Tag Archives: christmas

Last Minute Gifts for the Holidays

18 Dec

Were you surprised when you checked the calendar and realized how close Christmas was, scrambling because you still haven’t found the time to finish your gift shopping? Never fear! We have last minute gift ideas for a quick list of presents your children will love!

Crayola Sidewalk Paint Tray

  • Age: 5 years and up
  • Price: $14.95

Let your kids express their creative side with our Crayola Sidewalk Paint Tray! Includes 3 colors that can be blended in a multitude of shades, a brush, a sponge roller, and sidewalk chalk.

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http://www.kaplantoys.com/store/trans/productDetailForm.asp?CatID=25%7C%7C0&Page=1&Max=390&Seq=14.95&PID=18384

Candy Construction Building Kit

  • Age: 4 years and up
  • Price: $34.95

Do you have builders in the family? Build some sweet structures with this 92-piece Candy Construction Building Kit!

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http://www.kaplantoys.com/store/trans/productDetailForm.asp?CatID=25%7C%7C0&Page=1&Max=390&Seq=34.95&PID=141407

 Marvin’s Magic Lights From Anywhere Jr.

  • Age: 8 years and up
  • Price: $19.95

Have a magician in the family? Check out Marvin’s Magic Lights From Anywhere Jr. that allows users to make light appear and disappear or jump from hand to hand! This fun trick is great for young magicians who are just starting out.

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http://www.kaplantoys.com/store/trans/productDetailForm.asp?CatID=25||0&Page=3&Max=390&Seq=71&PID=141952

Jenga

  • Age: 6 years and up
  • Price: $17.95

Enjoy family time with Jenga! Construct a tower of 54 blocks, removing one block at a time to stack on top. The last player to stack a block on top with making it fall is the winner! Fun for kids and adults!

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http://www.kaplantoys.com/store/trans/productDetailForm.asp?CatID=25||0&Page=6&Max=390&Seq=136&PID=34193

Boogie Board Original 8.5 LCD-Black

  • Age: 5 years and up
  • Price: $34.95

Planning on taking a road trip over the holidays? Check out our Boogie Board Original 8.5 LCD-Black. Your kids can sketch, write, or draw without a paper and pen on this lightweight LCD tablet. Erase with the touch of a button. Includes stylus, stylus clip/erase button cover, cleaning cloth, magnetic kit.

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http://www.kaplantoys.com/store/trans/productDetailForm.asp?CatID=25|KTHG04|0&Page=1&Max=59&Seq=2&PID=141761

Discovery Box

  • Age: 2 years and up
  • Price: $39.95

Want a toy that engages your child’s cognitive, visual and tactile senses? Our Discovery Box is packed full of activities that feature a mirror, a classic 12 bead set, a rainbow clock and an abacus for counting.

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http://www.kaplantoys.com/store/trans/productDetailForm.asp?CatID=25|KTHG04|0&Page=1&Max=59&Seq=10&PID=30045

For an even bigger selection of last minute gifts, browse our store collection: http://www.kaplantoys.com/store/trans/productListingRpt.asp?CatID=25%7C%7C0

12 Days of Learning | Day 10: Holiday Food

12 Dec

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Many people look forward to enjoying their favorite holiday foods and sweet treats during the holiday season. Whether you make special treats or have the same meal every year, holiday food is undoubtedly a part of your family’s holiday traditions in some way.

The focus on food during the holidays provides several opportunities to teach children about nutrition and the history of different holiday foods. TLC’s Christmas Trivia Quiz provides some fun and interesting facts you can share with your kids while eating your favorite holiday meal or enjoying dessert:

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Did You Know?

  • The tradition of eating mincemeat pies on Christmas began in the 16th century. People believed that eating a small mincemeat pie on each of the 12 days leading up to Christmas would bring them good luck in the coming year.
  • Sugarplums are chocolate candies with sweet fillings, such as cream or fruit preserves, inside.
  • More than 1.76 billion candy canes are made each year.
  • The first candy canes were straight white sticks of sugar candy and were used as Christmas tree decorations. Candy canes got their bent ends when a choirmaster gave them to children during church services in 1670. They were meant to resemble a shepherd’s staff. Candy canes didn’t get their stripes until the early 1900s.

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Holiday food also provides some wonderful learning opportunities for children. Have your children help you count or measure out ingredients, for example, to help them improve and practice their math skills. It’s also a good idea to discuss the value of proper nutrition with them at some point during the holidays. Talk to them about portion sizes and make sure you have a variety of fruits and vegetables available in your home. Watching you cook and make a variety of food items will also give children a good foundation for positive life skills later in life.

Strive to make baking and cooking with your kids a family tradition during the holidays. Come up with a special recipe that your kids can help you make each year. Let older children pick a couple of new recipes they would like to try to make as well. This gives older kids the opportunity to be more independent and practice being an adult. The holiday season is also a good time to be more creative with your family’s food and encourage your kids to make edible food art. Make their food into a star or candy cane shape or have them decorate their food to look like a reindeer, snowman, or turkey. For more ideas on edible cooking activities, check out the book Cooking Art. You can also browse Pinterest for a variety of holiday recipes for kids.

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Check back tomorrow for Day 11 of our 12 Days of Learning!

Happy Holidays!

12 Days of Learning | Day 9: Wrapping & Choosing Gifts

11 Dec

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Are your family’s holiday gifts wrapped and under the tree yet? If you still have a few things left to wrap or pick up at the store, then turn up the holiday music and let your children help you finish up those last few things on your holiday to-do list. Asking your children to help you choose and wrap gifts for grandparents and other family members allows you to spend time together as a family, helps your kids feel more involved, and provides them with a variety of learning opportunities.

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Infants & Toddlers

Infants and toddlers won’t be able to help you with much during the holidays, but you can engage them with tactile play while you and the rest of the family wrap gifts. Encourage infants and toddlers to feel the textures of different ribbons and bows, for example, or let them crinkle a piece of wrapping paper with their hands. This will increase their gross motor skills and help them learn about the world around them. As toddlers become more mobile, let them help you put the bows and pieces of tape on gifts. This gives toddlers the opportunity to practice and improve their coordination and balance.

Preschoolers

Preschoolers can be a little more involved with choosing and wrapping gifts. Ask them what they would like to give people or what they know about someone’s hobbies and interests. Ask children to help you fold the wrapping paper over gifts and tape it in place. You can also teach preschoolers how to cut the wrapping paper with safety scissors. Making your own wrapping paper is another creative way to engage preschoolers because they can help you decorate it with holiday-themed drawings. Encourage preschoolers to talk about the patterns they see in the wrapping paper or ask them to count the number of bows in the bag to help them develop their math skills.

Older Children

Give older children the opportunity to pick out and wrap a few gifts by themselves. You can also let them keep track of what each person is getting and how much was spent on each person. This gives your older children a chance to practice keeping records and helps them learn how to budget. Another idea is to give your older kids a certain amount of money they can spend on gifts for their friends and then let them choose how they want to spend it, which will help them practice their math and decision-making skills during the holidays. Keep in mind that giving your older children more leeway in buying and wrapping gifts may help them feel more involved and excited for the holiday season.

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Check back tomorrow for Day 10 of our 12 Days of Learning!

Happy Holidays!

12 Days of Learning | Day 8: Special Holiday Events

10 Dec

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There’s a reason the holiday season is called the most wonderful time of the year, so make sure your family goes out and enjoys the special holiday events for kids and families that occur near your neighborhood. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

1. Go caroling as a family. Many church groups and other community organizations plan special nights to go caroling in the community. Sign your family up to go with one of these groups or create your own caroling group if no one is planning one in your community.

2. Take a family sleigh ride. Sleigh rides are often offered at winter festivals and other events. This is a great family activity and an excellent opportunity to teach your children about holiday traditions. Your family can even sing “Jingle Bells” and other fun Christmas carols as you ride in the sleigh.

3. Drive or walk through a light festival with your family. Children and adults both love to look at Christmas lights, which makes going to a light festival the perfect family activity for the holidays. Ask children what they think about the light displays and go for hot chocolate afterwards to spend more time together as a family.

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4. Take your kids to special events at your local bookstore, library, art store, or children’s museum. Many bookstores and libraries have special holiday storytimes and activities for both kids and adults. Also check with your local art store and children’s museum to see if they are going to have any special holiday crafts or exhibits for kids.

5. Attend your community’s Christmas parade, Christmas tree lighting, or other holiday events. This is a great opportunity for your children to learn about the people in their community. Involving your children in community events also helps build a good foundation for teaching them about charity and volunteering.

6. Take your kids to see holiday concerts and plays, such as The Nutcracker. Holiday concerts and plays provide wonderful opportunities to teach your children about culture. If you attend a concert, ask children to point out the different instruments that they have at home. Music toys that are similar to the instruments they see also make excellent holiday gifts for kids.

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7. Come up with your own holiday event at home. If you have young children or are watching your budget this year, create your own special holiday concert or play at home. You can perform a family play with puppets and puppet theaters, for example, or you can have your own holiday parade by everyone dressing up as different characters.

8. Take your kids to see Santa and encourage them to write him a letter. If your family takes part in Christmas, find a mall or other location that has times where children can come see Santa. This will create fun memories for children each Christmas. Writing letters to Santa is also a wonderful family time activity and will help put everyone in the Christmas spirit.

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9. Help your kids track Santa on Christmas Eve. Children will enjoy keeping track of Santa’s whereabouts on Christmas Eve with the improved Santa Tracker website from the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). The new website counts down the time until Christmas and lets children digitally visit the North Pole to learn about NORAD’s mission and how they track Santa. Children can also play a variety of fun holiday games on the website with a new game released daily. Keep in mind that tracking Santa on Christmas Eve is also an excellent opportunity for children to learn about geography in a fun way.

Check back tomorrow for Day 9 of our 12 Days of Learning!

Happy Holidays!

12 Days of Learning | Day 7: It’s the Thought That Counts

9 Dec

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Are you working with a budget this holiday season? Or are you searching for gifts that your kids and family will find meaningful? Handmade and homemade items are the perfect way for you to provide meaningful and budget-friendly gifts for all of the people on your holiday list. Making items at home and purchasing handmade items will also help teach your children that it’s the thought that counts.

You don’t have to give expensive presents for people to know that you care about and value them. Small, inexpensive gifts that show you put some thought into what to buy or make someone can have just as much or more value than extravagant gifts. This is a great lesson for kids to learn because it gives them experiences and ideas they can compare to the materialistic world they encounter every day.

If you decide to make your own homemade gifts or purchase affordable handmade gifts this year, make an effort to include your kids as much as possible because experiences like these will help children understand the value of budgeting and being thoughtful. Children will enjoy the opportunity to be creative as they practice and develop new skills while helping you get ready for the holidays. Be sure to browse our art section for any art and craft supplies you may need. Here are a few budget-and-kid-friendly tips to keep in mind as you plan your holiday gift list:

1. Have your kids make holiday cards instead of buying them this year. This is a great creative project for kids because it will keep them engaged and make them feel like they are contributing something to your family’s holiday planning. It will also save you money because greeting cards can be expensive.

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2. Come up with DIY presents you or your kids can make for the people on your holiday gift list. The popular book 101 Great Gifts Kids Can Make provides unique gift ideas that children ages three to eight can make for family members, teachers, and other special people in their lives. The book is available in paperback and eBook formats. You can also browse Pinterest to find other ideas for gifts your kids can make and homemade gifts you can make for your kids.

3. Visit holiday festivals and fairs to find affordable handmade items. Some handmade items can be expensive, but you should be able to find a number of local artists and companies that sell their work for reasonable prices. Holiday festivals are also a great place to take the kids!

4. Make cookies, cakes, and other treats to give as gifts. This is a fairly inexpensive and enjoyable way to give gifts. People who are extremely busy at this time of the year or can no longer bake their own cookies will enjoy receiving homemade treats. Baking is also a great way to teach your kids about nutrition, measuring, and counting as you spend time as a family.

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5. If you don’t have time to make something homemade, look for budget-friendly items in stores and online. Kaplan Toys offers a variety of fun and educational items that can fit in any budget. Browse our Great Gifts for Under $10 and Great Gifts for Under $20 to find affordable gifts that your kids will love.

Check back tomorrow for Day 8 of our 12 Days of Learning!

Happy Holidays!

12 Days of Learning | Day 6: Holiday Stories

6 Dec

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Holiday stories, such as A Christmas Carol and The Night Before Christmas, spark children’s imaginations and add excitement to the holiday season for both children and adults. Fun stories about reindeer, Santa, special train rides, and a variety of other holiday symbols help us celebrate hope and giving. If you don’t already have a tradition of reading holiday books and stories to your children, make sure you add it to your family’s holiday plans this year.

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Reading holiday stories is one of the most educational activities of the holiday season because it helps children build their literacy skills, but it’s important to remember that the purpose of reading holiday stories is to have fun and enjoy what you’re reading. Don’t pressure kids to read a story aloud or sound out words if they don’t want to because they can learn new skills just from hearing you read. If your kids mispronounce something they choose to read, then the best way to help them is to read the sentence or word correctly without criticizing their mistake.

In addition to helping improve your children’s literacy skills, reading holiday stories also gives you opportunities to spend time together as a family:

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1. Set special times to read holiday stories. Younger children will enjoy reading a holiday story before bedtime each night. If your children are older and busier, however, it’s best to pick a few special times during the holiday season that you can sit together as a family to read your favorite holiday stories.

2. Create your own holiday story. Write and illustrate a fun holiday story as a family or have each family member come up with their own holiday story to share. You can even have the story spiral bound or placed in a binder to make it look like a published book. The holiday stories your kids come up with will make wonderful family keepsakes and childhood mementos.

3. Act out holiday stories as a family. Encourage your children to be creative and use their imaginations to act out their favorite holiday stories. Choose at least one or two stories that will let the whole family dress up and be a part of the performance. This is a great way to engage children during the holiday season and will help bring their favorite holiday stories to life.

Our Favorite Holiday Books for Kids

If you want to add to your holiday book collection, we recommend Stick Man, The Mitten, The Elf on the Shelf, The Twelve Days of Christmas, The Polar Express, and Snow.

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Twelve Days of ChristmasThe Polar ExpressSnowCheck back Monday for Day 7 of our 12 Days of Learning!

Happy Holidays!

12 Days of Learning | Day 5: Give Back & Help Others

5 Dec

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The holiday season is a great time for your family to give back and help others. Family activities focused on helping others provide a positive example for your children and will help teach them about gratitude and charity. As we shared in our recent charity blog post, giving to others benefits people’s health and overall life satisfaction.

If you have young children, it’s important to first teach them the basic concepts of sharing, giving, and helping others. Once children understand these concepts, you can start explaining why some people and organizations need help. As your children age, encourage them to become more involved in family charity projects or to come up with their own charity project. You should also encourage older children to volunteer or find a way to include charity in their schoolwork. A 2010 survey found that parents are the biggest influence on a teenager’s charitable giving, so it is important to include charitable activities in your family’s holiday plans.

The holiday season provides numerous opportunities for your family to help others. The iconic Salvation Army bell ringers and red donation buckets, for example, are in front of most of the stores you will purchase groceries and gifts from this holiday season. Set a good example for your kids by donating any spare change or dollar bills you have and then encourage your children to do the same with their spare change. A number of families specifically give their young children a dollar bill or some spare change to place in the red buckets because it gives them an opportunity to practice charity. Here are some other ways your family can give back and help others this holiday season:

1. Donate new or gently-used items. Go through your family’s closets and donate any gently-used items you don’t wear anymore to homeless shelters, the Salvation Army, or Goodwill. Food banks also run low on food at this time of the year, so donate any extra items you have in your pantry or purchase canned food items at the grocery store to donate. Many schools have canned food drives this time of the year, which is a good way for your family to give back and get involved with your child’s school. Donating blood to the American Red Cross is another great way for parents and teens (17+ in most states) to give back. Keep in mind that many charities also accept monetary donations if your family wants to have a fundraiser for a specific charity or the charity your family wants to help is in another city or state.

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2. Volunteer your time. Volunteering is a simple and inexpensive way for your family to give back to the community. Find a charity to volunteer at as a family or encourage your older children to volunteer at a charity related to their interests throughout the year. Children who like animals, for example, may want to volunteer at an animal shelter, veterinarian’s office, or pet adoption fair. If your children like sports, encourage them to play a game for charity or volunteer to help coach a recreation sports team. Other places your family or children can volunteer include libraries, soup kitchens, nursing homes, hospitals, and senior centers.

3. Host a holiday charity party. Parties are a great way to include charity in your family’s holiday plans, and both children and adults can have a fun time at charity parties.  Ask guests to make a donation for your family’s favorite charity in lieu of a host or hostess gift, for example, or give the party a charity theme by asking guests to help you make packages to send to soldiers overseas. Making treat bags for the elderly, filling shoeboxes to send to children overseas, or purchasing and wrapping gifts for local families in need are other possible themes and activities for your family’s holiday charity party. This could even become an annual party your family hosts with a different theme and supported charity each year.

4. Make a special delivery. Allowing your children to see what their help means to people in need is a great way to reinforce the value of charity. Have your children deliver cookies and other holiday treats to the elderly or ask if your family can deliver the gifts you bought for a family in need. Asking children to read a holiday story to someone who is not able to read anymore is another way your children can experience the effect of charity. Other ideas include taking your children with you when you drop off any donations and letting them put any cards or packages intended for soldiers or people in need in the mail. Being a part of the delivery will make the experience more memorable for children and will help them increase their understanding of how charity works.

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Many families put a special focus on charity during the holidays, but remember that it’s important for your family to reinforce the value of charity throughout the year. Read our Five Ways to Encourage Charity blog post for even more ideas on how your family can give back and help others.

Check back tomorrow for Day 6 of our 12 Days of Learning!

Happy Holidays!

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