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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.

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#

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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

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