Tag Archives: family engagement

Back to School: 5 Questions to Ask Teachers

25 Aug

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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:

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 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

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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:

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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

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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!

Putting on a Proper Puppet Show!

23 Jun

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Staging a puppet show is a great way to get children excited about reading, aid in the development of storytelling skills, and bring the family together to celebrate a child’s creativity! Not sure where to start? We have seven simple steps to aid your child in putting on a proper puppet show!

1. Choose your book.

It’s important to choose a story that lends itself to being acted out. Multiple strong characters, an exciting backdrop, and adventure are always great elements to include in a puppet show! Browse our selection of children’s books to get started: https://www.kaplantoys.com/shop/childrens-books.

2. Pick out the puppets.

Knowing which puppets to use as the show’s actors/actresses is the most important part! Allow children to express creativity by choosing their own character to act out whatever role they’ve chosen from the story. We have a range of puppets to choose from, from farm animals to Sesame Street characters! Below are some of our favorites:

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Happy Puppets (Set Of 6)Fox Hand Puppet by Folkmanis

3. Write the scripts.

Your children will have to decide which characters will be acted out as well as what they will say. Writing scripts is a great way to delve deeper into a book to pick out the most important lines of dialogue. It can also be a great opportunity to teach concepts like summarizing, themes, and the moral of the story. Children can depict with puppets what they learned from the story and practice early writing skills along the way!

4. Set the stage.

Tabletop Puppet TheaterWhat is a puppet show without a stage? Help your children pick out the perfect place to act out their stories. You’ll want to make sure the location is somewhere big enough for an audience of avid supporters.

On a budget? Use an ironing board! Simply hang a tablecloth over it and the height can be adjusted to the appropriate level. Children can add   whatever props they like!

5. Practice, practice, practice!

Encourage children to practice their scripts so they don’t get stage fright or forget who is supposed to speak when. This is a great way to teach dedication and may lead to some comical improvisation as well!

6. Stage the lights.

Lighting can go a long way in setting the mood for a play! Adding some dramatic flair to the performance is always fun and will make children even more excited about acting out the show. If you can, find a way to dim the lights and have the stage lit with a “spot light.” You can point a lamp in their direction, use a projector, or get fancy by having the stage lit from underneath! Use whatever works best for you!

7. Gather the family together.

Having a support system is always important. Children will not only work on public speaking in front of an audience, but laughter and applause will go a long way in building confidence. Make sure to catch the performance on video so children can laugh along later!

Ladybug Book Set

Using Finger Puppets to Encourage Early Literacy

Outside of giving a performance, finger puppets are a great alternative for encouraging children who are struggling with reading. Here are some great options for engaging children in early literacy by using their hands to act out the story:

We hope you enjoy a puppet performance in your home! What are some of your child’s favorite books to act out? Be sure to share with us by commenting below.

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!

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.

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