5 Ways to Enhance Dramatic Play Through Family Engagement

by Ron Mohl | Lakeshore Lead Educational Presenter

Have you heard the term “family engagement” lately? It might make you think of conversations around the dinner table, game nights or even park outings, but there’s a little more to it! Family engagement refers to the practice of families participating in activities with children to maximize learning. One way you can work family engagement into existing routines is by using it to enhance dramatic play.

The five ideas below pair family engagement with dramatic play to help children have fun while developing practical skills in literacy, math and more!

Idea 1: Take a walk in someone else's shoes!

Dressing up is an important part of dramatic play. As children pretend to be construction workers, firefighters or nurses, discuss what these community helpers wear and why to familiarize kids with the real-life careers their costumes represent. For example, you could talk about the helmets, bright colored vests and traffic signs included in construction-worker costumes. Ask children why they think real construction workers wear these items so they can take away a deeper understanding of protective clothing worn in the real world.

You can even turn every errand into an eye-spy game to find dress-up ideas! When you go to the grocery store or post office, ask kids to observe what people wear. When it’s time to play dress-up again, kids can recreate the wardrobes they saw in real life.

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Idea 2: Tool around.

Dramatic play encourages children to act out different professions by using tools of the trade, such as a doctor’s stethoscope, chef’s utensils or cashier’s register. Playing with tools helps children boost fine motor and problem-solving skills as they figure out how to accomplish specific tasks. As children play, consider asking them these questions.

  • What could a fisherman use to catch fish?
  • What would an astronaut need to explore space?
  • What does a firefighter need to fight fire?

Asking questions will inspire kids to invent their own tools, leading to a fun-filled family weekend of designing and building dramatic play accessories.

Idea 3: Put on a show.

Create an experience everyone can share! Dream up a circus act complete with a ringmaster and clowns, start a rock band using cardboard instruments or put on a puppet show. The whole family will have fun, plus there’s learning in every aspect of planning. For example, creating flyers incorporates literacy…and setting up a stage requires math skills and spatial awareness. Everyone in the family will enjoy the planning process as much as the final presentation!

Idea 4: Respect traffic patterns together.

Trucks, cars and trains have a way of revving up kids’ imaginations! Have you ever noticed kids pretending to be different vehicles as they walk, run or ride trikes? Give their play an educational boost by placing traffic signs around the house or in the yard so they can practice following traffic patterns. When you go on walks or rides in the car, ask children to identify traffic signs and signals. You’ll be amazed at the transfer of understanding from play to real life!

Idea 5: Work STEM into dramatic play!

STEM (the integration of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) helps children solve problems using a simple design process that involves planning, creating and testing. It’s easy to work these steps into dramatic play! For example, as kids pretend to be construction workers making cardboard forts, they’ll plan what materials, sizes and shapes to use; create the structure; then test it to make sure it stands upright. For an activity that incorporates STEM, dramatic play and family engagement, simply work as a family while asking kids thought-provoking questions about their building plans.

9 Tips for Encouraging Kindness in the Digital Age

by Marianne Kelley | Lakeshore Professional Development Specialist 

All babies are born with the capacity for empathy. However, spending too much time using devices such as smartphones, tablets and TVs can weaken this skill. That’s why it’s important to help children practice kindness and caring from an early age, especially in our constantly connected world.

Now this doesn’t mean we should block kids completely from using technology! To encourage kindness in our digital world, we adults simply need to set rules for media usage, monitor kids’ online interactions, use parental controls and, most importantly, set a good example.

We hope these tips will help you find new ways to nurture empathy.

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Tip 1: Build a vocabulary of words that describe feelings.  

  • Use simple words to describe the emotions of others. (Look at that lady’s beautiful smile; she must be very happy!)
  • Label your feelings and ask children to do the same.
  • Act out different scenarios and discuss how the people involved might be feeling.

Tip 2: Decode nonverbal cues by reading facial expressions and body language.

  • Help children learn to read nonverbal cues by pointing out specific examples. Ask kids how someone who is crying might be feeling, and encourage them to think of ways they might help.

Tip 3: Work emotional words into everyday life.

  • Work more emotional words into your discussions with children. (I’m so happy to see your smiling faces today!)
  • Encourage children to use more emotional words each day. They can even practice identifying emotions in themselves using our Moods & Emotions Mirrors.

Tip 4: Watch movies without sound.

  • As you watch, ask kids to guess the characters’ feelings based on their facial expressions, movements and more.

Tip 5: Read!

Tip 6: Model empathetic behavior. 

  • Start volunteering, and be sure to discuss your experiences with children.
  • When you’re upset, happy, sad, mad, etc., label and explain your feelings. If you’re uncomfortable sharing your own feelings, model emotions with our Feelings & Emotions Washable Dolls. Use them to act out scenarios that will help children understand different emotions.

Tip 7: Incorporate empathy into your discipline style.

  • When children require discipline, prompt them to consider how their actions affect others. For example, if the negative behavior involved pushing, ask the child how it feels to be pushed.

Tip 8: Give back.  

  • As a group or team, collect toys and clothing to give to shelters or charities.
  • Ask kids to share their ideas for helping the community.

Tip 9: Follow the golden rule.

  • Treat others (and animals) as you want to be treated—all day, every day.
  • Give kids specific examples of the golden rule in action with our Learning to Get Along Book Set. These books walk kids through sharing, listening, resolving conflicts and more.

And never forget the best way to inspire kindness in children—getting involved and showing them you care!

Valentine Tic-Tac-Toe

by Chelsea Guerrero | Lakeshore Marketing

This Valentine’s Day, I’m helping kids to give tic-tac-toe a makeover! I know they’ll love decorating these reusable boards and thinking up kind phrases to write on the heart-shaped game pieces.

Note: This craft can also be adapted for use in the classroom—just print out multiple templates and add more supplies!

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You will need:

Preparation:

  1. Cut the foam sheets into six-inch squares. You’ll need one for each crafter.
  2. Photocopy the Heart Shapes template onto white construction paper. Or you can provide foam sheets for kids to trace the shapes onto. (Each game board requires two sets of five hearts.)

Directions:

  1. Provide each kid with a foam square.
  2. Have kids share Glitter Glue Painters to make wavy lines on the foam to create their tic-tac-toe boards. Tell them each space on the game board should be about the same size.
  3. Give each kid a copy of the Heart Shapes template. Have them color in five of the hearts so they can easily see the difference between Player 1 and Player 2.
  4. Ask kids to cut out all 10 hearts to use as game pieces. Or instruct them to trace the hearts onto foam sheets and cut them out.
  5. Now have kids write kind words or phrases such as “Love,” “Be thankful” and “Make friends” on each game piece.
  6. After the game boards have dried, invite kids to play Valentine Tic–Tac–Toe with a partner!

Extension:
Remind kids that tic-tac-toe is more than just a game of chance. Invite them to share their strategies for thinking ahead and winning the game! Will any moves ensure a win? Are there ways to predict what their opponent will do? What moves might block their opponent from winning?

If your kids love Valentine’s Day crafts, join us on Saturday, February 11, for a free in-store event! Click on the banner below for more information.

Classroom Decorating Ideas for the New Year

by JoAnna Rowe | Lakeshore Retail Marketing Manager

Are you ready for a classroom refresh to help you take on the new year? You don’t have to undergo a total overhaul to keep students smiling—simply making a few small changes to your bulletin board or reading corner might help energize your classroom!

Keep reading for some decorating inspiration—then visit our stores to browse over 40 different collections and find the perfect look for your 2017 classroom.


Dr. Seuss Collection

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Decorating Tips:

  • Repurpose accents to make teaching aids. We wrote “silent reading” and “quiet time” on two Dr. Seuss hats, then attached each to a wooden dowel.
  • Pair solid and print borders to create a pop of color and add a stylish “framed” look to your board. We paired the Dr. Seuss ABC Deco Border  with solid red trimmer. And don’t let extra borders go to waste—use them to tie the whole look together by framing posters around the classroom.

  • Take inspiration from posters to design new learning activities. Consider placing the Dr. Seuss Try Something New Poster  above a storage box filled with a variety of “new” activities. Each week, have one student pull out an activity for the class to try.


Painted Palette Collection

Decorating Tips:

  • Play with color! We love how this rainbow border looks with light blue fadeless paper.
  • Encourage positive behavior! We put students’ names on clothespins and clipped them to bulletin board aids (BBAs) with encouraging behavioral messages.
  • Display an example of your craft of the week (or month) to get students excited about upcoming creative projects.

  • Choose organizational elements in neutral colors so they’ll complement your décor. These baskets are a lightweight, dishwasher-safe alternative to the traditional woven kind.
  • Mix in items from other collections to highlight parts of your board. Our board includes Chevron Frame Accents with sketches of winter clothing to draw kids’ attention to a weekly discussion question about cold-weather dressing.


Black & White Collection

Decorating Tips:

  • Feature your favorite color. We added violet fadeless paper to black-and-white accents for just a touch of color.
  • Display outstanding work! For example, a star theme will encourage students to reach for the stars.
  • Mix up your patterns. Combining dots and doodles creates a unique look. Break all the rules to find your own style.
  • Display your calendar at eye level to make it easy to review with students. You can even add borders left over from your bulletin board to fill in the empty spaces.

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

Spark Young Imaginations with Space-Themed Activities

by Toisha Burns | Lakeshore Marketing

A fresh new year calls for new adventures! And to help guide you toward them, Lakeshore offers FREE teacher workshops at our stores nationwide. Our Shoot for the Stars! Workshop is a great place to start. From creating a mission control center to forming letters in “moon sand” and more, you’ll discover fun ways to help kids explore new horizons―even when chilly weather has trapped them indoors. It will be a blast! Here’s a sneak peek…

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Activity 1: Mission Control to Lakeshore

Transform your dramatic play area into NASA headquarters! Share with children pictures from space missions, space shuttles, Mission Control, the moon landing, etc. Once you’ve looked over and discussed what the children saw in the photos, decide what you want to include in your own “Mission Control.” Provide children with art materials in order to create different parts of “NASA” in the dramatic play area. You may want to provide them with some basic pieces they can build upon (e.g., the outline of a space rocket, the area dedicated for Mission Control, pictures of space, etc.).

Extension:
Create a Mission Control panel and headset. For the panel, use a presentation board (the board in the photograph uses only half a board), assorted arts and crafts materials and a variety of reusable materials, such as empty tissue boxes, different bottle and jar tops, etc. For the headset, use craft cups, Pipe Stems, Pom-Poms and a yarn lace.

If you are able to create a space shuttle, discuss what types of things you need to complete your rocket (e.g., a steering wheel, windows, chairs, control buttons, etc.). Line up chairs “within” the shuttle so children can pretend to take off for the moon.

Activity 2: If I Were an Astronaut

Brainstorm as a class what you all might encounter if you were in space. What might it look like? How might it feel? What might you do while in space?

Provide students with a sheet of picture story paper and ask them to write about or draw something they would do or experience if they were an astronaut in space. They can either try writing the words themselves or you can provide them with a writing prompt like, “If I were an astronaut, __________.” Once everyone is done, have each child share what their experience would be.

Invite the class to pretend to be astronauts. What do astronauts wear? Explain that in order for them to breathe outside of the spaceship, they wear a space suit and helmet. The suit and helmet provide them with the oxygen they need to breathe while in space. Share pictures of present-day space helmets and suits.

Extension:
As a class, create your own astronaut helmets. Assist students in taking a large, brown paper bag and cutting a circle or square on the face of the bag. Then provide the class with arts and crafts materials to finish decorating the helmet. Encourage students to add “dials,” NASA markings, “tubes,” etc. Have children bring their helmets to the dramatic play area.

Activity 3: To the Moon and Back

This next activity creates a hands-on, sensory experience that encourages letter recognition and helps develop early writing skills.

Create “moon dust” by taking regular sand and mixing in a little black liquid watercolor or black food coloring. Once it dries, add a thin layer of it to a tray. The tray should be shallow enough for children to easily reach inside. Clip an alphabet card to the tray or set the card next to it so children can easily reference it as they practice writing in the moon dust.

Extensions:
1. Create a sensory area with a space-themed twist. Add stars, figures, and flags to the sensory tub. Children can act out a scene using the astronaut figures. Encourage them to create craters or set up a colony on this new, strange “planet.” Provide a shoe with a rugged sole to make imprints on the surface of the “planet.”

2. Give each child a sheet of aluminum foil. Have them crumple their pieces of foil into different-sized “moon rocks.” Set out a bucket and have the children practice tossing the “moon rocks” into the bucket from different distances.

Take a look at the other upcoming workshops we offer—all jam-packed with ideas for exciting educational activities like these!

Make Your Own Gift Wrap & Tags for the Holidays

by Marni Hughes | Lakeshore Marketing Operations Manager

Nothing warms my heart like having my kids help me prepare for the holidays! This year, we’re celebrating the spirit of giving by making our own colorful wrapping paper and holiday gift tags. My kids certainly can’t wait to get creative and add their own special touches to gifts for family and friends. Just follow these simple instructions to see what your little helpers come up with!

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Handmade Gift Wrap

You will need:

Directions:

  1. Cut a large sheet of butcher paper.
  2. Invite your kids to create handprints all over the paper using the ink pads.
  3. Decorate with collage materials.
  4. Wrap gifts any time of the year with one-of-a-kind wrapping paper!

Decorative Gift Tags

You will need:

Directions:

  1. Provide your kids with plenty of construction paper in a variety of colors. Either set out some paper that is precut into various shapes (e.g., ovals, squares, rectangles, trees, bells, candles) or encourage your kids to use the Crinkle-Cut Craft Scissors to cut their own gift tag shapes.
  2. Next, have your kids decorate the tags with a variety of collage materials and use the markers to write holiday messages, such as “Happy Hanukkah,” “Season’s Greetings” or “Celebrate Kwanzaa!”
  3. If desired, punch a hole near the edge of the tag and thread a length of ribbon or string through the tag, or use tape to attach the tag to a holiday gift.

Want more holiday craft ideas? Visit www.lakeshorelearning.com and click on “craft ideas & activities” under resources. Or drop by any Lakeshore Learning Store for Free Crafts for Kids every Saturday between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Holiday Shopping: 6 Simple Tips for Choosing Educational Toys

by Patti Clark | Lakeshore VP of Research & Development

Finding the toy selection a bit overwhelming this holiday season? No worries; we’ve got you covered! Consider surprising the little ones with educational toys. Not only do they inspire hours of joyful play, but they also encourage growth and development. Here’s how to find educational gifts your kids will love.

Tip 1: Pick toys that match your child’s interests and age.

Children will learn only from toys they find interesting, so take cues from what they like.

amazing-chef-set

  • Consider what gets your children excited. If they’ve been talking nonstop about dinosaurs, look for games and toys focusing on prehistoric themes. If they’ve been asking questions in the kitchen, pick up toys to help them practice cooking skills, like The Amazing Chef Cooking Set.
  • Check the age ranges on product packages to choose age-appropriate toys aligned with their abilities (and keep frustration and boredom at bay).
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Tip 2: Look for toys kids can use in a variety of ways.

Open-ended toys make smart purchases, since kids can use them over and over again. Simply look for blocks, builders, bricks, arts & crafts materials and anything else kids use to create.  Some of these toys can even transition to more advanced play as children grow and develop new skills. Toys that focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), for instance, are open-ended, encourage creative thinking and give kids fun firsthand experience with the process of design.

Tip 3: Choose toys that spark the imagination and provide opportunities for pretend play.

Good old-fashioned pretend play helps children develop creative thinking while building language and literacy skills. When you’re shopping, consider how your kids’ imaginations might run away with a product. Here are some ideas:

  • Play kitchen sets and pretend foods might lead to a bustling restaurant in your living room.
  • A toy cash register and play money may inspire kids to open a make-believe store.
  • Blocks, play animals, cars and other figures give kids what they need to build a miniature zoo or city.
  • A stethoscope and some stuffed animals could become a thriving veterinary practice.
  • A picnic playset lets kids have a picnic anywhere, anytime—even on a snowy holiday morning!

picnic-playset

Tip 4: Opt for toys that promote social skills and collaborative play.

Most children learn how to cooperate through play. Since so many games highlight the fun of working with others, it’s easy to find gifts that foster social skills.

  • If you’re shopping for young ones, look for activities involving taking turns, sharing and compromising.
  • If your kids are older, consider toys offering opportunities for teamwork and group problem-solving.
  • Choose gifts kids can enjoy as a team, like games, experiment kits, puzzles and builders.
stretch-and-connect-builders
Our Stretch & Connect Builders allow kids to collaborate on tons of crazy constructions!

Tip 5: Shop for toys focusing on real-world exploration.

Spark natural curiosity and stimulate learning with exploratory toys.

  • A simple set of binoculars provides hours of discovery while prompting children to ask a variety of different How? and Why? questions. Afterward, dive into some books to answer their questions.
  • A bug-catching kit helps kids get an up-close look at nature.
  • Experiment kits and science toys like this Young Scientist Chemistry Lab make great choices, too. Who knows? You might end up inspiring a budding scientist or STEM enthusiast.

young-scientist-chemistry-lab

Tip 6: Find board games that boost math and language skills.

It’s easy to find games with learning potential. Here’s how:

  • Choose games featuring pieces that help young children build counting skills as they move them around a game board.
  • Look for games involving making decisions and forming strategies to help boost both math and cognitive skills.
  • Find games with question cards or trivia to help kids practice reading skills.
  • Browse the aisles for games that help kids learn life skills. For example, The Allowance Game® helps kids make smart decisions when earning and spending money.

No matter which toys you choose, encourage your kids by getting in on the fun. Set aside time each day and take part in playtime. The best holiday gift you can give is to play along with your kids!

Happy holiday shopping!

Kids Design Their Own Fashions—No Sewing or Cutting Required

Posted by Chelsea Guerrero | Lakeshore Marketing

lynette hoy_blog

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Kids start noticing fashion at a young age. This curiosity is cute when they try on your shoes…and not so cute when they use the “grown-up” scissors to cut up your favorite scarf for a new doll dress.

Lakeshore’s My First Fashion Designer kit encourages the creativity, curiosity and independence of early fashion experiments while minimizing the safety issues and worries that could come along with it.

Below, Product Development Manager Lynette Hoy answers my questions about the all-in-one kit that’s a young fashionista’s dream come true.

CG: What inspired My First Fashion Designer?

LH: Even young children are drawn to the glitz and glamour of fashion! We wanted to help kids as young as 4 safely make their own fashions, so we created a design product that requires zero sharp items, such as scissors, needles and pins. This way, even the youngest fashion designers can get creative while safely bringing their stylish dreams to life.

CG: How does My First Fashion Designer work?

LH: This kit comes with the essentials kids need to create fashionable dresses, skirts, tops, wraps and more—all without sewing or cutting. Kids will have a blast mixing and matching the included fabrics and accessories to create tons of different styles. Best of all, kids can create their runway-ready outfits in just three easy steps:

1) Choose a fabric and wrap it around the dress form.

IMG_5156
2) Secure the fabric by pushing our super-safe buttons into a slot in the back of the dress form.

IMG_5145

3) Add accessories—like the included design ribbons—to complete the design!

IMG_5141

CG: What skills can a child develop using this product?

LH: If you’re a parent, you’ll love that My First Fashion Designer helps kids exercise and improve developmental skills. As kids repeat the hand motions needed to manipulate the fabrics and use the buttons, they’ll boost fine motor control while getting better at “dressing” their mannequin. Plus, the kit also helps kids learn to follow simple instructions and exercise their imaginations as they design.

CG: What special considerations did you make to design this product for children 4 and older?

LH: Safety and functionality were our top priorities. While our button fasteners do not have any sharp points, they hold outfits in place like magic. We also included pre-cut fabric pieces in two versatile sizes and pre-cut ribbons so kids could avoid having to use scissors. Using the two sizes we scaled perfectly for the dress form, kids can make anything from a scarf to a full-length dress.

To help young children get started, we also included a colorful guide with step-by-step design directions and bright pictures to provide inspiration.

booklet

CG: What will kids love about this product?

LH: Kids will love unleashing their inner fashion designers with our easy-to-use pieces and dazzling fabrics. And, of course, they’ll adore sharing their work. I had my daughter Presley create a fashion show for the whole family. Her designs were amazing, but my favorite part was seeing her take pride in her creations!

My First Fashion Designer outfits
Everything you need to design over 100 outfits!

6 Tips for Teaching Kids About Giving Back

Guest Blog by Clarissa | Lakeshore Blog Ambassador from Munchkins and Moms

Like most kids, my boys love to receive gifts. All year long they look forward to special days during the year when they’ll receive presents from friends and family. My kids have already started talking about items on their wish lists (like this aircraft carrier and these kid-safe appliances), but we’ve also been talking about ways we can give to others to make the season special for everyone!

Here are six ways we’ve decided to encourage the spirit of giving in our kids:

1. Donate to a cause that interests your kids.

My kids recently started asking for a pet, so we took a trip to our local shelter to find one just right for our family. While at the shelter, we asked how we could help care for pets still waiting to be adopted. One request we knew we could help fulfill was gathering blankets and towels to keep the animals warm and clean. My kids were excited to go through our linens and find extra towels to donate!

donate to a cause

What special interests do your kids have? Try visiting local zoos, aquariums or museums to see how your family can support the community.

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2. Serve those who serve us.

My kids always notice when public servants (like police officers and firefighters) race by to help a person in need. When we hear sirens whiz by, we talk about how these community helpers are headed to places where others may be hurt and need assistance. Since my kids look up to the people who serve and protect our community, we love to find ways to show these people our support and appreciation all year long.

serve those who serve us

Talk to your kids about different public servants and ask which of them they’d like to create a card for. Letting kids hand-deliver the cards makes it a special experience for both the giver and receiver!

thank you cards

3. Help out a neighbor.

The idea of serving and giving can be abstract for young kids because they don’t actually see the difference the gifts make in a person’s life. For example, giving money to a charity is great philanthropic work, but kids never get to see the impact of the donation.

One way to help kids see the benefits of giving is by encouraging them to give through acts of service.

Some acts of service that our neighbors appreciate include delivering groceries, mowing a neighbor’s lawn or making a meal for new parents down the street. These gifts of time and energy give everyone in the community something to smile about.

Try brainstorming a few ways to serve your neighbors, and then have your kids help in those acts of service and watch their love for giving grow!

4. Bake for a cause.

Kids love to help out in the kitchen! Baking special treats for people they appreciate is a great way for them to give back and show thanks.

bake for a cause

Kids can personally deliver the treats to people they would like to show appreciation for, or your family can hold a bake sale and donate the proceeds to a charitable organization. Tip: If your kids are old enough, let them help you research and choose a charity so you’re sure to find one that resonates with them.

5. Create gift baskets.

There are many people who make our lives better because they do their jobs exceptionally well—teachers who give up lunch hours for tutoring, babysitters who kids ask to see over and over again, or the little league coaches who always have an encouraging word for the team. These people deserve extra thanks for always going the extra mile for our families. Putting together gift baskets as a family is a fun way for everyone to show gratitude to these generous do-gooders!

create gift baskets

We created a gift basket for our favorite day care teacher using fingerpaint and other useful supplies. What would you include in a gift basket for your kids’ teachers? Let your kids brainstorm some ideas—they’re sure to come up with creative items that they’d be excited to give!

6. Donate while you shop.

During holiday shopping trips, look for more ways to give as a family. Kids can collect change to drop in Salvation Army buckets, help pick out non-perishable food to donate to a pantry or choose toys to donate to kids in need. Older kids can even research charitable organizations their favorite stores give to and look for more ways to support those causes.

As a former teacher, I was thrilled to see Lakeshore Learning joining forces with DonorsChoose—an organization that supports teachers all over the United States. For every order from the new Gifts for Growing Minds catalog, Lakeshore Learning will donate $1 to DonorsChoose.org.

donors choose

Implementing a few of these ideas during the holidays (and throughout the entire year) will help instill a lifelong spirit of giving in our children.

Cheers to a season of giving!

Explore Family Diversity with 5 Easy Activities

by Toisha Burns | Lakeshore Marketing

Families come in all shapes and sizes. This can be hard for young children to understand…since they spend so much time with the same, familiar family. Luckily, there are lots of easy ways to teach kids about family diversity—no traveling required.

Keep reading to get directions for five hands-on classroom activities that help kids explore all the ways families can be different—from the kinds of houses they live in to the activities they do for fun.

1. Home, Sweet Home!

world map

home-sweet-homeIntroduce a world map or globe to the class. Begin a discussion about the various places people live in the world and what their homes might look like.

Find pictures of different types of homes families live in around the world. Share the pictures with students and guide them through a comparing and contrasting activity of the photos. What parts of the houses are similar to the one you live in? How are they different? After discussing the homes, use a map to find the regions where these homes are located. Use a push-pin or tape to add each picture to the map in the region it’s from. If the photo covers the entire region, use a string to point to the region and tack the photo off to the side.

Display the map on one of your bulletin boards and use it throughout the year to conduct more compare and contrast activities with students…like people, foods, clothing, etc.

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2. Who's in Your Family?

whos in your family craft

Whos-in-your-family

Discuss how there are many types of families and that they take on different shapes and sizes. Show children different pictures of families.

Provide each child with a 5″ x 5″ piece of white paper and crayons or colored pencils. Ask them, “Who’s in your family?” Have children draw a picture of their family in the center of the paper. Using 5 Jumbo Craft Sticks, show children how to assemble the shape of a house around their picture and glue the craft sticks together. Center the picture of the family in the frame and glue it in place. Have each student write their family name on their house. Display the houses by hanging them around the classroom.

3. Families Grow Like Trees

family tree

families-grow-like-trees

Continue the conversation with students about family members. What is a generation? Depending on the level of your students, the conversation can be as simple as explaining the parent-to-child relationship and how it defines generations. For example, grandparents are a generation, parents are a generation and you are a generation. Families are made up of multiple generations, and these generations make up our family trees.

Assist children in creating a family tree. Provide each of them with an empty and clean paper towel roll, a 9″ paper plate and a sheet of construction paper. Have them decorate the paper plate to represent the top of a tree. They can collage and/or paint it. Assist them in gluing the paper plate and the paper towel roll onto the construction paper to create their tree. Provide them with circles, and on each circle have them draw a family member and label it with their relationship. Remind them to also create a circle for themselves. Finally, have students glue on the family member circles beginning with their circle just above the tree trunk. Then have them add their parents above them, then their grandparents and so on…

For a more challenging activity:
Have students research and create a list of relatives as far back as they can, making sure to document not only names, but relationships. Encourage them to interview family members to gather as much information as possible. Invite them to build their own family tree using the information collected. Once complete, allow students to present their family trees to the class. How many generations were you able to trace? Invite them to share one interesting fact they discovered, during the interviews, about their family or a family member.

4. Family Facts

family facts photo

family-facts

This next activity is great for use as a morning warm-up or end-of-day wrap-up. Complete a Family Facts graphing exercise each day as a group. Set up a graphing area in your classroom. This could be on a dry-erase board or a graphing pad. Title the graph with the fun fact question you want the children to answer about their families.

Introduce the daily question to the class and have students write their names on the graph under their answer. Review the results with the class once everyone has had a chance to contribute. Here are some topic suggestions:

a. Do you have family in another country?
b. How many people are in your family?
c. How many letters in your family name?
d. Have you vacationed outside of the United States?
e. How many pets do you have?

Expand questions further to allow students to share more about their families. For example, invite students to share which countries they have family members living in or what places they have vacationed to outside of the United States.

5. What's in a Name?

sentence-strips

whats-in-a-name

Write each students’ first or last name on a sentence strip. Invite students to sit in a circle with the sentence strips face down in the center of it. Invite a student to pick a sentence strip from the pile and read the name to the class. Have the student whose name it is stand up. Demonstrate for students how to clap the syllables found in the name. Invite them to clap the number of syllables found by saying the name. Once the class has clapped the syllables in that name, invite that student to pick a new card and repeat the process.