Gratitude and More! Character Education for Kids

10 Nov

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

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

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!

Dramatic Play with Baby Dolls

23 Sep

 

Dolls offer a range of dramatic play opportunities for your little ones as they learn the importance of being gentle with infants and how to care for another person. Here are four ways you can encourage your child to grow into a natural nurturer:

30174.jpg1. Pretend the doll is a younger sibling.

Dolls can be a great way to prepare your toddler for a new arrival! Show your child how to properly hold their doll, how to speak in a quiet voice, and even how to change a diaper. It’s a great way to warm your child up to the idea of a new baby in the house. Check out our suggested doll choice below:

 

80799p.jpg2. Practice parenting.

Modeling is natural form of learning, and it can be insightful for you, as well! Encourage your child to parent their pretend baby just as you take care of them. This is a great way to teach responsibility as children remember the importance of taking time for healthy meals, getting to bed at a reasonable time, and learning how to dress for appropriate seasons. See our suggested doll choice below:

 

82031p_2015.jpg3. Host a tea party.

Another great way for children to engage in dramatic play is by hosting a tea party! Work on conversation skills and good manners as children serve dolls first and talk to them about the wonders around them! Suggested doll choice below

 

 

145781a.jpg4. Establishing sleep routines.

Having company for bedtime stories is always relaxing. Children can use babies as companions to snuggle with as they learn to sleep by themselves and fall asleep on their own. Find our suggested doll choice below:

 


Whether it’s pushing baby around in a stroller to develop gross motor skills or tucking baby into bed, having a doll around the house can be an insightful hands-on learning experience for your child. Find our complete selection of dolls here: https://www.kaplantoys.com/shop/dolls-and-doll-houses

5 Toys that Grow with Your Baby!

15 Sep

Buying toys for your baby can be a challenge. Since infants grow so fast and at different developmental paces, we want to provide you with toy selections that can grow with your little one to help you get the best value for your purchase. Here are our five favorite toys that grow with your baby:

 

1. Grow-With-Me Activity Gym & Ball Pit

141452a.jpgThis activity gym is full of surprises! Use it as a comfy play mat for infants; once children are mobile, simply pull up the mesh sides to keep them in the safe zone. Encourage sensory play as they grow by turning the safe zone into a fun ball pit featuring 40 colored balls. All of these features come in the adorable shape of a turtle!

 

 

2. Newborn-to-Toddler Play Gym

145637cThis safari-themed play gym is adjustable and features a colorful mat for infants as they play with exciting bobbles above. Once your child is able to sit, the gym can be adjusted so that babies have access to the three mesh pockets. Once standing, toddlers can play with the woodland creatures that act as built-in ramps for balls to roll down and exit to the floor. This is one toy children won’t lose interest in!

 

3. Baby Einstein Discovering Music Activity Table

142965a.jpgTeach music to infants as they grow! This activity table can be floor level for easy infant access or adjust to become a piano station, guitar station, drum station, and a shape station. Includes English, Spanish, and French languages giving your little learner variety as their brains develop.

 

 

4. Early Melodies Pound and Tap Bench

30000n_b.jpgEncourage infants to learn melodies from an early age! Start by placing balls into the holes to practice color coordination and create music as the balls roll across the xylophone. Once children have better developed motor skills, they can use the hammer to tap out melodies on the xylophone. It’s a great way to expose your child to music for the first time and encourage music learning as they grow.

 

5. Fisher Price Roller Blocks Rocking Wagon

145334.jpgThe fun never ends with this rocking wagon! It’s Sit & Play mode allows babies to sit beside the wagon as they stack blocks, spin the clicker, and press the teeter-totter to hear music. As they become more mobile, they can advance to the Stand & Pull mode, which helps develop motor skills as they push and pull around their music wagon full of magical learning!

 

 


Regardless of what toy you choose, remember to select toys that provide years of quality learning for all of your child’s developmental stages. Have fun!