4 Fun Ways to Teach Poetry

14 Apr

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April is National Poetry Month! Teaching poetry to toddlers can be hard, especially when it’s not  your favorite writing style or particularly easy to understand! Rhyming schemes, however, can provide a fun introduction to early literacy skills and can get kids up and moving if paired with movement. Keep your kids engaged with four fun ways to teach poetry at home:

1. Flower Poetryflower+poem

Celebrate the season by teaching poetry with flowers! Simply draw an outline of different types of flowers with enough room on each petal for children to write words and an original poem in the center. Give different instructions for each flower and let kids’ creativity do the rest!

Ideas for flower petals: 

  • alliteration (“soft as blankets” or “sweet as candy”)
  • spring simile (“dancing daffodil” or “buzzing bees”)
  • adjectives (“fragrant flowers” or “beautiful blossoms”)

The results will leave you with inspiring flowers to hang on your walls at home!

Extra: Read Grandpa’s Garden for an adorable story to go along with your poetry activity!

Source: http://www.reallifeathome.com/celebrating-national-poetry-month-with-hands-on-poetry-projects/

2. Seasonal Poetry71808a-1

Kids already love to write poetry, even if they don’t know it yet! The best way to get them more involved is by including artwork as part of their poetry project. This allows a visual representation of language exploration. Spring is one of the most inspiring seasons as it offers bright colors, lovely weather, and the appearance of all types of flowers and animals. Sit your children down and brainstorm a list of words they associate with spring. Place the list somewhere visible in the room so children can refer to it as they write. Here are three poetry forms that are easy to teach and fun to personalize:

Acrostic:

Sunny weather to play in

Purple flowers galore

Raindrops watering the flowers

I get to play outside

Nests of baby birds

Gardens feed my tummy

Ode (A poem to honor someone or something):

“Oh, spring!

We have missed you.

The rainbow of colors

you sprout from the ground.

The sprinkle of showers

giving us puddles for splashing.

Planting our gardens,

we can’t wait for vegetables to come!”

Haiku (five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables):

“Beautiful flowers

Growing up for us to see

Rainbow spattering”

For even more inspiration for sounds of the seasons to incorporate in children’s poetry, check out the board book Listen, Listen.

Source: http://www.reallifeathome.com/brightening-winter-with-poetry-collages/

3. Color Poetry

Do you have the Dr. Seuss book My Many Colored Days? It is a great book for inspiring color poetry! The master of rhymes, Dr. Seuss, already sets the stage for falling in love with poetry with words like:

“Oh bright red days,

how good it feels

to be a horse

and kick my heels!”

Start by asking your child about things that are color specific before they start writing. Use questions like:

  1. What is Orange?
  2. What does Red remind you of?
  3. How do you feel when you see yellow?

Then list each color with the following format:

Orange is…

Yellow is…

Green is…

Children can then complete each sentence with a phrase they associate with the color. The result will be quite the colorful poem!

Source: http://www.schooltimesnippets.com/2015/02/write-simple-color-poem.html

4. Reading Poetry to Promote Early Literacy

Just by listening as you read different poems, children develop word recognition. This is a fun way for children to appreciate poetry as a storytelling form and learn the sounds of letters as they listen to rhymes and word play. It will also provide plenty of examples should they venture into writing their own!

Here are a few places you can find free poetry to read to your toddlers:

If you’re looking for poetry books to buy that also provide beautiful illustrations to accompany each poem, then you may want to check out the following titles:

How do you teach poetry at home? Share with us by commenting below!

Putting the Final Touches on Your Home Library

8 Apr

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Have you already started building your home library to celebrate Library Week? If not, we have some great tips for getting started in this previous blog post. Once you have decided what books will go where and what topics your children are most interested in, the next consideration should be environment. We have a couple of suggestions that are sure to leave your kids excited for reading time. Here are a few things to consider as a parent building your child’s home library:

Solid Seating

Children have to have somewhere comfortable to sit if you’re going to convince them to sit for extended periods of time. No matter how interesting the book is, if a child’s environment is not engaging enough, he or she will most likely end up carrying the book to an environment in which they are more accustomed, such as a bedroom. We have a few seating options we think will put your children at ease while surrounded by their favorite books:

-Soft Seating (https://www.kaplantoys.com/product/93770P/soft-seating)

-Toddler Comfy Seating Group (https://www.kaplantoys.com/product/71354P/toddler-comfy-seating-group)

-Back Jack Anywhere Chair (https://www.kaplantoys.com/product/85305/back-jack-anywhere-chair)

-Vinyl Bean Bag (https://www.kaplantoys.com/product/71119P/vinyl-bean-bag)

Organization Station

If your library is going to feel like home, then there has to be a system of organization in place! Be sure to explain on the first day you introduce your children to the library how the books are organized—are they sorted by color, size, author, or genre? Use whatever system makes most sense for your family and be sure to hold each “borrower” accountable for replacing books where they found them. Finally, if your children are taking books outside of the home for road trips or across the street to a friends’ house, make sure you keep track of which books are “checked-out.” We have some handy Library Cards, Colored Library Pockets, and Home Reading Logs that will allow you to do just that:

Vamp up Variety

Books aren’t the only things libraries have to offer to eager learners. Give your children options when they choose how they want to learn. Reading books can many times be supplemented by sensory experiences for little hands, puppets for dramatic play, and even art expression for drawing pictures of the characters children fall in love with. Here are a few options for including a little variety in your library:

Sensory Play

Puppet Play

Art Expression

Practice Communication

Finally, communication is an important life skill to foster in little ones and there’s no better place to begin than in the library! Make sure you keep a daily message board where children can check for home news. Do you want help with the evening’s dinner? Have your children find their favorites recipes in the library! Want to do a scavenger hunt? Leave a message asking children to find a specific book to add a little fun to their reading time while also making sure they understand how the books are organized. The possibilities are endless! Here are some effective ways to communicate in your library:

Share your pictures of your home library with us on our Facebook page!

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

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