Tag Archives: spring

Sand and Water Inspiration for Spring

21 Apr


It’s spring and with the sunny season comes plenty of opportunities for sand and water play. Whether you have a sand and water table or a sandbox outside, we have a few learning activities you can engage your children in to embrace spring time.

Sand and water tables provide added benefits, including the ability to bring outdoor elements inside when the weather isn’t cooperating! If you don’t have one yet and are considering what table would be best for your child, we have a few options we think you’ll enjoy:

4 Hands-on Activities for Spring!

1. Water Play! Bring it Onboard

What happens when objects are added to a floating jar boat? Children can compare the objects that sink their boats to objects that leave boats afloat.


  • different weighted materials such as plastic or wooden spoons, rocks, fishing weights, corks and metal washers
  • plastic containers with lids, small plastic jars with lids
  • sand and water table or a large container filled with water

What to Do:

  1. Float a closed plastic jar on the water in front of your children. Talk about floating. Ask, “Do you have toys that float in the bathtub? What happens when you push them down to the bottom? Let’s pretend this is a boat and see what it can carry without sinking.”
  2. Remove the lid and place a large, heavy object in the jar. Say, “Let’s see what happens when we bring this onboard our boat.” The object should not be heavy enough to sink the jar, though it should make it noticeably lower in the water. Talk to your children about why.
  3. Select a heavier object that will sink the jar. Repeat the process of placing the jar in the water and discussing what happens when the boat sinks.
  4. Allow children to explore with several more objects and containers. Ask, “Which objects let the jar boat float and what sinks the boat?” Have children group the objects in these two categories and discuss size, weight, and material characteristics of the objects in the groups.

Challenge: Do the activity using only sand or water as a weight. Add varying amounts to identical jars. How much does it take to sink the jar? Challenge your children to keep track of how many scoops of sand they put in the jars.

Source: The Preschool Scientist 

 2. Water Play! Aluminum Foil Boats

Make boats from aluminum foil, and experiment with how to make them float and carry objects!

Related Books:

  • Boats by Anne Rockwell
  • Gumpy’s Outing by John Burningham
  • Who Sank the Boat? by Pamela Allen


  • objects used as “passengers” or cargo in the boats, such as small plastic blocks, washers, or pennies
  • pieces of aluminum foil: 6” x 6” squares work well, but any size and shape can be used
  • sand and water table or a tub of water

What to Do:

  1. Talk with your child about what the word sink means. What might make a boat sink?
  2. Show your child a flat sheet of foil and a small toy. Talk about how you might make the foil into a boat so that the toy can ride in it.
  3. Create several boats, experimenting with different designs and testing each boat in the tub of water. Add animals or other toys to see what happens.
  4. Talk about your boats and what you noticed when you put “passengers” in each boat. Does it make a difference where you put the passengers? Can some boats carry more passengers than others? Does the shape or size of the boat make a difference?
  5. Test your ideas about boat designs by redesigning and floating many different boats.

Source: Where Does My Shadow Sleep: A Parent’s Guide to Exploring Science with Children’s Books 


Kaplan Toys Suggestion: Looking for items to float in your boat? Try out My Buddies, the perfect companions for water play!

 3. Sand Play! Dinosaur Dig

Children will learn about colors and paleontologists as they dig for dinosaurs!


  • laminating machine or clear contact paper in different colors
  • sand and water table or tub of sand
  • scissors


  • Cut dinosaur shapes out of different colored paper. Laminate or cover with clear contact paper.
  • Hide the paper dinosaurs in the sand.

What to Do:

Tell children that they are going to be a special kind of scientist called a paleontologist. Explain what they study and the history of life on Earth.

  1. If appropriate, ask each child to find a certain color dinosaur.
  2. Offer an additional challenge by cutting the dinosaur shapes into puzzle pieces that the children find and then put together, just as paleontologists put together the bones they find to re-create the bone structure of animals that once lived on our planet.

Source: Another Encyclopedia of Theme Activities for Young Children 

  1. Sand Play! Coloring and Mixing Sand

Have fun showing children how to paint sand, and then mix the sands to form new colors!


  • containers for mixing sand and paint
  • pans for drying sand (one for each color)
  • resealable plastic bags, small
  • sand and water table full of sand
  • spoons
  • tempera paints
  • mixing spoons
  • permanent marker


Collect several containers of white sand, various tempera paints, and find a location where children can set the painted sand out to dry.

  1. Have each child make a color of sand using separate containers to mix each of the primary colors—red, yellow and blue.
  2. Help each child measure and pour 1-2 cups of sand into each container, and then pour 1/4 cup of wet or dry tempera paint into the containers. Explain to the children that they should add 1/2 cup of water for each cup of sand in their containers. Help children add water and paint as needed to help make a good rich color and a runny mixture. Mix well.
  3. Help children pour the colored sand onto the sand and water table to dry, and then place the table in a warm, sunny place. When the sand is dry, encourage the children to crumble the sand back into granular form. At this point, each child should have one container of red, yellow, and blue sand.
  4. Next, talk with children about the primary colors. Ask the children why they think we call them primary and explain that they help to make all other colors.
  5. Set out several mixing spoons and resealable plastic baggies. Invite the children to use the spoons to measure the colored sands carefully and combine spoonfuls of each in various plastic baggies. Tell children to use no more than three spoonfuls of each color of sand. Be sure children mix one or two spoonfuls of color with three spoonfuls of another color, so that they can see a variety of results.
  6. Help children record on the sides of the baggies the number of spoonfuls of each color of sand they add to each baggie, and then help the children seal the baggies.
  7. 18753groupInvite the children to shake the bags well to mix the colored sand and watch as a new, secondary color appears. Point out to the children how the grains of the primary colors are still visible in the secondary color.

Source: Science Adventures: Nature Activities for Young Children 

Kaplan Toys Suggestion: Find non-toxic tempera paint for coloring your sand here.

Want to show off your child’s sand and water creations? Share pictures with us on our Facebook page!

4 Fun Ways to Teach Poetry

14 Apr


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:


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!

Spring Art for Little Hands

31 Mar


Keeping your little ones entertained for spring can be a challenge, but with such great weather, so many inspiring colors, and the opportunity to play outside, there are plenty of fun art projects you can do together to celebrate the season! Here are some of our favorite activities that will not only encourage color exploration but also give you adorable pieces to put on display in your house:

 1. “Say Cheese” Flowers

Make someone smile with these card stock flowers featuring your child’s photos.

Before Beginning:

-Cut card stock into 4” by 4” flower shapes.


  • Various colors of card stock or recycled cardboard scraps (e.g., cereal or cracker boxes), cut into flower shapes
  • Crayons or markers
  • Small photo of child
  • Green pipe cleaners
  • Clear tape
  • Glue
  • Card stock, 1 full sheet

What to Do:

  1. Decorate at least three or four flower shapes with crayons or markers.
  2. Choose one of the flowers, and glue the photo in the center of it.
  3. Tape green pipe cleaners to the backs of the flowers to create stems.
  4. Decorate a whole sheet of card stock with crayons or markers.
  5. Roll the piece of card stock into a funnel shape, and secure with clear tape.
  6. Place the flowers inside the card stock funnel to create a beautiful bouquet. Be sure the photo is clearly visible.

Helpful Hints:

  • Use a large flower-shaped cookie cutter as a pattern for creating the flower shapes.
  • Instead of card stock, use index cards, poster board, and cardboard scraps for flowers.


  • To create a personalized bouquet, decorate four flowers, place the photo on one of the flowers and, in the middle of the other three, write a letter of the recipient’s name or his or her initials.

Find even more great gift ideas like the one above in 101 Great Gifts Kids Can Make.

 2. Watering Can

Gardeners will love this watering can made from a liquid laundry soap jug and markers.

Before Beginning

-Cut off the top portion of the jug, along the top ridge and just above the handle. Soak bottle in water to remove labels.


  • Liquid laundry detergent jug
  • Sharp scissors or utility knife (adult only)
  • Nontoxic permanent markers
  • Hole punch

What to Do:

  1. Decorate the outside of the watering can with nontoxic permanent markers. Create a colorful picture or design.
  2. Fill the watering can with homemade flowers, or fill the container with dirt, and plant flowers or flower seeds inside.


  • Roll up pieces of tape, and use them to attach flat plastic stencil shapes to the outside of the watering can. Apply nontoxic permanent marker in a zigzag motion around the edge of the stencils. Remove the stencils, and add detail to the shape outlines.

Helpful Hints:

  • Save cut-off tops for funnels to use in sand and water play.
  • A utility knife works well for cutting off bottle tops, but be careful! (Utility knives are for adult use only.)
  • Use Teflon scrapers or scrub brushes to remove residue from labels. This is fun to do outside in a tub of water.
  • Use scraps of wallpaper, tissue paper, construction paper, and pipe cleaners to create a unique bouquet of flowers to place in the watering can.

Find even more great gift ideas like the one above in 101 Great Gifts Kids Can Make. 

 3. Butterfly Blots Art

With a little paint and folded paper, toddlers can make beautiful decorated butterflies!


  • Manila paper
  • Paint
  • Markers

What to Do:

  1. Have the children put two dabs of paint on one side of their paper.
  2. Help them fold their paper over in half. Show them how to smooth the paper, and rub gently.
  3. Open to see a butterfly shape.
  4. After the butterflies dry, encourage them to decorate their shapes using paint or markers.

Love the activity? Find activities for each month in The GIANT Encyclopedia of Monthly Activities ().

4. Spring Nature Mobile

Go outside on a nature walk and collect items to create a Spring Nature Mobile to hang in a science learning center!


  • Stick
  • String
  • Scissors
  • Collection of natural objects

What to Do:

  1. Take the children on a walk outdoors.
  2. Ask each child to select one natural object, such as a rock , pinecone, acorn, or feather.
  3. Back in the classroom, look at the collection of objects as a group.
  4. Turn the collection into a classroom mobile by connecting the objects together with string, and suspending them from a long stick.
  5. Finish by hanging the mobile where everyone can enjoy it.

Find more activities for each month in The GIANT Encyclopedia of Monthly Activities.

Have pictures of the spring art you and your child made together? Share with us by tweeting @KaplanToys or posting on our Facebook page with the hashtag #SpringArt.

Dramatic Play for Spring

24 Mar


It’s finally spring and with the change in seasons comes more opportunities for young children to get out and enjoy some fresh air. There are plenty of games to play outside, but the best ones inspire children’s creativity as they act out dramatic play. We have a few ways your child can enjoy the sunshine while also using their imaginations to transform into something new! Without further ado, here are four dramatic play games for spring:

1. Better Fly, Butterfly!

There’s nothing more magical than the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly! Have your children act out the transformation with their very own set of wings. The wings are a great addition to books full of early science learning, such as From Caterpillar to Butterfly and The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and will help children become more invested in the stories being read.

2. Get Your Grill On!

Since March is National Nutrition Month, encourage your child to pretend to make their favorite healthy foods on the Pretend Play BBQ Grill. The grill is a great way to teach children proper nutrition and build fine motor skills as children let their imaginations flourish, combining all of their favorite ingredients! (Even if they probably wouldn’t work so well in real life!) For a book of simple recipes you can cook together with your toddler in the real kitchen after playtime, don’t miss The Budding Chef.

3. Build Something Brilliant!

There’s nothing like working on a construction project outside, whether it’s in the sandbox or on the patio. Have your child grab their Construction Worker Dress-Up and head outside to build. The No Ends Construction Set, Bricks, Blocks and Rock Builders, and the Giant Polydron Set are all great outdoor building sets.

4. Go on a Safari!

Every child is a little adventurer at heart! Foster your child’s love of new experiences by helping them gear up for an outdoor adventure! Grab some binoculars for bird watching, a critter cabin for new friends found along the way, and an Early Science Explorers Set to get children started. Creating a sensory box afterwards of items found is always a great tool for science learning at home.

We hope you and your children are enjoying the start of spring! Feel free to share your favorite spring activities with us by commenting below or on our Facebook page.

Gardening: A Growing Process for Children

15 Apr

Spring is a great time to not only get outdoors and enjoy some nice weather, but to teach your kids what it means to go green. There are so many takeaways that can be gained from gardening, including developmental growth, fine motor skills through dealing with small seeds, and gross motor skills as they water their plants and dig. To show you all of the potential gardening presents for your preschooler, we’ve decided to share some key takeaways and learning lessons that will help your child become a balanced learner.

Key concepts:

-Plants grow from seeds

-Food we eat at meal times comes from plants that we grow from seeds

-Water, soil and sunlight are all needed to help a seed grow

A few tasks to get you started:

  • Prepare the garden: this is the time when you have to prepare your gardening area for planting. You can have kids help you with everything from clearing away leaves, to pulling weeds, to washing out plastic pots for sowing.
  • Make sure your early crops are sown directly into the soil: this includes making sure that plants that need to get an early start are planted outside: can include carrots, spring onions, peas, lettuce, red cabbage, radishes, etc.
  • Sow tender crops: these crops can be grow by windowsills inside your home. They can include cucumbers, peppers, sweet corn and tomatoes.

4 Gardening Lessons for Preschoolers

1. Getting creative

-Get your kids exciting by letting them see what they’ll be planting. By ordering seed catalogs online, you can have children cut out pictures and paste them onto colorful construction paper; when it comes time to plant, you can choose from the selections your child made.

-All of the plants you will be growing need labels, which will provide the perfect chance for little hands to use their art skills as they make plant signs and stakes! It will definitely bring a personal touch to your home garden.


2. Responsibility through routine

-Plants will have to be watered regularly; giving your child this shared responsibility that the plant depends on to grow will help them to understand routine, a fundamental part of their developmental process. You will have to stress that watering and weeding daily are an important part of gardening.

3. Appreciating the results of hard work

-Children will have to get their muscles working as they break out the child-sized tools to help you with tasks varying from raking soil, pulling weeds, spreading topsoil, to digging holes for seeds to be planted in. When the plants finally do break through the soil to saying hello, kids will appreciate that all of their hard work paid off.


4. Expanding Horizons

-The great thing about gardening is that it allows children to take part of a process that results in putting healthy food on the table. Even if your little learner is at first resistant to eating their proper portion of veggies, you may find they are less reluctant to try the greener things of life when they know they’ve grown it themselves.

*A lesson in safety: make sure you talk to your children about which plants are edible or not. It is important for them to know that some plants are toxic when ingested and that they shouldn’t eat anything unless they’ve asked you first.


“The Homegrown Preschooler”

The Preschool Gardening Club

To check out even more resources for starting your own garden, check out our selection here.


Backyard Explorations

31 Mar

The weather is finally warm enough to encourage your kids to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. Need ideas? We have a few fun ways that you and your little one can play together that will leave you both smiling and feeling fresh from much needed outdoor time. But the best part is that you can do everything in your backyard! Here are ways you can turn your backyard into a place of wonder and exploration for your little one:


1. Outdoor Reading Palace!


-Build your very own Reading Palace with our “Outdoor Pillow,” perfect for creating a comfy environment outdoors for you and your children to settle in and read.

Even more pillow choices:

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2. Splash Some Color Outside


-Spring is all about bright colors! Inject a little into your day by going out with your kids and drawing together with the “Wheelie Painter!” It’s a perfect for color exploration and encouraging your child’s creative flair!

Even more painting supplies:


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3. Go on a picnic!


-Not only can you spend some quality cooking quality recipes, (like those from “The Budding Chef” ) but you can also take the finished product outside for a picnic! Our “Picnic Play Set” is a soft basket that comes with a soft play food so that even children as young as 18 months can enjoy there time outdoors.

Find even more picnic products:

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4. Start your own EarthBox


-Kids love to see things grow! Let them help you choose and then plant seeds. Show them how to be attentive to the plants’ needs daily as they grow in your Earthbox.

Even more gardening products:

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5. Go Camping in the Backyard!


-Children will feel like real-life explorers as they help you pitch their very own shelter. You  can peer out from within with your little ones and teach them about the world around them.

Even more camping products:

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6. Make Your Own Water Park!


-It doesn’t take much to leave kid’s smiling when water is involved. Use the “Grub Scouts’ Sprinkler” to have water streaming in all directions as kids are involved in active play. Don’t forget the towels when you’re finished!

Even more water play fun:

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7. Sketch, Journal and Draw!


-Have your kids practice their letters, draw a nearby bird or simple journal about their day with these unique pencils made from real twigs. Everyone knows natural lighting is the best for doing homework!

Find even more outdoor writing supplies:

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