set to give your child the opportunity to host elegant tea parties for friends! Encourages creativity and dramatic play.

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3. Techno Kids Marble Trax Undersea Adventure

  • Age: 4 years & up
  • Price: $47.95
  • Description: Dive into this ocean-themed marble run that will test kids’ problem solving skills as they construct and then compete on this colorful marble trax adventure!

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4. Twist & Turn Activity House

  • Age: 12 months & up
  • Price: $39.95
  • Description: Teaching shapes and building problem solving skills, the Twist & Turn Activity House is a bundle of fun for babies!

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5. OGOBUILD Pod Kit

  • Age: 6 years & up
  • Price: $44.95
  • Description: Your kids will love this pod kit that encourages imaginative play as they build forts and kick, spin, and throw this flexible, lightweight structure!

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6. Aztec Large Size Blocks Primary 30

  • Age: 18 months & up
  • Price: $29.95
  • Description: Teaches basic mathematic skills from an early age. Blocks can be connected horizontally, vertically, diagonally, inward, or outward! Great for encouraging budding fine motor skills.

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7. Nightzone Light Up Hoops

  • Age: 6 years & up
  • Price: $19.95
  • Description: Bring the added thrill of glow in the dark to basketball play!  Great for encouraging movement in kids as they practice their ball skills.

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8. Favorite Friends Let It Snow! 18″ Doll

  • Age: 3 years & up
  • Price: $59.95
  • Description: This beautiful doll is great for encouraging dramatic play as children celebrate the change in seasons!

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9. Litte Tikes Handle Haulers Deluxe – Big Top Charlie

  • Age: 12 months & up
  • Price: $33.95
  • Description: Hours of fun for babies and toddlers as they listen to music and play with  locomotive trains!

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10. Remote Control Mario Kart 7 – Yoshi

  • Age: 6 years & up
  • Price: $110.95
  • Description: Reaching top speeds of 20 kn/h, the Mario Kart 7 Cars will provide hours of racing fun for your kids inspired by their favorite Mario Kart characters!

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We hope you found a little inspiration for your holiday list this season! Don’t forget to check our Facebook page every day this week at 11 for a chance to win a featured toy in our What Toy Am I? Contest. Find the contest rules here.

Wish It, Win It Pinterest Sweepstakes | Win a Toy Wish List for Your Child!

18 Nov

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It’s once again time for the holidays! We know; it sneaks up on you. That’s why we’re here to help. Enter our Wish It, Win It Pinterest Sweepstakes for a chance to win a wish list full of educational toys your kids are sure to love!

Kaplan Toys has curated eight Pinterest boards packed with sure-fire favorites across a variety of themes and age groups – including Brainy Baby, Traveling Toddler, Miniature Maven, Junior Genius, Marvelous Mademoiselle, Wonderful Whippersnapper, Creative Kid, and Brilliant Builder.

Choose your favorite board for the chance to win ALL of the items featured there. Simply repin the main graphic from the holiday board you want to win and you will be entered to win our Wish It, Win It Pinterest Sweepstakes! (Limit one entry per person.) One lucky winner’s wish will come true on Nov. 24th!

Click on the Wish List graphic you want to win to go to the board on Pinterest. Simply repin and you’ve entered!

Have questions? Feel free to ask them on our Facebook page and we would be happy to help you out!

View the official sweepstakes rules here.

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Building Thanks in Children

11 Nov

142971aBlocks have always been a great way to keep children entertained while building” their fine and gross motor skills, but did you know they can also be used to instill gratitude from an early age? Here are a few ways you can use block play to teach children about Thanksgiving.

 1. Talk About It.

It’s important to start off play with a discussion. Talk to your children about Thanksgiving, what it is, as well as the harvest and the changes of autumn. Introduce the concepts of thanks and sharing and ask kids why they are important.

 2. Read Apple Farmer Annie.

It always helps to have a story to go with playtime! Read Apple Farmer Annie by Monica Wellington and use the blocks you have to help kids create an orchard. The floorboard can act as the ground while children use blocks to construct apple trees and fences.

 3. Encourage Sharing.

While you are building with children, be sure to encourage cooperative play. Teaching children the importance of sharing and working together to build something great are valuable lessons that will tie in perfectly with the season of thanks. It will also help to build communication skills as children embrace building ideas from playmates, ask nicely for blocks they want to use, and attempt to describe building intentions to another person before they’ve built their creation.

4. Spice It Up.

To take block play experiences to the next level, provide children with colored paper pieces (red, green, yellow, brown, and orange), markers, scissors, and tape so that they can tape “leaves” onto whatever structures they’ve created for a fun, fall feel! This way, children can build whatever they want and then decorate for the season.

For even more themed-block play experiences, check out Let’s Build by Pamela Phelps.

Looking for the perfect block set for your child? We’re here to help. Here are some block sets we think your kids will love:

4 Ways to Focus on the Family

4 Nov

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Celebrate the start of November by spending quality time with your family! Toys not only provide entertainment for children, but they can also encourage engagement in the home by bringing families together as they support learning in children. Here are four educational ways to spend your family time plus the toys you can use to carry them out:

1. Keep Table Talk Interesting!

Some of the most stimulating conversations can be had at the dinner table when everyone slows down from busy schedules to spend time together over a meal. To make these conversations more productive, Around the Family Table offers pages full of conversation starters that can lead to a child’s deeper understanding of the world around them. From social norms to goal setting, children can be inspired by thought-provoking questions for the family.

2. Build Something Wonderful

Whether it’s understanding how Lincoln Logs fit together, learning how to balance one block on top of another, or learning color coordination with LEGOs, block play is a great way for children to strengthen fine and gross motor skills. Building and construction also stretches kids’ imaginations as they realize creations are only limited by how ambitious their building goals are. Here are two tips to keep in mind as you build:

  1. Build together, not separately. Teaching your child to adapt their building style to meet yours will help them understand cooperate play. It will also encourage sharing and communication as you talk through the structure you’re going to create!
  2. Build with purpose. What function is the tower going to serve? Will the bridge be used to get toy cars from point A to point B? You can challenge your children to even greater depths of thought by setting a goal to go along with their architecture. One great idea is trying to build a home for one of your child’s toys. Space perception is needed when setting building parameters, presenting a great learning opportunity for kids.

3. Encourage Engineering

Have you heard of the STEM movement? Encouraging science, technology, engineering and math in the home is just as important as pushing them in the classroom. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to explain real-world applications around the house as children test out small versions of real-world concepts. To explain how things work and why, here are some engineering toys you can’t miss out on as you teach your child about the world around them:

4. Start a New Tradition

Finally, simply starting something new in the home can rekindle everyone’s excitement over spending time together. Starting a new tradition, whether for the holidays or simply in the home, can be a great way to bring fun back to family ritual. Whether it’s strategies to keep chores engaging or acting out bedtime stories, the Book of New Family Traditions has some great ideas on how you can change things up for a more refreshing family time.

Our Suggestion: Family Game Night!

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Board games are the oldest trick in the book for getting families to gather around for a night of fun! Pick a night that works for all of your family members and set aside time for some friendly competition. Check out these new board game selections to add to your game night:

Have your own ideas for livening up family time? Feel free to share them with us by commenting below or on our Facebook page with the hashtag #familytime.

Preschool Pumpkin Designs for Halloween

28 Oct

Halloween is Friday! Get your children excited by pulling together some pumpkin crafts to keep little hands and minds busy! Seasonal crafts can encourage cooperative play as children work together with parents or siblings to create something inspiring. Drawing, cutting, and gluing will also build fine and gross motor skills. Here are five fun ways you can make pumpkins at home with your children to celebrate Halloween:

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 1. Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater!

Avoid all of the dangerous knives involved with jack o’ lanterns and have children cut out a pumpkin instead! This activity is easy and adorable. Simply take a picture of each child with their arms raised and print out the pumpkins with the “Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater!” poem attached here. Have children cut out the pumpkins and color as creatively as they want! Cut out all of the pumpkin pieces and glue together for a super cute craft! It also makes for a great Halloween decoration to put on the fridge.

94e5e648b654f65961d3903263535222 2. Sparkly Pumpkins

Who says you have to cut a pumpkin to make it beautiful? Get preschoolers excited about making sparkly pumpkins! Break out the autumn colors, add some golden glitter paint, and have preschoolers use their hands to place sequins on the pumpkins with glue. Children will love getting their hands messy and seeing the sparkly results once pumpkins dry.

Source: http://theimaginationtree.com/2010/10/sparkly-pumpkins.html

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3. Pumpkin Seed Fall Craft!

Though pumpkins don’t last forever, pumpkin seeds can last much longer! Simply save the pumpkin seeds from whatever pumpkin goody you’re making, engage your child in painting the seeds orange, brown, and green, and draw a pumpkin outline to be filled with colored seeds! Once glue is applied, children can simply place the seeds on their pumpkin for decoration. Results will leave kids with something to proudly hang on the wall for a little pumpkin decoration.

Source: http://blogs.babycenter.com/life_and_home/9-simple-pumpkin-seed-projects-for-fall/

4. Mini Pumpkin Quesadillas! 1e11c74c1802dcc2bbb29683c59eacd5

After you finish pumpkin crafting, you have to have a healthy pumpkin snack! Mini quesadillas are the perfect option as they’re easy to make and allow room for as much creativity as you’re willing to put in. Have your child draw the faces they want cut into their quesadilla on a piece of paper and replicate by cutting the faces out of the tortillas. Fill with cheese and cook to create festive pumpkin quesadillas!

Source: http://www.craftymorning.com/mini-pumpkin-quesadillas-kids-halloween-lunch/

5. Pumpkin Slime

Finally, if your family did go through with carving a pumpkin for the holiday season, there is a simple craft your child will love to dig his or her hands into! Get ready for pumpkin slime! This is a great option for sensory play and a creative way to recycle the insides of your pumpkin. Learn how to make pumpkin slime with liquid starch here: http://www.learnplayimagine.com/2013/10/pumpkin-slime-recipe-fall-sensory-play.html?m=1

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Books to Read with Your Pumpkin Craft:

-Pumpkin Soup

-Andy Shane and the Pumpkin Trick

-Piggies in the Pumpkin Patch

We hope you enjoy making pumpkin crafts with your children! Do you have something creative in mind for Halloween? Share with us by posting your pumpkin creations on our Facebook page.

The Importance of Babbling in Babies

21 Oct

shutterstock_218714161You’re driving down the road when you hear it—your baby starts cooing in the back seat. They may be gazing out the window or simply be fascinated with whatever colorful toy has caught their attention, but something has caused them to feel the need to vocalize. Babbling is a phase of early education every baby experiences as words begin to take on meaning. Here are a few ways you can take advantage of the early learning opportunities it presents and strategies for encouraging babbling as your baby launches into language learning.

What to Expect from Babbling:

  1. Babies understand more than they can say.

    Once babies start trying to talk, they have a lot to say but can’t always express those thoughts. Understanding concepts is a lot easier than voicing them. Linking meaning to words, however, is a big milestone for babies and usually takes place between eight and twelve months.

  2. A baby’s understanding of a word may vary from yours.

    When you say dog, your baby may only associate it with the fuzzy German Shepherd running around in the backyard. First word understandings are often only tied to a specific object. It’s important to use the word in several different situations, labeling and comparing objects with the same name.

  3. Baby babblings will begin to vary.

    You should notice babbles begin to vary and take on meaning as babies learn to add inflections and intonations in his or her speech. This is a good thing! You can encourage the frequency of those babbles through replying with words and smiles of your own.

  4. Babbling is a way for babies to initiate conversation.

    Even though they’re not using words, when babies combine words and gestures, whether it’s grabbing your leg or reaching for a cup, they are looking to you to engage in conversation. Be sure you’re responding in kind!

Communication Tips for Encouraging Early Language Skills:

  • Exaggerate actions and label and describe objects as your child focuses on them.
  • Use language to give your play and daily routines structure and meaning from which the child can learn. Talk more now that the child is starting to communicate more. Good labeling and attentive, language-rich conversations are even more important than before.
  • Reinforce turn taking and the back-and-forth of daily conversation.
  • Assume that the baby’s babbling refers to the thing he or she is looking at, touching, or playing with. Label that object.
  • Use books that can be chewed on and have flaps so that the child can understand that things do not vanish when out of sight.

Tips for Reading to Your Baby:

  • Reading fosters a baby’s understanding of cause and fact, fine and gross motor skills, listening skills, object permanence, and understanding of words.
  • Encourage your baby to follow your pointing or gaze.
  • Take turns with your baby as you repeat words in the book. Reading to them is not so much important as allowing them to vocalize what is being read.
  • Help him or her with understanding first words by also pointing that word out in different forms. (Ex. A dog in the book, the dog outside, a dog on the computer screen.)
  • What you should look for when reading:
    • Does the baby enjoy reading books with you?
    • Does the baby follow your gaze or pointing?
    • Does the baby babble when looking at pictures?
    • Does the baby try to direct your attention to things of interest?
    • Does the baby shift his or her gaze between you and things in the book?

At the end of the day, babbling is a good thing and an indicator that your child is on their way to becoming a regular motor mouth! The best way to encourage babbles to develop into words is by responding to those nonsensical conversations with patient responses and reading to your baby as you both engage in active dialogues.

For even more activities for encouraging early literacy in your baby, don’t miss Raising a Talker: Easy Activities for Birth to Age 3.

Have early language learning tips to share? Feel free to comment below or post on our Facebook page!

Related Resource: 3 Tips for Building Baby Language Skills 

DIY Boats for Christopher Columbus Day!

13 Oct

What better way to celebrate Christopher Columbus Day than by building DIY (Do It Yourself) boats! Water play is a fun way to keep kids engaged as they use hands-on learning to build gross motor skills. DIY projects also stretch the imagination, teach children the value of being resourceful, and provide simple science lessons such as why some materials float and others don’t. Here are four DIY boats you can build with your child to keep creativity flowing and keep little minds engaged as they play:

lm-paper-boat1. Paper Boats

Learn about transportation by building a paper boat with paper or cardboard, duct tape, and water to send it on its way! Keep children engaged by talking about the importance of Christopher Columbus’ discovery and ask them where they would like to travel by boat. Once imaginations have been sparked, start building with these step-by-step instructions: http://www.mykidsadventures.com/paper-boat-race/. The duct tape on the bottom will prevent boats from falling apart.

 Extra: Get even more creative by providing markers and paint for children to personalize boats!

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2. Penny Boats

Work on counting money and make a boat at the same time! Penny Boats are as simple as using aluminum foil, straws, paper, balloons, and any other household supplies you want to decorate with. Then it becomes a competition to find out whose boat can hold the most pennies before it sinks! Turn the project into a simple science lesson by asking children to make a hypothesis on how many pennies a boat will hold before it sinks! Ask children at the end of the activity if they have any ideas on how to make the boats more durable for next time.

Source: http://imaginationsoup.net/2014/07/summer-learning-pbs-kids/

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3. Pool Noodle Boats

There’s nothing like cutting up pool noodles, sticking in toothpicks, adding a paper sail, and watching boats sail around on a sunny day! Blow on the little boats to watch them go! Encourage your kids to participate in a competition to see who can blow a boat to the finish point the fastest!

Source: http://www.raisingwildones.com/2014/03/easy-sail-boat-kids-craft.html

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4. Classic Cork Boats

Make little pirate ships out of corks and rubber bands! Kids can make boats as long or short as they want by adding or subtracting corks. Once finished, blow on the shimmery sails to set them sailing! Use different colored sails to personalize.

Source: http://mamapapabubba.com/2013/06/25/cork-sail-boats-with-sparkly-sails/#comment-5592

Looking for related books to go with your activity? We’ve got you covered! Check out these fun titles on boats:

Related Products:

-Boat Puzzle: http://www.kaplantoys.com/product/83746/chunky-puzzle-boat?c=31%7CKTHS13

- LEGO Boats: http://www.kaplantoys.com/product/89493/lego-harbor-set

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