Managing Your Kids’ Screen Time

17 Jun

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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

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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.” 

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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

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-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!

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-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

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-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.

Making Summer More Allergy- and Asthma- Friendly

27 May

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It’s summer, a time for kids to get outside, to enjoy adventures in the backyard, to go biking with their friends and grilling outdoors with their family. But with the increase in young children’s playtime spent outdoors comes an increase in the pollen count. With pollen levels higher than normal this year, we want to make sure you are prepared to handle the runny noses, coughing and trouble breathing that your kids may experience in the months ahead. Here are some ways you can make sure your child is safe and happy for pollen season.

Awareness

  • Make sure you are aware of how to identify signs of asthma and allergies. A great test for this is KFA’s “How Allergy and Asthma Smart Are You?” quiz. It covers food allergies, anaphylaxis, asthma and other allergic diseases. Not only will you come away knowing more about factors that affect your children’s health, but you’ll also be entered to win a $100 gift card!
  • The Allergy Capitals identifies the “100 most challenging places to live with allergies” in the spring and fall seasons. See where your city lies as far as pollen count to know how extensive your preventive measures need to be: www.AllergyCapitals.com

Tips for Dealing with Allergies at Home

Allergies

  • Know the symptoms. For food allergies, be on the lookout for: rashes, hives, swelling in the face, belly or back, coughing or a shortness of breath. For pollen allergies, look for: sneezing, runny eyes and nose, and nasal congestion.
  • Talk to your child’s allergist to know the best approach for symptom control. This will include being able to identify triggers.
  • If your child has a play date with a child that has food allergies or vice versa, ask the parent to pack their own drinks and foods to eliminate triggers as well as instructions for necessary medical care.
  • Always have Benadryl® on hand for immediate use when children break out and you are not sure of the trigger.
  • Wash your child’s hands often, keeping things clean!

Asthma

  • Know potential triggers: cigarette smoke, outdoor/indoor pollen, food allergies, extreme temperature changes.
  • Use oral and nasal sprays to control allergies throughout the day, which will help prevent an asthma attack.
  • Have immediate measures disposable whenever your child has an attack, including consistent accessibility to an EpiPen®.

Finally, the best treatment parents can use at home for children with allergies and asthma is prevention. Knowing your child’s symptoms, keeping them on appropriate medications, and avoiding triggers will keep your child safe and healthy.

Toys can often trigger children’s allergies. That’s why stuffed animals like these cute, cuddly Asthma- and Allergy-Friendly Animal Friends are a hit for parents and children alike!

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For more in-depth information on allergies, check out the following websites below.

Resources

Healthy Grilling for Kids

20 May

Looking for ways to keep your kids engaged outdoors this summer? Memorial Day weekend is a great time to break out the grill! May is National Barbecuing Month and while there are plenty of delicious bacon-wrapped recipes, we want to provide you with a few healthy options your children will love not only eating but helping you prepare. Get ready for Five Healthy Treats for the Grill:

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1. Put it on a stick

Grilling instantly becomes more fun when children can put skewers in food and let it cook over the flames. Grilled Chicken Fingers with Manchurian Sauce provides a healthier (and more tasty) version of chicken nuggets. Bread the chicken with an oil and water mix so that the coating sticks to the chicken. Manchurian dipping sauce can be made with soy sauce and garlic, expanding children’s horizons from the traditional condiments of ketchup or ranch. Feel free to put anything your child desires on a skewer, from cheese-filled meatballs to tasty veggies! It’s a great dip and go food!

Source: http://www.ivillage.com/5-fun-grilled-treats-kids/3-b-189251#18929

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2. Fruit Kabobs

Fruit is always a rare treat when grilled lightly in honey syrup mixed with cinnamon. The mixture makes the fruit even sweeter and gives kids a chance to make their own shish kabob. Put any combination of your child’s favorite fruit on a skewer, dip it into the syrup and let it grill for a few minutes before enjoying. Strawberries, pineapple, banana, and apple are always good choices!

Source: http://www.ivillage.com/5-fun-grilled-treats-kids/3-b-189251#18929

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3. Three-Cheese Pizza

What kid doesn’t like pizza? Grill sliced dough on an oiled cookie sheet before adding a combination of mozzarella, ricotta, and Pecornio Romano cheese on top. Cook for a few minutes before adding parsley, cutting into four slices, and serving as a healthy finger food!

Source: http://www.delish.com/recipefinder/three-cheese-pizza-ghk

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4. Grilled Corn with Poblano Lime Crema

Corn on the cob is always a favorite and is easy to hold for little hands. Grill your corn and add a little spice with the Poblano Lime Crema. Find the recipe here, drizzle the crème on top of your corn, add a touch of cilantro, and enjoy!

Source: http://www.pbs.org/food/recipes/grilled-corn-with-poblano-lime-crema/

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5. Chocolate Marshmallow Banana Boats

We couldn’t leave you without a grilled dessert! With a piece of tin foil, a banana, and chocolate chips and marshmallows to go inside, kids will love the final messy product of a banana boat. You can always use vegan alternatives for the chocolate chips and marshmallows to make this a healthy treat for your children to enjoy.

Source: http://www.ivillage.com/5-fun-grilled-treats-kids/3-b-189251#18929

Grilling Tips & Safety

  • Portion Control: Make sure any meats you plan on grilling are cut into 3-5 ounce pieces. If your kids are really hungry, they can always come back for seconds!
  • Don’t wear loose clothing while grilling.
  • Don’t add lighter fluid to an already lit fire.
  • Always supervise children around grills.
  • Use long-handled grilling tools so that hands are kept away from the hot grill and flames.
  • When cooking hamburger or turkey ground meats, make sure it says “extra lean” on the package.

26827aFinally, if your kids are feeling adventurous and you want to encourage dramatic play, check out our Grill and Go Campstove, perfect for making play food as you grill out side by side!

We hope everyone has a great Memorial Day weekend!

 

Resources:

http://www.nourishinteractive.com/healthy-living/free-nutrition-articles/22-healthy-family-bbq-kids-grilling-lean-meat

http://www.safekids.org/blog-post/grilling-summer-safety

 

Benefits of Biking for Kids!

13 May

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Do you remember the first time you rode a bike? Learning to bike as a child is a bonding experience that many people keep with them, even as they grow. It provides educational merit and allows for learning something new at home. Biking encourages independence in kids while they gain just the right amount of support from whoever is teaching them. Besides providing a healthy pastime, check out all of the benefits of biking and learn what kind of bike would be good to help your child get started.

Motor Skills

Biking provides a learning opportunity for children since they have to coordinate their hands and feet while keeping their balance. Managing to stay upright by themselves is a great way for kids to build fine and gross motor skills, leading to growth through fostered independence.

Physical Fitness

Strengthening the heart, lungs and exercising the lower-body muscles are all great benefits of biking for your little one. Biking provides a healthy option for outdoor time as they burn calories and fulfill their exercise quota for the day. (Odds are, you will too, as biking with toddlers will have you chasing them left and right!)

Social Development

Biking has always been a community pastime. So once your child is off and pedaling, it will provide them with a chance to interact with their community and other children who are biking. It will foster independence as they learn from their mistakes and gain confidence with each success. A little healthy exploration of the neighborhood is a great way to develop children’s social skills.

Types of Bicycles

So you want to start your child off biking? Just like learning to walk, biking has to be done in stages. Here is a guide for which bike will best suit the needs of your child:

Tricycles:

These bikes usually come in the form of plastic three-wheelers for children ages 2 to 5. Children should be supervised by adults as they learn to bike, and tricycles should only be ridden on a playground or within a fenced yard away from roads. We have a few selection to get you started. Find even more trike options here.

 

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Training Wheels:

For children ages 5 to 6, training wheels can be used when you feel your child is ready for the required coordination. You can gradually elevate training wheels as your child become more confident in their own fine motor skills, until eventually the wheels can be removed altogether.

When children first start out, make sure proper precatuions are taken to make sure they’re safe. They should always wear a helmet!99074new

Single-Speed Bikes:

If your child is ready to take the training wheels off, make sure their first bike is a single-speed with foot brakes to ensure their safety. For ages 6 to 9, children shouldn’t start street riding until they are at least eight. Until then, children should ride in driveways or along paths with adults in tow.

Featured:

Kazam Balance Bike

142185coRiding without training wheels is even easier with our new Kazam Balance Bikes! With a foot rest included, the bike is specially designed to help children maintain their center of gravity.

 

Multiple-Speed Bikes:

These bikes are for ages 9 and up. Multiple-speed bikes usually include hand brakes and allow for children to begin exploring streets around the neighborhood. In some situations, children can even begin to ride to school along safe routes.

-We hope you enjoyed this post on biking! To find even more resources for family engagement and biking tips, check out the websites below!

Resources:

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