Spring Art for Little Hands

31 Mar

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Keeping your little ones entertained for spring can be a challenge, but with such great weather, so many inspiring colors, and the opportunity to play outside, there are plenty of fun art projects you can do together to celebrate the season! Here are some of our favorite activities that will not only encourage color exploration but also give you adorable pieces to put on display in your house:

 1. “Say Cheese” Flowers

Make someone smile with these card stock flowers featuring your child’s photos.

Before Beginning:

-Cut card stock into 4” by 4” flower shapes.

Materials:

  • Various colors of card stock or recycled cardboard scraps (e.g., cereal or cracker boxes), cut into flower shapes
  • Crayons or markers
  • Small photo of child
  • Green pipe cleaners
  • Clear tape
  • Glue
  • Card stock, 1 full sheet

What to Do:

  1. Decorate at least three or four flower shapes with crayons or markers.
  2. Choose one of the flowers, and glue the photo in the center of it.
  3. Tape green pipe cleaners to the backs of the flowers to create stems.
  4. Decorate a whole sheet of card stock with crayons or markers.
  5. Roll the piece of card stock into a funnel shape, and secure with clear tape.
  6. Place the flowers inside the card stock funnel to create a beautiful bouquet. Be sure the photo is clearly visible.

Helpful Hints:

  • Use a large flower-shaped cookie cutter as a pattern for creating the flower shapes.
  • Instead of card stock, use index cards, poster board, and cardboard scraps for flowers.

Variation

  • To create a personalized bouquet, decorate four flowers, place the photo on one of the flowers and, in the middle of the other three, write a letter of the recipient’s name or his or her initials.

Find even more great gift ideas like the one above in 101 Great Gifts Kids Can Make.

 2. Watering Can

Gardeners will love this watering can made from a liquid laundry soap jug and markers.

Before Beginning

-Cut off the top portion of the jug, along the top ridge and just above the handle. Soak bottle in water to remove labels.

Materials:

  • Liquid laundry detergent jug
  • Sharp scissors or utility knife (adult only)
  • Nontoxic permanent markers
  • Hole punch

What to Do:

  1. Decorate the outside of the watering can with nontoxic permanent markers. Create a colorful picture or design.
  2. Fill the watering can with homemade flowers, or fill the container with dirt, and plant flowers or flower seeds inside.

 Variation:

  • Roll up pieces of tape, and use them to attach flat plastic stencil shapes to the outside of the watering can. Apply nontoxic permanent marker in a zigzag motion around the edge of the stencils. Remove the stencils, and add detail to the shape outlines.

Helpful Hints:

  • Save cut-off tops for funnels to use in sand and water play.
  • A utility knife works well for cutting off bottle tops, but be careful! (Utility knives are for adult use only.)
  • Use Teflon scrapers or scrub brushes to remove residue from labels. This is fun to do outside in a tub of water.
  • Use scraps of wallpaper, tissue paper, construction paper, and pipe cleaners to create a unique bouquet of flowers to place in the watering can.

Find even more great gift ideas like the one above in 101 Great Gifts Kids Can Make. 

 3. Butterfly Blots Art

With a little paint and folded paper, toddlers can make beautiful decorated butterflies!

Materials:

  • Manila paper
  • Paint
  • Markers

What to Do:

  1. Have the children put two dabs of paint on one side of their paper.
  2. Help them fold their paper over in half. Show them how to smooth the paper, and rub gently.
  3. Open to see a butterfly shape.
  4. After the butterflies dry, encourage them to decorate their shapes using paint or markers.

Love the activity? Find activities for each month in The GIANT Encyclopedia of Monthly Activities ().

4. Spring Nature Mobile

Go outside on a nature walk and collect items to create a Spring Nature Mobile to hang in a science learning center!

Materials:

  • Stick
  • String
  • Scissors
  • Collection of natural objects

What to Do:

  1. Take the children on a walk outdoors.
  2. Ask each child to select one natural object, such as a rock , pinecone, acorn, or feather.
  3. Back in the classroom, look at the collection of objects as a group.
  4. Turn the collection into a classroom mobile by connecting the objects together with string, and suspending them from a long stick.
  5. Finish by hanging the mobile where everyone can enjoy it.

Find more activities for each month in The GIANT Encyclopedia of Monthly Activities.

Have pictures of the spring art you and your child made together? Share with us by tweeting @KaplanToys or posting on our Facebook page with the hashtag #SpringArt.

Dramatic Play for Spring

24 Mar

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It’s finally spring and with the change in seasons comes more opportunities for young children to get out and enjoy some fresh air. There are plenty of games to play outside, but the best ones inspire children’s creativity as they act out dramatic play. We have a few ways your child can enjoy the sunshine while also using their imaginations to transform into something new! Without further ado, here are four dramatic play games for spring:

1. Better Fly, Butterfly!

There’s nothing more magical than the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly! Have your children act out the transformation with their very own set of wings. The wings are a great addition to books full of early science learning, such as From Caterpillar to Butterfly and The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and will help children become more invested in the stories being read.

2. Get Your Grill On!

Since March is National Nutrition Month, encourage your child to pretend to make their favorite healthy foods on the Pretend Play BBQ Grill. The grill is a great way to teach children proper nutrition and build fine motor skills as children let their imaginations flourish, combining all of their favorite ingredients! (Even if they probably wouldn’t work so well in real life!) For a book of simple recipes you can cook together with your toddler in the real kitchen after playtime, don’t miss The Budding Chef.

3. Build Something Brilliant!

There’s nothing like working on a construction project outside, whether it’s in the sandbox or on the patio. Have your child grab their Construction Worker Dress-Up and head outside to build. The No Ends Construction Set, Bricks, Blocks and Rock Builders, and the Giant Polydron Set are all great outdoor building sets.

4. Go on a Safari!

Every child is a little adventurer at heart! Foster your child’s love of new experiences by helping them gear up for an outdoor adventure! Grab some binoculars for bird watching, a critter cabin for new friends found along the way, and an Early Science Explorers Set to get children started. Creating a sensory box afterwards of items found is always a great tool for science learning at home.

We hope you and your children are enjoying the start of spring! Feel free to share your favorite spring activities with us by commenting below or on our Facebook page.

Building Budding Business Leaders

17 Mar

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Trying to promote business skills in your children while also not feeling like you’re stripping away the joy of childhood can be a real balancing act. However, many of the skills used in the office can be easily integrated into children’s everyday play. Here are four simple strategies you can focus on to raise budding business leaders while also having fun at the same time:

1. Promote financial literacy early on.

Understanding that items have value is an important life skill that children must grasp to succeed down the road. Encouraging financial literacy in the home can take many forms, but here are a few of our favorites:

  • Make Money! Series: Read about kids in true-to-life stories that teach how to work through trial and error to pursue business plans. The series includes washing cars, pet sitting, yard work, and running a lemonade stand! The books are a great way to give children ideas about their own business.
  • Teach personal responsibility by offering children ways to earn income so that they can save for future purchases. This could include chores, running a lemonade stand, or even opening a bank account to save birthday money.
  • Focus on goal setting. Encourage the exploration of future business ideas and how they can see those ideas come to fruition through investment, savings, and hard work. Be sure you’re also celebrating when those goals are met!

2. Accept failure as a part of the learning process.

Children are going to face failures at one point or another; preparing them for it early on is a great way to teach future business skills. Many times schools teach failure as a bad thing, whereas at home, you can encourage your children to view them as chances to grow! When your child makes a mistake, take time to sit down with him or her to discuss which factors led to the failure and then brainstorm ways to prevent it from happening again. Seeing opportunity is a great alternative to dwelling in despair and will help children when they face obstacles in the future.

3. Give children the opportunity to lead.

Being put in a position of leadership is a great way for children to practice effective communication, work toward a common goal, and listen to ideas from others. Invite children’s peers to your house and allow your child to lead in sports, book clubs, or small business projects. Playing host will make children accustomed to leading others. Also, encouraging small token acts, like giving a small toast before family birthday parties or dinners, can give children practice in public speaking.

4. Teach children how to give back.

One important lesson of being a business leader is knowing how to give back to both the employees and the community. Encourage your children to think about how their business can better the lives of others. Part of being a successful business owner is being humble enough to allow great successes to provide benefits to more than just the owner. Volunteering is a great way to allow children to develop the characteristic of helping others. The Busy Family’s Guide to Volunteering is a great tool for getting started. For even more ideas on how to make time to get your children involved in the community, check out this related blog post: http://blog.kaplantoys.com/2014/08/19/3-tips-for-finding-time-to-volunteer-as-a-family/

We want to hear from you! How do you promote early business skills in your children? Share by commenting below or on our Facebook page.

Resources:

Stocking Your Home Library

10 Mar

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Having access to books at home is one of the most important steps in encouraging early literacy outside of school. Libraries create a sense of wonder in children as they run their fingers over a collection of titles just waiting to be read! If you’re considering how best to stock your home library, we have a few helpful tips for getting started:

 Getting Organized:

  1. Pick out a space in your home that encourages quiet time and inspires imagination!Including comfy seating, a window for proper lighting, and of course, titles to engage the whole family’s interests are a great start!
  2. Don’t focus on how many books you have to start with because your collection is sure to grow! Start by asking your children what they like to read and stocking up on their favorite subjects and authors—a few thoughtfully arranged books will be much more beneficial to early readers than a large collection of titles that will go unread.
  3. Ensure your home library is varied.  Be sure you include picture books, bilingual books, read aloud books, board books, and even books that incorporate the use of puppets for dramatic play! By trying new books, children will discover what style they prefer and you’ll know how to further stock your library with their favorites. Here are some of our favorite selections to get started:

Where to Find Books:

Finally, we know it can get expensive when you consider shelves that need to be bought, books that need to be collected, and even the time you have to put into organizing your library. That’s why we want to make it as easy as possible. Here are some crafty options for easily finding books your children will love at cheap prices:

  1. Free eBooks – Do you have e-readers at your house? eBooks are another great option for free resources your children can indulge in while surrounded by their favorite books. Home libraries are not only for collecting books but they can also provide a safe reading environment for children to feel secure in. Here a few helpful sites for finding free ebooks:
    1. Digital Book Index (This is a catalogue of all the major eBook sites, university collections and other smaller publishers.)
    2. International Children’s Digital Library (The world’s largest digital collection of children’s books!)
  2. Library Sales – Every public library receives donations and not all of those books make it onto the shelf. A lot of the donations are saved for book sales where you can find books priced from $0.25 to $1 in a wide range of subjects and genres. Not only will you find some exciting books for your own library but you will also be giving back to the public library system, an all in all win/win situation! Check the Book Sale Finder to find sales in your state.

We wish you the best of luck in getting started! Have tips? Comment below or let us know on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/KaplanToys

Resources:

Toys to Develop Your Little Girl’s Leadership Skills

25 Feb

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

Building Leadership in Girls:

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

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

Here are three of our favorite building toys for girls:

1. Tinkertoy Building Set Pink

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

2. Straws and Connectors 400 Pack

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

3. GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine

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

-Find even more toys from GoldieBlox here.

Books to Inspire Success in Girls:

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

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

Conflict Resolution Through Dramatic Play 

17 Feb

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

Acknowledge Each Child:

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

 Refrain From Giving Solutions:

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

Suggest Dramatic Play to Handle Conflict:

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

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

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

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

Resources:

Valentine’s Day Gifts for Teachers

10 Feb

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

1. Kindness Cards

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

Books:

Materials

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

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

What To Do:

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

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

2. Etched Candles

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

Materials

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

Make Your Gift Great

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

Helpful Hints

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

Source: 101 Great Gifts Kids Can Make

3. Shapes & Sand Design

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

What To Do:

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

Source: Art with Anything 

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

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