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12 Days of Learning | Day 12: Holiday Road Trip

16 Dec

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“Are we there yet?” You’ll probably hear your kids ask this question quite a few times during the holiday season, especially if your family is one of the many that travel an hour or more to get to their holiday destination. As you prepare for your family’s holiday travel plans, keep in mind these five ways to entertain your kids during your holiday road trip:

1. Come up with fun games to play in the car. License plate games can be especially entertaining for kids, and you can find a variety of printable license plate games on Pinterest. Other game ideas include seeing which family member can spot the most animals, cars from a certain state, or Volkswagen Beetles. You can also give small rewards, such as winners getting to choose the music for the next hour.

2. Let kids keep up with where you are and where you’re going next. Give kids a state or U.S. map to help them keep track of your family’s movements. This is a great activity because it helps your kids learn to read maps and keeps them involved while you’re traveling. It also gives kids an idea of how much traveling will be required and how much time your trip will take.

3. Bring along a variety of music and books your kids will enjoy. Kids will enjoy listening to their favorite music or reading their favorite books on road trips. Ragweed, Bear on a Bike, and On the Go are a few books that directly relate to traveling, which children may find interesting since they will be on a road trip themselves. Remember to put music and books on an electronic device for kids to enjoy if you want them to use headphones or want to avoid bringing along a lot of extra books.

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4. Tell stories or talk about where you’re going and what your kids will enjoy there. Use your road trip as a reason to talk with your family. Ask kids what they’re looking forward to during the holidays or what they want to accomplish in the coming year. You can also tell your kids stories from your childhood or talk to them about your destination and what they can expect to do there.

5. Pack your kids’ favorite toys and other activities that will entertain them. Having their favorite toys with them will keep your kids engaged and will also give them a sense of security if they’re going somewhere unfamiliar. Bring along stuffed animals to help comfort younger kids. Activities that let children write and draw, such as the Do Art Travel Easel and Doodle Roll® with Writing Board, are also great items to bring along on your holiday road trip.

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We hope you enjoyed reading our 12 Days of Learning blog posts. Be on the lookout for more fun activities and helpful resources in the coming weeks.

Happy Holidays!

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 8: Special Holiday Events

10 Dec

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There’s a reason the holiday season is called the most wonderful time of the year, so make sure your family goes out and enjoys the special holiday events for kids and families that occur near your neighborhood. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

1. Go caroling as a family. Many church groups and other community organizations plan special nights to go caroling in the community. Sign your family up to go with one of these groups or create your own caroling group if no one is planning one in your community.

2. Take a family sleigh ride. Sleigh rides are often offered at winter festivals and other events. This is a great family activity and an excellent opportunity to teach your children about holiday traditions. Your family can even sing “Jingle Bells” and other fun Christmas carols as you ride in the sleigh.

3. Drive or walk through a light festival with your family. Children and adults both love to look at Christmas lights, which makes going to a light festival the perfect family activity for the holidays. Ask children what they think about the light displays and go for hot chocolate afterwards to spend more time together as a family.

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4. Take your kids to special events at your local bookstore, library, art store, or children’s museum. Many bookstores and libraries have special holiday storytimes and activities for both kids and adults. Also check with your local art store and children’s museum to see if they are going to have any special holiday crafts or exhibits for kids.

5. Attend your community’s Christmas parade, Christmas tree lighting, or other holiday events. This is a great opportunity for your children to learn about the people in their community. Involving your children in community events also helps build a good foundation for teaching them about charity and volunteering.

6. Take your kids to see holiday concerts and plays, such as The Nutcracker. Holiday concerts and plays provide wonderful opportunities to teach your children about culture. If you attend a concert, ask children to point out the different instruments that they have at home. Music toys that are similar to the instruments they see also make excellent holiday gifts for kids.

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7. Come up with your own holiday event at home. If you have young children or are watching your budget this year, create your own special holiday concert or play at home. You can perform a family play with puppets and puppet theaters, for example, or you can have your own holiday parade by everyone dressing up as different characters.

8. Take your kids to see Santa and encourage them to write him a letter. If your family takes part in Christmas, find a mall or other location that has times where children can come see Santa. This will create fun memories for children each Christmas. Writing letters to Santa is also a wonderful family time activity and will help put everyone in the Christmas spirit.

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9. Help your kids track Santa on Christmas Eve. Children will enjoy keeping track of Santa’s whereabouts on Christmas Eve with the improved Santa Tracker website from the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). The new website counts down the time until Christmas and lets children digitally visit the North Pole to learn about NORAD’s mission and how they track Santa. Children can also play a variety of fun holiday games on the website with a new game released daily. Keep in mind that tracking Santa on Christmas Eve is also an excellent opportunity for children to learn about geography in a fun way.

Check back tomorrow for Day 9 of our 12 Days of Learning!

Happy Holidays!

12 Days of Learning | Day 7: It’s the Thought That Counts

9 Dec

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Are you working with a budget this holiday season? Or are you searching for gifts that your kids and family will find meaningful? Handmade and homemade items are the perfect way for you to provide meaningful and budget-friendly gifts for all of the people on your holiday list. Making items at home and purchasing handmade items will also help teach your children that it’s the thought that counts.

You don’t have to give expensive presents for people to know that you care about and value them. Small, inexpensive gifts that show you put some thought into what to buy or make someone can have just as much or more value than extravagant gifts. This is a great lesson for kids to learn because it gives them experiences and ideas they can compare to the materialistic world they encounter every day.

If you decide to make your own homemade gifts or purchase affordable handmade gifts this year, make an effort to include your kids as much as possible because experiences like these will help children understand the value of budgeting and being thoughtful. Children will enjoy the opportunity to be creative as they practice and develop new skills while helping you get ready for the holidays. Be sure to browse our art section for any art and craft supplies you may need. Here are a few budget-and-kid-friendly tips to keep in mind as you plan your holiday gift list:

1. Have your kids make holiday cards instead of buying them this year. This is a great creative project for kids because it will keep them engaged and make them feel like they are contributing something to your family’s holiday planning. It will also save you money because greeting cards can be expensive.

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2. Come up with DIY presents you or your kids can make for the people on your holiday gift list. The popular book 101 Great Gifts Kids Can Make provides unique gift ideas that children ages three to eight can make for family members, teachers, and other special people in their lives. The book is available in paperback and eBook formats. You can also browse Pinterest to find other ideas for gifts your kids can make and homemade gifts you can make for your kids.

3. Visit holiday festivals and fairs to find affordable handmade items. Some handmade items can be expensive, but you should be able to find a number of local artists and companies that sell their work for reasonable prices. Holiday festivals are also a great place to take the kids!

4. Make cookies, cakes, and other treats to give as gifts. This is a fairly inexpensive and enjoyable way to give gifts. People who are extremely busy at this time of the year or can no longer bake their own cookies will enjoy receiving homemade treats. Baking is also a great way to teach your kids about nutrition, measuring, and counting as you spend time as a family.

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5. If you don’t have time to make something homemade, look for budget-friendly items in stores and online. Kaplan Toys offers a variety of fun and educational items that can fit in any budget. Browse our Great Gifts for Under $10 and Great Gifts for Under $20 to find affordable gifts that your kids will love.

Check back tomorrow for Day 8 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!

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