Tag Archives: parenting

2015 Resources Roundup for Parents

21 Jan

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As you start the new year, it’s best to have learning resources in mind for your children. This will not only help continue learning opportunities that start in the classroom at home, but also give you options when it comes to filling weekends, indoor play days, and the special holidays you get to spend together! Without further adieu, here is a list of 2015 parent resources we hope you’ll find useful:

Early Education Blogs

Blogs go a long way in providing inspiration and a way to get connected with other parents and teachers. Here are a few of our favorites:

Pre-K Blogs

 Kindergarten Blogs

Educational Toy Suggestions

Keep up with our latest toys for the new year! Whether it’s incorporating new technology, discovering our latest dramatic play options, or finding classics on sale, here are our top toys for the new year:

  1. Stephen Joseph Wall Growth Chart
    • Keep up with how much your child is growing each day! Add inches and dates for memories to revisit years down the road.
  2. Lil Allie Gator
    • Start teaching proper brushing habits from the start with help from Lil Allie Gator! Because everyone knows if Alligators brush their teeth, then it must be important!
  3. Cottage Bed Pretend Play Tent
    • Encourage dramatic play and fanciful reading spaces with the new Cottage Bed Pretend Play Tent. Fits directly over a twin mattress!
  4. Geomag Gbaby Farm – 11 Pieces 
    • Magnetic rods allow budding builders to construct whatever shapes and structures they can imagine. Hours of building fun for babies!
  5. Laser Pegs Mini Indy Racer – 6 Models in 1 
    • Get kids excited with six different models that can be built into the Laser Pegs Mini Indy Racer! Vehicles even light up and provide for hours of racing fun, in the day or night.
  6. Practice Lacing Shoes (set of 2)
    • Let your little ones practice tying their shoes without it inhibiting their progress. Great for 3 years and up.

We hope you find these suggestions useful as you launch into the new year with your children!

Valuing Diversity on MLK Day

13 Jan

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As 2015 is underway, that means Martin Luther King Jr. Day is right around the corner! Celebrated the third Monday of every January, the holiday commemorates an American hero who fought for equality for all. MLK provides a great example for children to not only read about but also learn from. Here are a few ways you can teach your children to value diversity just as MLK did.

Fun Facts About MLK

  • Martin Luther King Jr. attended Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, GA and was so smart that he skipped two grades in high school! He started his college education at 15.
  • King was the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
  • One of his main influences was Mahatma Gandhi who taught protesting in a non-violent manner.
  • There are over 730 streets in the United States named after Martin Luther King Jr.
  • In his efforts to fight segregation and inequality, King traveled more than six million miles and spoke more than 2,500 times.

Ways to Teach Diversity to Your Kids

1. Read Inclusive Books

It’s important that the children’s books you choose are inclusive and represent a variety of cultures and races. Children can use these books as examples of the diversity America is proud to represent every day. Be sure to encourage acceptance of those small differences by choosing diverse reading materials like the ones below:

2. Schedule Multicultural Play Dates

Know a family in the classroom or neighborhood of a different race or culture? Suggest scheduling a play date so your children can come to appreciate and accept differences in others and themselves. Introduce children to different cuisines during snack time, different languages spoken in the home, and even different greetings, clothing, and mannerisms from their fellow peers. Sometimes, children’s differences can even lead to closer friendships.

3. Make Diversity an Open Discussion

Whether you’re walking in the park, in the grocery store, or simply riding home from picking your child up at school, be sure you encourage them to discuss the differences they see in the people around them. Opening up children’s discussion on those differences and pointing out how positive they are will lead to a broader perspective and overall acceptance in children. You can also take it one step further by getting children to see instances where their peers may be struggling, whether because of language barriers or physical handicaps, as opportunities to reach out and help.

Activity: A Song for MLK Day

Sing the following to the tune “Have You Ever Seen a Lassie?” for MLK Day!

We are all different,

All different,

All different,

We are all different,

Each in our own way.

Whether dark skin or light,

We should get along not fight,

We are all different,

Each in our own way!

(Source: The GIANT Encyclopedia of Monthly Activities For Children 3 to 6)

Resources:

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/

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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!

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!

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