Tag Archives: reading

4 Fun Ways to Teach Poetry

14 Apr

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April is National Poetry Month! Teaching poetry to toddlers can be hard, especially when it’s not  your favorite writing style or particularly easy to understand! Rhyming schemes, however, can provide a fun introduction to early literacy skills and can get kids up and moving if paired with movement. Keep your kids engaged with four fun ways to teach poetry at home:

1. Flower Poetryflower+poem

Celebrate the season by teaching poetry with flowers! Simply draw an outline of different types of flowers with enough room on each petal for children to write words and an original poem in the center. Give different instructions for each flower and let kids’ creativity do the rest!

Ideas for flower petals: 

  • alliteration (“soft as blankets” or “sweet as candy”)
  • spring simile (“dancing daffodil” or “buzzing bees”)
  • adjectives (“fragrant flowers” or “beautiful blossoms”)

The results will leave you with inspiring flowers to hang on your walls at home!

Extra: Read Grandpa’s Garden for an adorable story to go along with your poetry activity!

Source: http://www.reallifeathome.com/celebrating-national-poetry-month-with-hands-on-poetry-projects/

2. Seasonal Poetry71808a-1

Kids already love to write poetry, even if they don’t know it yet! The best way to get them more involved is by including artwork as part of their poetry project. This allows a visual representation of language exploration. Spring is one of the most inspiring seasons as it offers bright colors, lovely weather, and the appearance of all types of flowers and animals. Sit your children down and brainstorm a list of words they associate with spring. Place the list somewhere visible in the room so children can refer to it as they write. Here are three poetry forms that are easy to teach and fun to personalize:

Acrostic:

Sunny weather to play in

Purple flowers galore

Raindrops watering the flowers

I get to play outside

Nests of baby birds

Gardens feed my tummy

Ode (A poem to honor someone or something):

“Oh, spring!

We have missed you.

The rainbow of colors

you sprout from the ground.

The sprinkle of showers

giving us puddles for splashing.

Planting our gardens,

we can’t wait for vegetables to come!”

Haiku (five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables):

“Beautiful flowers

Growing up for us to see

Rainbow spattering”

For even more inspiration for sounds of the seasons to incorporate in children’s poetry, check out the board book Listen, Listen.

Source: http://www.reallifeathome.com/brightening-winter-with-poetry-collages/

3. Color Poetry

Do you have the Dr. Seuss book My Many Colored Days? It is a great book for inspiring color poetry! The master of rhymes, Dr. Seuss, already sets the stage for falling in love with poetry with words like:

“Oh bright red days,

how good it feels

to be a horse

and kick my heels!”

Start by asking your child about things that are color specific before they start writing. Use questions like:

  1. What is Orange?
  2. What does Red remind you of?
  3. How do you feel when you see yellow?

Then list each color with the following format:

Orange is…

Yellow is…

Green is…

Children can then complete each sentence with a phrase they associate with the color. The result will be quite the colorful poem!

Source: http://www.schooltimesnippets.com/2015/02/write-simple-color-poem.html

4. Reading Poetry to Promote Early Literacy

Just by listening as you read different poems, children develop word recognition. This is a fun way for children to appreciate poetry as a storytelling form and learn the sounds of letters as they listen to rhymes and word play. It will also provide plenty of examples should they venture into writing their own!

Here are a few places you can find free poetry to read to your toddlers:

If you’re looking for poetry books to buy that also provide beautiful illustrations to accompany each poem, then you may want to check out the following titles:

How do you teach poetry at home? Share with us by commenting below!

Putting the Final Touches on Your Home Library

8 Apr

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Have you already started building your home library to celebrate Library Week? If not, we have some great tips for getting started in this previous blog post. Once you have decided what books will go where and what topics your children are most interested in, the next consideration should be environment. We have a couple of suggestions that are sure to leave your kids excited for reading time. Here are a few things to consider as a parent building your child’s home library:

Solid Seating

Children have to have somewhere comfortable to sit if you’re going to convince them to sit for extended periods of time. No matter how interesting the book is, if a child’s environment is not engaging enough, he or she will most likely end up carrying the book to an environment in which they are more accustomed, such as a bedroom. We have a few seating options we think will put your children at ease while surrounded by their favorite books:

-Soft Seating (https://www.kaplantoys.com/product/93770P/soft-seating)

-Toddler Comfy Seating Group (https://www.kaplantoys.com/product/71354P/toddler-comfy-seating-group)

-Back Jack Anywhere Chair (https://www.kaplantoys.com/product/85305/back-jack-anywhere-chair)

-Vinyl Bean Bag (https://www.kaplantoys.com/product/71119P/vinyl-bean-bag)

Organization Station

If your library is going to feel like home, then there has to be a system of organization in place! Be sure to explain on the first day you introduce your children to the library how the books are organized—are they sorted by color, size, author, or genre? Use whatever system makes most sense for your family and be sure to hold each “borrower” accountable for replacing books where they found them. Finally, if your children are taking books outside of the home for road trips or across the street to a friends’ house, make sure you keep track of which books are “checked-out.” We have some handy Library Cards, Colored Library Pockets, and Home Reading Logs that will allow you to do just that:

Vamp up Variety

Books aren’t the only things libraries have to offer to eager learners. Give your children options when they choose how they want to learn. Reading books can many times be supplemented by sensory experiences for little hands, puppets for dramatic play, and even art expression for drawing pictures of the characters children fall in love with. Here are a few options for including a little variety in your library:

Sensory Play

Puppet Play

Art Expression

Practice Communication

Finally, communication is an important life skill to foster in little ones and there’s no better place to begin than in the library! Make sure you keep a daily message board where children can check for home news. Do you want help with the evening’s dinner? Have your children find their favorites recipes in the library! Want to do a scavenger hunt? Leave a message asking children to find a specific book to add a little fun to their reading time while also making sure they understand how the books are organized. The possibilities are endless! Here are some effective ways to communicate in your library:

Share your pictures of your home library with us on our Facebook page!

Stocking Your Home Library

10 Mar

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Having access to books at home is one of the most important steps in encouraging early literacy outside of school. Libraries create a sense of wonder in children as they run their fingers over a collection of titles just waiting to be read! If you’re considering how best to stock your home library, we have a few helpful tips for getting started:

 Getting Organized:

  1. Pick out a space in your home that encourages quiet time and inspires imagination!Including comfy seating, a window for proper lighting, and of course, titles to engage the whole family’s interests are a great start!
  2. Don’t focus on how many books you have to start with because your collection is sure to grow! Start by asking your children what they like to read and stocking up on their favorite subjects and authors—a few thoughtfully arranged books will be much more beneficial to early readers than a large collection of titles that will go unread.
  3. Ensure your home library is varied.  Be sure you include picture books, bilingual books, read aloud books, board books, and even books that incorporate the use of puppets for dramatic play! By trying new books, children will discover what style they prefer and you’ll know how to further stock your library with their favorites. Here are some of our favorite selections to get started:

Where to Find Books:

Finally, we know it can get expensive when you consider shelves that need to be bought, books that need to be collected, and even the time you have to put into organizing your library. That’s why we want to make it as easy as possible. Here are some crafty options for easily finding books your children will love at cheap prices:

  1. Free eBooks – Do you have e-readers at your house? eBooks are another great option for free resources your children can indulge in while surrounded by their favorite books. Home libraries are not only for collecting books but they can also provide a safe reading environment for children to feel secure in. Here a few helpful sites for finding free ebooks:
    1. Digital Book Index (This is a catalogue of all the major eBook sites, university collections and other smaller publishers.)
    2. International Children’s Digital Library (The world’s largest digital collection of children’s books!)
  2. Library Sales – Every public library receives donations and not all of those books make it onto the shelf. A lot of the donations are saved for book sales where you can find books priced from $0.25 to $1 in a wide range of subjects and genres. Not only will you find some exciting books for your own library but you will also be giving back to the public library system, an all in all win/win situation! Check the Book Sale Finder to find sales in your state.

We wish you the best of luck in getting started! Have tips? Comment below or let us know on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/KaplanToys

Resources:

Toys to Develop Your Little Girl’s Leadership Skills

25 Feb

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One of the key areas educational toys occasionally overlook is building leadership skills in young girls. Many times toys that emphasize building, engineering, and taking up roles of leadership are primarily geared toward boys. That’s why we want to introduce a few toys that will encourage your little leader as she prepares to take on the world!

Building Leadership in Girls:

Building projects are a great way to emphasize leadership and utilize ingenuity as girls bend toys to their imaginations! Not only are they great projects for her to work on with others as she uses communication and leadership to direct the building efforts of peers, but they can also allow her to engage in open-ended play to build whatever delightful structures she can imagine! As she builds, focus on expanding the following leadership skills:

  • Visualization: have her set a goal for what the structure will look like. It’s important to know what progress needs to be made.
  • Following through: this is the building process. Ensure she understands that working with dedication to meet her goal is something that can be applied beyond building.
  • Effective communication: building with peers is a great way to learn how to make herself heard. This is the perfect opportunity for her to direct peers, while also stopping to listen to their ideas and coming up with the most effective way to reach their combined building goals.

Here are three of our favorite building toys for girls:

1. Tinkertoy Building Set Pink

This pink Tinkertoy Building Set makes for easy building as girls can snap pieces together to build anything from castles, to cats, to flowers and more! Bendable rods allow for even more creativity as builders create their own Tinkertoy world!

2. Straws and Connectors 400 Pack

Encouraging builders to dabble in science, the Straws and Connectors 400 Pack allows girls to construct their own unique creations. The straws allow for easy manipulation in building arches and tubes to outline your child’s contraption!

3. GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine

Build spatial skills, engineering principles, and confidence in problem solving in young girls! This construction set teaches builders how to make movies as they learn how the Zoetrope is important in engineering.

-Find even more toys from GoldieBlox here.

Books to Inspire Success in Girls:

Finally, reading about girls who go out and achieve their dreams, whether it’s on a soccer field or in the classroom, is a great way to bolster girls’ confidence in their own abilities. Here are a few of our favorite reads to provide examples for girls to succeed:

What are some of your favorite toys made specifically for girls? Share with us by commenting below or posting your thoughts to our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/KaplanToys

The Importance of Babbling in Babies

21 Oct

shutterstock_218714161You’re driving down the road when you hear it—your baby starts cooing in the back seat. They may be gazing out the window or simply be fascinated with whatever colorful toy has caught their attention, but something has caused them to feel the need to vocalize. Babbling is a phase of early education every baby experiences as words begin to take on meaning. Here are a few ways you can take advantage of the early learning opportunities it presents and strategies for encouraging babbling as your baby launches into language learning.

What to Expect from Babbling:

  1. Babies understand more than they can say.

    Once babies start trying to talk, they have a lot to say but can’t always express those thoughts. Understanding concepts is a lot easier than voicing them. Linking meaning to words, however, is a big milestone for babies and usually takes place between eight and twelve months.

  2. A baby’s understanding of a word may vary from yours.

    When you say dog, your baby may only associate it with the fuzzy German Shepherd running around in the backyard. First word understandings are often only tied to a specific object. It’s important to use the word in several different situations, labeling and comparing objects with the same name.

  3. Baby babblings will begin to vary.

    You should notice babbles begin to vary and take on meaning as babies learn to add inflections and intonations in his or her speech. This is a good thing! You can encourage the frequency of those babbles through replying with words and smiles of your own.

  4. Babbling is a way for babies to initiate conversation.

    Even though they’re not using words, when babies combine words and gestures, whether it’s grabbing your leg or reaching for a cup, they are looking to you to engage in conversation. Be sure you’re responding in kind!

Communication Tips for Encouraging Early Language Skills:

  • Exaggerate actions and label and describe objects as your child focuses on them.
  • Use language to give your play and daily routines structure and meaning from which the child can learn. Talk more now that the child is starting to communicate more. Good labeling and attentive, language-rich conversations are even more important than before.
  • Reinforce turn taking and the back-and-forth of daily conversation.
  • Assume that the baby’s babbling refers to the thing he or she is looking at, touching, or playing with. Label that object.
  • Use books that can be chewed on and have flaps so that the child can understand that things do not vanish when out of sight.

Tips for Reading to Your Baby:

  • Reading fosters a baby’s understanding of cause and fact, fine and gross motor skills, listening skills, object permanence, and understanding of words.
  • Encourage your baby to follow your pointing or gaze.
  • Take turns with your baby as you repeat words in the book. Reading to them is not so much important as allowing them to vocalize what is being read.
  • Help him or her with understanding first words by also pointing that word out in different forms. (Ex. A dog in the book, the dog outside, a dog on the computer screen.)
  • What you should look for when reading:
    • Does the baby enjoy reading books with you?
    • Does the baby follow your gaze or pointing?
    • Does the baby babble when looking at pictures?
    • Does the baby try to direct your attention to things of interest?
    • Does the baby shift his or her gaze between you and things in the book?

At the end of the day, babbling is a good thing and an indicator that your child is on their way to becoming a regular motor mouth! The best way to encourage babbles to develop into words is by responding to those nonsensical conversations with patient responses and reading to your baby as you both engage in active dialogues.

For even more activities for encouraging early literacy in your baby, don’t miss Raising a Talker: Easy Activities for Birth to Age 3.

Have early language learning tips to share? Feel free to comment below or post on our Facebook page!

Related Resource: 3 Tips for Building Baby Language Skills 

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!

Five Fun Holiday Traditions for Kids & the Kids at Heart

31 Oct

There’s a chill in the air and the daylight hours are getting shorter, which means the holidays are fast approaching. Pretty soon you’ll drive by a house lit up with Christmas lights and see Christmas trees for sale in store parking lots. You’ll start planning holiday dinners, putting up Christmas decorations, and scouring advertisements for the best deals (pssst, don’t forget to check our website). You’ll even make lists of what activities and traditions you want to do as a family because, after all, the best holidays are filled with anticipation and fun. Whether you’re looking to create new holiday traditions or are looking forward to your favorites, we have some great ideas for ways to build excitement and anticipation for the holiday season!

5 Fun Holiday Traditions

1. Adopt an Elf on the Shelf

“You better watch out / you better not cry / you better not pout / I’m telling you why…”

–“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” (Fred Coots & Haven Gillespie)

Ever wondered how Santa knows if children are naughty or nice? He has his own little helpers, of course! Santa lets families adopt special elves every year to help him know which children need to go on the naughty and nice lists. When an elf is adopted by a family and given a name, the elf gains special Christmas magic that helps it fly to the North Pole every night to give Santa a daily report on the kids’ behavior. The elf then returns to its family and moves to a different observation spot each morning.

There are a couple rules every family must know when they adopt an elf:

  1. They may only touch the elf when absolutely necessary because the elf may lose its magic if it is touched.
  2. The elf will not speak, leave, or move until everyone in the house is asleep.

Adopted elves usually appear in homes at the beginning of the holiday season and then return to the North Pole on Christmas Eve until the start of next year’s holiday season. A timeless holiday classic, the Elf on the Shelf and its crazy antics will help fill your household with delight and laughter this holiday season.

Since we’re also one of Santa’s helpers, you can adopt an elf from us! Visit elfontheshelf.com for more information about the Elf on the Shelf tradition or to register your elf.

2. Count Down to the Holidays!

Build excitement for the holidays and help your children learn and develop skills with LEGO® Advent Calendars. Each 2013 holiday advent calendar comes with 24 gifts and objects in individual compartments, which allows children to open and build a new item each day until Christmas. LEGO® Advent Calendars help children learn about the holidays and increase their manual dexterity, creativity, and problem solving skills. These calendars are also fun ways to spend time as a family during the holidays.

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LEGO® City Advent Calendar

Perfect for children ages 5 years & up, LEGO® City Advent Calendar features opening windows that include 24 buildable gifts, such as a Christmas tree, sled, fireplace, snowman, and 8 minifigures.

LEGO® Star Wars™ Advent Calendar

Find your inner Jedi with the LEGO® Star Wars™ Advent Calendar. Perfect for Star Wars fans, it features 24 Star Wars™ themed gifts, such as Dooku’s Solar Sailer, Cloud car, Attack cruiser, 6 minifigures, 3 droids, and much more!

LEGO® Friends Advent Calendar

Build decorations and prepare for the holidays in Heartlake City with the LEGO® Friends Advent Calendar. This set includes Stephanie and Lily minifigures and a calendar with 24 buildable gifts, such as Stephanie’s snow scooter, a Christmas tree, snowman, ice skates, and sled.

Our popular LEGO® Building Plates can also help bring your advent calendar to life by allowing you to create, organize, and store your advent calendar gifts as you build them.

3. Have a Holiday Reading Tradition

Get your family in the holiday spirit by reading holiday books, which is also a great way to build children’s literacy skills and interest in reading. This is an activity that the whole family can enjoy due to the fond memories holiday stories invoke. If you have young children, try to read them a holiday story at bedtime each night. If the children in your family are older, however, have everyone pick out their favorite holiday stories and either take turns reading them or have a designated holiday story reader. We recommend The Polar Express and The Twelve Days of Christmas as two great books to include in your holiday reading.

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The Family Reading Partnership also has some fun ideas for holiday reading traditions:

  • Plan a family trip to the library to check out books to read at Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Christmas.
  • If you don’t have a collection of holiday and winter books, start a collection of them for all ages. Enjoy them during the holiday season, but then put them away in a special container until next year.
  • Listen to a holiday audio book while you are baking cookies or decorating the tree.

For more holiday reading traditions and book suggestions, check out the Family Reading Partnership’s e-brochure on holiday reading.  Another great resource is readkiddoread.com, which is author James Patterson’s non-profit website that promotes literacy and helps parents find ways to encourage their children to read.

4. Make Creative, Delicious Treats

Many holiday traditions are tied to food or the preparation of food. Perhaps your family serves a particular meal or side dish every year at Thanksgiving or Christmas, for example, or your whole family congregates at one person’s house to fix Christmas Eve dinner. Whatever your holiday food traditions are, be sure that your traditions include foods and recipes that children can appreciate and help prepare. You can even incorporate a math lesson into the festivities by having kids count candies or measure ingredients!

Children love making gingerbread houses and baking and decorating cookies at this time of the year, so try to schedule a weekend for the family to make some holiday treats. If you like the idea of making a gingerbread house but don’t want to go to the trouble of actually making the gingerbread, try our Candy Cottage Party Pack. It includes a 4-pack of re-usable plastic gingerbread houses that your family can decorate for Christmas, Halloween, or any another occasion. All you need is some icing, candy, and cereal to start decorating them with after you snap the pieces together.

Baking and decorating cookies is also a fun holiday tradition that you and your kids can do together. Your family could even participate in a cookie swap with other families in your neighborhood as another fun holiday activity. Remember that cookies don’t necessarily have to be homemade for kids to enjoy decorating them, especially if you have time constraints on the activities you can do as a family. Just be sure to make some cookies you can leave out for Santa!

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If someone in your family is diabetic or allergic to an ingredient used to make cookies or gingerbread, you can still enjoy the favorite sweet treats of the holiday season. Our Counting Cookies™ Jar and Gingerbread Sort and Snap Cookies can help you spend time as a family and help kids learn to count, recognize colors and patterns, and develop fine motor skills.

5. Decorate Your Space for the Holidays

Decorating for the holidays is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the holiday season. Most people love decorating their Christmas tree or setting up a holiday display in their front yard, but many of those decorations aren’t very kid friendly. Be sure your kids are included in the decorating stage of the holidays by having them either pick out decorations or make their own homemade decorations.

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One decorating idea is to buy or make a holiday ornament for each child to put on your Christmas tree every year. You can also have them trace their hand to create the outline of a turkey, which they can then color and decorate. Another easy craft for children is to draw or cut out a snowflake design and then color and decorate it with glitter. Crafts like these are great for children to do while on break from school or when they have to stay indoors due to bad weather. Be sure to check out our Art section for all of your art and craft needs!

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