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:

Ways to Show Teacher Appreciation from Parents & Children

6 May

Teachers play such an important role in the lives of children. They shapes their lives more than we’ll ever know. As such, Teacher Appreciation Week is such an important time to make sure the people who work daily to see our children grow know that they’re not only making a difference, but that it is appreciated. Here are a few simple ways you can get your child involved in making simple appreciation gifts that will leave their teacher smiling:

4 Gifts for Teachers:

1. Bread Wrappers

holidaygiftbread30days(Source: 30 Handmade Days)

If you like to bake, then this is the perfect option for you! Get your preschooler involved in the kitchen as you mix ingredients and make you favorite loaf of bread and then add a cute wrap around to express your appreciation.

What You’ll Need:

  • Homemade loaf of bread (find recipes here)
  • Paper loaf pans to give away
  • 30days printable
  • scissors
  • glue/tape/glue stick
  • optional ribbon, etc.

Once you’ve made your loaf of bread with your little one, print out the wrappers on cardstock and wrap around your bread. Make sure it’s sealed with adhesive and you can add a ribbon for added effect. Now your teacher not only feels the love, but they can eat it, too!

2. Bouquet of Preschoolers

Flowers

(Source: MandyDouglass.blogspot)

Are you a parent volunteer who wants to get the whole class in on a special surprise for their teacher? Then there’s a simple gift that will mean wonders to any educator.

What You’ll Need:

  • Flower Tin
  • Paper shred filler
  • Different colored matted paper
  • Flower pattern
  • A paper towel roll (for tracing circles)
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Everyone’s picture
  • Tape, glue, etc.
  • sticks

Once you’ve collected a ‘mug shot’ of every child, use a pencil and paper towel roll to trace the faces out in circles. Cut out your flower pattern and use it to cut out as many colored matted flowers as children you have. Use adhesive to attach circular faces to the flowers, so that the faces become the flower’s center. Use tape to attach each flower to a stick. Once you place all of your preschool flowers into the paper shred-filled flower tin, your bouquet is ready to give to your valued educator. Extra: Add a note to say a special thank you!

3. Owl Miss You Bags

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(Source: Lisa Storms)

There’s nothing like an owl treat bag to let teachers know how appreciative students are for making them wiser! Teachers are sure to love this treat bag with so much personality and it will be fun to make for children.

What You’ll Need:

  • Paper bag
  • Brown, white, black, & orange colored paper
  • Print out of text you want to cut from
  • Glue
  • Stapler
  • Goodies to fill your treat bag with!

Have your preschooler cut the top of the paper bag into a triangle once the bag is filled with your selected goodies. Cut out your selected text with a white background and cut in an oval shape for the owl’s stomach. Glue the text to the front of the bag. Use circle punches to cut out larger brown circles, small white circles, and the smallest of black circles. Glue together to make the owl’s eyes. Use adhesive to attach to the back just over the text. Cut out a diamond from the orange paper to form a beak and glue just between the eyes. Fold the point of the bag opening between the eyes, just above the beak, and staple to finish your owl treat back! Extra: Add a note to the bottom from your little one! Glue it to the bottom.

Find even more owl printouts for candy here.

4. Beloved Gifts in Ball Jars

Teacher Appreciation Gift Ideas in Mason Jars

(Source: The Country Cottage)

Mason jars always make any gift look snazzy. Add special printouts to let teachers know how much your children appreciate them and throw in some items they can’t refuse to create the perfect teacher appreciation gift!

What You’ll Need:

  • As many Ball jars as gifts you want to make
  • Printed out jar tags
  • Gift Options for jar themes:

o   Post it notes/school supplies

o   Homemade cookies with written recipe

o   Gift in a jar with a receipt

o   Gardening gloves & seeds

  • Thread or lace to tie it all together!

Theme each of your blue jars according to whatever you want to give to your appreciated teacher. Get your child’s input on what they think their teacher will like best. Cut out jar labels and punch a hole in each one at the top. Tie lace or thread around the top of the jar and attach your label. Your gift is all ready to be carried into class by your excited child!
-Finally, though teachers are sure to love every gift they receive from their classroom, there are a few ways you can personally make them feel appreciated as a parent or grandparent. We’ve listed a few simple ways to recognize how important teachers are to our children:

Appreciative Parents:

  • Plan a “Thank You Breakfast”
  • Car Window Messages: use car markers to write “We love educators!” & see many honks you’ll get!
  • Put fresh flowers on a teachers’ desks for parent-teacher conference week.
  • Get your little one to help you come up with “Twenty-Five Things That Make [Your School Name] Great!” to put in teachers’ mailboxes.
  • Work with the PTA to spruce up the teacher lounge with new paint, pictures and even new or used furniture!
  • Host a Staff Car Wash.

Resources:

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Want even more craft ideas for Teacher Appreciation Week? Find inspiration here. Or nominate the teacher in your classroom as a hero with our friend @KaplanCo’s Classroom Heroes campaign. Find out more about recognizing teachers for the heroes they are here.

 

Promoting Poetry at Home

22 Apr

shutterstock_184381148Did you know April is National Poetry Month? Poetry is an expressive form of literature that allows students to be creative through purposively expressing their thoughts on paper, which allows emotional growth, literary and verbal advancement, and an understanding of how words are used to tell a story. Here are just a few of the benefits poetry can offer when introduced in early literacy:

Benefits:

  • Teaches the sounds of letters
  • Offers the beginnings of phonics
  • Enriches vocabulary
  • Introduces storytelling
  • Increases understanding of syllables
  • Provides creative outlet

To help you integrate poetry into your child’s day, here are three ways to bolster early literacy at home.

1. Read out loud.

Just by listening as you read different poems, children will learn to recognize the different sounds of words. 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.

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

2. Have your own poetry bookshelf.

Keeping poetry within reach of your little ones on topics they are most interested in is a great way to make learning accessible at home. Here are some of our suggestions on books to include:

Recommended Poetry Books for Early Literacy:

3. Have kids start an Inspiration Scrapbook.

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Help kids avoid word block when they try to write poems. As words are everywhere, have children cut out all of those inspiring words and stick them into their scrapbook for safekeeping!

Materials:

  • inexpensive scrapbook
  • scissors
  • glue, tape, or glue stick
  • pens, markers, crayons, or pencils
  • Inspiring words! (magazines, greeting cards, coasters, photos, etc.)

What to Do:

Simply get started! The project extends over as long of a time as you would like.

  1. Find words that make your child curious, or make them laugh, or maybe even new words they want to add to their vocabulary!
  2. 
Cut out the word or photo and glue or tape it to a page in the scrapbook.
  3. Organize the scrapbook, grouping the inspiration in whatever way makes most sense.
  4. Make it personal. Have your little one add stickers, words, or pictures that they feel goes along with their inspiration. They will end up being little pieces to add to their poetry in the future.
  5. Write a poem. Open up the Inspirational Scrapbook when your child needs inspiration for a poem. Have them translate the pictures into words, and turn their fun words into exciting sentences! Show them how to combine the words and thoughts into a poem!

-Continue to add to the Inspiration Scrapbook whenever inspiration strikes and have it on hand when writing time rolls around. Kids will be excited to look back over the pictures and words.

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Resources:

 

Gardening: A Growing Process for Children

15 Apr

Spring is a great time to not only get outdoors and enjoy some nice weather, but to teach your kids what it means to go green. There are so many takeaways that can be gained from gardening, including developmental growth, fine motor skills through dealing with small seeds, and gross motor skills as they water their plants and dig. To show you all of the potential gardening presents for your preschooler, we’ve decided to share some key takeaways and learning lessons that will help your child become a balanced learner.

Key concepts:

-Plants grow from seeds

-Food we eat at meal times comes from plants that we grow from seeds

-Water, soil and sunlight are all needed to help a seed grow

A few tasks to get you started:

  • Prepare the garden: this is the time when you have to prepare your gardening area for planting. You can have kids help you with everything from clearing away leaves, to pulling weeds, to washing out plastic pots for sowing.
  • Make sure your early crops are sown directly into the soil: this includes making sure that plants that need to get an early start are planted outside: can include carrots, spring onions, peas, lettuce, red cabbage, radishes, etc.
  • Sow tender crops: these crops can be grow by windowsills inside your home. They can include cucumbers, peppers, sweet corn and tomatoes.

4 Gardening Lessons for Preschoolers

1. Getting creative

-Get your kids exciting by letting them see what they’ll be planting. By ordering seed catalogs online, you can have children cut out pictures and paste them onto colorful construction paper; when it comes time to plant, you can choose from the selections your child made.

-All of the plants you will be growing need labels, which will provide the perfect chance for little hands to use their art skills as they make plant signs and stakes! It will definitely bring a personal touch to your home garden.

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2. Responsibility through routine

-Plants will have to be watered regularly; giving your child this shared responsibility that the plant depends on to grow will help them to understand routine, a fundamental part of their developmental process. You will have to stress that watering and weeding daily are an important part of gardening.

3. Appreciating the results of hard work

-Children will have to get their muscles working as they break out the child-sized tools to help you with tasks varying from raking soil, pulling weeds, spreading topsoil, to digging holes for seeds to be planted in. When the plants finally do break through the soil to saying hello, kids will appreciate that all of their hard work paid off.

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4. Expanding Horizons

-The great thing about gardening is that it allows children to take part of a process that results in putting healthy food on the table. Even if your little learner is at first resistant to eating their proper portion of veggies, you may find they are less reluctant to try the greener things of life when they know they’ve grown it themselves.

*A lesson in safety: make sure you talk to your children about which plants are edible or not. It is important for them to know that some plants are toxic when ingested and that they shouldn’t eat anything unless they’ve asked you first.

Resources:

-“The Homegrown Preschooler”

-The Preschool Gardening Club

To check out even more resources for starting your own garden, check out our selection here.

 

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