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Starting New Family Traditions for the Holidays

16 Dec

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Happy holidays! Many families are already celebrating Kwanza and Hanukkah while Christmas is right around the corner. The holidays are a great time to start new traditions that families can look forward to for years to come. If you don’t have certain routines to fall into to engage the whole family, we have a few suggestions you can try out with your kids to make the holidays a little more magical!

Gather Round the Table!

Taking time to sit down as a family over a special meal for the holidays is the perfect time to connect with your loved ones. One thing you can do before the whole family gets together is prepare questions beforehand for every family member to answer. This proves to be a useful insight in getting to know loved ones better and can always lead to some interesting stories! Here are a few example questions from Around the Family Table:

  • “Are you a secret keeper or a secret teller? Which is best?”
  • “What is something you had in your childhood that no longer exists and you wish you had back?”
  • “If you could give the children of this world one thing, what would it be?”

 Little Hands in the Kitchen

There’s nothing like planning to cook with your little ones each year for the holidays. Talk about your favorite recipes and find something fun to make that can be enjoyed by the whole family. The more creative the recipe the more fun it is to make together! Here is an example of a fun winter recipe you can make with your kids:

Marshmallow Snowmen

Turn your kitchen into a winter wonderland any time of the year.

Ingredients:

  • Marshmallows
  • Miniature peanut butter cups
  • Red shoestring licorice
  • Small tubes of black gel icing (or any color your child prefers)

What to Do:

  • Help your child put three marshmallows on toothpicks to resemble a snowman. Make sure to leave some room at the top of the toothpick above the snowman’s head.
  • Show how to attach a peanut butter cup (wide-side down) to the top of the toothpick to resemble a hat.
  • Help your child tie a piece of licorice around the snowman’s neck to make a scarf.
  • Encourage children to use the black gel icing to make eyes, mouth, and buttons on the snowmen.

For more creative recipes for any occasion, check out The Budding Chef. 

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Magic and Mischief with Elf on the Shelf

If you have small children and haven’t joined the Elf on the Shelf movement, you may want to reconsider! This chipper little elf brings magic back to the holidays as children find the elf in different positions every morning. You can get as creative as you want and watch as children’s eyes glow with wonder upon finding what mischief the elf has been up to during the night. Your elf can help children count down the days to the holiday, leave encouraging messages for children to find, and even instill good habits (like brushing teeth in the morning!) To get your own elf or find mischief inspiration, check out our Mischief for Your Elf on the Shelf Pinterest board.

Create a Holiday Playlist

It’s always fun to listen to your favorite holiday songs! Whether it’s funny selections like ‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer’ or more classic choices like ‘White Christmas’, ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas,’ or ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’, sharing your musical taste for the holidays is a great way to share something you love with your kids. Hopefully, your selections will turn into songs played for holidays to come and lead to a few fun dances in the living room along the way!

Whether it’s building something together for a DIY project, leaving cookies out for Santa, or making a gingerbread house, traditions are an important part of keeping loved ones close and families engaged. What do you do every year for the holidays? Share your fun suggestions with us by commenting below!

Need to do a little last-minute holiday shopping? Don’t miss our top picks for holiday gifts here: https://www.kaplantoys.com/shop/great-gift-ideas

Elf on the Shelf: How to Manage Holiday Mischief

2 Dec

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Toys catch on in big ways when it comes to the holidays, but none quite so much as the Elf on the Shelf. This magical little fellow has managed to wriggle its way into every child and parent’s heart by giving families a tradition to engage in together. Whether your elf is drawing with toothpaste or hanging from a Christmas tree, the Elf on the Shelf gives you a chance to challenge your creativity and bring some magic to the holidays for your children. We’ve come up with 10 of the top creative ideas to get you started with mischief inspiration for your Elf on the Shelf:

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1. Blame the Dog!

Have pets? Bring them in on the fun by having your elf get into the dog or cat food to leave a fun message or picture for the kids. Get as creative as you want with what is left behind!

Source: http://www.frugalcouponliving.com/2012/12/03/elf-on-the-shelf-ornaments-dancing-elves-ideas-and-more/ 

 

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2. Let the Holidays Sink in!

There’s nothing like a little indoor fishing. Throw in some gold fish for an added effect.

Source: http://www.skinnymom.com/2013/11/20/75-family-friendly-elf-on-the-shelf-ideas/

 

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3. Take Elf on the Shelfies!

A photocopier makes everything more fun! Have your elf take selfies by photo copying him or herself. Be sure to leave evidence of the pictures your elf has already taken to make kids giggle.

Source: http://www.skinnymom.com/2013/11/20/75-family-friendly-elf-on-the-shelf-ideas/

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Let your kids answer the mystery of how your elf ended up in a water bottle! (Find out how the magic works here: http://athriftymom.com/elf-on-the-shelf-ideas-easy-ideas-for-elf-on-the-shelf-day-five/.

 

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5. Take a Load off!

Teach kids how to be responsible by making your elf do a little laundry of his or her own!

Source: http://www.amittenfullofsavings.com/27-creative-best-elf-on-the-shelf-ideas/

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6. Play Elf Games!

Simply add some marshmallows and draw on a Tic-Tac-Toe game for kids to find your elf playing.

Source: http://www.amittenfullofsavings.com/27-creative-best-elf-on-the-shelf-ideas/ 

 

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7. Let the Fun Roll!

Wrap your elf in toilet paper and send him or her for rides down the stairs. This is always a fun surprise for kids to find in the morning!

Source: http://athriftymom.com/elf-on-the-shelf-ideas-day-15-enter-to-win-your-own-free-elf-on-the-shelf/

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8. Bring on Breakfast!

Surprise your kids by letting them find your elf hiding in plain sight! Simply cut out a hole in the Rice Krispies box and your elf has successfully become a part of the most important meal of the day.

Source: http://melanielee86.blogspot.ca/2012/12/elf-on-shelf-day-7.html

 

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9. Get Social!

Part of the magic of the elf is that he comes “alive” at night, sparking children’s imagination at the toys around them. Get social with your elf and create whatever fun “Toy Story” moment you want your child to discover in the morning!

Source: http://www.mymommystyle.com/2013/12/19/fun-elf-on-the-shelf-ideas/ 

 

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10. Elf on a Boat!

Run some water in your sink, put your elf on a toy boat, and set him to sailing for a morning surprise your kids will love!

Source: http://www.mymommystyle.com/2013/12/19/fun-elf-on-the-shelf-ideas/ 

 

-Want your own Elf on the Shelf to get started? Find a selection of elf sets here along with new accessories! Keep an eye on our Pinterest board to see what our very own Elf on the Shelf is up to at the office for the holidays!

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.

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