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.

 

Spring Break for the Kids: Entertainment that Educates

8 Apr

Spring Break is fast approaching, but time off can bring more questions than solutions! Whether you’re traveling or spending some well-deserved time at home, there’s always the question of how to keep children not only entertained but learning during their time off. Children naturally have a lot of energy and with 12 hours of every day to fill, it can sometimes be overwhelming to keep them continually learning. We’ve compiled a list of activities for you and your children to do together that we think you will both enjoy; best of all, they will come away having learned something new.

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A Spring Break Education:

 

1. Active Learning

-The great thing about Spring Break is that it allows children to spend a greater amount of their time outside; something the classroom cannot always allow. There are so many outdoor opportunities children are suddenly allowed to engage in that will allow them to move as they learn! We have a variety of great ideas for outdoor play, whether it’s in the backyard at home or wherever your travel destination happens to be.

Take a hike:

-Get together with your little one and explore what the world around you has to offer by hiking the great outdoors! You can find parks in the area or woods trails to walk, whatever adventures you find, your children are sure to be engaged.

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Street Exploration:

-Cities always have a lot to offer, especially when you’re traveling to new places for the first time! Explore shops, music and art by walking hand-in-hand with your children around downtown or in historical sites.

-Find even more ideas on active play during spring break here.

 

2. Family Productions

-Another bonus to Spring Break is that it gives you the rare moments of togetherness with the family! This can be a great time to put on family productions. Here are a few ideas that will spark the creativity of your children and hopefully leave you enjoying yourself, as well!

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Have a dance party:

-No matter how old you are, dancing around with the people you love will always leave you with a smile on your face! Crank up the music indoors and have a fabulous dance party to a playlist suited to your music taste and theirs.  Want to get even crazier? Invite your children’s friends over and lay out a few snacks to get your party in full swing. Your kids will be exercising and they won’t even know it!

Put on an art show:

-If your kids are budding artists, this is a great way to put their drawings and paintings on display. Give them all the supplies they needs to make their masterpieces before arranging a time to invite friends and family over to “ooh and ahh” over their active imaginations. This is a great way to bolster creativity and self esteem; it will also teach children to be proud of their work.

-For even more ways to put on family productions, here are some great options.

 

3. Volunteering

-It’s always great to give back, but even more so when you’re teaching your little one to do so. Social Emotional Learning can never be undervalued as children learn the importance of community and helping people in need around them. Spring Break gives you an opportunity to check around your community and see where your donations can be put to good use, whether it is your time, your old toys, or a friendly visit to the local nursing home.

To read even more on how to get kids excited about giving to those around them, check out this related post. 

 

4. Redecorate a Room

-Are your kids looking for a change? Whether spaces are inspiring or not really does play a role in how conducive it is to learning. Maybe it’s time for a little redesign to get your kids inspired! Changing color patterns, how furniture is laid out and whether or not your children’s own work is proudly displayed in their room goes a long way in creating an inspiring space. To learn all the ins and outs of creating a space at home that’s right for your little learner, check out this post on inspiring spaces.

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5. Sprinkle in a Little Culture

Know families in the neighborhood from another culture and feel like opening your children up to new experiences? Get together and plan on doing a recipe swap or exchanging stories about your respective cultures. This is a great way to expand your child’s horizon by teaching them different cultural perspectives. Not to mention a great way to build community!

For even more ways to get involved with the community, check out this blog. world

6. Start a Community Garden

-This is a great way to not only teach sustainability but community outreach! Children can learn together about nutritious veggies and help in the process of growing them. And you never know, after putting such precious time into the growing process, children may even find themselves not minding larger veggies portions at mealtime!

-To read even more about how to start your own community garden, check out how this mom is getting involved.

Share your ideas for keeping children learning over Spring Break by commenting on our Facebook page or tweeting your answers to @KaplanToys

 

Backyard Explorations

31 Mar

The weather is finally warm enough to encourage your kids to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. Need ideas? We have a few fun ways that you and your little one can play together that will leave you both smiling and feeling fresh from much needed outdoor time. But the best part is that you can do everything in your backyard! Here are ways you can turn your backyard into a place of wonder and exploration for your little one:

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1. Outdoor Reading Palace!

 

-Build your very own Reading Palace with our “Outdoor Pillow,” perfect for creating a comfy environment outdoors for you and your children to settle in and read.

Even more pillow choices:

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2. Splash Some Color Outside

 

-Spring is all about bright colors! Inject a little into your day by going out with your kids and drawing together with the “Wheelie Painter!” It’s a perfect for color exploration and encouraging your child’s creative flair!

Even more painting supplies:

 

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3. Go on a picnic!

 

-Not only can you spend some quality cooking quality recipes, (like those from “The Budding Chef” ) but you can also take the finished product outside for a picnic! Our “Picnic Play Set” is a soft basket that comes with a soft play food so that even children as young as 18 months can enjoy there time outdoors.

Find even more picnic products:

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4. Start your own EarthBox

 

-Kids love to see things grow! Let them help you choose and then plant seeds. Show them how to be attentive to the plants’ needs daily as they grow in your Earthbox.

Even more gardening products:

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5. Go Camping in the Backyard!

 

-Children will feel like real-life explorers as they help you pitch their very own shelter. You  can peer out from within with your little ones and teach them about the world around them.

Even more camping products:

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6. Make Your Own Water Park!

 

-It doesn’t take much to leave kid’s smiling when water is involved. Use the “Grub Scouts’ Sprinkler” to have water streaming in all directions as kids are involved in active play. Don’t forget the towels when you’re finished!

Even more water play fun:

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7. Sketch, Journal and Draw!

 

-Have your kids practice their letters, draw a nearby bird or simple journal about their day with these unique pencils made from real twigs. Everyone knows natural lighting is the best for doing homework!

Find even more outdoor writing supplies:

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Fight Childhood Obesity Through Active Play

24 Mar

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Various initiatives have been started in recent years to combat childhood obesity, but the number of overweight and obese children is still staggering. The CDC recently reported that more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese in 2012. The high number of overweight and obese children indicates that more needs to be done at home and in the classroom to help children learn to eat healthier and be more active.

Infrequent exercising is a major cause of childhood obesity, so you can help your kids keep a healthy weight and fight childhood obesity by encouraging active play. Participating in active play activities with your children will give you a chance to show your kids that you value physical activity and will help you spend quality time together as a family. Here are five active play activities you and your children can enjoy during the spring and summer months:

Five Active Play Activities for Spring and Summer

1. Create Sidewalk Art

Children can get creative as they use paint and chalk to make works of art on sidewalks and driveways. This is a great activity for kids of all ages and can help them stay active as they mix colors and draw and paint various designs. Work with your kids to see how big of an art piece you can create, and be sure to snap pictures of your kids’ designs before the rain washes them away.

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2. Learn a New Skill

Spring and summer are great times of the year to learn new skills. Kids will enjoy learning how to ride a bike or scooter, and teaching them how provides wonderful bonding moments for parents and children. Learning to juggle, speed stack, and balance on stilts are also fun new skills your kids will enjoy learning. All of these activities will help your kids stay active as they learn about balance and motion.

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3. Explore Sand and Water

Kids love digging in sand and playing in water, and the spring and summer months provide great opportunities for fun, motion-filled sand and water activities. Sand molds, buckets, sprinklers, and other sand and water tools all facilitate active play as children explore sand and water. For more ideas on how kids can stay active with sand and water activities, check out Sand and Water Play: Simple, Creative Activities for Young Children.

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4. Help with Outdoor Chores

There are plenty of opportunities in spring and summer for children to help you do outdoor chores. Let them help you plant or water the garden, pick up sticks from the yard, or practice mowing with their pretend mower. You can even turn these activities into competitions to see whose plant grows best or who picks up the most sticks. Activities like these will help children stay active while they learn important life skills. Read The Budding Gardener for other ideas on fun-filled gardening activities you can do with your children.

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5. Play Outdoor Games

Establishing a family routine that includes physical fitness can help you and your children keep a healthy weight. Make time to play an outdoor game with your kids a few times a week, especially in spring and summer. Play a game of basketball or volleyball as a family after dinner or teach kids how to play badminton or tennis. Even a quick game of tag or a simple 30 minute family walk will help keep you and your kids healthy.

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Be sure to browse our Active and Outdoor Play section for additional ideas on how you can help your kids be more active.

Going Green on St. Patrick’s Day!

17 Mar

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day! We are all aware of the fascination with shamrocks, pots of gold, and tiny bearded men who look resemble certain characters on cereal boxes that come along with the holiday. But instead of focusing on leprechauns, we wanted to take a moment to consider something more important: the color green! Of course, by observing all things green, we mean the way we approach the environment. With factors like climate change, pollution, and water quality surrounding us daily, it’s important to make young children aware of how to be environmentally conscious. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun!

Here are a few simple things you can do around your home to teach your children to go green on St. Patrick’s Day!

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1. Breathe Easy by Planting Inside or Out!

-Teaching kids the importance of trees and plants as oxygen providers is important not only in that it contributes to their eventual understanding of photosynthesis, but it will also help them to appreciate giving back to the environment. Keeping plants inside is always a great way to teach kids about plant care and they can even produce the added bonus of home-grown veggies!

2. Color Coded Recycling Bins

-Sorting trash into plastics, paper, glass and cardboard are great ways to teach your little ones about recycling. You can even make it more fun by assigning colors to each and using it as an opportunity to teach children their colors. There are tons of recycling songs to sings as you do your part together to go green.

3. Borrow Books Instead of Buying

-Going to the library is always an adventure for young kids. Libraries become magical places as children stumble across books shared by other people. By borrowing, you can teach children how they are limiting waste, as opposed to going to the book store to buy titles new.

4. Make Your Mondays Meatless!

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-Get with your kids and look up their favorite vegetarian recipes online. Not only can you cook together, but you can cut down on consumption while you’re doing so. Explain to your kids that through not eating meat on Mondays, you’re helping to cut down on greenhouse emissions.

5. Waste Not!

-Make sure you kids know to turn off the water while they brush their teeth and to turn off the lights when they aren’t using them. You can also do little things like using dish towels instead of paper towels, reusable water bottles intend of plastic water bottles, and make cards from home instead of buying them. The possibilities are endless when you look around your house for ways to minimize waste.

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6. The Green Games

-The biggest way you can help your child to go green is through teaching them about things like pollution and what little things they can do every day to stop waste. A great way to make them aware of environmental problems and solutions is through playing green games. There are plenty of online resources where green learning becomes fun and easy. (Not to mention the added bonus of technology integration!) Here is a great resource for online learning for kids: http://www.edge-gogreen.com/home/green-kids2/

We hope you enjoyed the small ways to go green on St. Patrick’s Day and found it more rewarding than the motivation to pinch someone! You can find even more ways to reduce your carbon footprint by checking out the green resources below. Thank you for playing your part in sustainable living and passing it on to the next generation, after all, that’s a pot of gold to look forward to in itself!

Resources:

Help Kids Become Future Innovators with Fun and Educational Toys

10 Mar

Innovators like to ask questions about the world around them and use their creativity to solve problems, so being creative and inquisitive are important traits kids should practice and develop. Here are five educational toys that can help children become future innovators by introducing them to engineering concepts and helping them increase their problem-solving skills:

1. GoldieBlox & the Spinning Machine (4-9 years)

goldibloxIf you’re looking for a construction toy for girls, look no further! A 2014 Educational and People’s Choice Toy of the Year Award Winner, GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine uses storytelling and construction materials to introduce engineering principles and help girls build spatial and problem-solving skills. Girls can help Goldie, the main character, build a belt drive machine and experiment with a variety of design ideas. Girls can also learn about wheels and axles with Goldie and her friends in GoldieBlox and the Parade Float.

2. Magna-Tiles® (3 years & up)

46315Kids of all ages love playing with Magna-Tiles because they can build castles, houses, and a variety of other 3-D objects. The colorful magnetic tiles are a great way to introduce kids to basic engineering concepts and can also help kids expand their building and critical thinking skills. Be sure to browse our Ideas for Your Magna-Tiles® Creations blog post to help kids further expand their creativity and understanding of building concepts.

3. Candy Construction Building Kit (4 years & up)

141407aAn alternative to traditional building blocks and marble runs, the Candy Construction Building Kit gives kids a sweet way to build eye-catching structures while helping them develop their fine motor skills. Kids will love using their creativity and critical thinking skills to make structures that look like edible works of art. The colorful set includes 92 pieces and an activity guide with building directions and structure ideas for kids to make.

4. Monkey Business Gear Set (4-7 years)

22019Kids get to build their own “gears jungle” with the Monkey Business Gear Set. The jungle-themed set includes plastic gears, connectors, base plates, and a crank to help monkeys swing and turn through palm trees. This fun set includes 136 pieces with instructions and building ideas for kids to use. If your kids love visiting the ocean or talking about ocean animals, an Under the Sea Building Set is also available.

5. LEGO® and DUPLO® (18 months & up)

141628dThese classic building toys are a great way to introduce kids to engineering concepts, especially since a number of different themed building sets are available. Whether your kids are interested in Star Wars™ or Cinderella, you can find a LEGO® and DUPLO® building set that they will enjoy. The great thing about LEGO® and DUPLO® is that they offer building sets for a variety of ages, so your children can continue to play and learn with LEGO® and DUPLO® items as they grow older and gain more building and critical thinking skills.

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

3 Mar

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Today is Dr. Seuss’ 110th Birthday!

From magical worlds, to colorful characters, to lyrical lessons, Dr. Seuss is always a fun read for parents and children alike! If you’re looking for Seuss-inspired toys for your kids, we’ve got you covered. Check out our selections of educational toys that will teach your children alongside Dr. Seuss!

1. Dr. Seuss Paperback

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-You can’t properly celebrate Dr. Suess’ birthday without learning all about the man behind the books! This paperback, reading level Kindergarten – 1st grade, includes photographs and introduces the biography of the award-winning and famous illustrator, Dr. Seuss.

 

2. Dr. Seuss Pointer

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-Make your point with this This Cat in the Hat themed plastic pointer, featuring a LED light at the tip of the finger to help engage the audience and keep their attention.

 

3. ONE FISH Fishbowl

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- Bring One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish to life with this classic fill-and-spill inspired by the beloved Dr. Seuss book! Includes five fish, each makes a sound–rattle, crinkle, bell and squeaker.

 

 

 

4. I Can Do That Game

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-Hopping, crawling, twirling, and balancing are a few of the fun feats you will encounter while finding out what all you can do! Flip over three cards to create a new challenge each time.

5. One Fish, Two Fish Board Book

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-The magical world of Dr. Seuss springs to life in this board book! A great way to introduce rhyme and fun into reading.

 

 

Happy Read Across America Day! Celebrate by picking up your favorite Dr. Seuss selections and bringing them to life with your kids. Find your favorites here.

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