Your Back-To-School Prep List

Guest Blog by Brandi | Lakeshore Blog Ambassador from Mama Knows It All

It’s time to head back to school, and after a fun summer with no homework or rules, it can be tough to get back in the swing of things. As a former educator, I’ve done this a million times, and I have plenty of tips to share that will help make the transition from summer to school a little easier for you. Even if you aren’t the most organized mama (guilty!), or you’re just not ready to let go of summer break yet (guilty again!), I know you can get your kiddos ready before the bell rings on the first day of school.

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Step 1: Get Organized

Before you go out and start purchasing a bunch of new school items, organize the things you already have. If you didn’t file schoolwork and other papers away when school got out at the beginning of the summer, do that now. I put all of my daughter’s things away in the My Keepsake Portfolio and stored it out of the way.

After you go through the papers, empty out pencil boxes and crayon containers. I understand that school shopping is part of the fun of going back to school, but that doesn’t mean that pencils, crayons and markers from the year before have to go to waste. Instead, put them in containers on your kids’ desk so they can use them for homework and projects.

Throw out anything that is run down or beat up and make space for all the new materials your kids will be bringing home!

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Step 2: Go Shopping

After you’ve organized things at home, it’s time to go shopping for supplies. Here’s something I learned the hard way: Before you go, it’s super-important to make a list. Even though you might think you can wing it (especially if it isn’t your first time at the rodeo), it’s never a good idea to go back-to-school shopping without a thorough list. Although most schools send a list of supplies for each grade, make sure you think of supplies you’ll want to keep at home.

Picking up the Arts & Crafts Supply Center from Lakeshore Learning Materials is an easy way to make sure you have craft materials on hand for homework and school projects. It comes filled with things like pom-poms, sequins and other fun items to add color and pop to schoolwork.

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If your budget allows, double the supplies on your list so you don’t have to go out later in the year to replenish everything. If you have even more wiggle room in your budget, triple your list and donate a set of supplies to your kids’ classrooms for the teachers to keep on hand.

Be sure to involve your children in the shopping, too. It’s a great learning opportunity! Let them help you make a budget, price items and keep track of what you’re purchasing. It will help them get back into school and learning mode.

Step 3: Create a New Schedule

For most kids, summer schedules are much different from school schedules. Now is the perfect time to start implementing a schedule that will help your kids succeed when school starts back up. Start moving their bedtime up just a bit, by five or 10 minutes each night, to make sure they’re getting enough sleep. When they wake up in the morning, have them get dressed, eat breakfast and work on a project for a few hours…instead of going into summer chill mode!

It will also be helpful to create a calendar that lists every family member’s activities. Add things like Girl Scouts, piano lessons and anything else that you know the times and dates of for now. Sit the entire family down and go over the schedule. Set expectations for each day and get everyone on the same page. For example, make sure your kids know not to ask for play dates on Wednesday because that day is super-busy. You’ll all be at home a lot less once school starts, so you’ll have to maximize the time you do have.

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Your children might not like following a schedule, especially if things have been pretty free flowing over the summer. But trust me, it’ll make a world of difference when that alarm starts buzzing at six in the morning!

Step 4: Prepare to Learn

Getting back into the learning mindset can be a challenge after a few months of leisure. If you haven’t already, get your kids ready for school with some fun learning games. We’ve been loving The Allowance Game® and the Add-It-Up! Archery Set. Both focus on math skills, foster confidence in learning and engage the entire family.

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You can find a bunch of learning games at Lakeshore Learning Materials (even during the school year) to complement the work your kids are doing in school. Just because school is starting, it doesn’t mean the fun has to end. In fact, you should get ready for a new phase of fun to begin! Happy back-to-school!

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Host Your Own Family Olympic® Games

Guest Blog by Susie | Lakeshore Blog Ambassador from Busy Toddler

The Olympic® games are here! What better way to introduce and kick off the games than by holding backyard Olympic® games for your family? Kids (and adults) will love these simple activity ideas, and you’ll love how easy they are to set up.

I had so much fun making different activity stations for my family. I set out with two goals—having family fun…and introducing my young son to several new games, each targeting a variety of skills. Spoiler alert: I nailed it on both goals! Our family loved this lineup of games, and it was especially fun having all the activities ready to play from the get-go (instead of having to stop and set up between stations).

Here are my eight favorite backyard Olympic® games for families. I’ve also included what my son loved about each game and what I (as a mom and a former teacher) loved about them as well.

1. Backyard Skee-Ball

Who doesn’t love skee-ball? I’m such a big fan of this arcade game that I wanted to introduce it as a backyard game for my son. I set out three bowls in varying sizes and gave him a bucket of balls to shoot with. This variation was just as fun as the arcade version…and definitely not a gimme for Dad and me! You can make the game a little more challenging by standing farther back to shoot. My son loved the challenge and thrill of scoring. I loved the rule-following (you have to stand a certain distance back) and the eye/hand coordination practice the game provides. We used balls from the Let’s Get Moving! Numbers & Counting Kit.

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2. Bowling for Cones

Talk about a game that’s easy to set up…and fun for all ages! This game captured the whole family’s interest; we were all dedicated to knocking down the pins. We used a soccer ball and cones to create a makeshift bowling alley. It’s not easy rolling a ball on uneven grass, so this took some turns for each of us to master. My son loved trying various ways to knock down the cones (rolling, kicking, and throwing the ball). I loved seeing him use persistence…and watching him wait patiently for his turn. We used the Best-Buy Color Cones as our “pins.”

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3. Paper-Plate Flying Disc

We took a few thick paper plates and decorated them using markers and crayons. Then we used them as homemade flying discs (think Frisbee)…and oh-what-fun that was! We measured the distance each one flew and learned some new tossing skills (Dad is oddly good)…plus, we made something fly, which is always a hit with the kids. My son loved learning a new skill—he’d never thrown a flying disc before! I loved that he got to use gross motor skills to throw the discs.

4. Fast Number Feet

Here’s a gross-motor-skills game with a math twist! Using large dice and some numbered feet, I made an awesome game for both toddlers and the elementary-age crowd. I scattered the numbered feet on the grass and handed my toddler the dice. He threw the dice, read the numeral, and raced to find the matching foot. He couldn’t stop laughing…and neither could we! My son loved the fun of rolling the dice and finding the matching foot, and I loved how the game combined math and movement to create a total two-for-one activity. We used the feet and dice from the Let’s Get Moving! Numbers & Counting Kit.

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5. Bicycle Obstacle Course

There’s no velodrome in our backyard, so I set up a simple obstacle course on our patio with cones. This course worked great on bicycle and on foot! I used chalk to add arrows between the cones to make the course a bit like bicycle slalom, which added just the right amount of challenge. We took turns on our bikes going around the course. My son loved weaving around the cones, and I loved that he was using his problem-solving skills to get around each obstacle. We used the Best-Buy Color Cones in our setup.

6. Balance Beam

Ever since watching the U.S. Olympic® Trials for gymnastics, my son has been hooked, so I knew I had to include a balance beam in our backyard Olympic® games setup. The balance beam was perfect for turning, twirling, and leaping. It was also a snap to rearrange the pieces into different configurations. It was a big hit—and of course, Mom and Dad had to give it a go, too. My son loved sticking his dismount with a huge smile, and I loved watching him use balance and coordination to walk across the beam. We used the Beginner’s Balance Beams for our gymnastics routines.

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7. Pass the Ball

This was a fun game for partners—and it was surprisingly challenging! I taped sticks to the backs of two paper plates (I used duct tape) and gave one to Dad and one to my son. I set a ball on the homemade paddles and gave the boys one goal: pass the ball back and forth without dropping it. This was such a challenge for my young son, but he loved trying to control the ball. I loved seeing him use his grip and arm strength to play the game. I can see so many additional game possibilities for using these paddles: paddle volleyball, a relay race…and even faux golfing!

8. Seal Ring Toss

Who doesn’t love a good ring toss? This seal-themed ring toss was the perfect station in our backyard Olympic® games. I set out two inflatable seals at different angles to make the game challenging. Using the inflatable rings, my son would aim and throw at each seal. He absolutely loved tossing the rings! Of course, we parents love this game too—it’s not just fun, it also helps develop eye/hand coordination and gross motor skills. Plus, it’s not an easy game, which levels the playing field and makes it fun for all! We used the Soft & Safe Ring Toss for this station.

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It’s time for you to set up your own backyard Olympic® games for your family. The setup is simple, and the payoff is huge. My son can’t get enough of these games, and he keeps going back to play again—always a sign of a fun time!

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Classroom Decorating Ideas: Real Teachers, Real Style

by JoAnna Rowe | Lakeshore Retail Marketing Manager

As back-to-school approaches, it’s the perfect time to sit back, relax…and start daydreaming about decorating your classroom for the next school year. It needs to be stylish and functional, and, of course, your students have to love it. Where do you even start? Right here! We talked to three amazing teachers to get their ideas for classroom styles that reflect their own personalities while inspiring young minds.

Find out which Lakeshore collections they love, and get decorating tips that will help you make your own classroom pop.

Our collections are available in our stores only—so you can experience the colors and designs firsthand…and coordinate on the spot with Lakeshore’s friendly staff. Click here to find a store near you and plan your visit.


Richard, Preschool Teacher – Superhero Collection

You don’t need any powers of your own to pull together this superhero classroom! Lakeshore Learning has done it for you. Motivate students with this bright and functional design.

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Decorating Tips:

  • Mix and match Lakeshore’s Superhero Collection with other classroom decor to make it your own. I used fadeless paper with a brick design to make normal classroom walls look like city streets.
  • Tie your theme into learning in creative ways. I encourage super behavior by displaying “How to Be a Superhero” and “Superhero Sayings” posters.
  • Add touches of color to bring the whole look together. I added red and black bordette, created a colorful gallery of student art and rolled out a carpet that brings even more color—as well as seating—to the room.

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Jodi, Fun in First – Chalk Art Collection

This bright and colorful Chalk Art Collection is the perfect way to welcome students…and I love its modern take on a classic classroom design. This eye-catching display combines chalkboard black with bold colors that will brighten any classroom.

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Decorating Tips:

  • Cut border strips and staple them together to create headbands for students. They’re perfect for birthdays and other special recognition.
  • When choosing your color theme, think about the colors of items in your classroom that you can’t change—like bookshelves, window coverings and cabinets. Choose a color palette that includes those colors.

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Mel, Seusstastic Classroom Inspirations – Chevron & Dots Collection

The Chevron & Dots Collection is colorful, cheery and incredibly versatile! I love using this collection to create bulletin boards that really grab kids’ attention.

Restroom Review Bulletin Board:
This restroom review bulletin board is a wonderful way to have students review weekly skills in the hallway. As teachers, we must utilize every teaching moment throughout the day—even when kids are on their way to the restroom! Of course, this can be done in your classroom as well. I always include our comprehension skills and strategies, grammar, and sight- and spelling words for the week. I also include math vocabulary for the unit we are working on.

Decorating Tip:

  • I love using Lakeshore’s Reusable Write & Wipe Pockets to change out this board weekly. Easy peasy! I also love triple layering bulletin board trim for an extra pop! I used bright neon notebook paper and traced circles. Then I layered the circle bulletin board letters on top. And who doesn’t love colorful tissue pom-poms?

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Back-To-School First-Grade Pencil Bulletin Board: 
This bulletin board is the most welcoming board in our first-grade hallway! Since our school is so large, we need our visitors and students to know which hallway they are in.

Decorating Tip:

  • I decided to layer Chalkboard Brights trim and Polka Dots trim—both from Teacher Created Resources. I handmade the burlap pencil letters using burlap, paint and twine.

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Visit your local Lakeshore Learning Store for these collections—and more!

7 STEM Activities You Can Do at Home & Beyond!

by Eric Chyo | Lakeshore Product Development Manager

What would you guess is the most important ingredient for valuable STEM learning? It’s not fancy lab equipment, complicated engineering books or the latest high-tech gadgets. Every kind of STEM learning out there actually hedges on one much simpler concept: curiosity.

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math, but beyond that intimidating acronym, STEM simply represents a hands-on approach to exploring the world, examining how it works and solving real-life problems. So if you have curious kids, they can practice STEM!

Research shows early STEM learning benefits kids across multiple subjects.1 So while you’ll undoubtedly see more STEM activities popping up in the classroom, don’t let the learning stop there. Get in on the fun and support STEM learning at home with these simple activities (for ages 5 & up) that turn your kiddos into the super-solvers of the future!

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1. Join the maker movement

Celebrate the ultimate creative activity: making stuff. Your kids don’t need expensive equipment or special instruction manuals to start making—just their own creative minds, a few easy-to-find materials and some encouragement. Here are a couple of ways to get your kids making:

  • Turn a regular craft table into a maker space by piling it with any materials you have on hand—like straws, rubber bands, craft sticks, cardboard, toilet paper rolls, plastic foam, tape, glue…and other odds and ends. Ask your kids to build! If they need a little boost, pull up some ideas online and help them build their first creation.
  • Start collecting large cardboard boxes and encourage your kids to find new ways to use them. Kids can make anything imaginable from recycled cardboard—castles, houses, cars, vending machines, robots and rocket ships…the sky’s the limit!

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Having “ready-to-go” materials around helps kids create the moment inspiration hits. Plus, it gives them firsthand experience with the design process!

2. Turn wonder into discovery

Every little question your curious kids ask—and we know they ask a lot—presents a prime opportunity for STEM learning. Whether they ask how the toilet flushes or how the refrigerator light turns off, you can answer tons of questions in our digital age. Simply head online together and investigate the answer.

When you see your kids playing with their favorite toys or eating their favorite treats, ask them to guess how those items were made. After they come up with a solid guess, research How It’s Made videos on YouTube that give kids an up-close look at the manufacturing process of their favorite products. Not only will this help foster a healthy sense of wonder, it will also help kids build up their “bank of knowledge.”

3. Tinker with everyday tools

A child’s daily routine includes tools, gadgets and inventions that all resulted from a design process, and therefore, can be improved. Have your kids brainstorm how they might design even better versions of things they use every day. They might make scissors more comfortable to hold, design a toothbrush for fun brushing or even improve a spoon handle to minimize dribbling.

Ask your kids to sketch their new and improved tool and explain what they’ll change and why it’s an improvement. They can even create a working prototype! For example, kids can work with clay or play dough and old spoons to create a spoon handle for a steadier grip.

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Then have them test out their new design…and watch them get a huge kick out of using something THEY invented. As they design and test, they’ll feel just like real engineers—with the power to improve things and invent from scratch!

4. Take advantage of community workshops & events

Your local hardware stores and craft stores probably provide workshops for awesome make and take projects just for kids. As kids delve into these exciting workshops, they’ll handle tools and materials they don’t have at home, and the more tools kids can use, the more opportunities they have to invent, improve and innovate.

You can even check out local events, camps and science fairs that offer STEM activities…so your kids can get even more hands-on experience with exciting new tools and materials.

5. Meet the inventors of the past…at your local library

Have your kids imagine a world without electricity, medicine or even chocolate chip cookies! Tell them people from the past invented many things we enjoy today. What did those people all have in common? They asked questions, examined possibilities and innovated solutions to improve their world.

Ask your kids what invention they want to learn about—from bicycles to computers and even candy bars! Head to the library and help them find books to answer a few simple questions about their invention:

  • Who invented it?
  • What inspired the inventor’s idea?
  • What materials did the inventor use to create something completely new?

After learning about real-life inventors, kids will be inspired to see if they can be inventors too!

6. Learn up-close at a museum

Nothing brings learning to life quite like your local museum. If your kids love dinosaurs, they’ve probably enjoyed books and movies on the topic, but a museum can awe them with real dinosaur bones! Plus, kids can discover exciting STEM career paths they never knew existed—like becoming a paleontologist!

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7. Observe workers in action

The next time something around the house tragically stops working, turn the disaster into a learning experience! When your plumber, electrician or mechanic arrives, ask if you and your child can observe their work. As you watch, encourage your child to ask questions about their tools and the problems they discover as they work.

Kids can learn so much from watching a worker’s process of tinkering to detect and correct a problem. As kids observe and question, repairing a toilet turns into an educational experience! Plus, since your handyperson will stick around until they solve the problem, kids also learn the importance of persevering to solve problems—an essential STEM skill!


1. National Research Council, “A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas,” The National Academies Press (2012): 2-4

Summer Fun: 6 Ways to Learn Through Play

by Patti Clark | Lakeshore VP of Research & Development

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Nothing sparks the imagination quite like summer. As kids leave behind the school year’s routines, they become more curious than ever—feeling like explorers embarking on grand adventures!

However, research suggests that all too often kids actually “slide” backward over the summer, losing two to three months in their academic skills. Fortunately, this phenomenon known as “summer slide” can easily be avoided. You can help your little explorer sail into summer with simple activities that keep their days full of fun―and engage their minds at the same time! By doing so, you’ll make great memories and help your child succeed as they enter their next school year.

1. Unleash your child’s creativity with an Inventor’s Box

What incredible inventions live in your child’s imagination? Find out with an Inventor’s Box! Don’t worry—it’s easier than it sounds! Just write “My Summer of Inventions” on a large poster board and load a box with building blocks or bricks and raw materials like discarded packaging, straws and cardboard boxes. Ask your child to create any building, vehicle or contraption that springs to mind!

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When they’re finished inventing, invite them to “show & tell.” Ask questions about the invention. How does it work? Does the contraption have a name? What inspired such a cool idea? Snap a picture of the creation, glue it to the poster board and label it by name. Keep inventing all summer to help kids build an impressive roster of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills and make memories of the summer they invented a hamster-sized roller coaster.

2. Skip, hop & jump to boost math & reading skills

If you have a sidewalk and some chalk, you have hours of learning fun! Get started by drawing a 5′ x 5′ grid on the sidewalk and write a letter in each square—common letters like A, E, T, S and I work best! Call out simple words and ask kids to hop on the letters that spell each word. Who can get the longest word correct? Offer a small prize for the winner! Now, erase the letters and replace with numbers to make an exciting math maze! Invite kids to count from 1 to 20 or skip-count by 2s, 5s, 10s or 100s. Then draw an out-of-order number sequence grid on the sidewalk. Ask kids to hop and skip over the squares to count in the correct order. For older children, pick a number and have them jump on the two numbers that equal your number when multiplied! They’ll get great exercise and build key math skills!

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3. Act it out!

The ability to retell stories and summarize nonfiction texts sets kids up for lifelong reading success…and they don’t need to touch a pencil or paper to practice! This summer, ask your child to act out the story told in each book they complete. Kids can make costumes, props and even cast family, friends and pets in the production. For nonfiction books, kids can put on a newscast to report the important facts they learned!

4. Go on a reading treasure hunt…outside!

Want to get your kids moving and boost word recognition and reading skills at the same time? Grab some paper or index cards and write down words associated with a movie or theme that gets your kids super-excited. If they absolutely love Star Wars, write down battle, Jedi, force, lightsaber and so on. Make a list of the chosen words and hide the cards around your yard or at a local park. Then call out the words and let the scavenger hunt begin! If you have more than one player, see who can find the words first! Play the game with as many themes and movies as you want—hiding the cards somewhere new each time!

5. Turn an ordinary nature walk into an educational expedition

A simple measuring tape turns an everyday walk into an exciting mission of discovery! Ask your kids to keep an eye out for the longest leaf in the park or your neighborhood. When they’ve found it, hand them the measuring tape and ask them to figure out the leaf’s length. Keep playing with tons of different objects. Challenge kids to find the largest rock…and the tree with the largest circumference!

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6. Make lifelong friends and practice writing with a pen pal

Summer is prime time for kids to broaden their horizons, and that includes making new friends! Help your child meet kids outside of school with a pen pal program. Head online, search “pen pals for kids” and register your child for their very own pen pal. Your child will build a lasting friendship and boost writing skills!

Patti Clark is Vice President of Product Development at Lakeshore Learning Materials, one of the country’s premier producers of children’s educational products. A former elementary educator, Patti leads Lakeshore’s efforts to create quality, standards-based materials for early childhood programs, elementary classrooms and homes nationwide.

2016 Blog Ambassadors

by Victoria Montoya | Lakeshore Public Relations Manager

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We believe that a love of learning is always better shared. That’s why we invited five amazing moms who love learning as much as we do to join the Lakeshore family as our 2016 Blog Ambassadors!

From a former teacher to a practicing nurse, these bloggers come from all over, and together they’ve pretty much done it all. Follow our blog for their fresh perspectives and advice…and read their blogs to learn about the experiences they’ve had using Lakeshore products with little ones.

Whether you’re a parent or a teacher, you’re sure to learn tons of new things from this diverse group of moms!

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Susie Allison, Busy Toddlerbusy toddler thumbnail

Susie is a former kindergarten/first-grade teacher turned stay-at-home mom who’s just trying to make it to naptime each day. She is a mom of two (ages 1 and 3) and has one more on the way—naptimes are very important in her life! To keep the days moving, she creates simple, engaging and (most of all) fun activities to keep her kids learning and active. Susie loves activities that can be thrown together in seconds, but that hold little attention spans for much longer. She launched Busy Toddler in June 2015 as a way to share her easy, but educational, ideas with the world—and help other parents make it all the way to naptime, too.

Favorite Activity with Kids:
Susie believes the best go-to activity is sorting, because it can happen anywhere. Whether it’s in a restaurant, the doctor’s office, or a kitchen—sorting is always on the table as a quick option to keep little hands learning and busy.

Recent post: Early Learning: Math With Toddlers


Brandi Jeter Riley, Mama Knows It Allmama knows it all thumbnail

Brandi Jeter Riley is a proud Oakland, California, mom who started her blog, Mama Knows It All, way back in 2010 to share parenting challenges, tips and all things mom-related. She was pleased to discover a community of other chronic oversharing mothers who were just like her! A former creative educator, Brandi has great parenting tips, mom encouragement and ideas for things to do with your children on her site.

Favorite Activity with Kids:
Brandi enjoys going to the library with her daughter and checking out books about subjects they know nothing about!

Recent post: Building And Playing For A Hands On Summer


Clarissa Hooper, Munchkins and MomsMunchkins-and-Moms-thumbnail

Clarissa is a mom to four kids—three energetic boys (ages 2, 3 and 4) and one sweet baby girl. Clarissa is a dedicated home preschool mama and a learn-through-play advocate. With such a busy house, Clarissa has perfect-sandwich-making and silly-song-singing down to a science. In her spare time, Clarissa is the writer behind Munchkins and Moms, where she shares playful learning activities for toddlers and preschoolers. As a former elementary educator, she takes joy in the opportunity to be her kids’ first teacher at home.

Favorite Activity with Kids:
Clarissa’s favorite learning activity would be any activity involving play dough! She loves to combine play dough with other educational tools (like rubber alphabet stamps or small animal figurines) to create fun invitations to play and learn!

Recent post: Fossil Dig And Balance Board – Springtime Learning And Discovery With Lakeshore Learning


Lindsay Eidahl, My Creative DaysMy-Creative-days-logo-thumbnail

Lindsay is a wife, a mother to two great kids and the writer of My Creative Days. She loves to be creative in her days, with her home and with her kids. Encouraging her kids to learn, create and play in different ways is one of her greatest passions. Her kids have taught her that activities don’t have to be difficult to be productive. In fact, she has found that the simplest things reap the best benefits…and keep kids happy and entertained.

Favorite Activity with Kids:
Lindsay’s favorite activities incorporate learning and fun in one—like the time she and her kids went on an Alphabet Hunt. Armed with disposable cameras, she and her children ventured outside to look for all 26 letters in the alphabet. Once they had pictures of each letter, they printed them out to make alphabet books.

Recent post: 8 Bug Activities For Kids


Suzanne Chan, Mom Confessionalsmom-confessionals-logo-thumbnail

Suzanne is a mom to three and an overbearing aunt to one, dubbed affectionately “her little zoo,” living in the outer boroughs of NYC. She’s a former marketing/PR executive who gave up the glitz to embrace her destiny of motherhood with the support of her amazing husband. Suzanne is also an amateur photographer; she can be seen with her DSLR camera in the craziest and most inconvenient places, because she doesn’t want to miss a shot. She’s always trying some new technique and constantly drooling over photography websites. She loves a house filled with laughter, and her favorite days include friends and family…and sitting around the dinner table!

Favorite Activity with Kids:
Suzanne loves hands-on learning. If her kids are learning about dinosaurs, a trip to the Museum of Natural History is a must. If they are studying Washington, D.C., which is a viable weekend trip, they’re crazy enough to hop into the car and go there. She loves watching her kids’ eyes light up as they plan their adventures together.

Recent post: Stretch Your Child’s Imagination With Lakeshore Learning

How to Keep Kids Learning Over Summer Break

by Christine MacGregor | Lakeshore VP of Marketing

As a beach mom, I think summer is the perfect season. I just love sand, sun, long days and even the smell of sunblock in the air. There’s only one thing I love more than everything else about summer combined—spending even more time with my daughter!

There is a tiny downside to summer: As my excitement builds, I start getting a little nervous. How will I possibly come up with enough activities to keep my daughter busy, learning and having fun all summer? Talk about pressure.

We kept hearing the same concern from tons of other moms, so we created a summer learning calendar to help all parents—myself included—tackle summer with confidence. Our calendars include two full months of activities kids in preschool to third grade will love…and they’re free! Download your copy here or pop into any Lakeshore store to grab one.

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We designed our calendar so you could pick and choose your activities…and even switch around the dates. As for my daughter and me, we stuck our calendar on the fridge and started going through and circling our must-do activities. Here are just some of the activities we’ve circled so far:

Thursday, June 2: Play dress-up with old clothing.

I knew all those old clothes would come in handy one day! Dress-up isn’t just fun—it’s also a great way for kids to exercise their imaginations. My daughter hasn’t even seen what materials she has to work with yet, but she’s already decided to dress up like an astronaut. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with! I’m also brainstorming some games we can play while trying on outfits…so she can learn about the roles different people play in our community.

Wednesday, June 8: Use craft sticks to build a small birdhouse.

My daughter points out pretty birds she spots in our yard all the time. Usually, they take off too fast for us to get a good look. My daughter hopes a birdhouse will entice the birds to hang out in our yard a little longer…so she can get a closer look. She might even become a little bird watcher.

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Wednesday, July 27: Place an egg in vinegar and watch what happens.

To be honest, my daughter is so curious about this one…we might have to do it before July rolls around.

Sunday, July 31: Make some lemonade and start a small business!

I had no idea I had a budding entrepreneur on my hands until we selected this activity. My daughter jumped right into planning out all the details. She’s insisting on using real lemons, so she’s going to test a few different recipes before the big day.

Free Crafts for Kids

My daughter loves going to Free Crafts for Kids at our local Lakeshore store! She’s determined to make it out to Free Crafts for Kids on June 11 for the Blast Off Rocket Ship and on June 25 for the Crabby Headband.

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We haven’t even looked at all the activities in our summer learning calendar yet, but it’s already been such a relief to have so many great activities to choose from! I’m even going to take my calendars with me when we go on trips so I know my daughter will always have plenty to do. Now all I have to do is sit back, relax and count down the days until summer break.

Want even more ways to help your kids learn through play this summer? Check out our Summer Learning Page for even more great resources!

Have You Met the Lakeshore Kids™?

by Aaron Eskridge | Lakeshore Product Art Director

Lakeshore Kids Sketch with names

Do you love our Lakeshore Kids as much as we do? You know the ones…they hang out on our signs, grace our catalogs and even pop up on our website from time to time. You probably see these smiling kiddos every time you visit our stores…but do you know who they are or where they came from? Just like any other kids, our Lakeshore Kids have a story—and a personality—all their own!

The Lakeshore Kids personify our hope to spark young imaginations, instill a sense of wonder and foster a lifelong love of learning. They represent the heart of Lakeshore so well, you might think we planned it all out—but believe it or not, we weren’t looking to brand our whole company when the Lakeshore Kids stole our hearts!

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catolog cover photoshop

The Lakeshore Kids entered the scene on the cover of our 1992 catalog (shown above). The cover features five smiling children standing behind paintings that perfectly match their features—from their outfits all the way down to their skin tones. We hoped to capture the true magic of our new People Colors® Paint…a product we made to help every child create a self-portrait and say, “This is ME!”

After we released the catalog, everyone wanted to see more of the Lakeshore Kids! Artist Ron Ellsworth (affectionately called “Doc” by his co-workers) created digital versions of the kids so we could put them anywhere…from hall passes to store signs. He even gave them their very own names: Alex, Brandy, Ricky, Keisha and Scooter.

Before we knew it, these kids became a beloved symbol of Lakeshore. People loved our kids so much, we even published a book about them called What Do You Want to Be? When teachers toured our offices, they brought their books so Doc could sign them.

Eventually, even our Lakeshore Kids experienced growing pains. While Lakeshore grew like a well-fed teenager, our kids stayed frozen in time…and started looking a little old-fashioned. In 2013, on the kids’ 21st birthday, we decided to let them grow up a little.

We called on artist Brandon Starr to reinvigorate the gang. Brandon’s new concepts gave the kids a modern twist, but kept each of their unique spirits intact. Even better, his lively designs let us show the youngsters doing lots of exciting activities—just like real kids!

Lakeshore Kids Sketch 2

That’s where the story ends…for now! With such big hearts and bright personalities, we know our Lakeshore Kids have only just begun to instill a lifelong love of learning in kids around the world!

Want some Lakeshore Kids to brighten up your life? Here are some of our favorite products:  

Gift Ideas for Teacher Appreciation Week

by Chelsea Guerrero | Lakeshore Marketing

Teachers never cease to amaze me. I mean, how can one person be an absolute math whiz at one moment…and then nail that perfect character voice during a read-along? I love Teacher Appreciation Week because it’s my chance to shower the teachers in my life with some much-deserved admiration and gratitude. Here are some of my favorite Teacher Appreciation gift ideas—I hope you’ll make them your own!

Teacher Appreciation
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1. Crayon Wreath

Easy to make and fun to give, this everlasting wreath makes the perfect addition to any classroom. To make it, just grab crayons, hot glue, ribbon…and something to use as your wreath form. We cut a ring out of recycled cardboard and it looked great! Just hot-glue the crayons around your wreath form and tie a neat bow around the top so it’s ready to hang!

2. Flower Bouquet with Magnetic Letters

Classic flowers get a practical twist when you add Magnetic Letters to a simple jar vase. Just fill a vase with letters and your favorite flowers, add a bright ribbon…and voila—your Teacher Appreciation gift is ready to go!

3. Teacher Appreciation Supplies

By the time Teacher Appreciation Week rolls around in May, many teachers may be short on basic supplies…or already stocking up for next year! This gift takes the idea of the beloved gift basket to the next level. Just put a teacher’s plan book, apron, stickers, crayons, write & wipe markers, a Lakeshore gift card and other school supplies into one of these colorful classroom supply caddies to make a super-creative gift basket.

4. Flower Pens

Every teacher needs a signature pen! Our homemade version makes one thoughtful Teacher Appreciation gift…plus, you can present it in a decorated pot teachers can use again. Just decorate a small collage pot any way you like, create a flower pen using tissue paper and craft tape…then “plant” it by adding sand to your pot so the flower stays upright.

5. Original Artwork

Conspire with other parents to make one-of-a-kind artwork using students’ fingerprints! This adorable tree is super-easy to make; just download a tree template online, print it on some quality card stock and let the fingerprints do the rest! A handwritten message puts the icing on the cake. We used our Fingerprint Artist’s Stamp Pad.

6. Teacher Survival Kit

Dazzle the teacher in your life with all the things they just can’t get enough of—including a lidded coffee cup, antibacterial gel, tissues, immune building supplements, disinfecting wipes and anything else that strikes your fancy. Put these goodies into our adorable teacher’s tote to create one cute—and totally practical—Teacher Appreciation gift.

Need a Teacher Appreciation gift fast? No worries! Here’s a bonus gift idea that requires zero assembly: a gift card. When paired with a heartfelt note that expresses your deepest appreciation, a gift card from Lakeshore, or your teacher’s favorite store, can evoke just as many warm fuzzies as a homemade gift. You can even add a gift card to any of our other ideas for the perfect finishing touch.

Recycled Robots for Earth Day

by Marni Hughes | Lakeshore Marketing Operations Manager

If your kids are anything like mine, you’ve probably witnessed what I call the “cardboard box phenomenon” firsthand. A long-awaited (and very expensive) toy finally arrives and within a few hours, your kids start playing with the box it came in. Don’t fight it—embrace it! That kind of creative recycling is just what our planet needs, after all. Encourage your little cardboard creator to explore all the ways they can make something old new again with our Recycled Robots craft—the perfect Earth Day activity for the whole family!

Recycled Robots

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Note: This craft can also be adapted for use in the classroom—just add more supplies!

You will need:

Directions:

  1. Ask your kids to select a recycled box. This will be the body of their robot.
  2. Glue colored foil sheets onto the front, back, top and sides of the box.
  3. Now have kids make their robot totally unique. They can decorate their bots with glitter painters, construction paper, wiggly eyes and a variety of collage materials—like buttons, beads, bolts, gems and anything else they like!
  4. Next, add pipe stem antennae and legs to really bring the robot to life.

Recycling

Extend the learning:

Ask your kids if they had fun making Recycled Robots. Tell them there’s even more they can do to help keep the planet healthy—every single day. Ask them if they have any of their own planet-friendly ideas…and check out the list below for inspiration!

Create more recycled creatures:
Gather recycled materials kids can work with safely—like milk cartons, newspapers, cereal boxes and plastic bottles. Lay all the materials out with glue, scissors and craft materials and ask your kids to create anything they can dream up!

Rally for recycling:
Hold a recycling contest in your house…or your neighborhood. The person who collects the most cans, bottles or newspapers gets a prize. If your kids are old enough, ask them to head online to find out where they can take recycled items—or even investigate what happens at a recycling center.

Plant a plant:
Teach your kids how to plant seeds so they can grow their own plants. Make sure they know trees and plants help preserve our planet.

Read all about it:
Set up a reading corner and stock it with interesting and age-appropriate books with strong environmental messages. Here are just a few we love: Earth Book for Kids: Activities to Help Heal the Environment by Linda Schwartz, The Lorax by Doctor Seuss, The Great Kapok Tree Big Book by Lynne Cherry, and Planting a Rainbow Big Book by Lois Ehlert.