Tag Archives: memories

Turning Dinnertime into Family Time

27 Apr

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In today’s world, it is often seen as a rarity for a family to regularly sit down and enjoy dinner together each night. Between soccer practice, music lessons, and mommy clubs, dinnertime often has to be “worked” into the family schedule. So when you do find yourself having a dinner with the whole gang, make sure you make the best of that special time. Whether you are just grilling out some burgers, whipping up a 5-course meal, or even picking up the family favorite takeout—your family dinnertime can be more than just consumption of food. Consider our advice on how to turn the act of simply eating together into precious moments of laugher and family bonding.

Start at the beginning

While you are planning, shopping, and prepping your family’s meals, your children are often left out of the process. Perhaps turn your prep activities into family activities. Let your children select the meal or host a family favorites night, featuring a favorite food item from each member. Simple acts of washing the veggies and stirring the sauce can make your child feel included and important. If your child is too young to help out with the cooking, provide them play sets like the New Sprouts® Grill It! so that they “cook” alongside you. Let the pressures of dinnertime become a family exploration with every member playing an important part.

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A grand affair

If a traditional family dinner is not typical for you, why not treat it as the special occasion that it is! Use those nice dishes collecting dust in cabinet. Bust out a tablecloth and some flowers (possibly picked by your child) to help you set the stage for a special night of fun. Even if family dinner is an every night affair, occasionally adding of bit of flair is sure to spark some excitement. Treat your little ones to a fun new place setting like the Mickey SuperBib Set or the Construction Eating Place Setting to make eating exciting! Don’t forget to create after dinner delight! Not talking about dessert (but don’t forget that too), but about providing post dinner entertainment. This entertainment doesn’t have to be fancy, can simply mean streaming a new movie, playing a game like the Parent Quiz® After Dinner Trivia Game, or even stargazing. Whether you choose to do a full table spread complete with Pinterest décor or simply a special dessert, as long as you treat family dinner night as the exceptional little moment that it is, you’ll be sure to create memories that will last.

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!

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!

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.

Sensory Play for Rainy Days

3 Mar

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Rainy days don’t have to ruin all the fun! There are plenty of creative ways to play and enjoy the day indoors! Keep reading for some new, fun ways to pass the time while waiting for the sun to return.

  1. Indoor Sandbox. Sand isn’t as messy as you’d think, especially if you use kinetic sand, such as Shape It! Sand. It never dries out, so it’s always ready to build another sandcastle. It’s also great for sensory awareness and development. Put out a large blanket or get out a kiddie pool and have some beachy fun indoors!
  2. Inside Rug Skating. Tear out some magazine pages, step on them, and you instantly have rug skates! Let your little ones slide and glide around the house without the mess or danger of real skates.
  3. Button Jewelry. Let kids make themselves or a loved one a button necklace or bracelet. All you need is some string and some colorful buttons, and soon your kids will be making the latest in craft jewelry trends!
  4. Wiggly Eye Silliness. Take some Wiggly Eyes and stick them on random items around the house. Surprise each other by secretly sticking them on things when the others aren’t looking. It’s sure to make the kids laugh until their bellies ache!
  5. Mini Picassos. Up the craft ante with a variety of art supplies and encourage kids to be super creative. For example, the Sensory Collage Kit allows kids to experiment with different collage materials as they create their own works of art. Having more than just paint and paper can help them engage with descriptive vocabulary and develop sensory awareness.
  6. Dance in the Rain. Why not go with a classic and head out into the front or back yard for an invigorating dance in the rain? Play your kids’ favorite music and maybe even include some water blasters to get even more soaked! Of course, always be aware of thunder and lightning in your area, and stay safe.
  7. Hot Cocoa. What cold, rainy day isn’t made better by a warm drink? Whip up some hot chocolate (marshmallows are optional, of course) for a special treat after lunch or dinner!

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Whether it’s a thunderstorm or a little drizzle, rainy days can bring out the blues in everyone. Blow those blues away with these engaging indoor activities that are creative, physically active, and just plain fun! Don’t forget to check out the rest of our blog for more innovative and exciting ideas and activities.

Creating Cozy Nooks to Encourage Reading

23 Feb

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We all know that warm and cozy feeling of curling up with a good book. When the environment is just as enjoyable as the words on the page, reading becomes less of a task and more of a relaxing entertainment medium. Encourage your kids to read more by creating a perfect reading nook at home. Use our tips to create their very own secluded place to read, play, dream, and grow.

Seating. Decide what type of seating is best for your child’s temperament. Do they like to curl up and get comfortable? Get them their own big comfy chair or create a fort of pillows. Do they tend to move more and hate sitting still? Consider a more flexible seating option that allows for both movement and focus. There are many different learning styles and adjusting to them is an easy way to ensure development and progress.

Fuzzy Friends. Fill the reading area with some of your child’s favorite friends or new stuffed animals and encourage them to read aloud to them. Tell them that they’re the teacher, reading a story time book to their “class.” This creates a more engaged experience that will help children learn while enjoying the developmental process.

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A Mini Library. It doesn’t need to be a huge selection; even just a few choices will prevent kids from getting bored easily and will encourage more reading time. You can use a small bookshelf or even stack some storage bins on their sides to create a makeshift shelf. Of course, every reading nook needs books! Children often fly through their favorites, check out library sales and garage sales for new books or ask neighbors and friends if they have any books they’d be willing to part with. And be sure to check out all of the books that Kaplan Toys has to offer.

A Spot For You! Reading together is great family time, so be sure to make some space for you to join your child as they engage with their favorite books. A few minutes can create memories that are sure to last a lifetime. You have the power to make reading a lifelong love, so make some time to read with your little ones!

The perfect reading nook doesn’t have to be Pinterest-perfect or extravagant. Simply creating a space that’s perfect for your little bookworm will help them foster a love of reading that’s sure to continue throughout their lives. For more items to create the perfect reading nook, head to www.kaplantoys.com.