Tag Archives: parenting

3 Tips for Building Baby Language Skills

30 Sep

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Want to encourage early language skills in your baby? With a few simple adjustments to your play time and a little understanding of early development, your babies will be chattering away in no time! Here are three activities and tools you can use to build language skills in your baby:

 1. Bring on the Babbling

Babbling is a baby’s way of attempting communication. There are a few responses you can adapt to progress language learning. It is important to respond consistently to baby’s vocalizations and vary responses by either repeating or changing sounds. Encourage your baby to listen to variations in babbles, whether it’s differences in length, stress, or intonation.

Strong and Weak Babbles: Alternate stressed syllables (louder and longer) such as BAAAA and unstressed syllables (softer and shorter) such as ba to help the baby discern stress differences. You may end up saying things such as BAAba BAAba baBAA! This gibberish may not sound like much to you, but it is a great listening exercise for the child because real words vary in the way they are stressed. For example, when you say BAA-ba, the stress pattern is the same as in the word DOG-gie. Discerning and tracking strong and weak syllables is crucial for language learning.

-Did you find the activity useful? Find even more like it in Raising a Talker: Easy Activities for Birth to Age 3!

 2. Talking Through Tech

Believe it or not, your smart phone can help when it comes to language learning in your baby. From letter recognition to understanding sound differences, here is a baby app we think will aid in learning on the go:

-Endless Alphabet: This interactive app encourages early language learning through having babies repeat letters, words, and sounds, promoting recognition. Adorable monsters hold children captive as they learn new words!

Review: Our 22-month-old loves Endless Alphabet. This app has helped tremendously with letter recognition, and it has fun graphics and sounds, also.

- S. Peninger, Greenville N.C.

-For even more baby apps to foster language learning, check out this related post “10 Apps to Keep Babies Learning.”

3. Learning with Simple Signs.

Sign language is a great tool to encourage early language learning in children as early as six months old. Whenever your baby begins to display a desire to communicate, begin using your hands for words that are often repeated, such as Mom or Dad. Using those hand motions while also putting stress on the word will give babies a visual representation of the language as they learn. Another great word to sign is whatever the child’s favorite toy is, so that children will begin to learn how to ask for what brings comfort through communicating with their hands.

Resource: http://www.babysignlanguage.com/dictionary/first-signs/

-We hope you found these tips for language learning in babies helpful. Do you have tips for teaching your baby to speak? Let us know by leaving a comment below or commenting on our Facebook page with the hashtag #babyspeak.

How to Pack the Perfect Lunch!

23 Sep

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How much time do you put into packing your child’s lunch? It’s been proven that children’s eating patterns are established from an early age, and with obesity rates higher than they’ve ever been, it’s important to ensure you are encouraging healthy-mindedness from the start. Here are six simple steps on how to pack the perfect school lunch for your little one:

1. Think Healthy.

What foods you place in your child’s lunchbox go a long way in determining how healthy he or she will be. Start with items that are high in fiber, full of protein, and rich in nutrients so that healthy eating patterns are established from a young age. Nutrient-rich foods and beverages can include “fruits, veggies, whole grains, low-fat milk products, seafood, lean meats, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes.” You know your child best, so pick items from the list that will provide the least resistance! (It’s also helps to know that kids get excited over bright colors, so be sure to include plenty!) Some examples of healthy lunches include:

• Ham and turkey roll up
• Whole-wheat pita with hummus
• Black bean burrito with cheese
• Hard-boiled eggs
• Tuna or cubed chicken tossed with light mayo, celery, mustard, and carrot.

Source: http://www.sheknows.com/food-and-recipes/articles/825337/how-to-pack-the-perfect-lunch

-Find out the different options for healthy breakfasts, snacks, lunches and dinners in the Healthy Food Choices set! Try out book recipes in the kitchen to get your kids engaged!

2. Make Snacks Fun.

You have to throw in a snack with lunch, but what kind? Think colorful, different textures, and a variety of dipping sauces! Trade out the chip bags for dried fruit chips, the sugary snacks for celery and hummus, the Oreos for yogurt parfaits chock-full of berries! Healthy snacks allow children to experience a wider variety in the lunchbox as opposed to the ordinary vending machine plastic packs. Wholesome snacks will leave children more full and nutritiously satisfied.

3. Toss in a Kid-Sized Beverage.

Complete the perfect lunch with a kid-sized drink! No more miniature sodas or drinks full of additives. Juices, low-fat milk, and 100 percent fruit juices are the way to go! Make sure you’re packing appropriately sized bottles; 8-ounce bottles are the perfect size as they cut down on waste and are easy to pack.

4. Portion Control.

It’s great to include the anchor items, whether it’s whole-grain mac n’ cheese or creamy tomato soup, but if you’re packing too much of the main course and not enough of the veggies, children are going to be less inclined to eat the healthy sides included, choosing instead to fill up on only denser options. To find out what portion size is best suited for your child, check out the following resource: http://www.healthykidshealthyfuture.org/content/dam/nemours/www/filebox/service/preventive/nhps/publication/nhpsadminguide.pdf

5. Mix It Up.

No child likes opening his or her lunch box to the same thing every day. Try to mix things up and provide a little variety. Including some kind of surprise can make lunch rewarding to children and change their perspective of healthy eating into a positive experience. Leaving a special note is always a great way to provide children with a comforting reprieve during the school day.

6. Pack Smart.

Although it’s tempting to simply throw everything into a bag, try to keep in mind how you’re packing your child’s lunchbox. Keep the thermos from squashing whatever delicious sandwich you’ve taken time to make. Make sure the cool pack isn’t soaking the napkin you packed to keep things from getting messy! It’s also best to avoid packing anything that can spew or fizz if shaken too much, as we all know how clumsy children can be!

We hope you found these packing tips helpful. If you have any lunch packing skills you’d like to share, comment below or tweet us your secrets @KaplanToys with the hashtag #PackingLunch.

Resources:

http://www.letsmove.gov/blog/2012/03/22/packing-lunch-your-preschooler-portion-size-matters
http://www.sheknows.com/food-and-recipes/articles/825337/how-to-pack-the-perfect-lunch
http://www.womansday.com/food-recipes/cooking-tips-shortcuts/how-to-pack-a-better-school-lunch-120119

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:

 

Creative (and Educational) Ways to Celebrate the World Cup with Your Kids

8 Jul

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Have you been watching the 2014 World Cup with your kids? Did your family collectively hold its breath over Tim Howard’s iconic saves and groan in unison over Belgium’s hard-fought win? We know we did. Although the United States is no longer playing, every country puts forth skill and heart when they step onto the playing field.

Beyond just entertainment, soccer provides an excellent opportunity for young children to learn key educational concepts and develop their gross motor skills. Here are some quick ideas you can share with your kids – inspired by the game of “football” -and a few toys that will encourage them to get their FIFA on.

Lessons from Soccer

Pace

The great thing about soccer is that everyone learns it at their own pace. When children hit the field, they begin at varying skill levels. Just because a child can’t juggle as many times as their peer does not mean that they are a poor player. Understanding that every child learns at their own rate is an important concept that can be applied in the classroom. Whether it’s maintaining ball control or understanding new vocabulary, children can come to embrace different paces of learning and even help peers improve in areas they have already mastered.

Responsibility

Whether you are a center midfielder or a sweeper, every soccer position comes with different responsibilities. Be sure to point these out as you are watching the World Cup with your child. No two roles are the same and each comes with different responsibilities. Every player is relied on by his or her teammates and if they do not perform the tasks asked of them, it affects the whole team. Encouraging children to understand the importance of responsibility will help them better appreciate it in the classroom.

Teamwork

Finally, soccer is a great way to teach cooperative play. A team never relies on one person, even if that player is Messi! It takes the combined effort of the goalkeeper, defense, and offense to put balls into the back of the net. Show children how to pass together and use communication to let each other know when they are open to score! Be sure to stress that effective communication is the best way to achieve a goal together.

-Now that your child has learned a few soccer lessons, give him or her the chance to play! Whether you need goalssoccer balls, or soccer books, we have the toys to get you started!

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Want a whole new way to play soccer? Check out our Light-Up Air Power Soccer Disk, perfect for indoor play! The soccer disk hovers on a cushion of air, allowing it to be used on any indoor or outdoor surface! The disk is lit up with LEDs, so that it can be used day or night. The disk provides a great alternative to outdoor play.

We hope you enjoyed these soccer lessons and toys! We hope you’re getting excited for the upcoming match between Brazil and Germany. Happy World Cup watching!

Beach Learning for Independence Day

1 Jul

shutterstock_159281705It’s here already: the 4th of July! Are you looking forward to family time, food and fireworks? Will you be going on vacation with your children for Independence Day? We have great options for learning on the beach so your little ones can understand the importance of the holiday while having fun at the same time! Here are a few fast facts about the holiday so children will understand why America celebrates the 4th of July:

Facts on Independence Day:

  • Congress approved the Declaration of Independence all the way back in 1776 when America was first established as a nation!
  • The name “Independence Day” was first used in 1791, fifteen years after the Declaration of Independence was signed.
  • America held its first Fourth of July celebration in Eastport, Maine in 1820.
  • Today, many Americans celebrate with barbeques, parades, picnics and fireworks!

Now for the fun! Here are three ways to keep little ones learning on the beach:

1). Alphabet Bean Bags!

21393Many families hit the beach and throw horseshoes for the fourth. Here is a way for little ones to get involved! Alphabet Bean Bags provide hands-on play for preschoolers, allowing them to engage in alphabet games, build words, and learn letters as they throw and catch beanbags. See if they can pick out the letters to a word like “picnic” and then work on gross-motor skills by trying to toss them to a line drawn in the sand. The words games are endless!

2) Number Sand Molds!

Who knew playing in the sand could add up? Number Sand Molds provide an inexpensive way to get tots engaged with math on the beach. Let them dig in and make number molds to build their own equations. You will have to check the answers, of course!

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3) Memory Match Clams

Break out these durable toys for tons of water fun! Memory Match Clams challenge children’s memory skills and hand-eye coordination as they try to remember which clams have the matching sea creatures inside. Dig a hole in the sand and fill it with water with your fun floating memory game to keep children entertained for hours!

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For even more sand and water play, check out our full toy selection here.

We hope you and your little ones have a great Independence Day! Enjoy learning games on the beach during the day and a beautiful display of independence during the night. Have a great 4th of July!

Hands-On Father’s Day Activities for Kids

10 Jun

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Want to help your kiddo say a big thank you to their dad this Father’s Day? We’ve come up with some great ways for little ones to make dads feel special while having fun and getting creative along the way! Get engaged with your child using these three fun ways to make Father’s Day special:

1) Father’s Day Bookmarks

-Dads love to read! Give them something special to see every time they open up a book to whatever page they left off on!

Materials:

  • Colorful poster board
  • Scissors
  • Variety of stickers
  • Small pictures cut from greeting cards
  • Glue sticks
  • Markers and crayons
  • Clear contact paper
  • Yarn
  • Hole punch

What to do:

  1. Cut poster board into bookmark size. Place bookmarks, scissors, stickers, small pictures, glue sticks, and markers on a table for your child.
  2. Let your child decorate bookmarks using the materials.
  3. When he or she is finished, help him/her cover the bookmarks with clear contact paper to ensure that the materials will stay.
  4. Punch a hole in a corner of each bookmark so your child can tie tassels.
  5. Help your child make tassels by gathering several pieces of yarn together and tying them together at one end. Knot to the hole in the bookmark.
  6. Give to dad or grandpa to make Father’s Day special!

-For even more great activities like this one, check out “The GIANT Encyclopedia of Monthly Activities for Children 3 to 6.” 

Photo Jun 09, 12 00 33 PM

2) Make a Snack for Dad!

-Encourage your kids to get creative in the kitchen by helping them prepare Celery Race Cars for Dad! It is an easy and healthy snack that will keep your child’s motor running!

Ingredients:

  • 2” pieces of celery
  • ¼” slices of carrots
  • Peanut butter

What to Do:

  1. Encourage your child to spread peanut butter into his or her celery “cars.”
  2. Spread peanut butter on the carrot slices with a plastic knife and attach them to the celery to create “wheels.”

Another idea:

  1. Make “bugs on a log” with celery, peanut butter and raisins!
  2. Help your child fill the celery with peanut butter and put raisins on the peanut butter. Now it’s time to eat his “bugs on a log!”

Experiment:

  • You can also introduce a little science lesson by filling two cups with water and dropping in two drops of food coloring. Put a celery stick in each color and watch the celery turn different colors!

-Love cooking with your kids? Find more recipes to cook together in “The Budding Chef.” 

3) Help Dad Drive in Style!

- Help dads keep their car organized by working with your child to make a Car Visor Clip!

Materials:

  • Clothespin, spring type
  • Library pocket
  • Paint
  • Cotton swabs or thin paintbrushes
  • Non-toxic permanent marker
  • Glue

Make Your Gift Great:

  1. Paint the clothespin and library pocket using either the cotton swabs or thin paintbrushes.
  2. After the paint dries, glue the library pocket to one side of the clothespin.
  3. Use the permanent marker to personalize the clip by writing a title on the library pocket such as “Dad’s Car Clip.”
  4. Include a note with the gift suggesting that the recipient clip it to the car visor and use the pocket for parking stubs or loose change.

Helpful Hint

-The library pocket will last longer if it is laminated or covered with clear contact paper before attaching it to the clothespin. Laminate does not adhere to other materials well, so use self-adhesive Velcro to attach the pocket to the clothespin.

Variation

Add magnetic tape to the back of the clothespin to create a refrigerator clip that can hold papers. Use the library pocket for storing pens and pencils.

-Did your child like the activity above? Find more like it in
101 Great Gifts From Kids.

There are so many ways for little ones to help celebrate Father’s Day! For even more ways to get your children involved in hands-on crafts, check out our Father’s Day Activities Pinterest board: http://www.pinterest.com/KaplanToys/crafts-for-fathers-day/

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