Encouraging Your Child’s Love of Animals

20 Apr

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Have you noticed that your little one has a particular fondness for furry friends? Whether they just love the family pet or all creatures, the love of animals is a great trait to have and support. Including this passion for animals into everyday activities can be a fantastic learning opportunity for teaching subjects likes responsibility, kindness, and even natural science! From learning about animals to actual animal care, their attachment to pets and wildlife can easily be supported and creates an excellent opportunity for family fun.

Positives of Pet Ownership

It doesn’t matter if they own a fish, a house full of furry friends, or a just collection stuffed animals; pet ownership can positively influence your little animal lover’s development. Taking care of a pet obviously teaches your child about responsibility, but it also teaches them how to nurture. Pets are often a source of unconditional love with provides your child with a “safe” friend to talk to and love. Pets also encourage children to be more active and social. From running with the dog in the backyard to playing with a friend’s hamster, animals require activities that are healthy to both the pet and owner. Perhaps due to space or family allergies, your child can’t own a pet. No worries! Maybe your child can visit pets of friends and neighbors; they can demonstrate to them how they take care of the pet and maybe let them join in for some activities. Consider adopting or sponsoring a pet at a local zoo! Your child can even help raise the money to cover the cost of the support. A trip to visit “their” animal is sure to be a blast!

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Ideas for Motivating Their Passion

From chasing lighting bugs outside to taking care of their favorite stuffed cat each night, your child will naturally find ways to explore their love of pets. Of course, spending time doing family activities is always important. Consider these ideas on how to combine your child’s love of animals with your family fun time. These activities are sure to entertain as well as educate and create extraordinary family memories for both you and your child.

  • Visit a zoo, farm, aquarium, nature preserve or local science center
  • Consider owning alternative pets like an ant farm or sea monkeys.
  • Pet-sit (a great way to trial run before adopting a pet of your own)
  • Let your child be a vet with the Nici® Wonderland Doll: Veterinarian Set
  • Take a nature walk while bird watching
  • Watch a live stream of an animal from a zoo
  • Visit animals at the pet store
  • Visit a dog park (with or without a dog. Just asking before petting!)
  • Create adorable pets with the Magnutto™ Junior Make a Pet™ Magnetic Activity
  • Visit a petting zoo or butterfly garden
  • Watch a film starring an animal while munching on animal themed snacks (like animal crackers and ants on a log)
  • Go on a virtual experience with the Genuine Ant Farm® Antopia Adventure™ Virtual Explorer
  • Create a zoo with stuffed animals and cardboard box “cages”

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Leave us a comment below and tell us your child’s favorite animal-themed activity.

Trouble-Free Preschooler Activities for Earth Day

14 Apr

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Observed annually on April 22nd, Earth Day is a celebration of environmental protection and conservation. One month into spring, Earth Day is the perfect time to get your little ones outside and learning. Use this day (or even week) to discuss how your family can play a part in protecting the Earth that we inhabit. Here are some excellent ideas that can help you turn fun in the sun into impactful lifetime of learning!

Rain and Shine

In order to explore conservation, your child must first understand why the Earth is so important to protect. A great place to start is with nature discovery. While exploring, explain the special relationship that humans have with nature and how we interact and depend on one another. Consider these activities:

  • Take a nature walk with a fun twist. Give your child pictures of items to find (like a rock, 3 types of flowers, a pinecone, etc.) for an afternoon of nature scavenger hunting.
  • Cook up a mud pie! Get messy while mixing up different types of dirt for a fun, sensory loaded activity. Try including as many different materials such as sand, rocks, and leaves into your pie “ingredients”.
  • Explore the water cycle with the Rain Showers Splash Pond Water Table™. Your child can make it rain again and again with this fun cause and effect STEM activity.
  • Turn your nature walk finds into a nature collage. Use an old egg carton to organize and protect your new collection.
  • Create beautiful art with leaves! Paint various leaves and use them to stamp their designs onto paper or even a canvas.

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Love the Earth and It’s Creatures

Once your child has had a fun introduction to nature, it’s time to explore some of the Earth Day themes. From pollution to animal conservation, there is plenty to discover and themes to tailor to your child’s interests.

  • Play “can it be recycle?” by hunting around the kitchen and explaining what and how different materials can be recycled. Bonus! Practice sorting their discoveries based on the material.
  • Introduce upcycling by including them in a small project or craft that includes recycled and repurposed materials.
  • Create a small garden just for them. Use the Eco-Friendly Indoor Gardening Kit and the Watering Can with Shovel and Rake to create a special space for them to explore the growing process.
  • Give the earth an actual hug with the Hugg-A-Planet® Earth.
  • Discuss animal conservation while cuddling with the Baberoo Sea Turtle Plush or playing with the Polar Animals Set.
  • Create a bird feeder by repurposing a paper towel tube with peanut butter and birdseed.
  • See an Earth Day movie! We suggest the Disneynature series which premiers a new film every Earth Day. If you see it opening week they will make a donation to World Wildlife Fund.
  • Chow down on Earthy dirt cups! Your child will love the crush cookie “dirt”, chocolate pudding “mud”, and brightly colored gummy “worms”. Simply mix chocolate pudding to create a mud base, crush Oreos to form a dirt crust, and insert gummy worms for a buggy surprise!

However you choose to celebrate Earth Day, we would love to hear about it on our social or in the comments below!

Helping Your Child Cope with Stress

6 Apr

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Although stress is often associated with being an adult issue, children can also struggle with stress. There are plenty of factors that can lead to your child feeling these emotions—change of school, friends, seasons, classwork, and siblings—just to name a few common stressors. You as a parent, of course, want to ease these emotions, as best you can, and nurture your child’s mental health. Here are some recommendations to consider when mentoring your child on their stress management. (Please note if you have noticed an extreme change in your child’s behavior, please seek help from a mental health professional)

Good vs. Bad

Stress is normal. A little stress can motivate a child to achieve goals, learn new things, and explore new experiences. The first step in helping your child is identifying if your child’s stress is normal or unhealthy for them. Are they concerned for a certain test or testing in general? Are they worried about a certain situation or a long list of possibilities? Possible negative stress symptoms include increased crying, headaches and stomachaches, trouble sleeping, drastically changing emotions, and anxious body moments (like leg shaking and nail chewing). Listen and examine to decide if they just need a few extra words of encouragement or help with their entire stress management.

Stress can be contagious

As adults, we are often stressed about something in our lives. Regardless of the causes, this stress can be passed down to your child. Although they may have no direct ties to what is stressing you, they can reflect those emotions in areas of their own lives. Work towards creating a “stress free” home. Take the time to have relaxing family moments and vacations. Demonstrate how you ease your stresses to your little one. Whether it’s yoga, deep breathing or simply laying out in a hammock in the back yard, showing your child how you release your stress can help them release their own. Also, choose wisely on when and where is the appropriate time to vent about your own stressors because little ones are often listening and can pick up on your emotions. Stress can be contagious to a family, but if you make a conscious effort to identify and minimalize the stress you can create a happy and safe space for everyone.

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Stress relief techniques

Once you have identified what has stressed your child, it is then time to help them manage those feelings. First, pay close attention to your child’s behavior when they are feeling stressed. Do they increasingly rub their eyes? Do they sleep more? After you have noticed a sign that their stress has increased, it is time to initialize a stress relief technique. Consider the following:

  1. Outdoor play is an excellent way to help your stressed out little one. The exercise releases endorphins, which is a great natural relaxer. Explore our blog post on active play for more outdoor play ideas.
  1. Organization can also be key to relieving a child’s stress. We recommend the children’s book Get Organized Without Losing It , which is perfect for showing how being organized can be a great stress reliever.
  1. Consider small toys such as Theraputty and Tangle Therapy, which are designed to redirect stressful behaviors. These are also perfect for on-the-go relief when other techniques may not be an option.
  1. Lastly, simply teaching your child to slow down and just breathe can do a world of good for them. Taking multiple deep breaths, while having their eyes close, can melt away stress and refocus their brain.

Children will respond to stress differently, as long as you help them identify and manage their stressors, they should improve their own stress management, ultimately leading to a happy and relaxed life.

Sources and Resources:

http://americanspcc.org/signs-stress-kids-teens-reduce/?gclid=CKSDn_6ti9MCFcWPswodNpIE8Q

https://psychcentral.com/lib/7-tips-for-helping-your-child-manage-stress/

http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/stress-coping.html

Three Easy Activities to Help Your Family Embrace Spring

30 Mar

Transitioning into spring can be an exciting time for children. After several months of post-holiday blues, springtime brings green grass, blooming flowers, special holiday celebrations, and warm-weather activities. Spring also brings a sense of renewal and refreshment—perhaps from the spring cleaning or the ever-growing anticipation of summer. This is your chance to add a little fun and liveliness to your family time and embrace the seasonal change. Here are some simple spring activities that are the perfect cure to your family’s spring fever.

Make It!

Pretty Paper Flowers

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You will need:

Step One: Place the tissue paper flat on the table, alternating colors.

Step Two: Have your child fold the tissue paper (about one inch) back and forth just like you would to make a fan. Once they have reached the end, the stack of tissue paper should look like an accordion.

Step Three: Wrap a green pipe cleaner around the middle of the stack, twist to secure and make a stem.

Step Four: Next, help your child carefully separate each piece of tissue paper. Fluff the layers into a flower shape.

Step Five: Tear pieces of construction paper into leaf shapes and poke them onto the pipe cleaner stem, sliding it up until to reaches the top.

Place your forever-fresh flowers in a vase for a bright splash of spring in the kitchen or get creative and add multiple smaller flowers to a pipe cleaner circle for a fairylike crown.
 

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Bake It!

Honey Milk Balls

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You will need:

  • ¼ cup of honey
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup nonfat powdered milk
  • 1 cup uncooked rolled oats or ½ cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (optional)
  • Measuring cups
  • Mixing bowl and spoon

Step One: Talk with your child about honey—explain that honey comes from bees. Encourage them to ask questions as well as feel, smell, and taste the honey.

Step Two: Mix the first four ingredients well, and then knead them by hand until blended.

Step Three: Shape the mixture into 1” balls.

Step Four: Roll the honey milk balls in coconut if desired.

Recipe Source: The Budding Chef

 Do It!

Getting Outdoors

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Another major part of spring is getting outdoors after the long winter. Incorporate the following outdoor activities into your family time:

  • Host a family soccer game! Switch it up by inviting extended family or neighbors to be the opposing team. Play girls vs. boys or adults vs. children.
  • Enjoy a picnic! Don’t forget your honey milk balls and paper flower centerpiece!
  • Create a driveway masterpiece! Stick to the classic sidewalk chalk or switch it up with Chalktivity.
  • Stargaze! Take advantage of the warmer nights and introduce your child to the sky’s wonders.

Leave us a comment below and share your family’s favorite springtime activity.

Spring Fever! Encouraging Your Child to Be Physically Active

23 Mar

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!

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