Beach Learning for Independence Day

1 Jul

shutterstock_159281705It’s here already: the 4th of July! Are you looking forward to family time, food and fireworks? Will you be going on vacation with your children for Independence Day? We have great options for learning on the beach so your little ones can understand the importance of the holiday while having fun at the same time! Here are a few fast facts about the holiday so children will understand why America celebrates the 4th of July:

Facts on Independence Day:

  • Congress approved the Declaration of Independence all the way back in 1776 when America was first established as a nation!
  • The name “Independence Day” was first used in 1791, fifteen years after the Declaration of Independence was signed.
  • America held its first Fourth of July celebration in Eastport, Maine in 1820.
  • Today, many Americans celebrate with barbeques, parades, picnics and fireworks!

Now for the fun! Here are three ways to keep little ones learning on the beach:

1). Alphabet Bean Bags!

21393Many families hit the beach and throw horseshoes for the fourth. Here is a way for little ones to get involved! Alphabet Bean Bags provide hands-on play for preschoolers, allowing them to engage in alphabet games, build words, and learn letters as they throw and catch beanbags. See if they can pick out the letters to a word like “picnic” and then work on gross-motor skills by trying to toss them to a line drawn in the sand. The words games are endless!

2) Number Sand Molds!

Who knew playing in the sand could add up? Number Sand Molds provide an inexpensive way to get tots engaged with math on the beach. Let them dig in and make number molds to build their own equations. You will have to check the answers, of course!

61136

3) Memory Match Clams

Break out these durable toys for tons of water fun! Memory Match Clams challenge children’s memory skills and hand-eye coordination as they try to remember which clams have the matching sea creatures inside. Dig a hole in the sand and fill it with water with your fun floating memory game to keep children entertained for hours!

22859

For even more sand and water play, check out our full toy selection here.

We hope you and your little ones have a great Independence Day! Enjoy learning games on the beach during the day and a beautiful display of independence during the night. Have a great 4th of July!

5 Tips for Your Little Girl on How to Become a Princess

24 Jun

shutterstock_169580216Is your child running around the house singing “Let It Go”? Tromping across wooden floors in heels several sizes too big? Rescuing her brother from a pretend tower? With all of the fun fairytale remakes and Disney adding new lovable princesses every year, it’s hard to not want to be a princess these days. But pretending to be a princess isn’t a bad thing! In fact, it encourages creativity and engages children in dramatic play. So without further adieu, here are five tips for your little girl on how to become a princess:

1. Look in the mirror!

All your child needs to do is see her own reflection to know that all that’s needed to become a beautiful princess is what’s on the inside; the rest is simply accessory. Make sure she knows that her cute smile, button nose and big heart are all she needs to make the world a better place. And never let her forget it!

2. Choose a color.

Every princess has a favorite color. Will hers be blue like Cinderella? Gold like Belle? Pink like Sleeping Beauty? Whatever color it is, allow her to make it her own! Encourage your child to be herself and wear her favorite color proudly. Princesses know how to keep up appearances, but only by wearing their favorite colors and clothes. Does your child want to be like Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty? Check out these dresses, so she can dress up just like them:

141989141972

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Learn proper manners.

85160

Princesses have to know how to behave properly. That’s why every child needs to remember her manners if she wants to be like a princess. Encourage her to say please and thank you when passing food at the table. Make sure she knows not to interrupt her teacher when he or she is talking, and instead, wait until she’s called upon to speak. It’s also important to stress that princesses know how to be patient and make what they have to say count. Follow along with Little Princess to learn the importance of manners:

4. Build a castle.

Every princess has to have a castle! Not only will your little princess show off those building skills, but she’ll also have a place to show off to her princess friends! At Kaplan Toys, we have ice castles like Elsa’s, wooden castles, LEGO® castles and more! What kind of castle does your child want to build?

142545

141013a

 

 

5. Let it go!

Encourage your little princess to take after Elsa and let it go! Make sure she knows not to worry about what other people say when she wears different clothes or takes an interest in something that’s not popular. Tell her to do what she loves and channel her own inner-princess as the beautiful, independent young lady she is! And don’t forget, even princesses need help from mommy!

142550-1

Want to deck out your child’s room in fairytale fashion? Check out our pink princess furniture set, a magical setup your child is sure to love!

Does your child love to dress up? Share who your child’s favorite princess is and why in the comment section below, and she will be entered to win a free Cinderella dress!

Party in the Pool with Your Kids!

18 Jun

shutterstock_160577036 Is it just us, or is it hot outside? There’s nothing like breaking in the summer with your children by engaging in water play. Pools are great places to not only cool off but also allow children to learn! Here are few ideas to make your party in the pool an educational one:

1. Water Fun Set

141728a Work on kids’ hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills as they toss a foam ball back and forth with two springy paddles! See how many times they can hit it back and forth before it hits the water.

2. Scoop and Pour Tug Boats

30135 Engage young children in learning how to fill tug boats and pour out water. They’ll have a blast steering floating boats around the pool. Encourage children to swim in the same direction around the pool to create a current their boats can float on!

3. Waterworks Play Kit

16378 Boats and corks for floating, sea animals for swimming, cups for measuring, and sponge numbers for counting—all included in the Waterworks Play Kit for endless water fun!

4. WaterBlocks Super Set (35 Pieces)

62364 Bring classic block play to the pool! Encourage building in young kids with water runs, ball runs, waterfalls and more with our floating WaterBlocks Super Set. Children can explore math concepts, structure and balance with sticky blocks that are bound to make for interesting structures straight from your child’s imagination!

Don’t have access to a pool?

91111 Check out our Grub Scouts’ Sprinkler! It’s perfect for engaging young children in active play as they jump over friendly grubs! Sprinklers are always a fun alternative to pools when looking for ways to cool off for the summer.

-Finally, you can’t have a perfect pool day without ending it with a Cool Summer Smoothie! Check out the recipe below for a refreshing snack your kids will love!

Cool Summer Smoothie

Ingredients

  • Milk
  • Vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt
  • Crushed ice
  • Fresh fruit or fruit juice
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Blender

What to do:

  1. Blend 2 cups ice cream or yogurt, 1 cup crushed ice, 1 cup orange juice and milk as needed to thin the drink out.
  2. Add food coloring, if desired.
  3. Enjoy a cool orange smoothie.
  4. Substitute various fruits or fruit juices to make different smoothie flavors. Enjoy!

For even more great ideas like the smoothie above, check out “The GIANT Encyclopedia of Monthly Activities.” 

Managing Your Kids’ Screen Time

17 Jun

shutterstock_173470913

It can’t be avoided: technology is all around us. In fact, a 2013 study from Common Sense Media reported that kids eight and under spend around two hours a day with a screen. With the abundance of smart phones and tablets, it’s easy to see how unmanaged screen time can be associated with negative side effects in young children such as childhood obesity, increased isolation, and cyber bullying. However, if parents are involved in monitoring children’s time with technology, it can be used to aid in their development instead of harming it. With great parenting alongside limited screen time, young children can be brought up healthy in the digital age. Here are a few ways you can use your child’s screen time to his or her advantage.

Benefits of Online Engagement

Despite screen time being associated with negative side effects, it can actually be used to foster educational growth and encourage children to participate in online communities. Benefits of engaging online include:

  • Keeping already established friendships connected
  • Finding new peers who have the same interests
  • Fostering self-expression through artwork, music, and books
  • Establishing and expressing individual identity

For children to reap the full benefits that technology provides, there must also be rules in place to ensure the time spent online is being used productively. Here are a few things to keep in mind as your child interacts online.

Screen Time Usage

It’s important for parents to limit how much time young children are spending online through their smart phone or tablet. Make sure you establish rules with your children regarding appropriate virtual communication, ex: when they can use technology, how long they can spend on it, and whom they are allowed to contact. A few good questions to ask yourself are:

  • Is your child allowed to text or instant message? If so, who and between what times?
  • What apps can your child download? Do you need to set parental locks before an app can be purchased?
  • Does your child need to take his or her phone or tablet to school?
  • What time does the technology need to be put “to bed?”
  • Are there consequences for violating the agreed upon rules?

Teach Your Kids Netiquette

A lot of rules that govern online interactions simply carry over from teaching children manners. Children need to know that just because the person they are virtually communicating with isn’t in front of them does not mean that negative words have less of an impact. Taunting and cruel messages, or even impersonating a peer, are all forms of cyber bullying and need to be monitored. Within your household, specific rules of ethical online communications need to be established, so that young children know what is expected in their virtual conduct. Some questions to encourage kids to ask themselves would include:

  • Would I say the words I am typing to this person’s face?
  • Would what I’m saying hurt this person’s feelings if taken out of context?
  • Will this photo embarrass someone?
  • Would my parents approve of this message?

Discourage Isolation

Many times the presence of technology in the hands of a child can cause them to be isolated from the person right beside them! Talk to your children about being present in the moment and interacting with the people around them. This will play an integral role in fulfilling young children’s need for social engagement and prevent them from being isolated. For great ideas on how to get kids involved, check out our family engagement resources here.

Understanding Privacy

Every app and platform for virtual communication has privacy settings. Making sure your children understand your rules, such as whom they can engage with online or through text is important in keeping them safe. It is better to have all personal information secure so that only select people can see it. Children need to understand that those privacy standards do NOT apply to family members. Technology guidelines need to be set from the beginning to let your child know what is expected in regards to your right to see their phone or tablet.

We hope you enjoy learning more with your kids and allowing technology to help them do so! For a list of educational apps to get your kids started, check out the following website: http://www.parents.com/fun/entertainment/gadgets/best-educational-apps-for-kids/

Resources:

Appreciating African American Music with Your Kids

12 Jun

shutterstock_136464914Want to celebrate African American Appreciation Music Month with your kids, but not sure how? Don’t worry! We have some great ways for kids to creatively engage as they learn more about African American music. From learning about true artists, such as Louis Armstrong and Chuck Berry, to listening to age-old children’s tunes, there is always something new to appreciate about how the African American community has helped shape our music culture.

Learn Through Reading

The first thing little ones need to understand is where African American music originated as well as how determined musicians had to be to become successful. We’ve come up with a list of kid-friendly resources that will introduce them to African American music:

-Parent’s Choice has a stellar list of books revolving around African American musicians. From enchanting stories of Harlem, to admirable life story of black singer Marian Anderson, to tales of modern-day tap-dancing, these titles will get your little ones excited about music!

-Richland Library presents an inspiring list of reads celebrating women and African American music. Read along with your children about the success of independent women and how they made their mark on music.

Feel the Beat!

Are your kids already fans of modern day rock ‘n’ roll? It’s important for them to understand that such music forms wouldn’t have originated were it not for genres like blues and jazz, both shaped by talented African American artists including Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Ernest Hogan, and Wynton Marsalis. To encourage kids to understand and appreciate the different music genres, try gathering them in an open space and have them dance to music selections varying from slow to fast. Here is a CD of fourteen catchy songs drawn straight from the heart of African American music for children to dance to: http://www.kaplantoys.com/store/trans/productDetailForm.asp?CatID=%7C%7C&PID=11533

Once they’ve danced to their heart’s content, you can teach them to pay attention to beat patterns found within the music, an important part of African American music. Here are a few games you can play with kiddos to help them understand rhythm and beat:

  • Have children listen to the music and count the “boom booms” or “heartbeats” keeping track of how it changes throughout the song.
  • To even further understand beat patterns, have little ones toss around a ball, stuffed animal, or other soft items while the music plays. Model the steady beat for your children when the song first starts by either tapping your toe or patting your leg. When you pass the item, have the child who’s holding it pick a new place to pat the steady beat (on their head, knees, belly, toes, etc.) The only rule is that it can’t be anywhere someone else has already played it. Have the kids sit after they’ve had a turn, so you can see who still needs a turn!
  • Listen for different instruments in your song choices. Assign each child to an instrument and have them pretend to play it when it is heard. This is a fun way to not only recognize the variety of instruments being played, but it is also a great opportunity for dramatic play!

Listen to Live Music

Now that your kids have had an introduction to African American music, it’s time they got out and experienced it! There are several opportunities to see live music performed by current African American artists. Check concert halls, music festivals, and city events for a list of which artists are playing near you.

Make Your Music

Need instruments for your kids to play? Check out our selection of drums, pianos, maracas, and more! Hopefully, African American music awareness will inspire your children to make music of their own.

Happy music making!

Hands-On Father’s Day Activities for Kids

10 Jun

shutterstock_194504798

Want to help your kiddo say a big thank you to their dad this Father’s Day? We’ve come up with some great ways for little ones to make dads feel special while having fun and getting creative along the way! Get engaged with your child using these three fun ways to make Father’s Day special:

1) Father’s Day Bookmarks

-Dads love to read! Give them something special to see every time they open up a book to whatever page they left off on!

Materials:

  • Colorful poster board
  • Scissors
  • Variety of stickers
  • Small pictures cut from greeting cards
  • Glue sticks
  • Markers and crayons
  • Clear contact paper
  • Yarn
  • Hole punch

What to do:

  1. Cut poster board into bookmark size. Place bookmarks, scissors, stickers, small pictures, glue sticks, and markers on a table for your child.
  2. Let your child decorate bookmarks using the materials.
  3. When he or she is finished, help him/her cover the bookmarks with clear contact paper to ensure that the materials will stay.
  4. Punch a hole in a corner of each bookmark so your child can tie tassels.
  5. Help your child make tassels by gathering several pieces of yarn together and tying them together at one end. Knot to the hole in the bookmark.
  6. Give to dad or grandpa to make Father’s Day special!

-For even more great activities like this one, check out “The GIANT Encyclopedia of Monthly Activities for Children 3 to 6.” 

Photo Jun 09, 12 00 33 PM

2) Make a Snack for Dad!

-Encourage your kids to get creative in the kitchen by helping them prepare Celery Race Cars for Dad! It is an easy and healthy snack that will keep your child’s motor running!

Ingredients:

  • 2” pieces of celery
  • ¼” slices of carrots
  • Peanut butter

What to Do:

  1. Encourage your child to spread peanut butter into his or her celery “cars.”
  2. Spread peanut butter on the carrot slices with a plastic knife and attach them to the celery to create “wheels.”

Another idea:

  1. Make “bugs on a log” with celery, peanut butter and raisins!
  2. Help your child fill the celery with peanut butter and put raisins on the peanut butter. Now it’s time to eat his “bugs on a log!”

Experiment:

  • You can also introduce a little science lesson by filling two cups with water and dropping in two drops of food coloring. Put a celery stick in each color and watch the celery turn different colors!

-Love cooking with your kids? Find more recipes to cook together in “The Budding Chef.” 

3) Help Dad Drive in Style!

- Help dads keep their car organized by working with your child to make a Car Visor Clip!

Materials:

  • Clothespin, spring type
  • Library pocket
  • Paint
  • Cotton swabs or thin paintbrushes
  • Non-toxic permanent marker
  • Glue

Make Your Gift Great:

  1. Paint the clothespin and library pocket using either the cotton swabs or thin paintbrushes.
  2. After the paint dries, glue the library pocket to one side of the clothespin.
  3. Use the permanent marker to personalize the clip by writing a title on the library pocket such as “Dad’s Car Clip.”
  4. Include a note with the gift suggesting that the recipient clip it to the car visor and use the pocket for parking stubs or loose change.

Helpful Hint

-The library pocket will last longer if it is laminated or covered with clear contact paper before attaching it to the clothespin. Laminate does not adhere to other materials well, so use self-adhesive Velcro to attach the pocket to the clothespin.

Variation

Add magnetic tape to the back of the clothespin to create a refrigerator clip that can hold papers. Use the library pocket for storing pens and pencils.

-Did your child like the activity above? Find more like it in
101 Great Gifts From Kids.

There are so many ways for little ones to help celebrate Father’s Day! For even more ways to get your children involved in hands-on crafts, check out our Father’s Day Activities Pinterest board: http://www.pinterest.com/KaplanToys/crafts-for-fathers-day/

Keep Learning Cool This Summer

3 Jun

Just because your children are out of school doesn’t mean they have to stop learning! Summer provides the perfect time for family engagement. We have new toys and books that will give you and your kids fun ways to enjoy the summer while keeping their minds and bodies active. Here are a few ways to keep learning cool during those hot summer months!

Summer Reading

26143p

-Get engaged with our ThinkStretch Summer Learning Program™! This affordable education program is aligned with Common Core Standards and contains a reading log, writing exercises, math worksheets and a bonus activity! Read along with the grade-specific summer learning books or laugh along with the animated kick-off video. Achievement medals will keep your kids motivated to reach new learning levels.

Books About Summer

-Let your kids read along and be inspired by characters making the most of their summers!

Keeping it Cool

-The great thing about summer is that you can splash into it! With such warm weather, children will be looking for ways to cool off. We have a few creative suggestions to allow your children to enjoy the sun without getting too hot.

-With so many opportunities to go outdoors, you’ll be looking to wheel your baby through parks, downtown, or even a friendly turn about the neighborhood. With so much stroller time, you’ll want to make sure your child is not getting overheated. Geleeo stroller pads keep stroller temperatures bearable, and they’re specifically made for kids. With a pair of cute sunnies and a cooler stroller pad, your kids will be set for a summer stroll!

142225

-Do you have a little girl who loves to swim? Let her swim in style with our Bling 20 Swim Goggles! Different colors and patterns allow children to find the perfect pair to fit their personality. They are also swim team approved!

Get Moving

-Have little boys with endless energy? We have toys they will love, keeping them engaged and active over the summer! Check out our Aero Zipp, a catapult action toy that allows children to launch balls as they work on accuracy, distance, height and curved flight. Comes with one Aero Zipp, one hip holster, and three Zipp balls to launch.

Outdoor Building

142503b

 

-Let your kids’ imaginations soar with our OGOBUILD Pod Kit, perfect for outdoor building. Once built, the lightweight structure can be kicked, spun, or thrown. Cover it with a bed sheet to make a fort! This inspiring building kit will keep your kids entertained for hours as they use their budding engineering skills to create the perfect playhouse.

Between keeping minds sharp with summer reading, cooling off with fun, water toys, and keeping active with outdoor building, we hope you and your kids will find plenty of time to spend together in the summer months ahead! For even more active and outdoor toys, find our complete selection of summer-perfect toys here.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 48 other followers