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Toys to Develop Your Little Girl’s Leadership Skills

25 Feb

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One of the key areas educational toys occasionally overlook is building leadership skills in young girls. Many times toys that emphasize building, engineering, and taking up roles of leadership are primarily geared toward boys. That’s why we want to introduce a few toys that will encourage your little leader as she prepares to take on the world!

Building Leadership in Girls:

Building projects are a great way to emphasize leadership and utilize ingenuity as girls bend toys to their imaginations! Not only are they great projects for her to work on with others as she uses communication and leadership to direct the building efforts of peers, but they can also allow her to engage in open-ended play to build whatever delightful structures she can imagine! As she builds, focus on expanding the following leadership skills:

  • Visualization: have her set a goal for what the structure will look like. It’s important to know what progress needs to be made.
  • Following through: this is the building process. Ensure she understands that working with dedication to meet her goal is something that can be applied beyond building.
  • Effective communication: building with peers is a great way to learn how to make herself heard. This is the perfect opportunity for her to direct peers, while also stopping to listen to their ideas and coming up with the most effective way to reach their combined building goals.

Here are three of our favorite building toys for girls:

1. Tinkertoy Building Set Pink

This pink Tinkertoy Building Set makes for easy building as girls can snap pieces together to build anything from castles, to cats, to flowers and more! Bendable rods allow for even more creativity as builders create their own Tinkertoy world!

2. Straws and Connectors 400 Pack

Encouraging builders to dabble in science, the Straws and Connectors 400 Pack allows girls to construct their own unique creations. The straws allow for easy manipulation in building arches and tubes to outline your child’s contraption!

3. GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine

Build spatial skills, engineering principles, and confidence in problem solving in young girls! This construction set teaches builders how to make movies as they learn how the Zoetrope is important in engineering.

-Find even more toys from GoldieBlox here.

Books to Inspire Success in Girls:

Finally, reading about girls who go out and achieve their dreams, whether it’s on a soccer field or in the classroom, is a great way to bolster girls’ confidence in their own abilities. Here are a few of our favorite reads to provide examples for girls to succeed:

What are some of your favorite toys made specifically for girls? Share with us by commenting below or posting your thoughts to our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/KaplanToys

Conflict Resolution Through Dramatic Play 

17 Feb

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If you have children then you know they are bound to need a little help when it comes to navigating conflicts with their peers. As children grow, they begin to work on their communication skills as well as learn how to cooperate with others. There are a few ways you can step in as a parent when play is interrupted by conflict to help your kids come to a happy solution. Try out these suggested strategies to guide your children through conflict resolution:

Acknowledge Each Child:

Children always like to point out that you’re playing favorites, especially siblings. That’s why it’s so important to validate each child engaged in the conflict. Be sure to address both parties by repeating each side of the story without judgment or interruptions from the other child. Equal attention will go a long way in bolstering children’s belief that they are being treated fairly.

 Refrain From Giving Solutions:

It can be hard not to march up and tell children exactly how to solve a problem. After all, it makes perfect sense to you how to reason out what’s causing the problem and then how to resolve it as you are an objective third party. However, by giving children solutions instead of allowing them to reach them on their own, you are depriving them of a learning opportunity where they can grow both in communication skills and in social emotional development. Suggesting that children should come to a solution is always a great place to start, as you are showing your confidence in them to reach a solution. By repeating the point that each child comes to, children will take your reaffirmation as a means to change what is being stated. Also, it helps when your tone is devoid of pesky emotions children are sure to employ, such as anger, jealousy, and pride.

Suggest Dramatic Play to Handle Conflict:

Sometimes, children need help reaching a solution. Though you don’t want to tell them exactly how to solve their problems, you can provide resources for them to figure it out themselves. Toys serve as a great visual representation of the problems children find themselves engaged in. Having a way to act out what they are feeling through dramatic play not only forces the child to stop and think about their actions but to also express what they are feeling through a doll, puppet, or action figure. Here are a few toys options to use for dramatic play:

Finally here are suggested steps on how to use toys to handle conflict:

  1. Have children list out their problems first.
  2. Discuss why these situations bother each child.
  3. Have your children pick a toy for role play.
  4. Act out solutions to problems mentioned above.
  5. Pro Tip: Emphasize that children should use words to express how they feel as opposed to issuing blame. Blame leads to conflict.

We hope you found these tips helpful! Have parenting tips for calming your children’s conflicts? Share them with us on our Facebook page.

Resources:

Valentine’s Day Gifts for Teachers

10 Feb

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Fostering social and emotional development in young children is a key point of focus in early education classrooms and programs. Though academics can never be underrated, it is important that our children have the social skills to express that knowledge to the world. Valentine’s Day is a great holiday for teaching children to appreciate and value the educators who instill a love of learning every day. We have a few crafts for little hands that will hopefully express just that!

1. Kindness Cards

Children will recognize and label basic feelings, becoming more aware of the feelings of others.

Books:

Materials

  • Crayons, markers, glue, and collage materials
  • Box with a slot cut into it
  • Large, blank index cards
  • Markers
  • Scissors

Preparation: Decorate a box with a slot cut into the top or side, and label it as, “The Kindness Box.”

What To Do:

  1. Read one or more of the suggested books to your children.
  2. Talk with your child about feelings and discuss the meaning of kindness.
  3. Ask children to brainstorm ways their teacher has been kind to them. Write their responses on large index cards.
  4. Introduce “The Kindness Box” and invite children to use art materials to decorate the index cards and then put them into the box.
  5. Explain that the cards they made will be given to their teacher to make him or her smile for Valentine’s Day! Explain that by helping someone smile, they are being kind.

Source: Activity adapted from Another Encyclopedia of Theme Activities for Young Children. 

2. Etched Candles

Work on children’s early literacy skills as they spell out a Valentine’s message on a jazzed up candle with creative design.

Materials

  • Votive size or other small, thick candles, colored if possible
  • Thin paintbrushes or wooden cooking skewers
  • Netting or tissue paper, cut in squares
  • Yarn, cut into 8” pieces

Make Your Gift Great

  1. Etch the sides of a candle with the handle end of a paintbrush.
  2. Have your child choose a Valentine’s word or message to write on the candle (ex. Love, Hero, Best Teacher, etc.) Etch it into the candle along with simple designs and shapes, such as dots, stripes, circles, and so on.
  3. Brush off loose pieces of wax.
  4. Wrap the candle in a square piece of netting or tissue paper and tie with yarn.

Helpful Hints

  • Retrace over the design several times to make it more visible.
  • Use a comb to etch in a design.

Source: 101 Great Gifts Kids Can Make

3. Shapes & Sand Design

Involve sensory play with a Valentine’s design to give to teachers!

What To Do:

  1. Glue bright, bold cutout paper hearts to a contrasting construction paper background. For example, use yellow on purple, red on blue, or white on black.
  2. Trace around the edges of the shapes with white glue squeezed from the bottle.
  3. Shake or pour colored sand onto the glue lines, or use sand you’ve put in a container for easy pour solutions.
  4. Tap the excessive sand onto a tray (save this in the sand container for later use). Let the design dry completely before presenting to the teacher.
  5. Extra: Have your child write a special Valentine’s note on the inside of the heart.

Source: Art with Anything 

We hope you were inspired to get together with your children to make something special for educators on Valentine’s Day. Be sure to share pictures of your child’s final product by tagging us on Instagram @Kaplantoys!

4 Books to Foster a Love of Reading in Young Children

3 Feb

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Reading skill at an early age is not only one of the strongest predictors of overall school success, but it is also correlated with adult health! When a skill is so crucial to supporting a lifetime of learning, it’s important children become comfortable with it from an early age. Getting children to fall in love with reading will introduce new vocabulary, build comprehension skills, and expand children’s experiences beyond what’s immediate. Sometimes encouraging struggling readers can be as simple as promoting the reading material that they are invested in. We have four book suggestions that we hope will encourage your children to think of reading as less of an obligation and more of an enjoyment.

1. I Love Animals—Big Book

You will be hard pressed to find a child who doesn’t love animals! Encourage children to love reading about them too with I Love Animals, a journey full of colorful hand illustrations and enough animals for your reader to find their favorite!

2. DC Super Heroes

Some children think reading is boring—until you add a super hero! Comic chapter books are a great middle ground that uses colorful illustrations of children’s favorite heroes while also encouraging reading skills as children learn about bravery, loyalty and heroism.

3. Feels Real Board Book Set (Set of 8)

Bringing multiple senses to the reading experience can go a long way in developing a child’s love of reading. The Feels Real board books are a great way for tactile children to use touch as they try out simple words and test five different touch and feel textures.

4. Henry Helps Book Set (Set of 7)

Another way to get children to become invested in the reading experience is by giving them a chance to attach to characters. Henry is a great character to follow through this captivating series as he teaches children responsibility, teamwork, and how to build self-esteem. After reading the series, children will not only be more open to new reading experiences, but they will have also picked up social emotional skills along the way!

Want to learn more about the benefits of early literacy? Here are some great parenting resources:

How to Make Kids Wear Warm Clothes!

27 Jan

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Imagine a toddler running pell-mell outside wearing nothing but a t-shirt, sock feet, and a runny nose. Sound familiar? Getting your children to dress properly during the winter months can be a parent’s biggest struggle! Even if your children act unfazed by the cold weather, it’s important they learn how to bundle up, if only to prevent catching a cold. Here are some creative ways to get your little one to dress warmly for winter:

Dramatic Play for Winter

If there’s one way to get children to dress up, it’s involving them in dramatic play! Encourage your children to pretend to be Eskimos wandering through the arctic or polar bears trying to keep their pups warm. Whatever it is your children are pretending to be, make sure you stress how important keeping warm is to their health and being able to survive in cold environments. A great book to read while bundling up is Animals in Winter. 

Pick out Winter Clothes for Toys

Children often learn best from seeing the things expected of them acted out. Learning will come even more naturally when children are involved in hands-on activity that requires them to physically dress their toys. Whether it’s dressing your child’s Favorite Friends Let It Snow Doll or dressing Freddy Frog with his felt set,  putting clothes on their toys is a great way to remind children how to properly dress themselves.

Rewarding Appropriate Clothing

Sometimes, as parents, we have to make deals with our children. We’re sure you are familiar with the, “If you’ll do this THEN we can ____.” statements. When it comes to cold weather, sometimes it can be as simple as offering a fun outdoors activity for them to engage in after they agree to button up the coat and keep from pulling off the toboggan! Some fun activities you can enjoy with your children once they’re properly bundled up include sledding, making an outdoor fort, and even kicking around the Moon Ball!

Finally, it’s important for children to understand the health benefits of dressing warm for winter. Express your concern for their health and teach healthy habits to keep them from getting sick. Here is a great graphic from Kaplan Early Learning Company on how to keep children from spreading germs:image.axd

2015 Resources Roundup for Parent

21 Jan

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As you start the new year, it’s best to have learning resources in mind for your children. This will not only help continue learning opportunities that start in the classroom at home, but also give you options when it comes to filling weekends, indoor play days, and the special holidays you get to spend together! Without further adieu, here is a list of 2015 parent resources we hope you’ll find useful:

Early Education Blogs

Blogs go a long way in providing inspiration and a way to get connected with other parents and teachers. Here are a few of our favorites:

Pre-K Blogs

 Kindergarten Blogs

Educational Toy Suggestions

Keep up with our latest toys for the new year! Whether it’s incorporating new technology, discovering our latest dramatic play options, or finding classics on sale, here are our top toys for the new year:

  1. Stephen Joseph Wall Growth Chart
    • Keep up with how much your child is growing each day! Add inches and dates for memories to revisit years down the road.
  2. Lil Allie Gator
    • Start teaching proper brushing habits from the start with help from Lil Allie Gator! Because everyone knows if Alligators brush their teeth, then it must be important!
  3. Cottage Bed Pretend Play Tent
    • Encourage dramatic play and fanciful reading spaces with the new Cottage Bed Pretend Play Tent. Fits directly over a twin mattress!
  4. Geomag Gbaby Farm – 11 Pieces 
    • Magnetic rods allow budding builders to construct whatever shapes and structures they can imagine. Hours of building fun for babies!
  5. Laser Pegs® Combat Fighter – 6 Models in 1
    • Build 6 different models with the Laser Pegs® Combat Fighter! Vehicles can even light up while racing! Encourages creativity while providing hours of fun during play.
  6. Practice Lacing Shoes (set of 2)
    • Let your little ones practice tying their shoes without it inhibiting their progress. Great for 3 years and up.

We hope you find these suggestions useful as you launch into the new year with your children!

Valuing Diversity on MLK Day

13 Jan

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As 2015 is underway, that means Martin Luther King Jr. Day is right around the corner! Celebrated the third Monday of every January, the holiday commemorates an American hero who fought for equality for all. MLK provides a great example for children to not only read about but also learn from. Here are a few ways you can teach your children to value diversity just as MLK did.

Fun Facts About MLK

  • Martin Luther King Jr. attended Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, GA and was so smart that he skipped two grades in high school! He started his college education at 15.
  • King was the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
  • One of his main influences was Mahatma Gandhi who taught protesting in a non-violent manner.
  • There are over 730 streets in the United States named after Martin Luther King Jr.
  • In his efforts to fight segregation and inequality, King traveled more than six million miles and spoke more than 2,500 times.

Ways to Teach Diversity to Your Kids

1. Read Inclusive Books

It’s important that the children’s books you choose are inclusive and represent a variety of cultures and races. Children can use these books as examples of the diversity America is proud to represent every day. Be sure to encourage acceptance of those small differences by choosing diverse reading materials like the ones below:

2. Schedule Multicultural Play Dates

Know a family in the classroom or neighborhood of a different race or culture? Suggest scheduling a play date so your children can come to appreciate and accept differences in others and themselves. Introduce children to different cuisines during snack time, different languages spoken in the home, and even different greetings, clothing, and mannerisms from their fellow peers. Sometimes, children’s differences can even lead to closer friendships.

3. Make Diversity an Open Discussion

Whether you’re walking in the park, in the grocery store, or simply riding home from picking your child up at school, be sure you encourage them to discuss the differences they see in the people around them. Opening up children’s discussion on those differences and pointing out how positive they are will lead to a broader perspective and overall acceptance in children. You can also take it one step further by getting children to see instances where their peers may be struggling, whether because of language barriers or physical handicaps, as opportunities to reach out and help.

Activity: A Song for MLK Day

Sing the following to the tune “Have You Ever Seen a Lassie?” for MLK Day!

We are all different,

All different,

All different,

We are all different,

Each in our own way.

Whether dark skin or light,

We should get along not fight,

We are all different,

Each in our own way!

(Source: The GIANT Encyclopedia of Monthly Activities For Children 3 to 6)

Resources:

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