Things to Consider When Planning a Play Date

26 Aug

 

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It’s the first week of school for many students and parents! As students adapt to the changes of a new teacher and peers, it’s important to support the friendships being fostered in the classroom right from the start. Friendship is not only an essential part of developing a child’s social skills, but it also makes the transition back to school much easier. Interacting and planning play dates with other parents is a great way to support the friendships being made and ensure they will not dwindle away as the school year progresses. Here are six things you’ll want to keep in mind when planning your child’s next play date!

 

  1. Be Prepared —It’s important that your child is ready for the play date regardless of whether they are going or hosting. Make sure he or she is well rested and fed before the allotted time. Not only do you want your child prepared, but you’ll also want to prep the space that you intend to use for play. Choose a space that will allow children to be active as they interact and childproof it for any potential risks. If the play date is happening at your house, your schedule should be cleared for the devoted hour of social time, as children will need consistent supervision.
  1. Know What to Expect—You’ll want to establish who’s picking up who, arrival and departure times, if parents are staying throughout the play date, and how many children will be involved before getting children together. It’s also a good practice to ask about any allergies or medical needs of the children in your care. Once you have all of the details, be sure to talk it over with your child, so they also know when to expect friend-time and how to prepare. (We all know they have that one special toy or outfit they’ll have to find and show off!)
  1. Teach Children How to Play the Perfect Host(ess)—Social skills are one of the many benefits children will gain from interacting with peers and building lasting relationships. One of those skills is courtesy. Explain what it means to be a ‘’good host(ess)” with examples like taking their guest’s jacket and hanging it up, showing their guest the space they’ll be exploring, or even offering a pre-prepared snack or drink! Seeing the guest as someone to be valued will help children better appreciate the ideas of their peers both in and outside of the classroom.
  1. Avoid Threes—There is truth to the concept of “third wheels” and having someone feel “left out” is never ideal. If you can, plan in pairs or keep younger siblings distracted with separate activities so children can interact with their guest.
  1. Know When to Step In—Squabbles are going to happen; it’s natural as kids are unlikely to agree on everything that arises within an hour. There are a couple of ways you can handle play date skirmishes. If there is hitting (or biting) involved, it’s time to step in and change the activity, giving attention to a new subject. If the problem is one that does not involve children being emotionally or physically hurt, it can be just as beneficial to step back and let children work out their own problems. Using communication and understanding differences is a key learning process, and if children can come to joint solutions, problem-solving skills are already underway.
  1. Reflect When Finished—It’s important to know what worked and what didn’t when the play date has come to an end. This will help you with the planning process for the next date and how your child best operates with their peers. Plan your own meeting with the parents of the visiting children so you can both be better prepared for round two!

For the perfect play date toys, you won’t want to miss out on these selections:

Play Date Resources:

 

3 Tips for Finding Time to Volunteer as a Family

19 Aug

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Volunteering doesn’t have to be as hard as pulling teeth. In fact, it doesn’t even have to take much of your time. But the time you do give as a family will be time well spent as you are not only working toward bettering the classroom, but also spending valuable time with your children as you get involved in the community. Here are a few tips on how you can make time to show your little ones the importance of volunteering:

1. Choose what best suits your schedule.

There are two types of volunteering: informal and structured. If you want to establish a routine volunteering routine that will be less likely to be pushed aside when other responsibilities arise, then structured volunteering is probably the option for you! These are volunteer opportunities you sign up for with your children at the beginning of the school year, scheduling a monthly date to perform services like visiting the classroom to help with reading time, preparing learning center materials to bring in at home, or even helping in the school garden. Informal volunteering, on the other hand, is a good way to find opportunities that best fit your schedule. Tasks can be as simple as scheduling a fundraiser or taking your child to clean up the park. Whatever type of service you choose to perform, know you are putting core values (empathy, responsibility, stewardship) on display for your children through taking action. Hopefully, they will learn to follow suit.

2. Follow your passion.

It’s always easier to launch head first into something you are passionate about. Notice a large number of stray cats in your neighborhood and want to do something about it? Start a fundraiser or campaign for either bringing awareness to the importance of spaying and neutering pets or ways for the community to more easily get involved in the adoption process. Notice a school system is in need of new reading material? Start gathering donations to fuel children’s love of reading. Whatever it is you are passionate about, there is always a way to make a difference, even if it’s through starting a grassroots organization. If you do decide to start an organization, here are a few tips:

  1. Ask yourself if launching a new organization is necessary.
  2. Create a mission statement.
  3. Decide on specific goals and projects.
  4. Attract members.
  5. Arrange a meeting space and time.
  6. Establish organizational hierarchy and a decision-making process.
  7. Decide on a budget and funding sources.
  8. Generate publicity for your organization and its goals.
  9. Have fun!

Keep those steps in mind and you and your children will be well on your way to creating a successful grassroots organization!

3. Prepare your kids.

It’s important for children to understand the implications of volunteering. You can prepare them for what you’ve signed up for by:

  1. Describing what will happen.
  2. Showing enthusiasm for what you’re about to do.
  3. Becoming educated about your position. (Find out the required time, behavior expectations and the importance of the job so you can share it with your children.)
  4. Explain the benefits of the position.

The more excited you are and the more details you have about the volunteering position will make the idea even more appealing to children.

-For even more great ways to get your family involved with volunteering while operating on a tight schedule, check out The Busy Family’s Guide to Volunteering.

-If you have any ideas for time management and how to make room for volunteering with the family, feel free to share with us by commenting below or tweeting us @KaplanToys with the hashtag #volunteering.

How to Inspire Laughter and Learning (at the Same Time!)

12 Aug

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Did you know that August 16th is National Tell a Joke Day? If not, now you do! Laughter is not only a great form of expression, but it can also lead to stress relief along the way. We have a few jokes and toys that will leave kids rolling as they learn!

Here are a few jokes you can share with your children to pass along throughout the day. After all, National Tell a Joke Day can’t be celebrated if they don’t have any jokes to tell!

  • Q: What does a nosy pepper do?
  • A: Gets jalapeño business!
  • Q: What do you call a fake noodle?
  • A: An impasta.
  • Q: What do you call an alligator in a vest?
  • A: An investigator.
  • Q: What happens if you eat yeast and shoe polish?
  • A: Every morning you’ll rise and shine!
  • Q: What’s the difference between a guitar and a fish?
  • A: You can’t tuna fish.
  • Q: Did you hear about the race between the lettuce and the tomato?
  • A: The lettuce was a “head” and the tomato was trying to “ketchup!”
  • Q: What do you get from a pampered cow?
  • A: Spoiled milk.
  • Q: What do lawyers wear to court?
  • A: Lawsuits!
  • Q: What gets wetter the more it dries?
  • A: A towel.
  • Q: What did the pencil say to the other pencil?
  • A: You’re looking sharp.

-For even more funny jokes for kids to tell, check out Jokes4us.com. 

Are your kids looking for a few pranks to pull? Do they need to get out the giggles before quiet time? Then they will love these toys sure to leave everyone laughing:

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Laugh-Out-Loud Books

There’s nothing like reading a book so funny it’s hard to finish the next sentence! For a few laughable options that will also teach kids early literacy, you’ll want to check out the laugh-out-loud selections How Are You Peeling?, Piggies in the Pumpkin Patch, and the Ready Freddy Book Sets. Prepare for giggles!

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The Funny Faces Game

There’s nothing that will crack kids up more than making funny faces! With the Funny Faces board game, players have to mimic the ridiculous faces shown on each card. It is sure to create lots of smiles and giggles with the best face winning the game!

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Play the Prankster

Harmless pranks are a great way to create surprise and result in laughter! While learning the principles of electronic circuitry, kids can use Klutz® Gotcha Gadgets to pull off their most daring booby-traps for family and friends! Whether kids are rewiring the door alarm or light monitor, be encouraged that they’re learning along the way; even if the end result is to say, “Gotcha!”

-Does your child have a joke that will make everyone laugh? Share it with us by commenting below or tweeting it to us @Kaplantoys with the hashtag #loljokes.

8 Tips for Preparing Kids to Go Back to School

5 Aug

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Are your kids all strapped in to new backpacks and shoes, ready for the new school year? Whether your child has first-day jitters or he or she is excited to make new friends, there are a few tips you’ll want to keep in mind to make the transition to the first week of school a smooth one! Get ready for eight tips for preparing kids to go back to school!

1. Establish a Morning Routine

How a child starts the morning usually determines how the rest of the day will go. To make sure your child is starting off “on the right side of the bed,” make sure you begin the school year with a well-established morning routine. This can include setting an alarm for a consistent time to start the morning throughout the week, making time for healthy breakfasts, and having children pick out clothes for school the night before so you don’t find yourself scrambling in the morning to find a pair of shoes that match!

2. Determine If Your Child Is Packing Lunch

Knowing whether your child will pack lunch or eat in the school cafeteria is an important part of preparing for back to school. If they are eating at school, make sure lunch accounts are stocked and ready to go with proper allowances. If your child prefers to pack lunch, ensure they have a suitable lunch bag to carry in and pack lunches the day before. This also allows room to leave children a special note to calm those first-day jitters!

3. Encourage New Friendships

Talk to your children about making new friends. It can be easy to talk and laugh with the same friends and forget to reach out to new classmates. Encourage children to strike up conversations with peers they don’t know for a change. You can also support those newly formed friendships by keeping informed on what’s going on in the classroom and scheduling play dates accordingly.

4. Pay Attention to Classroom Rules

First days and first weeks of schools will be full of paperwork! Make sure your children hold on to the important ones and that you read through classroom rules together. Children need to know what is expected of them in the classroom and you need to know how to best communicate with your child’s teacher to better support learning at home.

5. Help Teachers Know Children Better 

Does your child have certain allergies? Maybe they are left-handed. Whatever it is about your child that isn’t commonly known needs to be shared with the teacher so they can accommodate lessons and snacks around your child’s needs. Be sure to have medical records on hand for the classroom.

6. Know Transportation Options

Will you be driving your child to school or will they be riding the bus? Knowing your neighborhood (safe routes to walk, awareness of bike lanes) and making enough time in the morning to get your child to school on time will make a huge difference in bringing stress levels down for daily school mornings. It’s also important to know where school drop-off zones are located. Be sure your child knows before they leave for school whether they are a car or bus rider.

 7. Establish Homework Habits from the Get Go

Setting homework expectations for children before they start school will not only set a precedent for school work, but it will help children better manage time after school. It’s best to set aside time in the afternoon for homework when children cannot use social media or watch TV. This will keep them from being distracted and hopefully coordinate with a time when you can answer questions they may have.

8. Tell Them to Have Fun

Some children may have first-day anxiety, but it’s important to show them how much there is to be excited about! Before your child starts school, sit down together and come up with a list of positive things about going back. This can be anything from getting new school supplies to returning to a favorite teacher! Let them know how proud you are of them. A special note on the first day goes a lot further than you think!

-We hope these tips help you and your child as you prepare for back-to-school fun! If you’re looking for toys to get children ready in the few days before the start of school, here are some great options:

Resource: http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/learning/back_school.html

5 Ways to Make Chores More Fun!

29 Jul

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It’s hard to motivate kids to clean up; let’s face it, who wants to do chores? But cleaning, whether it is in the classroom, home, or even at a friend’s house, is an important part of learning responsibility. Children should learn at an early age that messes created affect other people who live in the same environment and that regularly tidying up is a requirement. But cleaning doesn’t have to be boring! We have a few fun ideas for you to use with your children that will not only teach responsibility, but also give children the motivation to take it!

1. Show Them How It’s Done!

It’s important to remember that children cannot be expected to know what or how to clean without being shown. Work alongside your child in every chore you assign to ensure they see how it is properly done. This will help with both visual learning and setting cleanliness expectations.

2. Dance as You Sweep!

Trust us, sweeping becomes much more enjoyable when dancing! In fact, that one favorite song will make children feel happier about doing whatever chore has been assigned. Movement is important in early childhood development as children work on gross motor skills, handling kid-sized brooms to make sure the floors are kept tidy! Adding a little movement to the picture and encouraging your children to dance as they sweep will have them laughing as they go – keeping messes to a minimum!

3. Race the clock!

Giving children a time limit will make chores a challenge children are willing to conquer! Tell your children they have 15 minutes to see how many chores they can get done before the time is up. This will really get kids moving and motivated to see how much they can accomplish. Have children concentrate on a specific room so they can see the results of before and after.

4. Make It Visual!

Small children are visual learners. Being able to see what is expected for the day will go a long way to keep young minds on track. Establishing a chore board where daily responsibilities are written out under each child’s name is a great way to communicate expectations and give children the satisfaction of crossing off accomplishments. If children have siblings, it will also challenge them to keep up with “big brother” or “big sister!”

Source: http://www.theyellowcapecod.com/2010/02/organized-chaos.html

5. Give Praise for Jobs Well Done!

When your child sees a chore through from start to finish, it teaches them the importance of following through. This is a big accomplishment! Praise children for jobs well done and it will build self-esteem along with instilling pride in completing assigned chores. Even though cleaning skills are sure to have plenty of room for improvement, concentrating instead on what children have done well will go a long way toward providing encouragement and affirmation.

-We hope you discovered some helpful ways to motivate your children to clean up their mess without the muss! Don’t forget to check out our cleaning sets for kid-friendly brooms, mops, and more!

-Have your own creative ways to get kids excited about cleaning? We’d love to hear from you! Share with us by commenting below or tweeting us @KaplanToys with the hashtag #makingchoresfun

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!

 

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