Tag Archives: christmas

Starting New Family Traditions for the Holidays

16 Dec

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Happy holidays! Many families are already celebrating Kwanza and Hanukkah while Christmas is right around the corner. The holidays are a great time to start new traditions that families can look forward to for years to come. If you don’t have certain routines to fall into to engage the whole family, we have a few suggestions you can try out with your kids to make the holidays a little more magical!

Gather Round the Table!

Taking time to sit down as a family over a special meal for the holidays is the perfect time to connect with your loved ones. One thing you can do before the whole family gets together is prepare questions beforehand for every family member to answer. This proves to be a useful insight in getting to know loved ones better and can always lead to some interesting stories! Here are a few example questions from Around the Family Table:

  • “Are you a secret keeper or a secret teller? Which is best?”
  • “What is something you had in your childhood that no longer exists and you wish you had back?”
  • “If you could give the children of this world one thing, what would it be?”

 Little Hands in the Kitchen

There’s nothing like planning to cook with your little ones each year for the holidays. Talk about your favorite recipes and find something fun to make that can be enjoyed by the whole family. The more creative the recipe the more fun it is to make together! Here is an example of a fun winter recipe you can make with your kids:

Marshmallow Snowmen

Turn your kitchen into a winter wonderland any time of the year.

Ingredients:

  • Marshmallows
  • Miniature peanut butter cups
  • Red shoestring licorice
  • Small tubes of black gel icing (or any color your child prefers)

What to Do:

  • Help your child put three marshmallows on toothpicks to resemble a snowman. Make sure to leave some room at the top of the toothpick above the snowman’s head.
  • Show how to attach a peanut butter cup (wide-side down) to the top of the toothpick to resemble a hat.
  • Help your child tie a piece of licorice around the snowman’s neck to make a scarf.
  • Encourage children to use the black gel icing to make eyes, mouth, and buttons on the snowmen.

For more creative recipes for any occasion, check out The Budding Chef. 

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Magic and Mischief with Elf on the Shelf

If you have small children and haven’t joined the Elf on the Shelf movement, you may want to reconsider! This chipper little elf brings magic back to the holidays as children find the elf in different positions every morning. You can get as creative as you want and watch as children’s eyes glow with wonder upon finding what mischief the elf has been up to during the night. Your elf can help children count down the days to the holiday, leave encouraging messages for children to find, and even instill good habits (like brushing teeth in the morning!) To get your own elf or find mischief inspiration, check out our Mischief for Your Elf on the Shelf Pinterest board.

Create a Holiday Playlist

It’s always fun to listen to your favorite holiday songs! Whether it’s funny selections like ‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer’ or more classic choices like ‘White Christmas’, ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas,’ or ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’, sharing your musical taste for the holidays is a great way to share something you love with your kids. Hopefully, your selections will turn into songs played for holidays to come and lead to a few fun dances in the living room along the way!

Whether it’s building something together for a DIY project, leaving cookies out for Santa, or making a gingerbread house, traditions are an important part of keeping loved ones close and families engaged. What do you do every year for the holidays? Share your fun suggestions with us by commenting below!

Need to do a little last-minute holiday shopping? Don’t miss our top picks for holiday gifts here: https://www.kaplantoys.com/shop/great-gift-ideas

Elf on the Shelf: How to Manage Holiday Mischief

2 Dec

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Toys catch on in big ways when it comes to the holidays, but none quite so much as the Elf on the Shelf. This magical little fellow has managed to wriggle its way into every child and parent’s heart by giving families a tradition to engage in together. Whether your elf is drawing with toothpaste or hanging from a Christmas tree, the Elf on the Shelf gives you a chance to challenge your creativity and bring some magic to the holidays for your children. We’ve come up with 10 of the top creative ideas to get you started with mischief inspiration for your Elf on the Shelf:

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1. Blame the Dog!

Have pets? Bring them in on the fun by having your elf get into the dog or cat food to leave a fun message or picture for the kids. Get as creative as you want with what is left behind!

Source: http://www.frugalcouponliving.com/2012/12/03/elf-on-the-shelf-ornaments-dancing-elves-ideas-and-more/ 

 

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2. Let the Holidays Sink in!

There’s nothing like a little indoor fishing. Throw in some gold fish for an added effect.

Source: http://www.skinnymom.com/2013/11/20/75-family-friendly-elf-on-the-shelf-ideas/

 

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3. Take Elf on the Shelfies!

A photocopier makes everything more fun! Have your elf take selfies by photo copying him or herself. Be sure to leave evidence of the pictures your elf has already taken to make kids giggle.

Source: http://www.skinnymom.com/2013/11/20/75-family-friendly-elf-on-the-shelf-ideas/

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Let your kids answer the mystery of how your elf ended up in a water bottle! (Find out how the magic works here: http://athriftymom.com/elf-on-the-shelf-ideas-easy-ideas-for-elf-on-the-shelf-day-five/.

 

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5. Take a Load off!

Teach kids how to be responsible by making your elf do a little laundry of his or her own!

Source: http://www.amittenfullofsavings.com/27-creative-best-elf-on-the-shelf-ideas/

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6. Play Elf Games!

Simply add some marshmallows and draw on a Tic-Tac-Toe game for kids to find your elf playing.

Source: http://www.amittenfullofsavings.com/27-creative-best-elf-on-the-shelf-ideas/ 

 

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7. Let the Fun Roll!

Wrap your elf in toilet paper and send him or her for rides down the stairs. This is always a fun surprise for kids to find in the morning!

Source: http://athriftymom.com/elf-on-the-shelf-ideas-day-15-enter-to-win-your-own-free-elf-on-the-shelf/

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8. Bring on Breakfast!

Surprise your kids by letting them find your elf hiding in plain sight! Simply cut out a hole in the Rice Krispies box and your elf has successfully become a part of the most important meal of the day.

Source: http://melanielee86.blogspot.ca/2012/12/elf-on-shelf-day-7.html

 

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9. Get Social!

Part of the magic of the elf is that he comes “alive” at night, sparking children’s imagination at the toys around them. Get social with your elf and create whatever fun “Toy Story” moment you want your child to discover in the morning!

Source: http://www.mymommystyle.com/2013/12/19/fun-elf-on-the-shelf-ideas/ 

 

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10. Elf on a Boat!

Run some water in your sink, put your elf on a toy boat, and set him to sailing for a morning surprise your kids will love!

Source: http://www.mymommystyle.com/2013/12/19/fun-elf-on-the-shelf-ideas/ 

 

-Want your own Elf on the Shelf to get started? Find a selection of elf sets here along with new accessories! Keep an eye on our Pinterest board to see what our very own Elf on the Shelf is up to at the office for the holidays!

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!

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