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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.

3 Spooky Snacks for Halloween!

27 Oct

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 

Hands-On Crafts for Independence Day

29 Jun

Looking to add some extra sparkle to your Fourth of July festivities? Independence Day is a great time to get crafty. Here are five fun, hands-on crafts to help celebrate the red, white, and blue:

1. Roller Painting Red, White, and Blue

81865Materials:

  • Empty thread spools
  • Wire coat hangers
  • Wire cutters
  • Red, white, and blue paint

What to do:

  1. Cut the bottom wire of each clothes hanger at the ends, in the middle of the curves.
  2. Bend the center of the hanger in so that the ends almost touch.
  3. Attach thread spools to the ends of the wire hangers. This creates a handle on each empty spool and makes for easy rolling.
  4. Pour red, white, and blue paint into shallow containers.
  5. Let the children roller paint with their patriotic colors.

Find this and more festive crafts in the Giant Encyclopedia of Monthly Activities!

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 2. Uncle Sam Mask

With this fun, silly Uncle Sam craft, your little one will be transformed into the American icon, Uncle Sam. Encourage dramatic play with this fun, home-made costume. Directions can be found here:

 

 

 

 

 

 

sundial.jpg  3. Red, White, Blue Fruit Kabobs

Fruit kabobs are yummy and healthy! With just a few colorful fruits, you can make a delicious treat! Check out the recipe!

 

4. Pipe Cleaner Firework Ring

Keep the sparks flying all day with these fun, easy-to-make firework rings! Any pipe cleaners or leftover tinsel string from the holidays will do!

 

 5. Patriotic Wreath

Feeling like Christmas in July? Teach color coordination while crafting! Here’s how to make a fun, colorful wreath in red, white and blue:

 

 

 

 

 6. Q-Tip Fireworks

Recreate an Independence Day night sky with ease! Make these eye-popping 3D fireworks out of simple Q-tips & paint.

 

 

 


 

 For more patriotic play, check out our Pinterest page!

4 Nature-Inspired Hearts for Kids!

11 Feb

Everyone makes hearts for Valentine’s Day in one form or another; why not tie them in with outdoor exploration? Go on a nature walk with your little learner to collect a handful of decorations for creative ways to make Valentine’s hearts! Here are four outdoor materials you can collect to make nature hearts and foster organic love and learning in the home:

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Smooth Stones

Go on a walk with your child to find round stones to paint! These stones are usually found near creek or riverbeds. The smooth surfaces are perfect for colorful creativity. Draw hearts with Fluorescent Do A Dots for easy painting!

Source: http://www.firefliesandmudpies.com/2014/11/03/gratitude-stones/

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Backyard Berries

Do you use bird feeders? Help your child show love to their feathered friends by making birdseed and berry hearts! American Holly berries are the best, but if you have raspberries or blueberries growing in your backyard, those will work, too! String the berries along heart shaped wire for a lovely addition to your bird feeder.

Want to build your own bird feeder? Check out the Hanging Bird Feeder Kit! (https://www.kaplantoys.com/product/143861/hanging-bird-feeder-kit?c=1%7CKTAP09)

Source: http://www.hometalk.com/6929358/birdseed-cakes-and-berry-hearts?utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=featured

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Seashells

Live near the beach? Go on an exploration for seashells! Shells can give way to all sorts of creativity, but one way to use them is to make nature hearts. Simply use a hot glue gun to shape them into a heart on a hard surface. Whether you use cardboard or wood, the final result is pretty breathtaking! Place in a shadowbox as a treasured memento.

Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/448460075371453298/

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Sticks & Twigs

Now this one is fun! Go outside and pick up sticks of varying lengths. Once your child has collected a handful, break them into varying sizes to start making your wooden heart. Have fun painting the sticks, connecting them with wire, and hanging your colorful nature heart!

Find high-quality tempura paint for your child’s creations here: https://www.kaplantoys.com/product/18753P/kaplan-kolors-tempera-paint-16-oz

Source: http://www.handmadecharlotte.com/fall-crafts-playing-leaves-twigs/

 

Easy Ways to Make Indoor Snowmen!

6 Jan

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Winter is here! Whether you have snow outside or you’re looking for indoor activities to keep children engaged, we have the perfect pastime for you and your little ones—snowman building! Snowmen (and women) are the perfect go to as they can be built in many ways, both indoors and out! Even if you don’t have snow this year, here are some of our favorite ways to build indoor snowmen with your children:
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1. Coffee Bottle Snowman

 Incorporate recycling by reusing empty coffee creamer bottles for snowman building! Simply pull out the markers and cotton balls to get started. This is a fun activity that builds fine motor skills, takes creativity, and produces an adorable snowman your child can display around the house! Best part? It doesn’t melt!

Source: http://frogsandsnailsandpuppydogtail.com/fine-motor-skills-build-a-snowman/

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2. Giant Block Snowman

Break out the blocks to make this giant block snowman! Put those holiday boxes to good use by selecting four boxes of varying sizes. Whip out the white wrapping paper and encourage your child to start building! Children can select whatever accessories they want to add to their snowman as well as draw a face and buttons! This is a great way to incorporate block play in children’s indoor snowman building.

Source: http://b-inspiredmama.com/diy-giant-snowman-blocks/

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3. Shivery Snow Paint Snowman

Encourage children to use all of their senses as they get creative with snowpaint! This is a great activity for creating glittering snowmen on paper. Find the Shivery Snow Paint Recipe here and start creating a sparkly indoor snowman that your child can put on display!

4. Cupcake Snowman

 Do you love baking? Involved children in the process by making snowman cupcakes! This is a great way to teach cooking skills, inspire creativity, and create a warm tasty snack for a cold day!

Find instructions for making your tasty snowmen here: http://www.examiner.com/article/create-a-marshmallow-snowman-cupcake


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Don’t forget to enter our Spectacular Snow Down contest on Facebook! Simply take a picture of your child’s finished snowman, whether it’s indoors or outdoors, and share it with us here for your chance to win our Snowman Prize Pack! Contest rules found here. Good luck!

Valentine’s Day Gifts for Teachers

10 Feb

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Fostering social and emotional development in young children is a key point of focus in early education classrooms and programs. Though academics can never be underrated, it is important that our children have the social skills to express that knowledge to the world. Valentine’s Day is a great holiday for teaching children to appreciate and value the educators who instill a love of learning every day. We have a few crafts for little hands that will hopefully express just that!

1. Kindness Cards

Children will recognize and label basic feelings, becoming more aware of the feelings of others.

Books:

Materials

  • Crayons, markers, glue, and collage materials
  • Box with a slot cut into it
  • Large, blank index cards
  • Markers
  • Scissors

Preparation: Decorate a box with a slot cut into the top or side, and label it as, “The Kindness Box.”

What To Do:

  1. Read one or more of the suggested books to your children.
  2. Talk with your child about feelings and discuss the meaning of kindness.
  3. Ask children to brainstorm ways their teacher has been kind to them. Write their responses on large index cards.
  4. Introduce “The Kindness Box” and invite children to use art materials to decorate the index cards and then put them into the box.
  5. Explain that the cards they made will be given to their teacher to make him or her smile for Valentine’s Day! Explain that by helping someone smile, they are being kind.

Source: Activity adapted from Another Encyclopedia of Theme Activities for Young Children. 

2. Etched Candles

Work on children’s early literacy skills as they spell out a Valentine’s message on a jazzed up candle with creative design.

Materials

  • Votive size or other small, thick candles, colored if possible
  • Thin paintbrushes or wooden cooking skewers
  • Netting or tissue paper, cut in squares
  • Yarn, cut into 8” pieces

Make Your Gift Great

  1. Etch the sides of a candle with the handle end of a paintbrush.
  2. Have your child choose a Valentine’s word or message to write on the candle (ex. Love, Hero, Best Teacher, etc.) Etch it into the candle along with simple designs and shapes, such as dots, stripes, circles, and so on.
  3. Brush off loose pieces of wax.
  4. Wrap the candle in a square piece of netting or tissue paper and tie with yarn.

Helpful Hints

  • Retrace over the design several times to make it more visible.
  • Use a comb to etch in a design.

Source: 101 Great Gifts Kids Can Make

3. Shapes & Sand Design

Involve sensory play with a Valentine’s design to give to teachers!

What To Do:

  1. Glue bright, bold cutout paper hearts to a contrasting construction paper background. For example, use yellow on purple, red on blue, or white on black.
  2. Trace around the edges of the shapes with white glue squeezed from the bottle.
  3. Shake or pour colored sand onto the glue lines, or use sand you’ve put in a container for easy pour solutions.
  4. Tap the excessive sand onto a tray (save this in the sand container for later use). Let the design dry completely before presenting to the teacher.
  5. Extra: Have your child write a special Valentine’s note on the inside of the heart.

Source: Art with Anything 

We hope you were inspired to get together with your children to make something special for educators on Valentine’s Day. Be sure to share pictures of your child’s final product by tagging us on Instagram @Kaplantoys!

Building Thanks in Children

11 Nov

142971aBlocks have always been a great way to keep children entertained while building” their fine and gross motor skills, but did you know they can also be used to instill gratitude from an early age? Here are a few ways you can use block play to teach children about Thanksgiving.

 1. Talk About It.

It’s important to start off play with a discussion. Talk to your children about Thanksgiving, what it is, as well as the harvest and the changes of autumn. Introduce the concepts of thanks and sharing and ask kids why they are important.

 2. Read Apple Farmer Annie.

It always helps to have a story to go with playtime! Read Apple Farmer Annie by Monica Wellington and use the blocks you have to help kids create an orchard. The floorboard can act as the ground while children use blocks to construct apple trees and fences.

 3. Encourage Sharing.

While you are building with children, be sure to encourage cooperative play. Teaching children the importance of sharing and working together to build something great are valuable lessons that will tie in perfectly with the season of thanks. It will also help to build communication skills as children embrace building ideas from playmates, ask nicely for blocks they want to use, and attempt to describe building intentions to another person before they’ve built their creation.

4. Spice It Up.

To take block play experiences to the next level, provide children with colored paper pieces (red, green, yellow, brown, and orange), markers, scissors, and tape so that they can tape “leaves” onto whatever structures they’ve created for a fun, fall feel! This way, children can build whatever they want and then decorate for the season.

For even more themed-block play experiences, check out Let’s Build by Pamela Phelps.

Looking for the perfect block set for your child? We’re here to help. Here are some block sets we think your kids will love: