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Stargazing: Ways to Encourage Children To Look Up!

5 May

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As the weather warms up, the opportunities for activities in the great outdoors increases. It also creates the perfect time to lie down and look up at the sky. Generally loved by all, the popular subject of space and the act of stargazing and planet observation is free and accessible to everyone. Between all the family adventures to the lake, car trips to far away theme parks, and weekly visits to your neighbor’s pool—there are those “normal” nights that create the perfect time for making family memories. So be sure to leave some SPACE in your family’s free time to explore the great night sky. Here are some of our ideas to get your family looking up in wonder!

Introduction to the Stars

Stargazing starts with opportunity. Camping is a fantastic way to combine family time with star exploration, but we understand it is not for everyone. If you live in a brightly lit area, move to a darker venue by asking around to friends or families whose houses may have a better view of the sky. If your backyard is already a perfect fit, create a “viewing lounge” by placing pillows and blankets into the back of a pickup truck, a blow up kiddie pool, or even lay out on a Star Wars™ Millenium Falcon Float. Remember to provide your family with the viewing tools they need like a telescope. Set the stage for relaxation with a playlist of space themed music playing softly in the background. Remember that every child has different interests and attention spans, so try to keep the activity age-appropriate. For younger children, stargaze for shorter amounts of time and provide them with general information. For older children, introduce them to a few easy-to-spot, major constellations like the The Big Dipper/Ursa Major and Orion. For those scared of the dark, stargazing can be done during the day by exploring eclipses and the sun (a giant star) cycles. Just don’t forget your sunglasses!

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For the Current Space Fanatic

If your child already has a love for the stars, you can keep that passion alive by giving them lots of astronomy resources. Be sure to provide your space lover with plenty of space related reading material. We suggest The Solar System and Beyond set and The Solar System Book Set. It is likely that if your child loves stargazing they may enjoy Star Wars. While stargazing, let them play with a Star Wars Lego Set or even a Light-Up Death Star Beach Ball. Star location apps are great for both parents and children, as you easy find position of stars and constellations in your piece of the night sky. With the official NASA app you can see current mission photos and even track satellites! Finally, we suggest hosting a stargazing party with plenty of space-themed snacks like this galaxy popcorn. Follow up by watching a space related children’s movie outdoors (like Wall*E or Muppets from Space).

Six Science Investigations for Summer

4 Aug

Curious how your children can get more involved in science learning this summer? Take advantage of the time off from school to tap into children’s natural curiosity with scientific investigations at home! Whether little ones want to catch up, get ahead, or just have fun, summer is the perfect time for creative, scientific play.

1. Kitchen Creations

Change things up by encouraging children to play with their food! Together, you can make something edible or make food discoveries just for fun. You may want to try the marshmallow challenge: make a marshmallow sink by compacting it so that it is more dense than the water in which it would normally float. Check out more science experiments for the kitchen here:

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Source: Makes and Takes

2. Grow Up

Use the summer sun to help practice planting and gardening! You can grow a whole garden outdoors, or keep a small potted plant on a windowsill inside to study with children. What do plants need to grow? Depending on what you plant, how high will it grow? Find out those answers and more with these gardening ideas here:

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Source: PBS Parents

3.Sponge Fun

Learn about absorption with a sponge! See how the sponge absorbs soap and water indoors, or take it outside to get messier! Compare the sponge to a block or other non-absorbent materials when it is both wet and dry. Why do you think it works like this? You can even turn chores, like washing dishes or a car, into a lesson about absorption. Check out the details of how absorption works and more fun facts about this activity here:

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Science Sparks

4. Tornado in a Jar

Jump into sensory play by creating your own tornado! All you need is a jar, water, and a little bit of dish soap. Now, just shake it up. For more detailed instructions, click on the jar!

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In Leiu of Preschool

5. Stargazing

If it’s a clear night, search for stars in the night sky! You can use a telescope or just look up above. Can you see planets? Any constellations? What are stars made up of? Here are the answers and some cool science facts for kids. Go even deeper into night sky exploration by checking out our related post: Planning a Family Stargazing Night.

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Easy Science for Kids

6. Fireflies

Can’t see the stars from where you are? Fireflies make a great summertime substitute! You can catch these little critters temporarily in acute bug jar (with a hole for airflow) to observe the bugs up close. Find out what makes fireflies glow and other cool facts about fireflies here:

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Smithsonian

For more summer science fun, visit our science section!

Top 10 Toys for Summer Learning

7 Jul

Want to beat the summer brain-drain? Keep your kids actively engaged in learning this summer. Whether children need to catch up or get ahead, these toys are perfect for fun summer learning:

1. The ThinkStretch Summer Learning Program™

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Designed for Common Core State Standards, this program is tailored specifically for grades ranging from PreK to Grade 5. Activities include writing activities, reading logs, mathematics worksheets, and even a bonus activity! The program includes a set of 10 weekly activities.

 

2. Owl Time Teaching Clock

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This fun owl teaches children to tell time! Whether you hang it on a wall or sit it on a desk, the clock features movable hands and colorful, removable numbers. The eyes also open and close to teach the difference between nighttime and daytime! The owl’s feet feature storage space for chalk and erasers.

 

 

3. Sight Word Flash Cards  21048

 

Quiz young children on their reading and testing skills with Sight Word Flash Cards! Made in the USA, sets feature words from Fry Instant Words and Dolch Words lists!

 

 

4. Reading Passages Main Idea & Details

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Help students advance their reading comprehension skills. Interesting fiction and non-fiction stories are included in this practice book! Features multiple choice and short answer assessments to help raise standardized test results. The book also provides example lessons, pre- and post-examinations, and an answer key.

 

5. Wonderfoam® Giant USA Puzzle Map

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Learn all of America’s states and their capitals with this giant, award-winning puzzle! States are listed on the fronts of puzzle pieces while capitals are labeled on the back.

 

 

 

 

6. Smart Play Smart Projector

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Refine motor skills and hand-eye coordination through the arts! Trace letters, numbers, and more with this fun projector. Features English and Spanish and includes a cool touch LED lightbulb.

 

 

 

7. Insect Lore Butterfly Pavilion School Kit

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Take learning outside with this fun, educational kit! Children will discover metamorphosis firsthand as they watch the process of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly right before their eyes.

 

 

 

8. Melissa & Doug® Pediatric Nurse Dress-Up Set

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Encourage dramatic play with this dress-up set that has everything required for little nurses to take care of newborn babies. The gender-neutral uniform provides pockets for pretend tools. Includes plush baby doll with a smiling face and removable diaper.

 

145518a9. Rock And Roll It! Flexible Roll-up Piano

Ideal for summer travel, this flexible piano rolls up quickly for storage. The battery powered core allows for more musical road trips. It also features a headphones port for solo musical play.

 

 

145540-bl10. LEGO® Journal – Blue

 

Children will be excited to write, draw, and even build with this journal! Includes 96 pages and a removable lego building plate band.

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!

Five Favorite Backyard Walkers

16 Jun

Are your little ones learning how to walk? Summer is a great time for kids to gain confidence in their stride. Walkers and push toys are great ways for helping kids to learn how to walk and balance. These five walker toys are perfect for pushing around outdoors this season:

1. Busy Builder Wagon

This pushable walker will keep your toddler busy with all of its fun activities! This walker comes with a wagon which contains 12 building blocks marked with letters, numbers, pictures, and new words! The Busy Builder Wagon also includes colorful sliding beads, a maze of wheels, and spinning, colorful gears which are perfect for encouraging hand-eye coordination.

 

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2. 2-in-1 Push ‘N Play Turtle

Both a walker and a play set in one wonderful toy! The turtle walker encourages balance as children stand and walk by easily gripping the brightly colored handle and steering the large base. The shape sorter allows little ones to work on their fine motor skills. It also includes a safety lock to maintain safe speed.

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3. Duck Push Toy

This colorful Duck Push Toy will provide exercise while also promoting balance, coordination, and motor skills. Make the duck flap its wings with a small push or pull.

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4. Chomp and Clack Alligator Push Toy

With each step, these three gators alternate chomping their jaws! Colorful beads spin to help build hand-eye coordination. Its easily gripped handle encourages activity and movement.

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5. Wide Tracker Activity Walker by Little Tikes

This multifaceted toy is a durable walker that folds up to become a floor play set. Includes modifiable control for wheel traction so you can match the walker to your child’s speed and walking ability. Learn colors, numbers, balance and motor skills.


Check out fun ideas to keep your children active throughout the summer:

 

5 Awesome Cars to Rev Up in the Driveway

2 Jun

Spending more time outside with your kids as summer approaches? Whether you’re washing the car, planting flowers, or doing yard work, outdoor play can take place right in the driveway! With a little chalk and imagination to create racetracks, we have just the cars for all of your child’s speedy adventures. Check out these five awesome cars to rev up for summer:

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1. Neo Tracks Flexible Assembly Track System & Extra Cars

This racetrack is engaging for little learners as they use problem solving and engineering to create different neo tracks for cars to race! Includes rechargeable cars for children to race around created tracks.

 

2.     63116.jpgOball™ Rattle & Roll Car Set (Set of 2)

With easy grips and colorful clattering beads in the wheels, these colorful cars are perfect for children 3 months and up. Not only are these cars ready for outdoor adventures, but they can also be used as a teether and rattle. Just push and go!

 

3.     Carrera® Servo Tronic (142811a.jpg2.4 GHz) Gee Arrow Remote Control Car

The Buggy Gee Arrow will provide hours of fun for kids! This powerful remote-controlled vehicle can race at a top speed of 20 km/h and automatically turns off after 30 minutes of standstill to conserve power. The RC car includes a controller, recharger, batteries, and a neck strap so that children don’t have to worry about dropping the controller.

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4.    Hot Wheels® Mega Hauler™ Truck

Does your child already have a large collection of Hot Wheels®? Then the Mega Hauler Truck is the perfect addition! Let your child pile on their favorite hot rods to haul cars wherever they want to play. Truck loads up to 50 cars with six expandable levels.

5. Tikes Patrol Cozy Coupe Car

 17282d.jpgCall out the crime fighters! This cozy coupe car is perfect for dramatic play as little ones pretend to cruise around town in their police car. This adorable car has a handle on the back for parent-controlled push rides and can be pedaled from below so that kids can take off on their own! Car also features cup holders, caster front wheels, ignition switch, and a horn!

 

 


Now that you have toy cars ready to go, don’t miss the following ideas for hands-on car play in the drive way:

 

Outdoor Games the Whole Family Can Play!

30 Jun

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Summer is the perfect season to get outside with the kids for fun family engagement! Active play is an important part of early childhood and becomes more engaging when parents are involved. We have a few games you can play with your kids that will leave you both learning and laughing together!

1. Four Square Madness

Have a driveway or empty pavement outside? Turn a hot, boring day into active play that will build fine motor skills in children by playing Four Square! Break out the chalk and playground balls for hours of fun as you teach children important lessons like boundaries, control, and patience while others players finish the game once a child is “out.” Find official Four Square rules here: http://www.squarefour.org/rules. Don’t have chalk? No worries! Find yours here; don’t forget to check out our selection playground balls below:

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2. Getting the Garden in Shape! 

Gardening is a great way to spend time together with your children as you teach them the importance of nutrition and sustainability. It can be hard to know how little ones can help when it comes to heavy gardening tools; that’s why we have just the thing! Find child-sized gardening tools below along with a tote they can carry to hold any yard tools you may need:

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3. Learning with Bean Bags!

Bean bags are always a fantastic way to get the whole family involved, however, with the addition of letters or numbers, they can also be used to bring classroom lessons outside. From spelling to counting, make up your own learning games with these easy-to-pack learning bean bags:

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4. Building Sand Castles with Molds!

Whether you’re taking a vacation to the beach or simply have a sand box in the backyard, sand encourages sensory play and is a great way to encourage building in children. See how big of a city your child can build or encourage creativity with the creation of canals or nature decorations like leafs for flags. The possibilities are endless when it comes to a child’s creativity!

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What are your child’s favorite ways to learn outside? Let us know by commenting below! Don’t forget to check out our Pinterest board: Outdoor Learning with Kids!