Spring Fever! Encouraging Your Child to Be Physically Active

23 Mar

shutterstock_395206141.jpg

The arrival of spring brings longer days, warmer weather, brighter colors, and increasing opportunities for engagement in healthy childhood activities. It’s no secret that the digital age has created various gadgets and apps that compete for children’s attention and free time. The draw of digital games and activities often drowns out the basic childhood desire of simple play. It’s important for parents to restore some balance into children’s lives and foster healthy habits and development. Beyond limiting screen time, try to encourage your little ones to explore the world around them and engage in activities that increase their heart rate. Here are a few ideas we gathered to help you spark your child’s desire for active play.

Individual Exploration

Teaching children to play by themselves is a special skill set that will not only engage their brain but also create a healthy sense of independence. Encourage your child to enact pretend stories in the backyard or “bake” a cake with items found in nature. Think back to your childhood and encourage them to do some of the activities you did, such as playing jump rope and creating art with chalk on the front driveway. Consider combining those activities with the Chalktivity Rainbow Jump Rope or Chalktivity Pogo Prints for increased exercise and fun! Imagination and a warm spring afternoon can spark a trend of healthy habits that can last a lifetime.

145975_wo.jpg

Neighborhood Amusement

You are the primary person responsible for teaching your child about the importance of being physically active, but you can encourage other children in the neighborhood to be physically active as well. Provide your child with games and activities that can be enjoyed with others. Encourage children to have a bouncing race down the driveway with the Hop 55 Ball or arrange a good ol’ fashion game of tag. Make sure to finish the afternoon of active fun with a healthy treat! You’ll become the favorite house on the block in no time!

A Family Affair

Children often learn best by example. Not only should you encourage them to be physically active, but you should also engage in physical activity yourself. A pickup game of family hide-and-seek can go a long way in developing a child’s desire to play. Showing your child that you exercise regularly, as well as other healthy habits you engage in, sets a standard and example for them to follow in the future. Family participation in physical activities is a key part of nurturing physically active children and helping them maintain that as adults.

shutterstock_477175960

Leave us a comment about your child’s favorite physical activity and remember to be physically active every day!

Encouraging Young Engineers with Robotics for Kids

16 Mar

f4f889a91273957acf6596036ed7b34d78e5d4f9_main_hero_image

With recent developments as innovative as medical robots performing surgery and as hilarious as a 3D printer making pizza in outer space, the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (commonly known as STEM), and more specifically robotics are taking humanity farther than we ever thought possible. Allow your children to actively take part in shaping the world around them with the help of STEM practices.

In fact, by including robotics in regular play, you can engage children in different aspects of engineering and teach different scientific concepts. When children work with STEM toys and activities, they learn problem solving skills, creativity, ingenuity and critical thinking alongside developing a passion for science and mathematics. Keep reading for some great activities and toys to help foster your child’s interest in engineering.

Origami Robots – Start simple by creating a robot using origami. Using traditional Japanese paper folding, you can introduce your child to basic engineering concepts and help them begin to understand the importance of following instructions when it comes to larger projects. The Paper Punk Build Your Own Paper Bot002 incorporates creativity and individuality into construction. Instructions are simple, but stickers and a variety of patterns and designs keep kids from getting bored and allow them to explore their own ingenuity.

145826a

Starting Easy Mio the Robot allows children to construct their own real life, programmable robot. The amount of interchangeable parts helps children think critically and encourages creativity as they bring their robot to life. You can also help children learn some programming basics and work on mathematics to make the robot move!

Explore Versatility – With the Smart Lab Motorblox Robot Lab, children will learn how to build something from scratch. The Robot Lab allows children to build and test three different walking robots. Adding movement allows children to develop problem-solving and experimentation skills while learning about mechanics.

 The Big Leagues – Step up the programming game with the ReCon 6.0, a programmable rover that young engineers can program to navigate specific courses. Children can program the robot to deliver a treat to a pet, surprise a family member with a personalized message, carry a soda, guard a bedroom, or even dance! By working with a more complex type of programming, they will engage with early mathematics and delve into more complicated problem solving.

00889

Schools are pushing for more STEM concepts in the classroom, but who says they have to stay there? Allow your young ones to put on their thinking caps and encourage exploration, experimentation, and excitement at home with their own personal robot friends! For more STEM toys and products, visit the STEM and STEAM section of our website.

Get Green: St. Patrick’s Day Fun at Home!

9 Mar

3.9 St. Patricks Day.jpg

It’s mid-March: that time of year when kids start looking for little leprechauns under the couch and pinching each other for not wearing green. Be sure to bring some of the St. Patty’s day fun home with these creative and exciting activities!

Gifts for the Leprechauns – Kids love the stories of leprechauns: little Irish magicians who like to steal things and leave gold in their wake. Encourage children to make these green troublemakers small gifts, like figurines made from craft dough or cookies. When they leave the gifts out for the leprechauns, swap them for a sprinkle of green or gold glitter and watch the wonder in your little one’s eyes as they discover the change.

Go GREEN – Get environmental by planting some greenery or flowers in a mini greenhouse. Or set up a hanging bird feeder and attract the birds to the yard, just like gifts attract leprechauns. These will both decorate the yard for St. Patty’s Day and help kids learn a bit more about the environment. For songs and more activities, try reading a Going Green book. Get kids both excited about engaging with the environment around them and protecting the blue and green planet they live on! Be sure to check out the Kaplan Toys Blog for more environmentally friendly activities.

Green Eggs and Ham – It doesn’t have to be eggs and ham, but adding some food coloring to the milk in morning cereal, pudding in kids’ lunchboxes, or in the mashed potatoes at dinner can add an extra level of fun to a seemingly average afternoon. Read the classic Dr. Seuss tale for an added bonus!

Gratitude Treasure – Have children cut their own pot of gold and coins out of construction paper but on each gold coin, have them write or draw something they think is a treasure. Is it their sibling? Favorite food? Playing ball? Encourage kids to find the real gold in life and hang the result on the wall or the refrigerator to remind them that whether they’ve got a little leprechaun in their pocket or not, they’re lucky all times of year!

shutterstock_330123125.jpg

Go to www.kaplantoys.com for more ideas, crafts and materials.

Sensory Play for Rainy Days

3 Mar

3-3-17-sensory-play

Rainy days don’t have to ruin all the fun! There are plenty of creative ways to play and enjoy the day indoors! Keep reading for some new, fun ways to pass the time while waiting for the sun to return.

  1. Indoor Sandbox. Sand isn’t as messy as you’d think, especially if you use kinetic sand, such as Shape It! Sand. It never dries out, so it’s always ready to build another sandcastle. It’s also great for sensory awareness and development. Put out a large blanket or get out a kiddie pool and have some beachy fun indoors!
  2. Inside Rug Skating. Tear out some magazine pages, step on them, and you instantly have rug skates! Let your little ones slide and glide around the house without the mess or danger of real skates.
  3. Button Jewelry. Let kids make themselves or a loved one a button necklace or bracelet. All you need is some string and some colorful buttons, and soon your kids will be making the latest in craft jewelry trends!
  4. Wiggly Eye Silliness. Take some Wiggly Eyes and stick them on random items around the house. Surprise each other by secretly sticking them on things when the others aren’t looking. It’s sure to make the kids laugh until their bellies ache!
  5. Mini Picassos. Up the craft ante with a variety of art supplies and encourage kids to be super creative. For example, the Sensory Collage Kit allows kids to experiment with different collage materials as they create their own works of art. Having more than just paint and paper can help them engage with descriptive vocabulary and develop sensory awareness.
  6. Dance in the Rain. Why not go with a classic and head out into the front or back yard for an invigorating dance in the rain? Play your kids’ favorite music and maybe even include some water blasters to get even more soaked! Of course, always be aware of thunder and lightning in your area, and stay safe.
  7. Hot Cocoa. What cold, rainy day isn’t made better by a warm drink? Whip up some hot chocolate (marshmallows are optional, of course) for a special treat after lunch or dinner!

3-3-17-sebsory-play

Whether it’s a thunderstorm or a little drizzle, rainy days can bring out the blues in everyone. Blow those blues away with these engaging indoor activities that are creative, physically active, and just plain fun! Don’t forget to check out the rest of our blog for more innovative and exciting ideas and activities.

Creating Cozy Nooks to Encourage Reading

23 Feb

2.23.17 Reading Nook.jpg

We all know that warm and cozy feeling of curling up with a good book. When the environment is just as enjoyable as the words on the page, reading becomes less of a task and more of a relaxing entertainment medium. Encourage your kids to read more by creating a perfect reading nook at home. Use our tips to create their very own secluded place to read, play, dream, and grow.

Seating. Decide what type of seating is best for your child’s temperament. Do they like to curl up and get comfortable? Get them their own big comfy chair or create a fort of pillows. Do they tend to move more and hate sitting still? Consider a more flexible seating option that allows for both movement and focus. There are many different learning styles and adjusting to them is an easy way to ensure development and progress.

Fuzzy Friends. Fill the reading area with some of your child’s favorite friends or new stuffed animals and encourage them to read aloud to them. Tell them that they’re the teacher, reading a story time book to their “class.” This creates a more engaged experience that will help children learn while enjoying the developmental process.

145931a.jpg

A Mini Library. It doesn’t need to be a huge selection; even just a few choices will prevent kids from getting bored easily and will encourage more reading time. You can use a small bookshelf or even stack some storage bins on their sides to create a makeshift shelf. Of course, every reading nook needs books! Children often fly through their favorites, check out library sales and garage sales for new books or ask neighbors and friends if they have any books they’d be willing to part with. And be sure to check out all of the books that Kaplan Toys has to offer.

A Spot For You! Reading together is great family time, so be sure to make some space for you to join your child as they engage with their favorite books. A few minutes can create memories that are sure to last a lifetime. You have the power to make reading a lifelong love, so make some time to read with your little ones!

The perfect reading nook doesn’t have to be Pinterest-perfect or extravagant. Simply creating a space that’s perfect for your little bookworm will help them foster a love of reading that’s sure to continue throughout their lives. For more items to create the perfect reading nook, head to www.kaplantoys.com.

Ways to Celebrate President’s Day at Home

16 Feb

shutterstock_30476218.jpg

When it comes to favorite holidays, President’s Day may not get a lot of attention, but it can be a great way to have some educational fun with your little ones. Because February hosts Abraham Lincoln’s and George Washington’s birthdays, a federal holiday was declared in 1971 to not only celebrate these two great leaders but also to commemorate all American Presidents jointly. Let’s get patriotic and excited for a day full of fun and learning opportunities!

Get Educational

This holiday is a great opportunity to teach young children about who the president is, as well as talk about two popular presidents – George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. For children 4 years and up, we suggest getting comfortable and reading Greatest U.S. Presidents. This book examines the lives of 4 presidents in a way that is simple and easy to understand. Don’t forget to also share some fun facts about First Ladies and their achievements. Maybe your little one will find a new hero!

53832set-a

President for a Day

Let your child become president of the house for the day. They can wear a cool hat like Lincoln and offer up suggestions for dinner, a family game night or an evening movie. Don’t forget that the President doesn’t make all the decisions alone; the rest of the family has to vote or agree on it first!

Patriotic Crafts

President’s Day is a great opportunity to introduce American history in a unique way, so consider making Lincoln’s Hat Cookies or even playing President-themed games like President Coin Sorting. President’s Day is also the perfect opportunity to revisit some of your favorite patriotic-inspired crafts like popsicle flag sticks

image

Jam Out

There are dozens of patriotic songs that have been written through the ages, so share some of your favorites with the kiddos. Some old 40’s and 50’s tunes are super fun to have a dance party to, as well as more contemporary jams! We recommend “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” by The Andrews Sisters, “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus, and “Kids in America” by Kim Wilde.

Stay Encouraging

Remind your children that they can shoot for the stars and that if they want to be president some day then they can. After all, every president was once a young kid, just like them!

America’s been around for 241 years. That’s a lot of history (45 presidents worth)! So introduce your children to the basics of the nation they live in while having fun and getting creative.

Making Valentine’s Day a Delight

10 Feb

2.9.17 Valentine delight.jpg

Valentine’s Day is traditionally about romantic love, but celebrating familial love is always way more fun! Keep on reading for fun and simple V-Day activities that you can do with the whole family.

Make a Valentines Mail Box

Turn an old shoebox into a mailbox just for love notes. Cut a small rectangle in the lid, and then have kids use markers, glitter, stickers, etc. to decorate their mailbox. Place the box outside of their bedroom door just like a real mailbox and drop off little love notes every now and then. Encourage them to leave valentines for their siblings or for friends.

Make A Lovable Craft

There are dozens of simple and fun Valentine’s Day crafts out there on the internet to do with your little ones, but we recommend this adorable V-Day mouse! Whichever craft you choose, spending time getting creative with your little valentines is sure to be a good time!

16463842_10154998860771018_207303389231202622_o.jpg

Make some V-Day Goodies

Baked goods are a staple during Valentine’s Day, so bake some simple sugar cookies and let the kids decorate them with icing and sprinkles. Or opt for a slightly healthier option and top strawberries with whipped cream or dip apple slices in caramel or chocolate spread. Get creative and cut foods into hearts!

Have a Valentine’s Story Time

After dinner on Valentine’s Day, gather the family and snuggle up on the couch with a good Valentine’s Day themed book, like Pete the Cat: Valentine’s Day is Cool. Some quality family time is a great way to end the day!

73366

Valentine’s Day isn’t just about candy and roses. It’s about sharing the love of those around you, and engaging kids in family activities is the perfect way to do just that! You can even do all of these in the evening, so work doesn’t have to interrupt family time. So take the time to hug your kiddos and spend some quality family time this V-Day!