Tag Archives: family engagement

Creative Ways to Introduce Language and Literacy to Children

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Want to make learning language fun for you and your children? Introducing language and literacy to infants and young children can be a challenging process. Whether you are teaching little ones their first language or you are promoting dual language learning, here are some ways you can make learning language and literacy more fun:

Combine Learning Styles.

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Help children get a grasp on literacy by using headset devices that help them hear the words as they read along aloud without disturbing others. The WhisperPhone® Solo allows children to link the sounds they hear with words they see and read, combining auditory and visual learning.

Build up Vocabulary.

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ABC Blocks are a classic toy. Children can learn to build words and sentences block by block with timeless educational blocks. This new Uncle Goose Classic ABC Blocks set features four complete alphabets as well as numbers, animals, and mathematical symbols.

Put the Pieces Together.

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Introduce another language to your child with an alphabet floor puzzle! Learn about different and same letters in other alphabets and look along with appealing visuals. This Spanish ABC Floor Puzzle introduces the Spanish alphabet as well as vocabulary of some animals, plants, and food!

Make Magnet Magic!

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Word magnets allows children to see, touch, and arrange their words. Magnetic words can help children learn to create sentences while encouraging creativity and imagination. Have a whale of a time with this new Magnetic Poetry® Really Big Words Set.

Crack the Case.

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Mysteries can make language more exciting for advanced learners who want to be challenged. Games like Language Detective helps students develop language and writing skills under the guise of solving a mystery. In this case, children find misused words as well as errors in punctuation, capitalization, and spelling.

 


For more ways to make language arts more engaging, visit our language arts section!

Inspiring a Love of Literacy with Indoor Forts

16 Feb

One of the best ways to inspire a love of literacy in young children is by providing safe and cozy reading spaces. Reading can become even more of an adventure as children’s imaginations take off, whether they are diving into a cave, entering a castle, or camping out under the stars! We’ve collected five of our favorite ways to build forts with your kids to turn their next reading time into a fortified adventure:

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1. The Traditional

If you’re looking for an easy fort to start with, then this one is for you! Simply pull out a square table and fasten two duvets so that all sides of the table are covered. Create an entrance by folding the blankets into a triangle so that children can crawl in! Pile in couch cushions or pillows so that kids have somewhere comfy to stretch out. It’s the perfect blanket fort to escape for some quality reading time.

Source: http://www.thejennyevolution.com/diy-easy-blanket-forts/

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2. The Star Gazer

Have old cardboard boxes? Simply set them on their sides for a crawl-in entrance. Poke holes through the top and insert holiday lights for a starry night to gaze at as children break out books under their personal sky!

Source: http://lifeasmama.com/10-awesome-fort-ideas-to-build-with-your-kids/5/

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3. The Adventurist

Do your kids love camping? Break out a clothesline, throw a sheet over it, and tie down the edges with four stakes. With a blanket and pillows underneath, children will have a comfortable outdoor retreat to escape to for some outdoor reading time!

Source: http://lifeasmama.com/10-awesome-fort-ideas-to-build-with-your-kids/

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4. The Air Fort

Make way for a new type of fort. Tape a fan to a sheet for added fun. The airflow will create crawl space for a flowing air fort, no blankets required. The moving walls are sure to add more creativity to imaginative play! Find out how to build one here: http://teachingmama.org/diy-air-fort/

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5. The Extension

Finally, you can take dramatic playhouses and extend them with blankets! Simply clip on sheets with clothespin to make extended rooms for children to play in. That way, they can have an adorable entrance and space for friends! Browse our selection of play houses to get started:

Tips & Tricks

Here are a few additions you can make to any fort to add a little magic.

  • Holiday lights: a little twinkle goes a long way when reflecting on sheets and blankets
  • Comfy seating: ensuring children are comfortable can also make forts the perfect places for nap time
  • Book selection: be sure books are readily available for your little readers to explore!

Helping Little Hands for Thanksgiving Dinner

10 Nov

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As the holidays approach, there are more and more opportunities for little hands to get involved as you prepare for family get-togethers! One of the biggest jobs can be the Thanksgiving meal! Why not turn what can be stressful into a learning opportunity for your children? Here are a few ways to get little ones involved in the process:

1. Pretzel Kabobs

One easy way for kids to get involved is by making kabobs! Create patterns and different combinations by making completely edible kabobs with an assortment of foods – from cubes of turkey breast to grapes.

Ingredients:

  • Apple slices
  • Cheese pieces
  • Grapes
  • Pretzel sticks or rods
  • Turkey, cubed
  • Cranberry

What to Do:

  1. Before your child begins to make their kabob, prepare the ingredients by pre-cutting holes in the center so they can slide food onto the pretzel stick and avoid frustration of having the pretzel break.
  2. Invite your child to choose a combination of items and slide each one onto a pretzel stick.
  3. Encourage your child to discover different pattern possibilities.
  4. Serve for a creative Thanksgiving meal appetizer!

Source: The Budding Chef

2. Apple Butter in a Crock-Pot

This delicious spread is a crowd pleaser. Make it in the fall and fill your home with the season’s best aroma for the family to enjoy. It’s also a great addition to any bread that may accompany your Thanksgiving spread!

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds medium-sized cooking apples
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3 ¾ cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves

Tools

  • crock-pot
  • Cutting board
  • knives

What to Do:

  1. Peel, core, and slice the apples. Invite your child to help as much as possible, but supervise closely.
  2. Have your child put the apples, water, and cinnamon into a crock-pot to make applesauce. Cover and cook for 8 to 10 hours. (Savor the aroma!)
  3. The next day, help your child mix the applesauce, sugar, and cloves in the crock-pot.
  4. Take turns stirring every hour, for 8 hours total.
  5. Before you and your child go to bed, turn the crock-pot to low heat and let the mixture cook all night. The apple butter will be ready to eat in the morning!
  6. Help your child fill small baby food jars with the apple butter.
  7. Refrigerate once the butter is cool to ensure that the apple butter stays fresh!

Source: The Budding Chef 

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3. Stone Soup

Whether it’s your famous stuffing or casserole, many Thanksgiving dishes require a lot of ingredients. Have your kids bring different ingredients and comment on how everyone has something different to add to the dish. Once you’re at a good stopping point, read Stone Soup and reflect on how important everyone’s role is in making a meal truly come together.

Looking for more ways your children can get involved? Check out the following resources:

10 Fall Activities for Families

20 Oct

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Looking for things to do with your children to get outside and enjoy the autumn weather? Get in the fall spirit and celebrate the season with the following family activities to keep children learning! Check off your seasonal bucket list by trying out these 10 fun fall activities for the family:

  1. Go on a nature walk! Turn your back yard or local park into a natural playground. Encourage children to take in the changing leaves and crisp weather as they note seasonal changes in their Nature Keeper & Tree Diary. Don’t forget to bring items back for your sensory table!
  2. Dress for the weather together! Pick out matching scarves or toboggans to bundle up for the season. Be sure to talk to your child about the importance of dressing warmly enough for the season. Learn more in our related post: Teaching the Reasons for the Seasons.
  3. Make a pot of soup or chili! Cooking together is always a great learning opportunity for little learners, and something warm and soothing is the perfect meal after playing outside in the chilly weather! Find a fun recipe in The Budding Chef!
  4. Break out the pumpkins! You haven’t truly celebrated fall until you pick out a pumpkin! There are a plethora of great pumpkin crafts for children, from sensory activities, to yummy recipes, to pumpkin carving for the Halloween season! For fun pumpkin ideas, visit our Pinterest board! 
  5. Pick sunflowers! It’s sunflower season; find a sunflower patch and pick these sunny flowers with your little one. Dry out the seeds later for a fun snack!
  6. Go to a fall fair! Search for festivals happening around your home to take a trip to the closest fall fair. With exciting rides, sweet snacks, and fun music, it’s sure to be a fun time for the whole family!
  7. Find a flea market! Markets are always fun places for children to find treasures! From discussing how old trinkets work to seeing farm animals, you will be sure to have many interesting conversations with your child as they discover a world of new things!
  8. Camp out and tell spooky stories! Have a tent? Set it up, grab the sleeping bags, and take a flash light for story time! It’s always fun to tell spooky stories as you work on your child’s storytelling skills. It’s also a great opportunity to discuss the difference between what’s real and what’s fiction. Find kid-sized tents for backyard adventures here.
  9. Make a scarecrow! Creating a scarecrow is always a great way for children to express creativity as they bring simple pieces of wood to life. Don’t forget to come up with a name once it’s finished!
  10. Star gaze! Bundle up and go out at night with a telescope! Cool nights can lead to clear skies as you learn about the constellations together with your children. Browse our telescope selection here.

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Don’t forget to enter our Guess Boo? Toy Detective Contest on Facebook this week by checking in at 9AM every morning to see if you can guess what toy is hiding behind the ghost mask! Good luck!

Fresh Fall Activities!

22 Sep

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Fall starts today! Celebrate the change in seasons with these fun activities you can do with your children. (Don’t forget the usual fall favorites of pumpkin spice, leaf piles, and fashionable fall boots and scarves!)

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1. Study Science by Tracking Seasonal Trees

In the spring and summer, trees have green leaves. When fall arrives, however, many leaves change color. Instead of green, you can see red, purple, orange, and yellow.

What You’ll Need:

  • Camera
  • Clear contact paper
  • Trees

What to Do:

  1. Select an area outside that has several trees, including both deciduous (trees with leaves that fall off in the winter) and coniferous (evergreen) trees, if possible.
  2. Visit the trees in early autumn. Pick a tree to “adopt” and observe. Encourage your child to explore everything they can about the tree, such as feeling the bark; examining the leaves or needles; looking for seeds, pinecones, nuts, and so on.
  3. Take a picture of your child next to their tree.
  4. As the deciduous trees begin to show signs of change, take another photo of your child next to their tree. How does the tree look different? Take photos as the trees with leaves change color and then lose their leaves. Have the evergreen trees changed?
  5. Continue checking on your tree throughout the year. Take photos in the spring when the trees are budding and when they have all of their leaves in summer.
  6. Cover the photos with clear contact paper.
  7. Spread the photos on a table. What changes do you see over time?

Books to Enjoy:

Activity adapted from The Budding Scientist.

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 2. Bake “Hello, Pumpkin!” Muffins

What better way to give your child a healthy dose of beta-carotene than with a delicious and nutritious pumpkin muffin? The sweet taste will keep him or her coming back for more, and the whole-wheat flour and pureed pumpkin will pack a powerful nutritional punch!

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups canned pumpkin
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cloves
  • chocolate chips (optional)
  • raisins

Note: Makes 1-2 dozen muffins, depending on size.

What to Do:

  1. Grease a muffin tin, or place muffin liners inside the muffin cups.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (adult only.)
  3. Invite your child to mix all of the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  4. Mix the wet ingredients together in a smaller bowl.
  5. Show your child how to make a well in the dry ingredients. Then help him or her pour the wet ingredients into the well of the dry ingredients.
  6. Mix gently until blended. If you want to add chocolate chips to the muffin mix, do so now.
  7. Fill the muffin cups about ¾ full. Give your child raisins to make faces on top of every muffin. Say, “Hello, Pumpkin!’ each time he or she creates a face, and be prepared for giggles!
  8. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Activity adapted from The Budding Chef.

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3. Create a Fall Leaves Art Suncatcher!

Finally, fall is a season full of beautiful colors that can sometimes come along with chilly weather. Celebrate the season from indoors with a colorful art project best appreciated by bright windows! The Fall Leaves Resist Art Suncatcher is a great tactile project for little hands. Find instructions for making this fun art project here: http://www.two-daloo.com/fall-leaves-resist-art-suncatcher/.

How will you be celebrating the season? Let us know by commenting below!

Learning About Careers for Labor Day!

1 Sep

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Labor Day weekend is quickly approaching! Do you have plans for your family? The three-day weekend can be a great time to teach your children about different careers in the community as well as get them thinking about potential career paths for themselves! Here is a fun project you can do together to celebrate the holiday with young children:

The Jobs People Do Project

Materials:

  • Poster board
  • Markers
  • Graphics representing different jobs
  • Glue
  • Clothing proper representing different jobs
  • Various proper representing different jobs
  • Magazines
  • Construction paper

What To Do:

  1. Take a survey; ask parents in the community what they do for a living as well as discussing what you do for a living. Make a list of their jobs.
  2. Ask your children what they think each position does or includes and record their responses.
  3. Compare what your children say with what the jobs actually include. Talk a little about each type of job. One great way to do this is by using the Career Book Set. Make sure you don’t make children feel as if they answered incorrectly. Gentle correction is always best.
  4. Continue until you have talked about every job and then make a list of all of the jobs on a piece of poster board.
  5. Make a word/picture graph depicting community jobs. At the top of the graph print: “The Jobs People Do.” Under the heading make two columns, one for Moms and one for Dads. Print each parent’s job in the proper column. Add a small graphic that represents that job next to the printed words.
  6. Break out the dramatic play! Encourage kids to use props to pretend they are working at the different jobs discussed. If you’re in need of props, check out our career selection below:

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  1. Cut out magazine pictures of people working to make a Jobs Collage as a family project.
  2. Work to create a unique and colorful jobs mural on poster board. Title it: “The Jobs People Do” and display it in your home for all to see. You can adapt this mural to do “Jobs I Want To Do” and have children include careers they are interested in.
  3. Wind up your celebration of the jobs people do by visiting a career place of your child’s choice. Libraries, fire stations, and sheriff’s offices are all usually open for the holiday, but it depends on individual hours. So, be sure to check beforehand!

Activity adapted from The GIANT Encyclopedia of Monthly Activities For Children 3 to 6.

For even more resources to get your children talking about what careers they are interested in, check out these career toys:

Back to School: 5 Questions to Ask Teachers

25 Aug

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Are your kids starting school this week? As your children take off for the classroom, here are five questions you’ll want to ask their teacher to ensure they have a productive school year. After all, it’s always best to know how you can get involved to best supplement children’s learning experience in the home.

1. Is there anything I can tell you about my child that will help you better support them in the classroom?

Helping an educator understand your child’s needs from the start is a great way to equip them for a more meaningful relationship with your child. This can include anything from food allergies to personal strengths and weaknesses. The information exchange will allow for greater inclusivity in the classroom as well as act as an assurance for you that your child is being properly catered to in an active learning environment.

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2. How can I provide the proper homework support?

It is paramount to establish a homework routine at the beginning of the year. Whether it’s checking a homework folder, signing off on a weekly newsletter, or checking a website, keeping up-to-date with your child’s homework requirements and holding them accountable to complete their weekly work load is key to their success in the classroom. Check out of some of our favorite homework resources below:

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3. How should I respond when my child is struggling in the classroom?

As a parent, you know best when your child is struggling in the classroom. Many times, you can feel restless as you try to figure out how best to help. Putting a strategy in place at the beginning of the year is a great way to address problems before they arise. It will also establish an effective line of communication between you and the educator. One tool that can be used to ensure you stay involved throughout the year with your child’s literacy development is TAG You’re It! (Yearlong Parent Engagement Initiative). It’s always proactive to ask your child’s teacher if the classroom has already implemented this program or a program similar to it.

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4. Is there technology needed to support self-directed learning in the home?

Many times, children can start falling behind in the classroom because they don’t have the necessary technological support in the home. Whether you have to take children to a library or invest in a new laptop, providing children with the tools they need to further learning concepts from the classroom is important not only for academic success, but also for fostering digital literacy as young children grow in the 21st century. Here are some of our favorite pieces of technology for the home:

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 5. What academic standards do you use and what do I need to know about them as a parent?

Understanding the agenda and the academic standards of the classroom is key to supporting them at home. It will also help you understand what areas your child may be struggling in so that you can implement strategies to focus on those skills outside of the classroom. Whether it’s phonics or math, we have learning tools to support additional learning in your children to bring them up to speed:

We hope your kids are having a great first week back to school! Let us know what questions you always ask educators during the first week back by commenting below or on our Facebook page.

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