Tag Archives: family engagement

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/

elf-of-the-shelf-day-five-how-me-got-into-the-water-bottle-Elf-on-the-Shelf-Ideas-What-to-do-with-an-elf-on-a-Shelf-Easy-Elf-on-the-Shelf-Ideas4. Elf in a Bottle!

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!

4 Ways to Focus on the Family

4 Nov

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Celebrate the start of November by spending quality time with your family! Toys not only provide entertainment for children, but they can also encourage engagement in the home by bringing families together as they support learning in children. Here are four educational ways to spend your family time plus the toys you can use to carry them out:

1. Keep Table Talk Interesting!

Some of the most stimulating conversations can be had at the dinner table when everyone slows down from busy schedules to spend time together over a meal. To make these conversations more productive, Around the Family Table offers pages full of conversation starters that can lead to a child’s deeper understanding of the world around them. From social norms to goal setting, children can be inspired by thought-provoking questions for the family.

2. Build Something Wonderful

Whether it’s understanding how Lincoln Logs fit together, learning how to balance one block on top of another, or learning color coordination with LEGOs, block play is a great way for children to strengthen fine and gross motor skills. Building and construction also stretches kids’ imaginations as they realize creations are only limited by how ambitious their building goals are. Here are two tips to keep in mind as you build:

  1. Build together, not separately. Teaching your child to adapt their building style to meet yours will help them understand cooperate play. It will also encourage sharing and communication as you talk through the structure you’re going to create!
  2. Build with purpose. What function is the tower going to serve? Will the bridge be used to get toy cars from point A to point B? You can challenge your children to even greater depths of thought by setting a goal to go along with their architecture. One great idea is trying to build a home for one of your child’s toys. Space perception is needed when setting building parameters, presenting a great learning opportunity for kids.

3. Encourage Engineering

Have you heard of the STEM movement? Encouraging science, technology, engineering and math in the home is just as important as pushing them in the classroom. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to explain real-world applications around the house as children test out small versions of real-world concepts. To explain how things work and why, here are some engineering toys you can’t miss out on as you teach your child about the world around them:

4. Start a New Tradition

Finally, simply starting something new in the home can rekindle everyone’s excitement over spending time together. Starting a new tradition, whether for the holidays or simply in the home, can be a great way to bring fun back to family ritual. Whether it’s strategies to keep chores engaging or acting out bedtime stories, the Book of New Family Traditions has some great ideas on how you can change things up for a more refreshing family time.

Our Suggestion: Family Game Night!

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Board games are the oldest trick in the book for getting families to gather around for a night of fun! Pick a night that works for all of your family members and set aside time for some friendly competition. Check out these new board game selections to add to your game night:

Have your own ideas for livening up family time? Feel free to share them with us by commenting below or on our Facebook page with the hashtag #familytime.

Preschool Pumpkin Designs for Halloween

28 Oct

Halloween is Friday! Get your children excited by pulling together some pumpkin crafts to keep little hands and minds busy! Seasonal crafts can encourage cooperative play as children work together with parents or siblings to create something inspiring. Drawing, cutting, and gluing will also build fine and gross motor skills. Here are five fun ways you can make pumpkins at home with your children to celebrate Halloween:

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 1. Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater!

Avoid all of the dangerous knives involved with jack o’ lanterns and have children cut out a pumpkin instead! This activity is easy and adorable. Simply take a picture of each child with their arms raised and print out the pumpkins with the “Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater!” poem attached here. Have children cut out the pumpkins and color as creatively as they want! Cut out all of the pumpkin pieces and glue together for a super cute craft! It also makes for a great Halloween decoration to put on the fridge.

94e5e648b654f65961d3903263535222 2. Sparkly Pumpkins

Who says you have to cut a pumpkin to make it beautiful? Get preschoolers excited about making sparkly pumpkins! Break out the autumn colors, add some golden glitter paint, and have preschoolers use their hands to place sequins on the pumpkins with glue. Children will love getting their hands messy and seeing the sparkly results once pumpkins dry.

Source: http://theimaginationtree.com/2010/10/sparkly-pumpkins.html

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3. Pumpkin Seed Fall Craft!

Though pumpkins don’t last forever, pumpkin seeds can last much longer! Simply save the pumpkin seeds from whatever pumpkin goody you’re making, engage your child in painting the seeds orange, brown, and green, and draw a pumpkin outline to be filled with colored seeds! Once glue is applied, children can simply place the seeds on their pumpkin for decoration. Results will leave kids with something to proudly hang on the wall for a little pumpkin decoration.

Source: http://blogs.babycenter.com/life_and_home/9-simple-pumpkin-seed-projects-for-fall/

4. Mini Pumpkin Quesadillas! 1e11c74c1802dcc2bbb29683c59eacd5

After you finish pumpkin crafting, you have to have a healthy pumpkin snack! Mini quesadillas are the perfect option as they’re easy to make and allow room for as much creativity as you’re willing to put in. Have your child draw the faces they want cut into their quesadilla on a piece of paper and replicate by cutting the faces out of the tortillas. Fill with cheese and cook to create festive pumpkin quesadillas!

Source: http://www.craftymorning.com/mini-pumpkin-quesadillas-kids-halloween-lunch/

5. Pumpkin Slime

Finally, if your family did go through with carving a pumpkin for the holiday season, there is a simple craft your child will love to dig his or her hands into! Get ready for pumpkin slime! This is a great option for sensory play and a creative way to recycle the insides of your pumpkin. Learn how to make pumpkin slime with liquid starch here: http://www.learnplayimagine.com/2013/10/pumpkin-slime-recipe-fall-sensory-play.html?m=1

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Books to Read with Your Pumpkin Craft:

-Pumpkin Soup

-Andy Shane and the Pumpkin Trick

-Piggies in the Pumpkin Patch

We hope you enjoy making pumpkin crafts with your children! Do you have something creative in mind for Halloween? Share with us by posting your pumpkin creations on our Facebook page.

Things to Consider When Planning a Play Date

26 Aug

 

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It’s the first week of school for many students and parents! As students adapt to the changes of a new teacher and peers, it’s important to support the friendships being fostered in the classroom right from the start. Friendship is not only an essential part of developing a child’s social skills, but it also makes the transition back to school much easier. Interacting and planning play dates with other parents is a great way to support the friendships being made and ensure they will not dwindle away as the school year progresses. Here are six things you’ll want to keep in mind when planning your child’s next play date!

 

  1. Be Prepared —It’s important that your child is ready for the play date regardless of whether they are going or hosting. Make sure he or she is well rested and fed before the allotted time. Not only do you want your child prepared, but you’ll also want to prep the space that you intend to use for play. Choose a space that will allow children to be active as they interact and childproof it for any potential risks. If the play date is happening at your house, your schedule should be cleared for the devoted hour of social time, as children will need consistent supervision.
  1. Know What to Expect—You’ll want to establish who’s picking up who, arrival and departure times, if parents are staying throughout the play date, and how many children will be involved before getting children together. It’s also a good practice to ask about any allergies or medical needs of the children in your care. Once you have all of the details, be sure to talk it over with your child, so they also know when to expect friend-time and how to prepare. (We all know they have that one special toy or outfit they’ll have to find and show off!)
  1. Teach Children How to Play the Perfect Host(ess)—Social skills are one of the many benefits children will gain from interacting with peers and building lasting relationships. One of those skills is courtesy. Explain what it means to be a ‘’good host(ess)” with examples like taking their guest’s jacket and hanging it up, showing their guest the space they’ll be exploring, or even offering a pre-prepared snack or drink! Seeing the guest as someone to be valued will help children better appreciate the ideas of their peers both in and outside of the classroom.
  1. Avoid Threes—There is truth to the concept of “third wheels” and having someone feel “left out” is never ideal. If you can, plan in pairs or keep younger siblings distracted with separate activities so children can interact with their guest.
  1. Know When to Step In—Squabbles are going to happen; it’s natural as kids are unlikely to agree on everything that arises within an hour. There are a couple of ways you can handle play date skirmishes. If there is hitting (or biting) involved, it’s time to step in and change the activity, giving attention to a new subject. If the problem is one that does not involve children being emotionally or physically hurt, it can be just as beneficial to step back and let children work out their own problems. Using communication and understanding differences is a key learning process, and if children can come to joint solutions, problem-solving skills are already underway.
  1. Reflect When Finished—It’s important to know what worked and what didn’t when the play date has come to an end. This will help you with the planning process for the next date and how your child best operates with their peers. Plan your own meeting with the parents of the visiting children so you can both be better prepared for round two!

For the perfect play date toys, you won’t want to miss out on these selections:

Play Date Resources:

 

3 Tips for Finding Time to Volunteer as a Family

19 Aug

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Volunteering doesn’t have to be as hard as pulling teeth. In fact, it doesn’t even have to take much of your time. But the time you do give as a family will be time well spent as you are not only working toward bettering the classroom, but also spending valuable time with your children as you get involved in the community. Here are a few tips on how you can make time to show your little ones the importance of volunteering:

1. Choose what best suits your schedule.

There are two types of volunteering: informal and structured. If you want to establish a routine volunteering routine that will be less likely to be pushed aside when other responsibilities arise, then structured volunteering is probably the option for you! These are volunteer opportunities you sign up for with your children at the beginning of the school year, scheduling a monthly date to perform services like visiting the classroom to help with reading time, preparing learning center materials to bring in at home, or even helping in the school garden. Informal volunteering, on the other hand, is a good way to find opportunities that best fit your schedule. Tasks can be as simple as scheduling a fundraiser or taking your child to clean up the park. Whatever type of service you choose to perform, know you are putting core values (empathy, responsibility, stewardship) on display for your children through taking action. Hopefully, they will learn to follow suit.

2. Follow your passion.

It’s always easier to launch head first into something you are passionate about. Notice a large number of stray cats in your neighborhood and want to do something about it? Start a fundraiser or campaign for either bringing awareness to the importance of spaying and neutering pets or ways for the community to more easily get involved in the adoption process. Notice a school system is in need of new reading material? Start gathering donations to fuel children’s love of reading. Whatever it is you are passionate about, there is always a way to make a difference, even if it’s through starting a grassroots organization. If you do decide to start an organization, here are a few tips:

  1. Ask yourself if launching a new organization is necessary.
  2. Create a mission statement.
  3. Decide on specific goals and projects.
  4. Attract members.
  5. Arrange a meeting space and time.
  6. Establish organizational hierarchy and a decision-making process.
  7. Decide on a budget and funding sources.
  8. Generate publicity for your organization and its goals.
  9. Have fun!

Keep those steps in mind and you and your children will be well on your way to creating a successful grassroots organization!

3. Prepare your kids.

It’s important for children to understand the implications of volunteering. You can prepare them for what you’ve signed up for by:

  1. Describing what will happen.
  2. Showing enthusiasm for what you’re about to do.
  3. Becoming educated about your position. (Find out the required time, behavior expectations and the importance of the job so you can share it with your children.)
  4. Explain the benefits of the position.

The more excited you are and the more details you have about the volunteering position will make the idea even more appealing to children.

-For even more great ways to get your family involved with volunteering while operating on a tight schedule, check out The Busy Family’s Guide to Volunteering.

-If you have any ideas for time management and how to make room for volunteering with the family, feel free to share with us by commenting below or tweeting us @KaplanToys with the hashtag #volunteering.

How to Inspire Laughter and Learning (at the Same Time!)

12 Aug

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Did you know that August 16th is National Tell a Joke Day? If not, now you do! Laughter is not only a great form of expression, but it can also lead to stress relief along the way. We have a few jokes and toys that will leave kids rolling as they learn!

Here are a few jokes you can share with your children to pass along throughout the day. After all, National Tell a Joke Day can’t be celebrated if they don’t have any jokes to tell!

  • Q: What does a nosy pepper do?
  • A: Gets jalapeño business!
  • Q: What do you call a fake noodle?
  • A: An impasta.
  • Q: What do you call an alligator in a vest?
  • A: An investigator.
  • Q: What happens if you eat yeast and shoe polish?
  • A: Every morning you’ll rise and shine!
  • Q: What’s the difference between a guitar and a fish?
  • A: You can’t tuna fish.
  • Q: Did you hear about the race between the lettuce and the tomato?
  • A: The lettuce was a “head” and the tomato was trying to “ketchup!”
  • Q: What do you get from a pampered cow?
  • A: Spoiled milk.
  • Q: What do lawyers wear to court?
  • A: Lawsuits!
  • Q: What gets wetter the more it dries?
  • A: A towel.
  • Q: What did the pencil say to the other pencil?
  • A: You’re looking sharp.

-For even more funny jokes for kids to tell, check out Jokes4us.com. 

Are your kids looking for a few pranks to pull? Do they need to get out the giggles before quiet time? Then they will love these toys sure to leave everyone laughing:

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Laugh-Out-Loud Books

There’s nothing like reading a book so funny it’s hard to finish the next sentence! For a few laughable options that will also teach kids early literacy, you’ll want to check out the laugh-out-loud selections How Are You Peeling?, Piggies in the Pumpkin Patch, and the Ready Freddy Book Sets. Prepare for giggles!

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The Funny Faces Game

There’s nothing that will crack kids up more than making funny faces! With the Funny Faces board game, players have to mimic the ridiculous faces shown on each card. It is sure to create lots of smiles and giggles with the best face winning the game!

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Play the Prankster

Harmless pranks are a great way to create surprise and result in laughter! While learning the principles of electronic circuitry, kids can use Klutz® Gotcha Gadgets to pull off their most daring booby-traps for family and friends! Whether kids are rewiring the door alarm or light monitor, be encouraged that they’re learning along the way; even if the end result is to say, “Gotcha!”

-Does your child have a joke that will make everyone laugh? Share it with us by commenting below or tweeting it to us @Kaplantoys with the hashtag #loljokes.

3 Ways to Make the Most of Picnic Time!

22 Jul

 

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July is National Picnic Month! Take advantage of the good weather and get outside for some quality family time. Picnicking has many benefits, ranging from cutting back on screen time and encouraging closer family interactions to taking time to explore new healthy snacking recipes. If you have a garden at home, it’s also a time to take pride in what you’ve grown as you reap the benefits of going green! We have a few suggestions for making the most out of your picnic time:

 1. Snacking Healthy

Picnic time is a great opportunity to instill healthy snacking habits in children as you enjoy the nice weather. Believe it or not, children adapt the behavior of parents and grandparents, so when they see you snacking healthy, they will want to do the same. A few ways to get little ones excited about healthy snacking include starting your own garden, making food preparation a work of art, and reading child-friendly books that encourage proper nutrition.

-An EarthBox is a great way to start your own garden, indoors or out! Teach children about responsibility through gardening and reap the benefits at the picnic table.

-Cooking Art is another great resource that will allow you to turn your kitchen into an art studio and enjoy snacking on creative snacks outside with the family.

-Finally, for a fun recipe to share with your family around the picnic table, find out how to make Yogurt Dipping Sauce and play the Veggie Game!

2. Encouraging Movement

Being outside for a picnic is also a great way to get kids moving before and after they snack. With so much energy to burn, children will love engaging in games of tag or exploring the terrain and insects around them! When preparing for your picnic, be sure to bring active options for children. Whether it’s a Frisbee, soccer ball, or kite, children love to get involved.

-One great option to set up beside your picnic is a Slackline! Challenge the whole family to see who can keep balance the longest!

3. Taking Time for Family.

Finally, picnics are the perfect time for focusing on the important things: each other. Take the time to set aside the smart phones, tablets, and Nintendos to talk about what happened during your day or how children feel about the approaching school year. Whether you are working on your child’s vocabulary by sharing stories or encouraging creativity by making shapes out of clouds, picnics will bring your family closer together and prove to be a valuable way to spend time.

For even more great ideas for outdoor time, check out our Pinterest board.

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