Tag Archives: parent involvement

Fostering Creativity in Your Child

12 May

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Providing opportunity and support for creative growth for your child can be difficult. Often between work, dinner, homework, and sports there seems to be less and less time for your child’s creative outlets. In addition to less time at home, schools are often losing more and more of their art programs as focus shifts to promoting STEM education. Finding a balance is key to creating a fostering environment for your child’s exploration of the arts. Consider the following activities as ideas of ways that you can weave creative moments into your child’s everyday life.

Provide the tools to create a masterpiece.

  • Gather all of your “child-friendly” art supplies into one central location for easy access and so that they can know what they have to freely create with.
  • Give them tools of their “trade”, such as providing a ballet bar for your little twirler, taps shoes for your jumping jack, and a box of costumes for your tiny actor to use in their living room performances.
  • Consider the Craft-tastic® Idea Box, which provides all the craft supplies and ideas that help kids tap into their own creativity.

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Provide the space to create.

  • It can be as simple as a basket of supplies and a blanket, a kitchen table covered in newspaper, or a whole crafting corner as long as there is a safe space to make stuff without worry of their safety or destroying of your favorite carpet.
  • Provide a quite space for your writer or painter to work without distractions.
  • No clear open space? Take art outside! Paint in the grass or even with sidewalk chalk! With the Chalktivity Stomp ‘n Stamps, they can create magical star and moon prints with every step or create a rainbow of color with the Chalktivity Rainbow Jump Rope.
  • Clear a space in the basement for your ballerina to practice her twirls. Help create a makeshift stage, complete with a blanket curtain, for your little actor to perform a play for the family.

Encourage multiple explorations.

  • Creativity is found beyond the coloring page. Be sure to expose your child to multiple aspects of the arts because you never know when an activity will spark a lifetime love and even a future profession.
  • Consider theater, singing, film, and dance camps. Perfect for exploring interests without a yearlong commitment.
  • Let them explore learning how to play musical instruments. Don’t want to commit to professional lessons? Try YouTube or the Toccata Musical Measure Blocks (which teaches about measures, rhythm, & meter).
  • Provide them an example! Don’t be afraid to show them that you can be creative too by dancing around the living room, helping them create a college of pictures, and playing a role in their backyard show.
  • Finally, provide opportunity. Whether it’s performing a song for their grandparents or painting a canvas for daddy’s office, find opportunities to not only encourage but also showcase their creative abilities as they continue to develop.

Encouraging Your Child’s Love of Animals

20 Apr

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Have you noticed that your little one has a particular fondness for furry friends? Whether they just love the family pet or all creatures, the love of animals is a great trait to have and support. Including this passion for animals into everyday activities can be a fantastic learning opportunity for teaching subjects likes responsibility, kindness, and even natural science! From learning about animals to actual animal care, their attachment to pets and wildlife can easily be supported and creates an excellent opportunity for family fun.

Positives of Pet Ownership

It doesn’t matter if they own a fish, a house full of furry friends, or a just collection stuffed animals; pet ownership can positively influence your little animal lover’s development. Taking care of a pet obviously teaches your child about responsibility, but it also teaches them how to nurture. Pets are often a source of unconditional love with provides your child with a “safe” friend to talk to and love. Pets also encourage children to be more active and social. From running with the dog in the backyard to playing with a friend’s hamster, animals require activities that are healthy to both the pet and owner. Perhaps due to space or family allergies, your child can’t own a pet. No worries! Maybe your child can visit pets of friends and neighbors; they can demonstrate to them how they take care of the pet and maybe let them join in for some activities. Consider adopting or sponsoring a pet at a local zoo! Your child can even help raise the money to cover the cost of the support. A trip to visit “their” animal is sure to be a blast!

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Ideas for Motivating Their Passion

From chasing lighting bugs outside to taking care of their favorite stuffed cat each night, your child will naturally find ways to explore their love of pets. Of course, spending time doing family activities is always important. Consider these ideas on how to combine your child’s love of animals with your family fun time. These activities are sure to entertain as well as educate and create extraordinary family memories for both you and your child.

  • Visit a zoo, farm, aquarium, nature preserve or local science center
  • Consider owning alternative pets like an ant farm or sea monkeys.
  • Pet-sit (a great way to trial run before adopting a pet of your own)
  • Let your child be a vet with the Nici® Wonderland Doll: Veterinarian Set
  • Take a nature walk while bird watching
  • Watch a live stream of an animal from a zoo
  • Visit animals at the pet store
  • Visit a dog park (with or without a dog. Just asking before petting!)
  • Create adorable pets with the Magnutto™ Junior Make a Pet™ Magnetic Activity
  • Visit a petting zoo or butterfly garden
  • Watch a film starring an animal while munching on animal themed snacks (like animal crackers and ants on a log)
  • Go on a virtual experience with the Genuine Ant Farm® Antopia Adventure™ Virtual Explorer
  • Create a zoo with stuffed animals and cardboard box “cages”

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Leave us a comment below and tell us your child’s favorite animal-themed activity.

Helping Your Child Cope with Stress

6 Apr

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Although stress is often associated with being an adult issue, children can also struggle with stress. There are plenty of factors that can lead to your child feeling these emotions—change of school, friends, seasons, classwork, and siblings—just to name a few common stressors. You as a parent, of course, want to ease these emotions, as best you can, and nurture your child’s mental health. Here are some recommendations to consider when mentoring your child on their stress management. (Please note if you have noticed an extreme change in your child’s behavior, please seek help from a mental health professional)

Good vs. Bad

Stress is normal. A little stress can motivate a child to achieve goals, learn new things, and explore new experiences. The first step in helping your child is identifying if your child’s stress is normal or unhealthy for them. Are they concerned for a certain test or testing in general? Are they worried about a certain situation or a long list of possibilities? Possible negative stress symptoms include increased crying, headaches and stomachaches, trouble sleeping, drastically changing emotions, and anxious body moments (like leg shaking and nail chewing). Listen and examine to decide if they just need a few extra words of encouragement or help with their entire stress management.

Stress can be contagious

As adults, we are often stressed about something in our lives. Regardless of the causes, this stress can be passed down to your child. Although they may have no direct ties to what is stressing you, they can reflect those emotions in areas of their own lives. Work towards creating a “stress free” home. Take the time to have relaxing family moments and vacations. Demonstrate how you ease your stresses to your little one. Whether it’s yoga, deep breathing or simply laying out in a hammock in the back yard, showing your child how you release your stress can help them release their own. Also, choose wisely on when and where is the appropriate time to vent about your own stressors because little ones are often listening and can pick up on your emotions. Stress can be contagious to a family, but if you make a conscious effort to identify and minimalize the stress you can create a happy and safe space for everyone.

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Stress relief techniques

Once you have identified what has stressed your child, it is then time to help them manage those feelings. First, pay close attention to your child’s behavior when they are feeling stressed. Do they increasingly rub their eyes? Do they sleep more? After you have noticed a sign that their stress has increased, it is time to initialize a stress relief technique. Consider the following:

  1. Outdoor play is an excellent way to help your stressed out little one. The exercise releases endorphins, which is a great natural relaxer. Explore our blog post on active play for more outdoor play ideas.
  1. Organization can also be key to relieving a child’s stress. We recommend the children’s book Get Organized Without Losing It , which is perfect for showing how being organized can be a great stress reliever.
  1. Consider small toys such as Theraputty and Tangle Therapy, which are designed to redirect stressful behaviors. These are also perfect for on-the-go relief when other techniques may not be an option.
  1. Lastly, simply teaching your child to slow down and just breathe can do a world of good for them. Taking multiple deep breaths, while having their eyes close, can melt away stress and refocus their brain.

Children will respond to stress differently, as long as you help them identify and manage their stressors, they should improve their own stress management, ultimately leading to a happy and relaxed life.

Sources and Resources:

http://americanspcc.org/signs-stress-kids-teens-reduce/?gclid=CKSDn_6ti9MCFcWPswodNpIE8Q

https://psychcentral.com/lib/7-tips-for-helping-your-child-manage-stress/

http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/stress-coping.html

Showing Dad How Much He Matters!

16 Jun

shutterstock_132978608Father’s Day is right around the corner! Fathers are an integral part of a child’s early education in the home as they provide stable male role models and play unique roles in children’s development. According to research, fathers are more likely to

  • promote children’s intellectual and social development through physical play;
  • emphasize independence and allow children more freedom to explore their surroundings, take risks, and challenge themselves; and
  • push their sons to higher levels of achievement.

To celebrate the special role father’s play in the lives of their children, we have a few fun crafts and books your kids can share with dad!

1. A Gift for the Car! Car Visor Clip

Help dad keep his car organized with this special gift!

Materials

  • clothespin, spring type
  • library pocket or small sturdy mailing envelope
  • paint
  • cotton swabs or thin paintbrushes
  • glue
  • nontoxic permanent marker

Make Your Great Gift

  1. Paint the clothespin and library pocket using the cotton swabs or thin paintbrushes.
  2. After the paint dries, glue the library pocket to one side of the clothespin.
  3. Use the permanent marker to personalize the clip by writing a title on the library pocket such as “Dad’s Car Clip.”
  4. Include a note with the gift suggesting that the recipient clip it to the car visor and use the pocket for parking stubs or other receipts.

Helpful Hint

  • The library pocket will last longer if it is laminated or covered with clear contact paper before attaching it to the clothespin. Glue does not adhere to laminate well, so use self-adhesive Velcro to attach the pocket to the clothespin.

Variation

  • Add magnetic tape to the back of the clothespin to create a refrigerator clip that can hold papers. Use the library pocket for storing pens and pencils.
  • Use a cut off denim jeans back pocket instead of a library pocket.

2. A Gift for the Office! Made-It-Myself Mouse Pad

Impress Dad with a unique mouse pad for the office!

Materials:

  • White or light-colored craft foam, cut into approximately 8” x 9” pieces
  • Nontoxic permanent colored markers
  • Clear vinyl, cut the same size and shape as craft foam
  • Clear 2” wide book or packing tape, cut to 9” length

Make Your Great Gift

  1. Brainstorm ideas to draw on the mouse pad. The following are possible ideas:
  • Draw a scene for the mouse to travel through
  • Trace simple shapes
  • Draw a self-portrait
  1. Draw the design on one side of the craft foam with the permanent markers.
  2. Place a piece of tape approximately 9” long to adhere clear vinyl to craft foam along the top long edge. Then you can slide notes, memos, or photos between the vinyl and the foam.
  3. Trim as needed.

Helpful Hints

  • Add notes and photos under the clear vinyl.
  • Clear vinyl, sold by the yard, may be found at stores that sell fabric. Or use leftover laminating film, clear page protectors, or clear report covers for the top of the mouse pad.

Source: 101 Great Gifts Kids Can Make

3. A Recipe to Make with Dad! 

Ingredients

  • 2” pieces of celery
  • 1/4 “ slices of carrots
  • peanut butte

Celery Race Cars

An easy and fun snack that will keep your child’s motor running!

What to Do

  1. Encourage your child to spread peanut butter into his celery “cars.”
  2. Spread peanut butter on the carrot slices and attach them to the celery to create “wheels.”
  3. Enjoy talking with Dad about your child’s favorite cars!

Source: The Budding Chef

4. Books to Celebrate Dad!

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Finally, there’s no better way to spend quality time with dad than by reading books together! We have a few selections that are sure to inspire bonding between little ones and their real-life heroes:

Have fun this weekend and a special Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there!

4 Ways to Build a Positive Relationship with Your Child’s Teacher

2 Sep

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With the new school year kicking off and your child becoming acquainted with a new schedule and peers, there are a few things you can do as a parent to ensure students are getting the most out of the classroom experience. One of the most important ways you can help your child succeed is by providing a positive relationship with their teacher. Students will not only be encouraged to make their own beneficial relationships, but they will also have an educational environment at home that supports learning efforts in the classroom. Here are four ways you can form a stronger connection with your child’s teacher.

 1. Get Your Chat On!

Communication really is key. From obtaining contact information at the beginning of the year, knowing the best way to get in touch with the teacher, and introducing yourself in a meeting or through Open House Night, establishing a clear method of communication will go a long way in providing support for your child. Be sure you place the teacher’s contact information somewhere it won’t be lost, whether it’s logged into your smart phone’s address book or under a magnet on the refrigerator. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the teacher when you have questions about student’s assignments or to set up meetings to discuss behavior. Educators will appreciate any effort to foster engagement as long as it is being approached from an amicable position.

2. Understand Expectations

Knowing what the teacher expects of your child and of you as a parent is key to forming a positive relationship. From the beginning of the school year, you should know how many volunteer hours are needed, how much homework children are expected to do daily, what schedules look like, and what you should be doing outside of the classroom to ensure your child is getting the most out of lessons. Many times, you can continue what is being learned at school through providing additional content for students to practice at home. Be sure to talk to your child’s teacher to understand how you can best provide support after hours. Here are a few options for fostering learning at home:

-Reading Readiness

-Math Mastery Games

-Art Exploration

-Building Communication

3. Be an Example

If you don’t fill out the paperwork sent home, chances are, children won’t complete the work required of them either. Filling out questionnaires, contact information and simple surveys may seem frivolous, but they can truly be used as tools by teachers to better know your family and how to best support your child. Check students’ homework folders, or whatever system of communication is used for paperwork sent home, and fill out surveys and required signatures on time so that you not only make things run easier in the classroom, but also provide a positive example for children to follow.

 4. Put It in the Calendar

Time and money are hard to come by, but when you are able to set aside either for the classroom, you will see your efforts pay off by creating a better overall learning experience for your child. When classroom expectations are being established, be sure to ask teachers what they most need, whether it is volunteers for Writing Night or more paint for the art studio. Doing what you can to pitch in with time or resources and then following through by plugging it into the calendar will make any teacher happy!

For more information on how to make time for volunteering, check out The Busy Family’s Guide to Volunteering: http://www.kaplantoys.com/product/47583/the-busy-familys-guide-to-volunteering

5 Ways to Make Chores More Fun!

29 Jul

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It’s hard to motivate kids to clean up; let’s face it, who wants to do chores? But cleaning, whether it is in the classroom, home, or even at a friend’s house, is an important part of learning responsibility. Children should learn at an early age that messes created affect other people who live in the same environment and that regularly tidying up is a requirement. But cleaning doesn’t have to be boring! We have a few fun ideas for you to use with your children that will not only teach responsibility, but also give children the motivation to take it!

1. Show Them How It’s Done!

It’s important to remember that children cannot be expected to know what or how to clean without being shown. Work alongside your child in every chore you assign to ensure they see how it is properly done. This will help with both visual learning and setting cleanliness expectations.

2. Dance as You Sweep!

Trust us, sweeping becomes much more enjoyable when dancing! In fact, that one favorite song will make children feel happier about doing whatever chore has been assigned. Movement is important in early childhood development as children work on gross motor skills, handling kid-sized brooms to make sure the floors are kept tidy! Adding a little movement to the picture and encouraging your children to dance as they sweep will have them laughing as they go – keeping messes to a minimum!

3. Race the clock!

Giving children a time limit will make chores a challenge children are willing to conquer! Tell your children they have 15 minutes to see how many chores they can get done before the time is up. This will really get kids moving and motivated to see how much they can accomplish. Have children concentrate on a specific room so they can see the results of before and after.

4. Make It Visual!

Small children are visual learners. Being able to see what is expected for the day will go a long way to keep young minds on track. Establishing a chore board where daily responsibilities are written out under each child’s name is a great way to communicate expectations and give children the satisfaction of crossing off accomplishments. If children have siblings, it will also challenge them to keep up with “big brother” or “big sister!”

Source: http://www.theyellowcapecod.com/2010/02/organized-chaos.html

5. Give Praise for Jobs Well Done!

When your child sees a chore through from start to finish, it teaches them the importance of following through. This is a big accomplishment! Praise children for jobs well done and it will build self-esteem along with instilling pride in completing assigned chores. Even though cleaning skills are sure to have plenty of room for improvement, concentrating instead on what children have done well will go a long way toward providing encouragement and affirmation.

-We hope you discovered some helpful ways to motivate your children to clean up their mess without the muss! Don’t forget to check out our cleaning sets for kid-friendly brooms, mops, and more!

-Have your own creative ways to get kids excited about cleaning? We’d love to hear from you! Share with us by commenting below or tweeting us @KaplanToys with the hashtag #makingchoresfun

Managing Your Kids’ Screen Time

17 Jun

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It can’t be avoided: technology is all around us. In fact, a 2013 study from Common Sense Media reported that kids eight and under spend around two hours a day with a screen. With the abundance of smart phones and tablets, it’s easy to see how unmanaged screen time can be associated with negative side effects in young children such as childhood obesity, increased isolation, and cyber bullying. However, if parents are involved in monitoring children’s time with technology, it can be used to aid in their development instead of harming it. With great parenting alongside limited screen time, young children can be brought up healthy in the digital age. Here are a few ways you can use your child’s screen time to his or her advantage.

Benefits of Online Engagement

Despite screen time being associated with negative side effects, it can actually be used to foster educational growth and encourage children to participate in online communities. Benefits of engaging online include:

  • Keeping already established friendships connected
  • Finding new peers who have the same interests
  • Fostering self-expression through artwork, music, and books
  • Establishing and expressing individual identity

For children to reap the full benefits that technology provides, there must also be rules in place to ensure the time spent online is being used productively. Here are a few things to keep in mind as your child interacts online.

Screen Time Usage

It’s important for parents to limit how much time young children are spending online through their smart phone or tablet. Make sure you establish rules with your children regarding appropriate virtual communication, ex: when they can use technology, how long they can spend on it, and whom they are allowed to contact. A few good questions to ask yourself are:

  • Is your child allowed to text or instant message? If so, who and between what times?
  • What apps can your child download? Do you need to set parental locks before an app can be purchased?
  • Does your child need to take his or her phone or tablet to school?
  • What time does the technology need to be put “to bed?”
  • Are there consequences for violating the agreed upon rules?

Teach Your Kids Netiquette

A lot of rules that govern online interactions simply carry over from teaching children manners. Children need to know that just because the person they are virtually communicating with isn’t in front of them does not mean that negative words have less of an impact. Taunting and cruel messages, or even impersonating a peer, are all forms of cyber bullying and need to be monitored. Within your household, specific rules of ethical online communications need to be established, so that young children know what is expected in their virtual conduct. Some questions to encourage kids to ask themselves would include:

  • Would I say the words I am typing to this person’s face?
  • Would what I’m saying hurt this person’s feelings if taken out of context?
  • Will this photo embarrass someone?
  • Would my parents approve of this message?

Discourage Isolation

Many times the presence of technology in the hands of a child can cause them to be isolated from the person right beside them! Talk to your children about being present in the moment and interacting with the people around them. This will play an integral role in fulfilling young children’s need for social engagement and prevent them from being isolated. For great ideas on how to get kids involved, check out our family engagement resources here.

Understanding Privacy

Every app and platform for virtual communication has privacy settings. Making sure your children understand your rules, such as whom they can engage with online or through text is important in keeping them safe. It is better to have all personal information secure so that only select people can see it. Children need to understand that those privacy standards do NOT apply to family members. Technology guidelines need to be set from the beginning to let your child know what is expected in regards to your right to see their phone or tablet.

We hope you enjoy learning more with your kids and allowing technology to help them do so! For a list of educational apps to get your kids started, check out the following website: http://www.parents.com/fun/entertainment/gadgets/best-educational-apps-for-kids/

Resources: