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Back to School: 5 Questions to Ask Teachers

25 Aug

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Are your kids starting school this week? As your children take off for the classroom, here are five questions you’ll want to ask their teacher to ensure they have a productive school year. After all, it’s always best to know how you can get involved to best supplement children’s learning experience in the home.

1. Is there anything I can tell you about my child that will help you better support them in the classroom?

Helping an educator understand your child’s needs from the start is a great way to equip them for a more meaningful relationship with your child. This can include anything from food allergies to personal strengths and weaknesses. The information exchange will allow for greater inclusivity in the classroom as well as act as an assurance for you that your child is being properly catered to in an active learning environment.

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2. How can I provide the proper homework support?

It is paramount to establish a homework routine at the beginning of the year. Whether it’s checking a homework folder, signing off on a weekly newsletter, or checking a website, keeping up-to-date with your child’s homework requirements and holding them accountable to complete their weekly work load is key to their success in the classroom. Check out of some of our favorite homework resources below:

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3. How should I respond when my child is struggling in the classroom?

As a parent, you know best when your child is struggling in the classroom. Many times, you can feel restless as you try to figure out how best to help. Putting a strategy in place at the beginning of the year is a great way to address problems before they arise. It will also establish an effective line of communication between you and the educator. One tool that can be used to ensure you stay involved throughout the year with your child’s literacy development is TAG You’re It! (Yearlong Parent Engagement Initiative). It’s always proactive to ask your child’s teacher if the classroom has already implemented this program or a program similar to it.

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4. Is there technology needed to support self-directed learning in the home?

Many times, children can start falling behind in the classroom because they don’t have the necessary technological support in the home. Whether you have to take children to a library or invest in a new laptop, providing children with the tools they need to further learning concepts from the classroom is important not only for academic success, but also for fostering digital literacy as young children grow in the 21st century. Here are some of our favorite pieces of technology for the home:

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 5. What academic standards do you use and what do I need to know about them as a parent?

Understanding the agenda and the academic standards of the classroom is key to supporting them at home. It will also help you understand what areas your child may be struggling in so that you can implement strategies to focus on those skills outside of the classroom. Whether it’s phonics or math, we have learning tools to support additional learning in your children to bring them up to speed:

We hope your kids are having a great first week back to school! Let us know what questions you always ask educators during the first week back by commenting below or on our Facebook page.

5 Ways to Calm First Day Jitters

18 Aug

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Just as worried about your child’s first day of school as they are? Calm the jitters by implementing five simple strategies for keeping the whole family calm as children transition back to school. Here are five of our favorite stress busters for first-day jitters:

1. Practice Saying Goodbye

One of the most heart-breaking moments not only for your child but for you as well, is when you wave goodbye. Even if you know it’s not final, it can definitely feel like it to young children! That’s why it is important to practice goodbyes before children go back to school. Whether it’s dropping them off for a play date or taking off for a business trip, be sure to emphasize that goodbyes don’t mean forever and keep consistent by picking them up at a designated time. This fosters trust and a reassurance in your toddler that you are in fact coming back.

2. Hold on to Home

Help your child adjust to change by encouraging them to take something familiar with them to school. This could be something as simple as wearing one of your necklaces, taking a favorite teddy in their backpack, or even keeping a picture of the family in their notebook. Having something familiar to pull out during the school day can go a long way in calming children’s anxiety on the first day of school.

3. Scope Out School Beforehand

Having a first look before the first day of school is a great way to calm kids’ nerves. Giving children a visual of the classroom they will be stepping into allows them to better process the learning environment. Also, going out of your way to meet the teacher beforehand can smooth transitions as young children adapt to a new face and personality.

4. Talk It Out

Many times, children’s fears are a lot bigger in their minds than in reality. You can help them realize this by talking out their fears together. Ask them what they are most worried about and talk about ways they can overcome those fears and steps they can take to prepare for facing new challenges. Children will feel much more at ease when they have a plan for approaching their personal fears.

5. Pack the Perfect Lunch

A lot of children find comfort during lunchtime. Not only is it usually packed in a personal lunch box, but it’s also filled with familiar food they picked out with you. Be sure to include your child’s favorites for the first day of school as well as a note of encouragement that will remind them that you are not far. Sometimes, a little midday reassurance is exactly what a child needs to get through the rest of the day!

Hang in there as you and your children prepare for back-to-school! With a little preparation and establishing the school sleep schedule early, your child’s transition back into the classroom should be a breeze!

Finally, we have a few back-to-resources you don’t want to miss as kids prepare for their return to the classroom:

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Don’t miss our Back-to-School Sale: 20% off one item on orders $75+ through August 31st. Enter code BTSREADY at checkout.

Back-to-School Resources:

Preparing Preschoolers for Back-to-School

11 Aug

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Looking at the calendar and wondering how August snuck up on you? Back-to-school is here and there are a few things you can do to give your preschooler a proper send-off!

Summer Math Review: That’s a Wrap

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Brush up your little one’s math skills before they head back to the classroom. Opportunities for math learning can be found in every day activities like counting down how many days are left until the first day of school to helping you measure ingredients for special recipes! One of the easiest ways to do a quick review and practice with your preschooler is by using the Addition and Subtraction Wrap Ups. These string problems are great for self-correction and repetition!

Alphabet Case Study! Learn Letters with Hot Dots Jr.

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Letter recognition, both uppercase and lowercase, is a big part of preschool! Prepare your child for the classroom with Hot Dots Jr. Alphabet Cards! The double-sided cards are great for visual learners as they learn to match letters and practice sequencing. The Hot Dots Jr. Pen is also an interactive tool for giving guidance as the canine pal cheers for correct answers and redirects children when they answer incorrectly. Letter learning has never been so fun!

Encourage Pre-Writing Skills with Personalized Pencils

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You would be amazed by how much of a difference it makes in how enthused a child is about writing if they have their favorite character on their pencils! Allowing children to pick out their writing utensils is a great way to get them excited for the new school year and all of the writing and coloring that is surely on the way! We have a few colorful suggestions if you’re looking for something creative:

Stress Social Skills by Practicing Kindness and Cooperation! 

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Interestingly enough, a 20-year study recently revealed that young children who are taught social skills like kindness and cooperation early were more likely to obtain higher education and hold full-time jobs. That’s why it’s so important to practice those life skills at home. We have a few tools for doing just that, whether it’s following Shubert through the Shubert Series Value Pack, playing Social Skills or Blunders with the family, or learning about classroom etiquette with I’m Ready for School!

Best of luck as you drop off your little one for the first day of school! For even more back-to-school resources, check out the posts below:

Homeschooling Resources for Parents

4 Aug

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Preparing to get your kids back on a schedule as the school year looms ahead? Whether you are an experienced homeschooling parent or you’re new to homeschooling, we have seven select resources to add to your homeschooling tool kit:

82147Dominoes Jar: 

Dominoes are honestly one of our favorite learning tools for young learners. Not only can you teach toddlers their colors and how to sort accordingly, but they also provide math learning that grows with your child. Teach anything from simple subtraction and addition to fractions depending on your child’s age!

29190Play Doh Rainbow
8-Pack: 

Teaching the smallest of learners? A starter Play Doh set is always a great tool to have on hand! Not only does it provide opportunities for color recognition and sensory play, but it can also be used in art projects. Just browse Pinterest for all the Play Doh inspiration you can ever need!

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Early Learning Flash
Card Set: 

Early literacy is so important in young children, especially as it is proven to be one of the biggest indicators of future success. Flash cards are a great way for visual learners to practice the alphabet, rhyming, and sight words.

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Bananagrams:

Not only is Bananagrams fun to play for a variety of ages, but it also provides vocabulary practice as well as words for young children to begin learning by sight. (Not to mention, it provides spelling practice without needing a pen and paper!)

Blunders Game: 91249b

Teaching children social-emotional skills is just as important as academics when it comes to young learners. Blunders is the perfect board game as it provides fun for the whole family while simultaneously teaching children the do’s and don’ts of social interactions.

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Why not add a greenhouse to your science unit? The Smart Lab Growing! Green House provides the perfect contained ecosystem for children to grow flowers in as they learn about photosynthesis and the different parts of plants. Be sure to check the plant’s progress every day for interactive learning!

Hucklebee A Smart-as-can-Bee
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Hucklebee™ is always a favorite for little learners!. As children interact with clapped hands, laughing, and hugs for the adorable plush bee, this preschool game teaches shapes and colors, counting, and following directions.


We hope you find these learning tools helpful as you prepare your home for the school year! For even more sites to browse for homeschooling support, check out the resources below:

Even More Homeschooling Resources for Parents:

Guide to the Best Homeschooling and Unschooling Resources
10 Best Apps for Homeschooling Parents
4 Favorite Homeschooling Resources
• The Homeschooling Community 

4 Ways to Build a Positive Relationship with Your Child’s Teacher

2 Sep

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With the new school year kicking off and your child becoming acquainted with a new schedule and peers, there are a few things you can do as a parent to ensure students are getting the most out of the classroom experience. One of the most important ways you can help your child succeed is by providing a positive relationship with their teacher. Students will not only be encouraged to make their own beneficial relationships, but they will also have an educational environment at home that supports learning efforts in the classroom. Here are four ways you can form a stronger connection with your child’s teacher.

 1. Get Your Chat On!

Communication really is key. From obtaining contact information at the beginning of the year, knowing the best way to get in touch with the teacher, and introducing yourself in a meeting or through Open House Night, establishing a clear method of communication will go a long way in providing support for your child. Be sure you place the teacher’s contact information somewhere it won’t be lost, whether it’s logged into your smart phone’s address book or under a magnet on the refrigerator. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the teacher when you have questions about student’s assignments or to set up meetings to discuss behavior. Educators will appreciate any effort to foster engagement as long as it is being approached from an amicable position.

2. Understand Expectations

Knowing what the teacher expects of your child and of you as a parent is key to forming a positive relationship. From the beginning of the school year, you should know how many volunteer hours are needed, how much homework children are expected to do daily, what schedules look like, and what you should be doing outside of the classroom to ensure your child is getting the most out of lessons. Many times, you can continue what is being learned at school through providing additional content for students to practice at home. Be sure to talk to your child’s teacher to understand how you can best provide support after hours. Here are a few options for fostering learning at home:

-Reading Readiness

-Math Mastery Games

-Art Exploration

-Building Communication

3. Be an Example

If you don’t fill out the paperwork sent home, chances are, children won’t complete the work required of them either. Filling out questionnaires, contact information and simple surveys may seem frivolous, but they can truly be used as tools by teachers to better know your family and how to best support your child. Check students’ homework folders, or whatever system of communication is used for paperwork sent home, and fill out surveys and required signatures on time so that you not only make things run easier in the classroom, but also provide a positive example for children to follow.

 4. Put It in the Calendar

Time and money are hard to come by, but when you are able to set aside either for the classroom, you will see your efforts pay off by creating a better overall learning experience for your child. When classroom expectations are being established, be sure to ask teachers what they most need, whether it is volunteers for Writing Night or more paint for the art studio. Doing what you can to pitch in with time or resources and then following through by plugging it into the calendar will make any teacher happy!

For more information on how to make time for volunteering, check out The Busy Family’s Guide to Volunteering: http://www.kaplantoys.com/product/47583/the-busy-familys-guide-to-volunteering

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:

 

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

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