Tag Archives: family engagement

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:

Farm Puppets (Set of 8)28711

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/

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/

TicTacMallow

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.

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