Valentine’s Day Gifts for Teachers

10 Feb

shutterstock_65845606

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!

4 Books to Foster a Love of Reading in Young Children

3 Feb

 shutterstock_184903205

Reading skill at an early age is not only one of the strongest predictors of overall school success, but it is also correlated with adult health! When a skill is so crucial to supporting a lifetime of learning, it’s important children become comfortable with it from an early age. Getting children to fall in love with reading will introduce new vocabulary, build comprehension skills, and expand children’s experiences beyond what’s immediate. Sometimes encouraging struggling readers can be as simple as promoting the reading material that they are invested in. We have four book suggestions that we hope will encourage your children to think of reading as less of an obligation and more of an enjoyment.

1. I Love Animals—Big Book

You will be hard pressed to find a child who doesn’t love animals! Encourage children to love reading about them too with I Love Animals, a journey full of colorful hand illustrations and enough animals for your reader to find their favorite!

2. DC Super Heroes

Some children think reading is boring—until you add a super hero! Comic chapter books are a great middle ground that uses colorful illustrations of children’s favorite heroes while also encouraging reading skills as children learn about bravery, loyalty and heroism.

3. Feels Real Board Book Set (Set of 8)

Bringing multiple senses to the reading experience can go a long way in developing a child’s love of reading. The Feels Real board books are a great way for tactile children to use touch as they try out simple words and test five different touch and feel textures.

4. Henry Helps Book Set (Set of 7)

Another way to get children to become invested in the reading experience is by giving them a chance to attach to characters. Henry is a great character to follow through this captivating series as he teaches children responsibility, teamwork, and how to build self-esteem. After reading the series, children will not only be more open to new reading experiences, but they will have also picked up social emotional skills along the way!

Want to learn more about the benefits of early literacy? Here are some great parenting resources:

How to Make Kids Wear Warm Clothes!

27 Jan

shutterstock_246229177

Imagine a toddler running pell-mell outside wearing nothing but a t-shirt, sock feet, and a runny nose. Sound familiar? Getting your children to dress properly during the winter months can be a parent’s biggest struggle! Even if your children act unfazed by the cold weather, it’s important they learn how to bundle up, if only to prevent catching a cold. Here are some creative ways to get your little one to dress warmly for winter:

Dramatic Play for Winter

If there’s one way to get children to dress up, it’s involving them in dramatic play! Encourage your children to pretend to be Eskimos wandering through the arctic or polar bears trying to keep their pups warm. Whatever it is your children are pretending to be, make sure you stress how important keeping warm is to their health and being able to survive in cold environments. A great book to read while bundling up is Animals in Winter. 

Pick out Winter Clothes for Toys

Children often learn best from seeing the things expected of them acted out. Learning will come even more naturally when children are involved in hands-on activity that requires them to physically dress their toys. Whether it’s dressing your child’s Favorite Friends Let It Snow Doll or dressing Freddy Frog with his felt set,  putting clothes on their toys is a great way to remind children how to properly dress themselves.

Rewarding Appropriate Clothing

Sometimes, as parents, we have to make deals with our children. We’re sure you are familiar with the, “If you’ll do this THEN we can ____.” statements. When it comes to cold weather, sometimes it can be as simple as offering a fun outdoors activity for them to engage in after they agree to button up the coat and keep from pulling off the toboggan! Some fun activities you can enjoy with your children once they’re properly bundled up include sledding, making an outdoor fort, and even kicking around the Moon Ball!

Finally, it’s important for children to understand the health benefits of dressing warm for winter. Express your concern for their health and teach healthy habits to keep them from getting sick. Here is a great graphic from Kaplan Early Learning Company on how to keep children from spreading germs:image.axd

2015 Resources Roundup for Parent

21 Jan

shutterstock_149946152

As you start the new year, it’s best to have learning resources in mind for your children. This will not only help continue learning opportunities that start in the classroom at home, but also give you options when it comes to filling weekends, indoor play days, and the special holidays you get to spend together! Without further adieu, here is a list of 2015 parent resources we hope you’ll find useful:

Early Education Blogs

Blogs go a long way in providing inspiration and a way to get connected with other parents and teachers. Here are a few of our favorites:

Pre-K Blogs

 Kindergarten Blogs

Educational Toy Suggestions

Keep up with our latest toys for the new year! Whether it’s incorporating new technology, discovering our latest dramatic play options, or finding classics on sale, here are our top toys for the new year:

  1. Stephen Joseph Wall Growth Chart
    • Keep up with how much your child is growing each day! Add inches and dates for memories to revisit years down the road.
  2. Lil Allie Gator
    • Start teaching proper brushing habits from the start with help from Lil Allie Gator! Because everyone knows if Alligators brush their teeth, then it must be important!
  3. Cottage Bed Pretend Play Tent
    • Encourage dramatic play and fanciful reading spaces with the new Cottage Bed Pretend Play Tent. Fits directly over a twin mattress!
  4. Geomag Gbaby Farm – 11 Pieces 
    • Magnetic rods allow budding builders to construct whatever shapes and structures they can imagine. Hours of building fun for babies!
  5. Laser Pegs® Combat Fighter – 6 Models in 1
    • Build 6 different models with the Laser Pegs® Combat Fighter! Vehicles can even light up while racing! Encourages creativity while providing hours of fun during play.
  6. Practice Lacing Shoes (set of 2)
    • Let your little ones practice tying their shoes without it inhibiting their progress. Great for 3 years and up.

We hope you find these suggestions useful as you launch into the new year with your children!

Valuing Diversity on MLK Day

13 Jan

shutterstock_214707637

As 2015 is underway, that means Martin Luther King Jr. Day is right around the corner! Celebrated the third Monday of every January, the holiday commemorates an American hero who fought for equality for all. MLK provides a great example for children to not only read about but also learn from. Here are a few ways you can teach your children to value diversity just as MLK did.

Fun Facts About MLK

  • Martin Luther King Jr. attended Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, GA and was so smart that he skipped two grades in high school! He started his college education at 15.
  • King was the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
  • One of his main influences was Mahatma Gandhi who taught protesting in a non-violent manner.
  • There are over 730 streets in the United States named after Martin Luther King Jr.
  • In his efforts to fight segregation and inequality, King traveled more than six million miles and spoke more than 2,500 times.

Ways to Teach Diversity to Your Kids

1. Read Inclusive Books

It’s important that the children’s books you choose are inclusive and represent a variety of cultures and races. Children can use these books as examples of the diversity America is proud to represent every day. Be sure to encourage acceptance of those small differences by choosing diverse reading materials like the ones below:

2. Schedule Multicultural Play Dates

Know a family in the classroom or neighborhood of a different race or culture? Suggest scheduling a play date so your children can come to appreciate and accept differences in others and themselves. Introduce children to different cuisines during snack time, different languages spoken in the home, and even different greetings, clothing, and mannerisms from their fellow peers. Sometimes, children’s differences can even lead to closer friendships.

3. Make Diversity an Open Discussion

Whether you’re walking in the park, in the grocery store, or simply riding home from picking your child up at school, be sure you encourage them to discuss the differences they see in the people around them. Opening up children’s discussion on those differences and pointing out how positive they are will lead to a broader perspective and overall acceptance in children. You can also take it one step further by getting children to see instances where their peers may be struggling, whether because of language barriers or physical handicaps, as opportunities to reach out and help.

Activity: A Song for MLK Day

Sing the following to the tune “Have You Ever Seen a Lassie?” for MLK Day!

We are all different,

All different,

All different,

We are all different,

Each in our own way.

Whether dark skin or light,

We should get along not fight,

We are all different,

Each in our own way!

(Source: The GIANT Encyclopedia of Monthly Activities For Children 3 to 6)

Resources:

4 Values to Instill in Children for the New Year

6 Jan

shutterstock_179644862

More studies are finding that social emotional learning in young children is just as important as academics because those core values play largely into how children will act as adults. Just as working with a team requires communication skills and the ability to relate to other people, children should also foster those values early on with their peers. As you and your children launch into the new year, here are four key values you can promote in the household for children to display both in and outside of the classroom:

Empathy

Empathy is important for children to understand, as it is the ability to view a situation from another person’s point of view. Without it, children would not be able to relate to their peers or teacher. More importantly, they could end up unintentionally hurting someone if they are unable to relate to that person’s pain. To ensure your child not only understands empathy but is also putting it into practice, keep an eye out for teachable moments. For example, if their friend or sibling falls to the ground and no one notices, involve your child in caring for them. Likewise, if someone is struggling with a task on their own, ask your child to help them finish their task. Simply engaging with and relating to people in their daily lives will help children apply those values in the classroom and in the future.

Grit

Grit has become popular in the classroom, but it should also be present in the home. Simply put, grit is the ability to overcome obstacles through determination and learning from mistakes. There are several ways you can help your child grow in “grittiness” including inspiring them to take risks, talking them through failures to see them as learning opportunities, and encouraging open communication where children feel comfortable getting out of their comfort zones. As always, lead by example and ensure your children sees you reaching for goals out of your comfort zone and displaying determination to achieve them.

Resilience

For children to become capable of handling daily obstacles, they must first develop resilience. Overcoming challenges through practicing resiliency skills can only be done, however, if a child has a growth mindset. To teach your child to have an open mind, make sure they know how to first identify their problems, set achievable goals, recognize the risks that come along with those goals, and finally, have the persistence to see them through.

Diversity

Learning to recognize and accept differences in a child’s peers will help them go a long way in the classroom and in life. By recognizing that other families do things differently, it will broaden a child’s perspective and open them up to new experiences. You can help diversify your child’s experiences by introducing them to families in the neighborhood who are of a different culture or by reading books about different parts of the world. Also, creating new experiences at home like cooking a new recipe is a great way to open your child up to a variety of life experiences.

How are you promoting social emotional learning at home? Feel free to share by commenting below or sharing on our Facebook page with the hashtag #SEL.

Resources:

Giving Children Goals for the New Year

30 Dec

shutterstock_157361921

The New Year is finally upon us! As children prepare to finish the latter part of the school year, it’s important to encourage kids to make educational goals for the new calendar year. Children can change their whole attitude toward the classroom, their peers, and even homework if learning is approached with intentionality. Here are some positive ways you can encourage your child to not only become passionate about learning, but also intentional.

The Importance of Planning

You can never stress the importance of having a plan enough when it comes to encouraging children to be prepared. There are several ways you can point out the planning that occurs every day to help children apply those same lessons to their own decisions:

  1. Talk about your plans.
    1. You make decisions every day. Discuss those decisions aloud with your child to allow him or her to understand your thought process. This will teach your child that your thoughts and actions are intentional.
  1. Make both long- and short-term goals.
    1. When you make goals, be sure you share them with your children. Whether it’s saving up for new furniture in the house, or even something as simple as making a list before shopping at the grocery store so that unnecessary items aren’t bought, include children in the planning process and allow them to see you accomplish goals both within your day and in the future. Encourage them to make their own goals when it comes to classroom accomplishments, pursuing subjects they are passionate about, or even improving behavior problems.

Leaving Time for Reflection

Though you can plan to the best of your ability, it’s natural that not every plan is going to work the way you imagined it. Some plans fall through no matter how much you wanted them to succeed. Unsuccessful goals can provide the perfect opportunity for reflection and making adjustments to try something new in the future. Here are a few ways to include children in the process:

  1. Ask the right questions.
    1. It’s important to ask questions that will require children to reflect on the topics being learned. If a child is not grasping a certain concept, try asking questions differently. For example, if your child is learning about safari animals, try something like, “Giraffes have long necks and long legs. What might be good about having long legs and a long neck? What other animals have long necks and long legs?” Great questions will help children make sense of new information by offering comparison. It will also give them a new approach to learning that may offer greater success in the future.
  1. Discuss the results of intentional planning.
    1. This is a great time to allow children to focus on the goals they’ve made and the results of trying to achieve them. If they’ve come up short, redirect their focus on ways to make goals more attainable and not on the disappointment of failure. Knowing what went wrong and how to fix it is all a part of the learning process!

Encourage Persistence and Commitment

  • Read stories like the Itsy Bitsy Spider or I Knew You Could! to instill values of persistence and determination in children even in the face of great obstacles.
  • Create a “Tomorrow Box” where children can store unfinished artwork to complete later.
  • Help children celebrate small successes by using charts or calendars to mark off daily accomplishments.
  • Model and encourage new ways to finish work children may be struggling to complete.

We hope you found these strategies useful for helping your child approach the New Year with intentionality. Find even more social and emotional strategies in the book Seven Skills for School Success. 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 74 other followers