5 Ways to Bring Nature Learning Inside

1 Dec shutterstock_119480995

Wondering how to study nature with your kids when temperatures continue to drop? Skip the cold weather by bringing nature indoors! There are plenty of ways to encourage science learning by creating contained environments. Here are some of our favorite ways to study nature inside the comforts of home:

62072b.jpg1. Critter Cabin

Bring creepy crawlies indoors by bundling up, finding insects to study, and then bringing them back inside to study. This critter house will keep specimen contained for your little scientist as they study how insects move and what sounds they make. When finished, simply take outside and release your critters back into the wild!

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Don’t want to find your own ants to study? Order them by mail! Teach children how ants burrow and watch them at work with this entrancing ant factory. Teaches lessons in responsibility, biology, and basic ecology. Includes a 24-page guidebook to get your little learner started.

145544c.jpg3. Insect Lore Original Butterfly Pavilion 

Ever wondered how caterpillars turn into butterflies? Let your child watch the whole process with our Original Butterfly Pavilion. Children can watch metamorphosis as they care for caterpillars until they mature into fully-grown butterflies! The habitat’s see-through mesh gives a clear view of the transformation. Caterpillar larvae included.

86390.jpg4. Insect Lore Ladybug Land

Fascinated by ladybugs? This metamorphosis kit for ladybugs allows children to see nature at work as ladybugs magically change from cute larvae into adult beetles. Includes see-through habitat, certificate for ladybugs and food, built-in magnifier lenses, and a fun-filled instruction guide.

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5. Root Vue Farm Set

Sustainability has never been so fun! Teach plant life cycles while growing vegetables for snack time with this kid-friendly farm set! Built with an acrylic viewing window, built-in water basin, and drainage reservoir, this is the perfect learning tool for children who are interested in agriculture.


Do you love teaching science to your kids? How do you encourage science learning indoors? Share your ideas by commenting below.

Top 10 Toys for the Holidays (2016 Edition)

18 Nov shutterstock_481436875

It’s that time again! Get a jump on the holidays with discounts and toy suggestions for gifts for your kids. Don’t just buy what’s pretty; consider toys that teach and challenge children as they grow. Foster hands-on early learning with our Top 10 Toys for the Holidays:

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1. Door ‘n’ Floor Rebound Basketball Set

Play indoor basketball with this amazing basketball set that rebounds for your little athlete! It’s the perfect gift for children looking to work on their coordination and basketball skills. Better still, the hoop grows with your child. As they get taller, the goal can be straightened to adjust to their height or even hang on the back of a door for continued fun.

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2. Bloxels® Build Your Own Video Games

We’ve all weighed the pros and cons of video games, but what if kids were building them before playing? Bloxels offers a game board for children to create free form characters and landscapes to import into the app and straight onto their tablet! Learn more.

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3. EZ Fort

Build a playhouse, reading nook, or special hide away with this easy-to-build EZ-Fort! Engage children in hands-on building as they practice engineering skills while following directions to create their own fort. Add a blanket over their design for the perfect getaway.

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4. Crayola Tracing Mania

Does your child struggle with anxiety? Promote relaxed learning by introducing beautiful, intricate designs, tracing paper, and brightly colored Twinstables pencils! Tracing Mania makes detailed art for kids easy as they explore creative design and patterns.

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5. Mega Bloks® American Girl® Grace’s 2-in-1 Buildable Home Set

Love Mega Blocks? This American Girl set is perfect for hours of play as children build a home for imaginary slumber parties, cooking in the bakery, or even walking the French bulldog! Encourage children to create their own scenarios to navigate as they build and play with this adorable play set.

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6. Playzone-Fit™ Jumbo Jumper

Soar into jumping fun with this Jumbo Jumper! This tire-shaped toy provides bars to keep children safe as they engage in high bounce fun. Sends kids bouncing towards the sky for hours of active play. It’s an engaging way to work on balancing and coordination with friends.

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7. Quads of fun Junction Tunnel and Tent set

Prepare for hours of pretend play as children navigate the tunnels of the Quads of Fun Junction Tunnel and Tent Set! This set provides multiple entries to a tent offering children a way to get out of the heat, play hide-and-seek, or even camp out for excellent outdoor adventures.

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8. Missy Kissy Doll

This electronic doll is perfect for encouraging nurturing fun in older siblings. Snuggle her close, shower her with kisses, and enjoy hours of interactive play time as she asks you to find her ticklish spots, feed her, sing her to sleep, and more!

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9. Rainbow Rocket STEM Building Block Set

Teach colors, shapes, early engineering, and more in toddlers as they build with these durable blocks. Children will develop geometric awareness and fine motor skills as they try to build this colorful Rainbow Rocket and keep it from falling over.

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10. Forest Railway Set

Does your child love trains? The Forest Railway Set is a fun way to encourage your child’s building skills as they put together the wooden tracks and chug the magnetic train through the landscape. Includes green arches, bridges, and a forest wonderland for trains to wander through.

Still don’t see what you are looking for? Check out our complete selection of educational gifts for the holidays here: https://www.kaplantoys.com/shop/great-gift-ideas


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Don’t forget! Take 20% off orders of $75 or more using code PLANAHEAD at checkout. Offer valid online only. Ends 11/23/16. See full exclusions here: https://www.kaplantoys.com/PlanAhead

Gratitude and More! Character Education for Kids

10 Nov shutterstock_34537897

Since Thanksgiving always falls in November, it’s a great month to focus on not only gratitude, but also overall character education. Social and emotional growth is an important part of learning for young children as it teaches them how to interact with others. Here are five virtues you can instill to teach character education in children from an early age:

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1). Gratitude

Give your child a chance to model gratitude as you call attention to moments in your day when you express thanks for things or people. Whether it’s thanking your toddler for helping clean their room, thanking whoever is cooking this Thanksgiving for their time and commitment to making the holiday special, or even bringing in a Teacher Appreciation gift to show your child’s teacher their efforts are not forgotten. Be sure to engage your child in dialogue about gratitude by reading books like Greta the Grateful Goldfish that deal with how to show gratitude to others.

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2). Kindness

Sunday is World Kindness Day: https://www.randomactsofkindness.org. Talk to your child about what it means to be kind to peers and family. One way to show kindness is by visiting a park and giving out a “care kit” to the homeless. Another way is to visit a nursing home and have a conversation with the elderly. Seeing curious little faces can go a long way to brighten up someone’s day. Whatever you decide, there are always moments throughout your day to exemplify what it means to show kindness to one another. Books like I Can Be Kind are great conversation openers.

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3) Service

Practice dramatic play by setting up a play date for a tea party or imaginary meal. Encourage your child to practice serving others first, asking how they are, and taking their coats or bags before pulling out a chair for them. Serving imaginary food is always a great way to put others first! For inspiring ideas on how to serve in your community, check out The Busy Family’s Guide to Volunteering.

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4) Courage

Encourage your child to try new things. It’s ok if they want your help at first, you can practice courage together and ask them if they think they can accomplish the new task at hand on their own next time. Try climbing a rock wall for kids or tasting food they’ve never had an interest in before. Taking a step into the unknown goes a long way in instilling lifelong character lessons. Have Courage encourages children to develop self-confidence and a sense of purpose as they play.

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5) Responsibility

Teach children that everyone has responsibilities by assigning them little tasks around the house. Completing assigned jobs increases self-confidence and gives your child insight into the home being seen as a community of people who work together for the common good. Be sure to commend your child on a job well done when the task is complete. Another way to teach responsibility is by giving your child a pet to take care of – without the messes, of course. This cuddly dog hand puppet is the perfect companion: https://www.kaplantoys.com/product/32055/dog-hand-puppet?c=24%7CKTPP10


How do you teach character education in your children? Comment below or tweet your answers to @KaplanToys.

Hands-On Fun! Digging for Dinosaurs

4 Nov

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Sensory exploration is important for young children as they not only develop their senses but also learn new ways to explore the world around them. One way to engage the senses, teach science skills, and encourage hands-on play is by digging for dinosaur bones! Here are four simple steps for starting your very own mini-excavation with kids:

86665f.jpg1. Pick Out Sand.

The first thing you’ll need is a sand pit! Whether it’s a sand box, a sand and water table, or simply a sensory tray with sand in it, you’ll need something to cover up those dinosaur bones and fossils! If you’re looking for authenticity, add Jurassic Sand to give a rustic feel to your excavation.

Featured Resource: Naturally Playful Sand Table 

2. Find Fossils.

31828.jpgThe next thing you’ll need is believable finds for your budding archeologist! Finding fossils should be exciting as children take on the role of a scientist to assess their discoveries and ask questions about different dinosaurs. From fossils to prehistoric plants, here are some fun options below:

3. Use the Right Tools.

17447c.jpgIt can’t be a proper dinosaur dig without the right tools! Equip your explorer with shovels, sifters, and a magnifying glass to study their findings. It’s also important to ensure the tools fit their hands and are small enough to fit inside trays and sand tables without damaging the fossils. Here are some of our favorite tools for little hands:

30328d.jpg4. Go for the Kit.

Want to go even deeper into dinosaur discovery? Check out our archaeologist kits for little explorers. Kits include STEM materials, career exploration, and all of the materials needed to start an excavation for kids!

Featured Excavation Kits:


Have pictures of your dinosaur dig? Tweet them @KaplanToys by using the hashtag #littledinodigs.

3 Spooky Snacks for Halloween!

27 Oct shutterstock_322899092

Picking out costumes and watching all of the classic Halloween movies? The time for trick or treating is upon us next weekend, but first, why not enjoy a little kitchen time with your children. Dive into festive creation with three recipes for spooky Halloween snacks!

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1. Peanut Butter Ball Monsters

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cup sugar
  • flour
  • M&M’s, mini gumdrops, and shoestring licorice

Tools:

  • measuring cups
  • mixing bowl and spoon
  • tray
  • wax paper

What To Do:

  1. Help your child measure the peanut butter, honey, and sugar, and mix them together in a bowl.
  2. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for about an hour.
  3. Put flour on your child’s hands and work with her to form small balls. Place the balls onto wax paper.
  4. Add mini M&M eyes, mini gumdrop noses, and licorice antennae to the monster heads.
  5. Put the balls on a tray and refrigerate until these monsters are ready to be eaten!

Source: The Budding Chef

2. Witch’s Brew

Ingredients:

  • grape juice
  • red grapes and blueberries
  • milk

Tools:

  • blender

What To Do:

  1. Put grape juice, grapes, blueberries, and milk into a blender.
  2. Add ice and  blend to make a “witch’s smoothie!”
  3. Sing songs to the Healthy All Over CD to talk about how little witches can stay healthy!

Source: The GIANT Encyclopedia of Monthly Activities 

3. Be A Pumpkin Cook!

Ingredients:

  • whole pumpkin
  • water
  • butter
  • ingredients for pumpkin muffins or bread

Tools:

  • knife (adult only)
  • 9″ x 12″ baking pan
  • aluminum foil
  • blender or food processor
  • muffin tin or loaf pan
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • mixing spook and bowl

What To Do:

  1. Wash and cut open the pumpkin. Encourage children to smell it.
  2. Remove the seeds. Using your hands, remove and save the pulp.
  3. Encourage the children to describe the textures of the pumpkin.
  4. Cut off thin slices of pumpkin flesh and have the children taste it.
  5. Place the pumpkin, cut side down, in the baking pan. Add 1/2 cup of water.
  6. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Let cool.
  7. Remove the foil and encourage the children to observe the changes in the pumpkin. The pumpkin is darker and soft because heat changes the consistency of things.
  8. Scoop out some of the soft pumpkin pulp. Puree it in a blender or food processor. Add some of the liquid from the baking pan, if needed.
  9. Use the pureed pumpkin in any recipe that calls for canned pumpkin. Let the children measure, pour, and mix.
  10. Eat the muffins. Compare the appearance of the batter to the finished product. Explain again how heat changes things.
  11. Bonus: Melt butter and coat the pumpkin seeds. Bake at 250 degrees until golden brown. Salt and enjoy!

Source: The GIANT Encyclopedia of Monthly Activities 

10 Fall Activities for Kids!

20 Oct shutterstock_64392277

Cold weather and scarves, pumpkins and colored leaves, fall is officially here! Whether you’re planning on celebrating Halloween or simply going for nature walks, we have 10 things to do with your kids to fall in love with autumn learning:

143690a.jpg1. Take a drive to the mountains.

Jump in the car for a road trip to the mountains to see all the leaves changing. Road trips are a great way to spend time together as a family as you sing songs, play with on-the-go toys, and end up in fun destinations!

Toy spotlight: Mini Squigz are perfect for color coordination and building on any surface! Stick to car windows for perfect on-the-go learning: https://www.kaplantoys.com/product/143690/mini-squigz-75-piece-set?c=1%7CKTAP16

2. Read around a campfire.

Cool weather is the perfect time to gather around a campfire and pull out a book for story time. Read about fictional characters and fall adventures as children learn about seasonal weather changes, how to dress appropriately, and fun ways to explore the season. Don’t forget to bring a flashlight!

Book spotlight: Listen, Listen introduces young readers to the sights and sounds of the different seasons. https://www.kaplantoys.com/product/71808/listen-listen-board-book

3. Go on a fall scavenger hunt.

Get outside and start collecting! Autumn brings a variety of discoveries from high up above on tree limbs to the ground for little hands to find. Take the discoveries inside and start investigating.

Toy spotlight: Sort young children’s fall finds with Sorting Trays. These durable trays encourage skill building while kids sort, count, pattern, graph, and compare! https://www.kaplantoys.com/product/62974P/sorting-trays?c=12%7CKTMT06

91325.jpg4. Pumpkin sensory play.

Pumpkins are perfect for sensory play; place a pumpkin in your sensory tray, cut out the top, and let children dip in their hands for sensory exploration! The seeds are always fun to bake later for snack time.

Book spotlight: Read Pumpkin Soup together before you dig into your pumpkin for a fun song to sing as you play. https://www.kaplantoys.com/product/91325/pumpkin-soup-paperback-and-cd

5. Put on a leaf puppet show.

Not sure what to do with your child’s leaf collection? Draw faces on the leaves, glue on craft sticks, and have a puppet show! It’s a great way to engage in dramatic play.

Toy spotlight: These adorable Designer Craft Sticks add extra flair to your leaf people. https://www.kaplantoys.com/product/88924/designer-craft-sticks?c=2%7CKTAR11

Name-activity-for-fall.jpg6. Learn literacy with leaf letters.

Take leaf play a step further by drawing letters on each leaf! It’s a great way to learn letters and practice simple spelling. Learn more: http://www.pleasantestthing.com/leaf-name-game

Toy spotlight: Don’t have leaves to play with? Phonics Pebbles are a great substitute for letter recognition, word-building, and tactile discovery. https://www.kaplantoys.com/product/51552/phonics-pebbles

7. Investigate the great outdoors.

It’s time to break out the magnifying glasses and see what kids can find! Take a walk or go on a hike and be prepared to answer the many questions your child may have about nature.

Toy spotlight: Jumbo Magnifiers are easy for children to grab and take on the go as they get a closer look at life science lessons. https://www.kaplantoys.com/product/17447/jumbo-magnifiers-set-of-6?c=17%7CKTSC13

2f8a3567e5f82f8b3df3e5a28a715ab4.jpg8. Make a fall sequin lava lamp.

Dig lava lamps? Make your own with vegetable oil and Alka Seltzer tablets. Children will learn how to follow instructions, measure, and be thrilled with the reaction of the fall themed lava lamp. Find instructions here: http://buff.ly/2eVfw05

Toy spotlight: Still not satisfied? Set up a real LAVA Lite Classic Lava Lamp in your child’s room to use as a nightlight or as a science conversation starter. https://www.kaplantoys.com/product/145657/lava-lite-classic-163-inch-silver-lava-lamp-yellow-wax-blue-liquid?c=29%7CKTNEW9

9. Bob for apples.

It’s just not fall if no one has bobbed for apples. Pour some apples into a bucket of water and start bobbing; just remember, no hands! Enjoy a healthy snack afterwards.

Book spotlight: Once your finished, read Dr. Seuss’ classic Ten Apples Up On Top! https://www.kaplantoys.com/product/16648/ten-apples-up-on-top-hardback?c=6%7CKTCB09

10. Cook with fall foods.

Fall provides a fun variety of foods to cook with including pumpkins, apples, sunflower seeds, pumpkin spice, and more! Look for creative recipes to dive into with your little one in the kitchen for quality time together.

Book spotlight: The Budding Chef is full of kid-friendly recipes to make for snack time! Themes included. https://www.kaplantoys.com/product/20218/the-budding-chef-paperback


We hope you enjoyed making your way through our 10 Fall Activities list. Still, we’re curious, what would you add? Comment below!

 

4 Ways to Teach Preschoolers Fire Prevention

13 Oct

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October is Fire Prevention Month! There are several fun ways you can get your preschooler involved by not only learning to appreciate firefighters in the community, but by also reviewing fire safety practices. Here are four ways to celebrate with your children:

1. Teach Fire Safety at Home

The best way to observe Fire Prevention Week is by talking about safe practices with your children. Discuss the basics of “Stop, drop, and roll”, getting low when smoke is noticed, and making an adult aware when a fire is seen. For practical ways to talk to your children about fire safety, check out this great article by NAEYC: http://www.naeyc.org/tyc/article/fire-safety

2. Dress Up as a Firefighter

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Dress up as a firefighter as part of dramatic play. Once they’re all ready to go, discuss the importance of fire safety, the role firefighters play in the community, and if they have any interest in pursuing the career. Don’t forget to review your house together and make sure your home is protected.

Dress up today with these fun options below:

3. Put Out a Fire

One fun activity you can do together is pull out the water table or any water play area you have at the house. Cut out foam “flames” and give your preschooler a spray bottle full of water to put out the flames. Find more fire prevention activities here: http://www.preschoolplaybook.com/search/label/fire%20preventionDSCN5163.JPG

4. Visit Your Local Fire Department

Call your local fire department and schedule a visit for your preschooler. Whether it’s writing “Thank you” cards to drop off, taking a tour to see how the station operates, or simply talking to a firefighter about what they do, your preschooler can a learn a lot about fire safety by talking to a real life hero!


Have creative ways to celebrate Fire Prevention Month with preschoolers? Share with us by commenting below!