Tag Archives: family engagement

Helping Little Hands for Thanksgiving Dinner

10 Nov


As the holidays approach, there are more and more opportunities for little hands to get involved as you prepare for family get-togethers! One of the biggest jobs can be the Thanksgiving meal! Why not turn what can be stressful into a learning opportunity for your children? Here are a few ways to get little ones involved in the process:

1. Pretzel Kabobs

One easy way for kids to get involved is by making kabobs! Create patterns and different combinations by making completely edible kabobs with an assortment of foods – from cubes of turkey breast to grapes.


  • Apple slices
  • Cheese pieces
  • Grapes
  • Pretzel sticks or rods
  • Turkey, cubed
  • Cranberry

What to Do:

  1. Before your child begins to make their kabob, prepare the ingredients by pre-cutting holes in the center so they can slide food onto the pretzel stick and avoid frustration of having the pretzel break.
  2. Invite your child to choose a combination of items and slide each one onto a pretzel stick.
  3. Encourage your child to discover different pattern possibilities.
  4. Serve for a creative Thanksgiving meal appetizer!

Source: The Budding Chef

2. Apple Butter in a Crock-Pot

This delicious spread is a crowd pleaser. Make it in the fall and fill your home with the season’s best aroma for the family to enjoy. It’s also a great addition to any bread that may accompany your Thanksgiving spread!


  • 3 pounds medium-sized cooking apples
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3 ¾ cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves


  • crock-pot
  • Cutting board
  • knives

What to Do:

  1. Peel, core, and slice the apples. Invite your child to help as much as possible, but supervise closely.
  2. Have your child put the apples, water, and cinnamon into a crock-pot to make applesauce. Cover and cook for 8 to 10 hours. (Savor the aroma!)
  3. The next day, help your child mix the applesauce, sugar, and cloves in the crock-pot.
  4. Take turns stirring every hour, for 8 hours total.
  5. Before you and your child go to bed, turn the crock-pot to low heat and let the mixture cook all night. The apple butter will be ready to eat in the morning!
  6. Help your child fill small baby food jars with the apple butter.
  7. Refrigerate once the butter is cool to ensure that the apple butter stays fresh!

Source: The Budding Chef 


3. Stone Soup

Whether it’s your famous stuffing or casserole, many Thanksgiving dishes require a lot of ingredients. Have your kids bring different ingredients and comment on how everyone has something different to add to the dish. Once you’re at a good stopping point, read Stone Soup and reflect on how important everyone’s role is in making a meal truly come together.

Looking for more ways your children can get involved? Check out the following resources:

10 Fall Activities for Families

20 Oct


Looking for things to do with your children to get outside and enjoy the autumn weather? Get in the fall spirit and celebrate the season with the following family activities to keep children learning! Check off your seasonal bucket list by trying out these 10 fun fall activities for the family:

  1. Go on a nature walk! Turn your back yard or local park into a natural playground. Encourage children to take in the changing leaves and crisp weather as they note seasonal changes in their Nature Keeper & Tree Diary. Don’t forget to bring items back for your sensory table!
  2. Dress for the weather together! Pick out matching scarves or toboggans to bundle up for the season. Be sure to talk to your child about the importance of dressing warmly enough for the season. Learn more in our related post: Teaching the Reasons for the Seasons.
  3. Make a pot of soup or chili! Cooking together is always a great learning opportunity for little learners, and something warm and soothing is the perfect meal after playing outside in the chilly weather! Find a fun recipe in The Budding Chef!
  4. Break out the pumpkins! You haven’t truly celebrated fall until you pick out a pumpkin! There are a plethora of great pumpkin crafts for children, from sensory activities, to yummy recipes, to pumpkin carving for the Halloween season! For fun pumpkin ideas, visit our Pinterest board! 
  5. Pick sunflowers! It’s sunflower season; find a sunflower patch and pick these sunny flowers with your little one. Dry out the seeds later for a fun snack!
  6. Go to a fall fair! Search for festivals happening around your home to take a trip to the closest fall fair. With exciting rides, sweet snacks, and fun music, it’s sure to be a fun time for the whole family!
  7. Find a flea market! Markets are always fun places for children to find treasures! From discussing how old trinkets work to seeing farm animals, you will be sure to have many interesting conversations with your child as they discover a world of new things!
  8. Camp out and tell spooky stories! Have a tent? Set it up, grab the sleeping bags, and take a flash light for story time! It’s always fun to tell spooky stories as you work on your child’s storytelling skills. It’s also a great opportunity to discuss the difference between what’s real and what’s fiction. Find kid-sized tents for backyard adventures here.
  9. Make a scarecrow! Creating a scarecrow is always a great way for children to express creativity as they bring simple pieces of wood to life. Don’t forget to come up with a name once it’s finished!
  10. Star gaze! Bundle up and go out at night with a telescope! Cool nights can lead to clear skies as you learn about the constellations together with your children. Browse our telescope selection here.


Don’t forget to enter our Guess Boo? Toy Detective Contest on Facebook this week by checking in at 9AM every morning to see if you can guess what toy is hiding behind the ghost mask! Good luck!

Fresh Fall Activities!

22 Sep


Fall starts today! Celebrate the change in seasons with these fun activities you can do with your children. (Don’t forget the usual fall favorites of pumpkin spice, leaf piles, and fashionable fall boots and scarves!)


1. Study Science by Tracking Seasonal Trees

In the spring and summer, trees have green leaves. When fall arrives, however, many leaves change color. Instead of green, you can see red, purple, orange, and yellow.

What You’ll Need:

  • Camera
  • Clear contact paper
  • Trees

What to Do:

  1. Select an area outside that has several trees, including both deciduous (trees with leaves that fall off in the winter) and coniferous (evergreen) trees, if possible.
  2. Visit the trees in early autumn. Pick a tree to “adopt” and observe. Encourage your child to explore everything they can about the tree, such as feeling the bark; examining the leaves or needles; looking for seeds, pinecones, nuts, and so on.
  3. Take a picture of your child next to their tree.
  4. As the deciduous trees begin to show signs of change, take another photo of your child next to their tree. How does the tree look different? Take photos as the trees with leaves change color and then lose their leaves. Have the evergreen trees changed?
  5. Continue checking on your tree throughout the year. Take photos in the spring when the trees are budding and when they have all of their leaves in summer.
  6. Cover the photos with clear contact paper.
  7. Spread the photos on a table. What changes do you see over time?

Books to Enjoy:

Activity adapted from The Budding Scientist.

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 4.02.21 PM

 2. Bake “Hello, Pumpkin!” Muffins

What better way to give your child a healthy dose of beta-carotene than with a delicious and nutritious pumpkin muffin? The sweet taste will keep him or her coming back for more, and the whole-wheat flour and pureed pumpkin will pack a powerful nutritional punch!


  • 1 ½ cups canned pumpkin
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cloves
  • chocolate chips (optional)
  • raisins

Note: Makes 1-2 dozen muffins, depending on size.

What to Do:

  1. Grease a muffin tin, or place muffin liners inside the muffin cups.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (adult only.)
  3. Invite your child to mix all of the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  4. Mix the wet ingredients together in a smaller bowl.
  5. Show your child how to make a well in the dry ingredients. Then help him or her pour the wet ingredients into the well of the dry ingredients.
  6. Mix gently until blended. If you want to add chocolate chips to the muffin mix, do so now.
  7. Fill the muffin cups about ¾ full. Give your child raisins to make faces on top of every muffin. Say, “Hello, Pumpkin!’ each time he or she creates a face, and be prepared for giggles!
  8. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Activity adapted from The Budding Chef.


3. Create a Fall Leaves Art Suncatcher!

Finally, fall is a season full of beautiful colors that can sometimes come along with chilly weather. Celebrate the season from indoors with a colorful art project best appreciated by bright windows! The Fall Leaves Resist Art Suncatcher is a great tactile project for little hands. Find instructions for making this fun art project here: http://www.two-daloo.com/fall-leaves-resist-art-suncatcher/.

How will you be celebrating the season? Let us know by commenting below!

Learning About Careers for Labor Day!

1 Sep


Labor Day weekend is quickly approaching! Do you have plans for your family? The three-day weekend can be a great time to teach your children about different careers in the community as well as get them thinking about potential career paths for themselves! Here is a fun project you can do together to celebrate the holiday with young children:

The Jobs People Do Project


  • Poster board
  • Markers
  • Graphics representing different jobs
  • Glue
  • Clothing proper representing different jobs
  • Various proper representing different jobs
  • Magazines
  • Construction paper

What To Do:

  1. Take a survey; ask parents in the community what they do for a living as well as discussing what you do for a living. Make a list of their jobs.
  2. Ask your children what they think each position does or includes and record their responses.
  3. Compare what your children say with what the jobs actually include. Talk a little about each type of job. One great way to do this is by using the Career Book Set. Make sure you don’t make children feel as if they answered incorrectly. Gentle correction is always best.
  4. Continue until you have talked about every job and then make a list of all of the jobs on a piece of poster board.
  5. Make a word/picture graph depicting community jobs. At the top of the graph print: “The Jobs People Do.” Under the heading make two columns, one for Moms and one for Dads. Print each parent’s job in the proper column. Add a small graphic that represents that job next to the printed words.
  6. Break out the dramatic play! Encourage kids to use props to pretend they are working at the different jobs discussed. If you’re in need of props, check out our career selection below:



  1. Cut out magazine pictures of people working to make a Jobs Collage as a family project.
  2. Work to create a unique and colorful jobs mural on poster board. Title it: “The Jobs People Do” and display it in your home for all to see. You can adapt this mural to do “Jobs I Want To Do” and have children include careers they are interested in.
  3. Wind up your celebration of the jobs people do by visiting a career place of your child’s choice. Libraries, fire stations, and sheriff’s offices are all usually open for the holiday, but it depends on individual hours. So, be sure to check beforehand!

Activity adapted from The GIANT Encyclopedia of Monthly Activities For Children 3 to 6.

For even more resources to get your children talking about what careers they are interested in, check out these career toys:

Back to School: 5 Questions to Ask Teachers

25 Aug


Are your kids starting school this week? As your children take off for the classroom, here are five questions you’ll want to ask their teacher to ensure they have a productive school year. After all, it’s always best to know how you can get involved to best supplement children’s learning experience in the home.

1. Is there anything I can tell you about my child that will help you better support them in the classroom?

Helping an educator understand your child’s needs from the start is a great way to equip them for a more meaningful relationship with your child. This can include anything from food allergies to personal strengths and weaknesses. The information exchange will allow for greater inclusivity in the classroom as well as act as an assurance for you that your child is being properly catered to in an active learning environment.


2. How can I provide the proper homework support?

It is paramount to establish a homework routine at the beginning of the year. Whether it’s checking a homework folder, signing off on a weekly newsletter, or checking a website, keeping up-to-date with your child’s homework requirements and holding them accountable to complete their weekly work load is key to their success in the classroom. Check out of some of our favorite homework resources below:


3. How should I respond when my child is struggling in the classroom?

As a parent, you know best when your child is struggling in the classroom. Many times, you can feel restless as you try to figure out how best to help. Putting a strategy in place at the beginning of the year is a great way to address problems before they arise. It will also establish an effective line of communication between you and the educator. One tool that can be used to ensure you stay involved throughout the year with your child’s literacy development is TAG You’re It! (Yearlong Parent Engagement Initiative). It’s always proactive to ask your child’s teacher if the classroom has already implemented this program or a program similar to it.


4. Is there technology needed to support self-directed learning in the home?

Many times, children can start falling behind in the classroom because they don’t have the necessary technological support in the home. Whether you have to take children to a library or invest in a new laptop, providing children with the tools they need to further learning concepts from the classroom is important not only for academic success, but also for fostering digital literacy as young children grow in the 21st century. Here are some of our favorite pieces of technology for the home:


 5. What academic standards do you use and what do I need to know about them as a parent?

Understanding the agenda and the academic standards of the classroom is key to supporting them at home. It will also help you understand what areas your child may be struggling in so that you can implement strategies to focus on those skills outside of the classroom. Whether it’s phonics or math, we have learning tools to support additional learning in your children to bring them up to speed:

We hope your kids are having a great first week back to school! Let us know what questions you always ask educators during the first week back by commenting below or on our Facebook page.

5 Ways to Calm First Day Jitters

18 Aug


Just as worried about your child’s first day of school as they are? Calm the jitters by implementing five simple strategies for keeping the whole family calm as children transition back to school. Here are five of our favorite stress busters for first-day jitters:

1. Practice Saying Goodbye

One of the most heart-breaking moments not only for your child but for you as well, is when you wave goodbye. Even if you know it’s not final, it can definitely feel like it to young children! That’s why it is important to practice goodbyes before children go back to school. Whether it’s dropping them off for a play date or taking off for a business trip, be sure to emphasize that goodbyes don’t mean forever and keep consistent by picking them up at a designated time. This fosters trust and a reassurance in your toddler that you are in fact coming back.

2. Hold on to Home

Help your child adjust to change by encouraging them to take something familiar with them to school. This could be something as simple as wearing one of your necklaces, taking a favorite teddy in their backpack, or even keeping a picture of the family in their notebook. Having something familiar to pull out during the school day can go a long way in calming children’s anxiety on the first day of school.

3. Scope Out School Beforehand

Having a first look before the first day of school is a great way to calm kids’ nerves. Giving children a visual of the classroom they will be stepping into allows them to better process the learning environment. Also, going out of your way to meet the teacher beforehand can smooth transitions as young children adapt to a new face and personality.

4. Talk It Out

Many times, children’s fears are a lot bigger in their minds than in reality. You can help them realize this by talking out their fears together. Ask them what they are most worried about and talk about ways they can overcome those fears and steps they can take to prepare for facing new challenges. Children will feel much more at ease when they have a plan for approaching their personal fears.

5. Pack the Perfect Lunch

A lot of children find comfort during lunchtime. Not only is it usually packed in a personal lunch box, but it’s also filled with familiar food they picked out with you. Be sure to include your child’s favorites for the first day of school as well as a note of encouragement that will remind them that you are not far. Sometimes, a little midday reassurance is exactly what a child needs to get through the rest of the day!

Hang in there as you and your children prepare for back-to-school! With a little preparation and establishing the school sleep schedule early, your child’s transition back into the classroom should be a breeze!

Finally, we have a few back-to-resources you don’t want to miss as kids prepare for their return to the classroom:


Don’t miss our Back-to-School Sale: 20% off one item on orders $75+ through August 31st. Enter code BTSREADY at checkout.

Back-to-School Resources:

10 Toys to Avoid Car Ride Boredom!

23 Jun


Traveling for the 4th of July weekend? Have a family vacation coming up? We all know how bored and restless children can get during long car rides. Here are some toy and activity ideas that will keep kids entertained and learning throughout your summer trips. These toys are easy to travel with and they’re also educational, so you’ll get the best of both worlds!

1. Plastic Coated Playing Cards

Play classic games or learn new ones, either way these small playing cards will be the perfect addition to any car ride. They are small and compact, making them an easy add-on to your luggage!

Plastic Coated Playing Cards

2. Addition Wrap Ups

Keep math skills sharp with this easy-to-carry Addition Wrap Up. Wrap the string from the problem on the left to the answer on the right, and then flip it over to see if children’s answers are correct!

Addition Wrap Ups

3. Regal Games Classic Travel Bingo

Turn traffic into a learning opportunity with these classic games! Interstate Bingo, Traffic Safety Bingo, and License Plate Bingo will keep kids entertained and teach them about geography and travel at the same time! Whoever completes a row first wins.

Regal Games Classic Travel Bingo (Set of 3)

4. Crayola® Dry Erase Activity Center

Kids can use the included activity sheets or slip in a blank one and just doodle! This dry erase surface is versatile, and children can simply wipe away the marks and start over. Integrate technology by encouraging your kids to create their own activity pages online!

Crayola® Dry Erase Activity Center

5. Classic Doodle Sketch

The Doodle Sketch will provide no-mess drawing in the car, and it’s easy to carry! It is the perfect size for children’s laps and sparks creativity. Practice math, art, or vocabulary for extra summer learning!

Classic Doodle Sketch

6. KidsSongs 2 CD Classic

Two discs full of sing-a-longs to pop in the CD player during your car ride and an included book of lyrics. Practice reading, listening, and encourage musical literacy in your kids, all while having tons of fun!

Kidsongs 2 CD Classic

7. Amazing™ Baby Sound Balls

Your infant will love these sound balls to play with while riding down the highway. Each of the three balls has a different texture and sound, which will help your child explore and develop! When you get to your destination, just pack them up in the reusable vinyl carrying case that’s included.

Amazing Baby™ Sound Balls

8. First Atlas

Let your child explore the wonders of geography while traveling! First Atlas is a great learning tool with pictures and concepts that children will love! They will see the countries of the world and bright images of what they have to offer.

First Atlas

9. Crayola® Large 8 Count Washable Crayons

Don’t worry about stains with Crayola’s Washable Crayons. These large crayons are perfect for little hands to develop their motor skills and explore their imagination. A piece of paper and these eight crayons are all your child will need to create a car ride masterpiece!

Crayola® Large 8 Count Washable Crayons

10. Highlights™ 2015 Hidden Pictures Puzzle Books

Help your children develop their problem-solving skills by searching for the hidden objects within these puzzles! It has clues and answer pages for the more than 350 hidden objects in each book.

Highlights™ 2015 Hidden Pictures Puzzle Books - Set of 4

What strategies do you use to keep your children busy during car rides? Let us know by commenting below or sharing your ideas on our Facebook page!


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