Tag Archives: holidays

Wish It, Win It Pinterest Sweepstakes | Win a Toy Wish List for Your Child!

18 Nov

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It’s once again time for the holidays! We know; it sneaks up on you. That’s why we’re here to help. Enter our Wish It, Win It Pinterest Sweepstakes for a chance to win a wish list full of educational toys your kids are sure to love!

Kaplan Toys has curated eight Pinterest boards packed with sure-fire favorites across a variety of themes and age groups – including Brainy Baby, Traveling Toddler, Miniature Maven, Junior Genius, Marvelous Mademoiselle, Wonderful Whippersnapper, Creative Kid, and Brilliant Builder.

Choose your favorite board for the chance to win ALL of the items featured there. Simply repin the main graphic from the holiday board you want to win and you will be entered to win our Wish It, Win It Pinterest Sweepstakes! (Limit one entry per person.) One lucky winner’s wish will come true on Nov. 24th!

Click on the Wish List graphic you want to win to go to the board on Pinterest. Simply repin and you’ve entered!

Have questions? Feel free to ask them on our Facebook page and we would be happy to help you out!

View the official sweepstakes rules here.

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12 Days of Learning | Day 11: Celebrate Winter

13 Dec

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The winter solstice is coming up soon, and we have some great ideas to help your family celebrate the start of winter. Whether your winters are warm and dry or cold and snowy, you can use these indoor and outdoor activities to have fun as a family and help your kids learn about winter:

1. Encourage your kids to read. Reading is an excellent activity for keeping kids engaged during the winter months. In addition to encouraging your kids to read on their own, you can make reading a family time activity. Books are also an excellent way to help kids learn about winter. The Snowy Day, Winter Big Book, The Mitten, Snowballs, and Snow would all be great additions to your child’s book collection.

2. Have an outdoor (or indoor) family snowball fight! This is a fun way for your family to stay active and exercise during the winter months. If it doesn’t snow where you live or it’s too cold outside for the kids to play, we have the perfect solution for your family. Snowtime Anytime Snowballs feel like real snowballs and can be used indoors or outdoors, which means your family can have snowball fights anytime during the winter or all year long.

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3. Ask children what changes they are noticing in the weather. This gives you the opportunity to discuss weather words, weather instruments, how people forecast the weather, and other weather basics. Kids will be particularly interested in snow at this time of the year, so encourage them to play in the snow or make their own paper snowflakes. Books about snow, such as Snow is Falling, will also help them understand weather and how it changes. Older kids may enjoy having a weather station to help them monitor weather conditions and make their own forecasts.

4. Take your kids ice skating at an indoor or outdoor skating rink. Ice skating is a great way to get your kids out of the house during the winter months. It will also help improve their balance and coordination. After your family burns some calories on the ice, be sure to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate or a bowl of soup. Remember that it’s best not to use a frozen pond in your neighborhood because the ice may not be thick enough or your kids may wander off to an area of the ice that isn’t safe. Sledding and skiing are two other wintertime activities your family may enjoy.

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5. Talk to kids about animals and plants that are commonly seen in winter. Point out or ask kids which animals and plants they see more of in winter. This is a good way to start a discussion about hibernation and migration. Books, such as Time to Sleep, can also help you explain why certain animals hibernate or migrate during the winter months. Encourage your kids to take pictures or keep a journal of changes they notice in nature during the winter months.

6. Come up with fun art and craft projects your kids can do indoors or outdoors. Kids can become bored pretty fast during the winter months, especially if the weather is bad and they can’t go outdoors. Fun art and craft projects will help engage your kids on gloomy winter days, but make sure you also have projects they can do outside when the weather is nice enough. It’s also a good idea to have a variety of art and craft supplies on hand to help engage your children during their breaks from school or on snow days.

Check back on Monday for Day 12 of our 12 Days of Learning!

Happy Holidays!

12 Days of Learning | Day 10: Holiday Food

12 Dec

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Many people look forward to enjoying their favorite holiday foods and sweet treats during the holiday season. Whether you make special treats or have the same meal every year, holiday food is undoubtedly a part of your family’s holiday traditions in some way.

The focus on food during the holidays provides several opportunities to teach children about nutrition and the history of different holiday foods. TLC’s Christmas Trivia Quiz provides some fun and interesting facts you can share with your kids while eating your favorite holiday meal or enjoying dessert:

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Did You Know?

  • The tradition of eating mincemeat pies on Christmas began in the 16th century. People believed that eating a small mincemeat pie on each of the 12 days leading up to Christmas would bring them good luck in the coming year.
  • Sugarplums are chocolate candies with sweet fillings, such as cream or fruit preserves, inside.
  • More than 1.76 billion candy canes are made each year.
  • The first candy canes were straight white sticks of sugar candy and were used as Christmas tree decorations. Candy canes got their bent ends when a choirmaster gave them to children during church services in 1670. They were meant to resemble a shepherd’s staff. Candy canes didn’t get their stripes until the early 1900s.

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Holiday food also provides some wonderful learning opportunities for children. Have your children help you count or measure out ingredients, for example, to help them improve and practice their math skills. It’s also a good idea to discuss the value of proper nutrition with them at some point during the holidays. Talk to them about portion sizes and make sure you have a variety of fruits and vegetables available in your home. Watching you cook and make a variety of food items will also give children a good foundation for positive life skills later in life.

Strive to make baking and cooking with your kids a family tradition during the holidays. Come up with a special recipe that your kids can help you make each year. Let older children pick a couple of new recipes they would like to try to make as well. This gives older kids the opportunity to be more independent and practice being an adult. The holiday season is also a good time to be more creative with your family’s food and encourage your kids to make edible food art. Make their food into a star or candy cane shape or have them decorate their food to look like a reindeer, snowman, or turkey. For more ideas on edible cooking activities, check out the book Cooking Art. You can also browse Pinterest for a variety of holiday recipes for kids.

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Check back tomorrow for Day 11 of our 12 Days of Learning!

Happy Holidays!

12 Days of Learning | Day 9: Wrapping & Choosing Gifts

11 Dec

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Are your family’s holiday gifts wrapped and under the tree yet? If you still have a few things left to wrap or pick up at the store, then turn up the holiday music and let your children help you finish up those last few things on your holiday to-do list. Asking your children to help you choose and wrap gifts for grandparents and other family members allows you to spend time together as a family, helps your kids feel more involved, and provides them with a variety of learning opportunities.

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Infants & Toddlers

Infants and toddlers won’t be able to help you with much during the holidays, but you can engage them with tactile play while you and the rest of the family wrap gifts. Encourage infants and toddlers to feel the textures of different ribbons and bows, for example, or let them crinkle a piece of wrapping paper with their hands. This will increase their gross motor skills and help them learn about the world around them. As toddlers become more mobile, let them help you put the bows and pieces of tape on gifts. This gives toddlers the opportunity to practice and improve their coordination and balance.

Preschoolers

Preschoolers can be a little more involved with choosing and wrapping gifts. Ask them what they would like to give people or what they know about someone’s hobbies and interests. Ask children to help you fold the wrapping paper over gifts and tape it in place. You can also teach preschoolers how to cut the wrapping paper with safety scissors. Making your own wrapping paper is another creative way to engage preschoolers because they can help you decorate it with holiday-themed drawings. Encourage preschoolers to talk about the patterns they see in the wrapping paper or ask them to count the number of bows in the bag to help them develop their math skills.

Older Children

Give older children the opportunity to pick out and wrap a few gifts by themselves. You can also let them keep track of what each person is getting and how much was spent on each person. This gives your older children a chance to practice keeping records and helps them learn how to budget. Another idea is to give your older kids a certain amount of money they can spend on gifts for their friends and then let them choose how they want to spend it, which will help them practice their math and decision-making skills during the holidays. Keep in mind that giving your older children more leeway in buying and wrapping gifts may help them feel more involved and excited for the holiday season.

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Check back tomorrow for Day 10 of our 12 Days of Learning!

Happy Holidays!

12 Days of Learning | Day 6: Holiday Stories

6 Dec

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Holiday stories, such as A Christmas Carol and The Night Before Christmas, spark children’s imaginations and add excitement to the holiday season for both children and adults. Fun stories about reindeer, Santa, special train rides, and a variety of other holiday symbols help us celebrate hope and giving. If you don’t already have a tradition of reading holiday books and stories to your children, make sure you add it to your family’s holiday plans this year.

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Reading holiday stories is one of the most educational activities of the holiday season because it helps children build their literacy skills, but it’s important to remember that the purpose of reading holiday stories is to have fun and enjoy what you’re reading. Don’t pressure kids to read a story aloud or sound out words if they don’t want to because they can learn new skills just from hearing you read. If your kids mispronounce something they choose to read, then the best way to help them is to read the sentence or word correctly without criticizing their mistake.

In addition to helping improve your children’s literacy skills, reading holiday stories also gives you opportunities to spend time together as a family:

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1. Set special times to read holiday stories. Younger children will enjoy reading a holiday story before bedtime each night. If your children are older and busier, however, it’s best to pick a few special times during the holiday season that you can sit together as a family to read your favorite holiday stories.

2. Create your own holiday story. Write and illustrate a fun holiday story as a family or have each family member come up with their own holiday story to share. You can even have the story spiral bound or placed in a binder to make it look like a published book. The holiday stories your kids come up with will make wonderful family keepsakes and childhood mementos.

3. Act out holiday stories as a family. Encourage your children to be creative and use their imaginations to act out their favorite holiday stories. Choose at least one or two stories that will let the whole family dress up and be a part of the performance. This is a great way to engage children during the holiday season and will help bring their favorite holiday stories to life.

Our Favorite Holiday Books for Kids

If you want to add to your holiday book collection, we recommend Stick Man, The Mitten, The Elf on the Shelf, The Twelve Days of Christmas, The Polar Express, and Snow.

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Twelve Days of ChristmasThe Polar ExpressSnowCheck back Monday for Day 7 of our 12 Days of Learning!

Happy Holidays!

12 Days of Learning | Day 5: Give Back & Help Others

5 Dec

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The holiday season is a great time for your family to give back and help others. Family activities focused on helping others provide a positive example for your children and will help teach them about gratitude and charity. As we shared in our recent charity blog post, giving to others benefits people’s health and overall life satisfaction.

If you have young children, it’s important to first teach them the basic concepts of sharing, giving, and helping others. Once children understand these concepts, you can start explaining why some people and organizations need help. As your children age, encourage them to become more involved in family charity projects or to come up with their own charity project. You should also encourage older children to volunteer or find a way to include charity in their schoolwork. A 2010 survey found that parents are the biggest influence on a teenager’s charitable giving, so it is important to include charitable activities in your family’s holiday plans.

The holiday season provides numerous opportunities for your family to help others. The iconic Salvation Army bell ringers and red donation buckets, for example, are in front of most of the stores you will purchase groceries and gifts from this holiday season. Set a good example for your kids by donating any spare change or dollar bills you have and then encourage your children to do the same with their spare change. A number of families specifically give their young children a dollar bill or some spare change to place in the red buckets because it gives them an opportunity to practice charity. Here are some other ways your family can give back and help others this holiday season:

1. Donate new or gently-used items. Go through your family’s closets and donate any gently-used items you don’t wear anymore to homeless shelters, the Salvation Army, or Goodwill. Food banks also run low on food at this time of the year, so donate any extra items you have in your pantry or purchase canned food items at the grocery store to donate. Many schools have canned food drives this time of the year, which is a good way for your family to give back and get involved with your child’s school. Donating blood to the American Red Cross is another great way for parents and teens (17+ in most states) to give back. Keep in mind that many charities also accept monetary donations if your family wants to have a fundraiser for a specific charity or the charity your family wants to help is in another city or state.

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2. Volunteer your time. Volunteering is a simple and inexpensive way for your family to give back to the community. Find a charity to volunteer at as a family or encourage your older children to volunteer at a charity related to their interests throughout the year. Children who like animals, for example, may want to volunteer at an animal shelter, veterinarian’s office, or pet adoption fair. If your children like sports, encourage them to play a game for charity or volunteer to help coach a recreation sports team. Other places your family or children can volunteer include libraries, soup kitchens, nursing homes, hospitals, and senior centers.

3. Host a holiday charity party. Parties are a great way to include charity in your family’s holiday plans, and both children and adults can have a fun time at charity parties.  Ask guests to make a donation for your family’s favorite charity in lieu of a host or hostess gift, for example, or give the party a charity theme by asking guests to help you make packages to send to soldiers overseas. Making treat bags for the elderly, filling shoeboxes to send to children overseas, or purchasing and wrapping gifts for local families in need are other possible themes and activities for your family’s holiday charity party. This could even become an annual party your family hosts with a different theme and supported charity each year.

4. Make a special delivery. Allowing your children to see what their help means to people in need is a great way to reinforce the value of charity. Have your children deliver cookies and other holiday treats to the elderly or ask if your family can deliver the gifts you bought for a family in need. Asking children to read a holiday story to someone who is not able to read anymore is another way your children can experience the effect of charity. Other ideas include taking your children with you when you drop off any donations and letting them put any cards or packages intended for soldiers or people in need in the mail. Being a part of the delivery will make the experience more memorable for children and will help them increase their understanding of how charity works.

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Many families put a special focus on charity during the holidays, but remember that it’s important for your family to reinforce the value of charity throughout the year. Read our Five Ways to Encourage Charity blog post for even more ideas on how your family can give back and help others.

Check back tomorrow for Day 6 of our 12 Days of Learning!

Happy Holidays!

12 Days of Learning | Day 4: Holiday Music

4 Dec

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Holiday music is steeped in tradition and is a fundamental part of people’s holiday spirit. The cheerful holiday tunes you hear at this time of the year are unlike any other because they exude love, hope, and joy. You can’t help but smile and sing along any time you hear songs such as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” or “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” on the radio.

Children love listening to holiday music, so make sure you play some in the car and at home. You could even give your kids a radio for their bedroom, so they can fall asleep listening to it at night. It’s important for you to incorporate holiday music in your family’s holiday plans because holiday music is extremely engaging and provides many educational opportunities for children. Teaching children holiday songs, for example, is a great way to introduce new words and help children improve their memorization skills. Encouraging children to play holiday songs with musical instruments can also increase their creativity and help them develop a love for music. If children are younger, give them sleigh bells and jingle bells to ring and hold in their hands.

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You can also research the history of holiday music and share any interesting facts you find with your children. TLC’s Christmas Song Trivia is a great place to start. The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) also lists some interesting facts about holiday songs:

  • “White Christmas” is the most recorded holiday song. It has over 500 versions in a variety of languages.
  • “Sleigh Ride” was originally written as an instrumental piece. The Boston Pops Orchestra first performed it at Boston’s Symphony Hall in 1948, and it did not receive lyrics until Mitchell Parish added them in 1949.
  • “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and “Winter Wonderland” were both written in 1934 and are two of the oldest popular holiday songs still being regularly played on the radio.

The ASCAP also releases a list of the top ten most-played holiday songs each holiday season. The top ten most-played songs in 2012 included the following:

  1. “Sleigh Ride” – Performed by Leroy Anderson
  2. “Winter Wonderland” – Performed by Eurythmics
  3. “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” – Performed by Harry Connick Jr.
  4. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – Performed by the Carpenters
  5. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” – Performed by Bruce Springsteen
  6. “Do You Hear What I Hear?” – Performed by Whitney Houston
  7. “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) – Performed by Nat King Cole
  8. “Jingle Bell Rock” – Performed by Bobby Helms
  9. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” – Performed by Brenda Lee
  10.  “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” – Performed by Bing Crosby

Which holiday songs do you think will be most popular this year? Share your thoughts and your family’s favorite holiday songs on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Check back tomorrow for Day 5 of our 12 Days of Learning!

Happy Holidays!

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