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

10 Ways to Learn with Leaves!

7 Oct

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Tis the season for leaves! With fall in full swing and the approach of Halloween, the foliage provides a great opportunity for a range of creative projects to bring inside the home and classroom. Go outside on an adventure and have your children collect leaves to their heart’s desire. The more colors the better! Once your canvas is set, step back indoors for 10 ways to learn with leaves:

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1. Create an Autumn Nature Exploration Table

Don’t stop with leaves! Collect pinecones, acorns, sticks, pine needles and more to put in baskets for nature table explorations! By including natural objects, children will be introduced to the feels, sights, and smells of the season. Sort colors, discuss how seeds grow into trees, or use leaves to make cutouts to develop gross motor skills! There’s no end to sensory explorations when you bring nature inside to be appreciated by little minds.

Source: http://theimaginationtree.com/2013/10/autumn-nature-exploration-table.html

847342. Make Organic Crafts

The autumn treasures your children collect outside are the perfect material for creative games and crafts! The book Organic Crafts offers 75 earth-friendly art activities that turn natural objects into games, crafts and activities children will love! Children will learn everything from color identification to creative self-expression. Find your own nature crafts here:

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3. Hang Leaves on the Grateful Tree

Teach children the value of gratitude by encouraging them to take a moment and list the things they’re grateful for in their lives. Once they have a few words in mind, practice early literacy skills by decorating each leaf with one of the words using a paint pin. Find out how you can make painted leaves here: http://playfullearning.net/2009/11/this-years-grateful-tree/

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4. Move Around with Spiral Leaves

Get kids outside and exercising while making fun leaf patterns! By walking around and making paths through fallen leaves, children can create yard designs through active play and creative instruction. Change up the pattern for even more fun! http://happyhooligans.ca/in-our-big-back-yard/

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5. Crumble Leaves for Autumn Trees Craft

Crumble leaves with your children as they use their sense of touch to explore the texture of trees! Make a creative autumn tree from real leaves and a little imagination. This is a great activity for sensory learning.

Source: http://ourhouse.typepad.com/full_circle/2007/10/autumn-trees-cr.html#

Preschool Activities for Fall (1)

6. Create an Alphabet Leaf Hunt

Write individual letters on leaves and hang them around the backyard with clothespins! Encourage your child to match up capitalized and lower case letters. Have kids read the letter out and make the letter sound after finding each leaf. Kids will be excited about learning the alphabet in no time!

Source: http://www.learnplayimagine.com/2013/09/preschool-activities-for-fall.html?m=1

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7. Rake up Leaves for Dramatic Play

Encourage the development of gross motor skills and engage in dramatic play by having little ones read “Eye Like Nature – Leaves” and then throwing leaves in the air! Use plastic rakes for children to rake leaves back up again into baskets.

Source: http://www.loveplayandlearn.com/2012/09/raising-tots-fall-pretend-play.html

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8. Parachute Play with Leaves

Engage in active play and parachute fun by piling up leaves onto the parachute and then singing along to “Pop, Pop, Popcorn!” When you say popcorn, have kids jump up and send leaves flying into the air! Children will engage in active play and work together to coordinate parachute movements.

Source: http://www.teachpreschool.org/2011/10/outdoor-fall-parachute-play/

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9. Understand Why Leaves Change Color

Have your kids hypothesize about why leaves change color and what color they will turn as a part of their very own backyard science experiment. Explaining leaf chromatography and allowing children to see colors change right in front of their eyes is a great way to bring science to life through learning with leaves! Find out how to run the experiment here:

Source: http://almostunschoolers.blogspot.com/2010/09/fall-science-part-2-leaf-chromatography.html

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10. Get Artsy with a Nature Canvas

Involve your little one in hands-on exploration as they make Autumn Art from leaves! Little ones can collect treasures from the backyard and glue them atop a nature canvas painted with beautiful reds, yellows, and browns for fall delight! The result is a natural landscape with real leaves you’ll want to hang on the wall when finished.

Source: http://www.sunhatsandwellieboots.com/2011/09/3d-autumn-art.html

-We hope you enjoyed these activities! Are you in an area where there are no leaves? Use leaf kits to explore beautiful, printed leaves together with your children as they work on sorting and color recognition. Explore our different leaf kits here:

3 Tips for Building Baby Language Skills

30 Sep

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Want to encourage early language skills in your baby? With a few simple adjustments to your play time and a little understanding of early development, your babies will be chattering away in no time! Here are three activities and tools you can use to build language skills in your baby:

 1. Bring on the Babbling

Babbling is a baby’s way of attempting communication. There are a few responses you can adapt to progress language learning. It is important to respond consistently to baby’s vocalizations and vary responses by either repeating or changing sounds. Encourage your baby to listen to variations in babbles, whether it’s differences in length, stress, or intonation.

Strong and Weak Babbles: Alternate stressed syllables (louder and longer) such as BAAAA and unstressed syllables (softer and shorter) such as ba to help the baby discern stress differences. You may end up saying things such as BAAba BAAba baBAA! This gibberish may not sound like much to you, but it is a great listening exercise for the child because real words vary in the way they are stressed. For example, when you say BAA-ba, the stress pattern is the same as in the word DOG-gie. Discerning and tracking strong and weak syllables is crucial for language learning.

-Did you find the activity useful? Find even more like it in Raising a Talker: Easy Activities for Birth to Age 3!

 2. Talking Through Tech

Believe it or not, your smart phone can help when it comes to language learning in your baby. From letter recognition to understanding sound differences, here is a baby app we think will aid in learning on the go:

-Endless Alphabet: This interactive app encourages early language learning through having babies repeat letters, words, and sounds, promoting recognition. Adorable monsters hold children captive as they learn new words!

Review: Our 22-month-old loves Endless Alphabet. This app has helped tremendously with letter recognition, and it has fun graphics and sounds, also.

- S. Peninger, Greenville N.C.

-For even more baby apps to foster language learning, check out this related post “10 Apps to Keep Babies Learning.”

3. Learning with Simple Signs.

Sign language is a great tool to encourage early language learning in children as early as six months old. Whenever your baby begins to display a desire to communicate, begin using your hands for words that are often repeated, such as Mom or Dad. Using those hand motions while also putting stress on the word will give babies a visual representation of the language as they learn. Another great word to sign is whatever the child’s favorite toy is, so that children will begin to learn how to ask for what brings comfort through communicating with their hands.

Resource: http://www.babysignlanguage.com/dictionary/first-signs/

-We hope you found these tips for language learning in babies helpful. Do you have tips for teaching your baby to speak? Let us know by leaving a comment below or commenting on our Facebook page with the hashtag #babyspeak.

How to Pack the Perfect Lunch!

23 Sep

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How much time do you put into packing your child’s lunch? It’s been proven that children’s eating patterns are established from an early age, and with obesity rates higher than they’ve ever been, it’s important to ensure you are encouraging healthy-mindedness from the start. Here are six simple steps on how to pack the perfect school lunch for your little one:

1. Think Healthy.

What foods you place in your child’s lunchbox go a long way in determining how healthy he or she will be. Start with items that are high in fiber, full of protein, and rich in nutrients so that healthy eating patterns are established from a young age. Nutrient-rich foods and beverages can include “fruits, veggies, whole grains, low-fat milk products, seafood, lean meats, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes.” You know your child best, so pick items from the list that will provide the least resistance! (It’s also helps to know that kids get excited over bright colors, so be sure to include plenty!) Some examples of healthy lunches include:

• Ham and turkey roll up
• Whole-wheat pita with hummus
• Black bean burrito with cheese
• Hard-boiled eggs
• Tuna or cubed chicken tossed with light mayo, celery, mustard, and carrot.

Source: http://www.sheknows.com/food-and-recipes/articles/825337/how-to-pack-the-perfect-lunch

-Find out the different options for healthy breakfasts, snacks, lunches and dinners in the Healthy Food Choices set! Try out book recipes in the kitchen to get your kids engaged!

2. Make Snacks Fun.

You have to throw in a snack with lunch, but what kind? Think colorful, different textures, and a variety of dipping sauces! Trade out the chip bags for dried fruit chips, the sugary snacks for celery and hummus, the Oreos for yogurt parfaits chock-full of berries! Healthy snacks allow children to experience a wider variety in the lunchbox as opposed to the ordinary vending machine plastic packs. Wholesome snacks will leave children more full and nutritiously satisfied.

3. Toss in a Kid-Sized Beverage.

Complete the perfect lunch with a kid-sized drink! No more miniature sodas or drinks full of additives. Juices, low-fat milk, and 100 percent fruit juices are the way to go! Make sure you’re packing appropriately sized bottles; 8-ounce bottles are the perfect size as they cut down on waste and are easy to pack.

4. Portion Control.

It’s great to include the anchor items, whether it’s whole-grain mac n’ cheese or creamy tomato soup, but if you’re packing too much of the main course and not enough of the veggies, children are going to be less inclined to eat the healthy sides included, choosing instead to fill up on only denser options. To find out what portion size is best suited for your child, check out the following resource: http://www.healthykidshealthyfuture.org/content/dam/nemours/www/filebox/service/preventive/nhps/publication/nhpsadminguide.pdf

5. Mix It Up.

No child likes opening his or her lunch box to the same thing every day. Try to mix things up and provide a little variety. Including some kind of surprise can make lunch rewarding to children and change their perspective of healthy eating into a positive experience. Leaving a special note is always a great way to provide children with a comforting reprieve during the school day.

6. Pack Smart.

Although it’s tempting to simply throw everything into a bag, try to keep in mind how you’re packing your child’s lunchbox. Keep the thermos from squashing whatever delicious sandwich you’ve taken time to make. Make sure the cool pack isn’t soaking the napkin you packed to keep things from getting messy! It’s also best to avoid packing anything that can spew or fizz if shaken too much, as we all know how clumsy children can be!

We hope you found these packing tips helpful. If you have any lunch packing skills you’d like to share, comment below or tweet us your secrets @KaplanToys with the hashtag #PackingLunch.

Resources:

http://www.letsmove.gov/blog/2012/03/22/packing-lunch-your-preschooler-portion-size-matters
http://www.sheknows.com/food-and-recipes/articles/825337/how-to-pack-the-perfect-lunch
http://www.womansday.com/food-recipes/cooking-tips-shortcuts/how-to-pack-a-better-school-lunch-120119

10 Apps to Keep Babies Learning

16 Sep

shutterstock_146931251As a parent, it can be hard to fit everything in. Between nap times, diaper changes, grocery shopping, and making sure the house is semi-clean, allowing time in your schedule to research ways to keep your baby entertained in the busy moments can be hard. Especially if you don’t have a babysitter lined up! That’s where we can help. With the prevalence of tablets and smart phones, it just makes sense to use available technology as learning resources for babies. Here are 10 baby apps that will not only give you a few moments to breathe as your baby engages in independent learning, but will also foster digital literacy in babies as they learn!

Music Apps:

1. Baby Piano (Free)

Do you have a baby Beethoven on your hands? Now you can take the piano wherever you go with Baby Piano! The eight-key piano allows babies to play notes and hear animal sounds as each key has a different animal face on it. Children can also play a nursery rhyme by following lighted keys.

2. Kidzongs ($0.99)

A simple app for simple learning! This app includes six different songs for children to sing along with. Cute animated lyrics accompany each song, sure to stimulate children visually with bright colors and characters.

Early Literacy Apps:

3. Learn To Talk ($1.99)

Great for children between one and three, Learn To Talk teaches children vocabulary and early language skills through the use of flashcards. Babies will use both sound and sight for language learning. This app is great choice for bilingual families.

4. iWriteWords ($2.99)

Allow children to practice handwriting skills as they play entertaining games and learn everything from uppercase and lowercase letters to numbers! iWriteWords is a great app to prepare children for preschool.

Critical Thinking Apps:

5. Baby Flash Cards (Free)

This is a great app for babies that provides colorful flash cards children will love manipulating to learn letters, numbers, shapes, colors, and more! The clear and helpful voice will guide babies along as they begin to understand patterns.

6. Tozzle-Toddler’s Favorite Puzzle ($1.99)

Puzzles are always a great way to develop critical thinking skills in little ones! With Tozzle, children can choose from 20 different puzzles to work on shape recognition and motor skills. Bright colors are sure to make it a favorite!

Animal Apps:

7. Peekaboo Barn ($1.99)

Let children learn by taking an adventure! The app offers both English and Spanish learning as babies hear what sound each animal makes. Not only are adorable illustrations included, but babies will also learn the name of each barn animal they see.

8. I Hear Ewe (Free)

With this app, babies can tap the device to hear different animal sounds. With a range of 24 different animals, babies can play and learn as they touch an animal or vehicle to hear its name announced and get a real sound effect! This is a great app for auditory learning.

The Essentials:

9. Parents Flash Cards (Free)

Get involved with your baby’s learning by teaching them colors, shapes, letters, and numbers all from your phone! Each digital pack contains different games varying from quizzes, to flashcards, to tracing to make it the perfect educational tool for babies! Reward visuals are a bonus that is sure to keep babies engaged!

10.  iBabyPhone ($0.99)

Young children are always fascinated by their parent’s phones. Now, they can have their own with the iBabyPhone (with the exception of no accidental calls made!) This app allows kids to dial numbers without actually calling anyone – saying the name of the number when touched. Babies will learn colors, numbers, animals, and more!

-Having second-guesses about how much time your baby should be spending in front of a screen? Learn how to balance digital learning with appropriate screen time in this related blog post “Managing Your Kids’ Screen Time.”

Resources:

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