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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:

Celebrating Teddy Bear Day with Toddlers

9 Sep

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It’s National Teddy Bear Day and boy do we have some fun choices for toddlers to celebrate with as they learn! Stuffed animals are not only a great way for babies and smaller children to develop motor skills, but they also provide a cuddly companion! Here is a little breakdown of how the teddy bear came to be:

Fun Fact:

After President Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot an injured bear on a hunting trip in Mississippi, political cartoonists began associating the image of a small bear with the president. A New York candy shop owner, Morris Michtom, saw the cartoon in 1902 and obtained permission from Roosevelt to start advertising his stuffed toy bears as “Teddy’s bears.” The concept caught on quickly!

Now that you know the origin of the teddy bear, it’s time to pick one out for your toddler! There are many educational benefits to teddies, including building fine and gross motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and providing stability through plush playmates! Here are a few of the teddy options we have so that toddlers can learn as they celebrate:

Teddy Wear Toddler Learning Toy

There’s nothing like having a teddy to dress up! Not only will children learn self-care and refine their grasps, but they will also learn from a mixture of textures, buckles, and zippers for varied sensory input. The bear is sure to be a cuddly match for your child’s emerging skills!

Corduroy

Celebrate Teddy Bear Day with one of the most beloved teddies around: Corduroy! This fun paperback also comes with a CD so that you can listen alongside toddlers as they learn early literacy skills by following the story of a department store teddy who hunts for his missing button and finds something even more rewarding!

Small Chubby Bear

If you are looking for your baby’s first bear, the Kaloo selections are plush and cuddly! The softness will comfort babies as they clutch their small, chubby bears. They also have great colors for visual stimuli!

Small Panda Hand Puppet

Looking for an international spin? Who doesn’t love a panda! This charming hand puppet has the traditional black and white fur and sports soft plastic claws for a realistic look. Legs and mouth also open for dramatic play!

Classic Paddington Bear 10”

Remember Mr. and Mrs. Brown and their discovery of Paddington Bear at London’s Paddington Station? Well, now children can play with him along with his classic ensemble of a bright red hat, dark blue outfit, and sunny yellow rain boots! Comes with the tag, “Please look after this bear. Thank you.” to encourage responsibility.

Backpack Bears with Sorting Bowls

Who knew you could teach math with teddies? The Backpack Bears encourage matching, math skills, color recognition, and logic thinking skills as children sort colored teddies into appropriate bowls.

We hope you found a perfect teddy for your toddler! For even more learning opportunities with teddy bears, check out the rest of our selection here.

Resource:
http://www.theodoreroosevelt.org/site/c.elKSIdOWIiJ8H/b.8684621/k.6632/Real_Teddy_Bear_Story.htm

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:

 

3 Tips for Finding Time to Volunteer as a Family

19 Aug

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Volunteering doesn’t have to be as hard as pulling teeth. In fact, it doesn’t even have to take much of your time. But the time you do give as a family will be time well spent as you are not only working toward bettering the classroom, but also spending valuable time with your children as you get involved in the community. Here are a few tips on how you can make time to show your little ones the importance of volunteering:

1. Choose what best suits your schedule.

There are two types of volunteering: informal and structured. If you want to establish a routine volunteering routine that will be less likely to be pushed aside when other responsibilities arise, then structured volunteering is probably the option for you! These are volunteer opportunities you sign up for with your children at the beginning of the school year, scheduling a monthly date to perform services like visiting the classroom to help with reading time, preparing learning center materials to bring in at home, or even helping in the school garden. Informal volunteering, on the other hand, is a good way to find opportunities that best fit your schedule. Tasks can be as simple as scheduling a fundraiser or taking your child to clean up the park. Whatever type of service you choose to perform, know you are putting core values (empathy, responsibility, stewardship) on display for your children through taking action. Hopefully, they will learn to follow suit.

2. Follow your passion.

It’s always easier to launch head first into something you are passionate about. Notice a large number of stray cats in your neighborhood and want to do something about it? Start a fundraiser or campaign for either bringing awareness to the importance of spaying and neutering pets or ways for the community to more easily get involved in the adoption process. Notice a school system is in need of new reading material? Start gathering donations to fuel children’s love of reading. Whatever it is you are passionate about, there is always a way to make a difference, even if it’s through starting a grassroots organization. If you do decide to start an organization, here are a few tips:

  1. Ask yourself if launching a new organization is necessary.
  2. Create a mission statement.
  3. Decide on specific goals and projects.
  4. Attract members.
  5. Arrange a meeting space and time.
  6. Establish organizational hierarchy and a decision-making process.
  7. Decide on a budget and funding sources.
  8. Generate publicity for your organization and its goals.
  9. Have fun!

Keep those steps in mind and you and your children will be well on your way to creating a successful grassroots organization!

3. Prepare your kids.

It’s important for children to understand the implications of volunteering. You can prepare them for what you’ve signed up for by:

  1. Describing what will happen.
  2. Showing enthusiasm for what you’re about to do.
  3. Becoming educated about your position. (Find out the required time, behavior expectations and the importance of the job so you can share it with your children.)
  4. Explain the benefits of the position.

The more excited you are and the more details you have about the volunteering position will make the idea even more appealing to children.

-For even more great ways to get your family involved with volunteering while operating on a tight schedule, check out The Busy Family’s Guide to Volunteering.

-If you have any ideas for time management and how to make room for volunteering with the family, feel free to share with us by commenting below or tweeting us @KaplanToys with the hashtag #volunteering.

How to Inspire Laughter and Learning (at the Same Time!)

12 Aug

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Did you know that August 16th is National Tell a Joke Day? If not, now you do! Laughter is not only a great form of expression, but it can also lead to stress relief along the way. We have a few jokes and toys that will leave kids rolling as they learn!

Here are a few jokes you can share with your children to pass along throughout the day. After all, National Tell a Joke Day can’t be celebrated if they don’t have any jokes to tell!

  • Q: What does a nosy pepper do?
  • A: Gets jalapeño business!
  • Q: What do you call a fake noodle?
  • A: An impasta.
  • Q: What do you call an alligator in a vest?
  • A: An investigator.
  • Q: What happens if you eat yeast and shoe polish?
  • A: Every morning you’ll rise and shine!
  • Q: What’s the difference between a guitar and a fish?
  • A: You can’t tuna fish.
  • Q: Did you hear about the race between the lettuce and the tomato?
  • A: The lettuce was a “head” and the tomato was trying to “ketchup!”
  • Q: What do you get from a pampered cow?
  • A: Spoiled milk.
  • Q: What do lawyers wear to court?
  • A: Lawsuits!
  • Q: What gets wetter the more it dries?
  • A: A towel.
  • Q: What did the pencil say to the other pencil?
  • A: You’re looking sharp.

-For even more funny jokes for kids to tell, check out Jokes4us.com. 

Are your kids looking for a few pranks to pull? Do they need to get out the giggles before quiet time? Then they will love these toys sure to leave everyone laughing:

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Laugh-Out-Loud Books

There’s nothing like reading a book so funny it’s hard to finish the next sentence! For a few laughable options that will also teach kids early literacy, you’ll want to check out the laugh-out-loud selections How Are You Peeling?, Piggies in the Pumpkin Patch, and the Ready Freddy Book Sets. Prepare for giggles!

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The Funny Faces Game

There’s nothing that will crack kids up more than making funny faces! With the Funny Faces board game, players have to mimic the ridiculous faces shown on each card. It is sure to create lots of smiles and giggles with the best face winning the game!

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Play the Prankster

Harmless pranks are a great way to create surprise and result in laughter! While learning the principles of electronic circuitry, kids can use Klutz® Gotcha Gadgets to pull off their most daring booby-traps for family and friends! Whether kids are rewiring the door alarm or light monitor, be encouraged that they’re learning along the way; even if the end result is to say, “Gotcha!”

-Does your child have a joke that will make everyone laugh? Share it with us by commenting below or tweeting it to us @Kaplantoys with the hashtag #loljokes.

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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