Summer Learning Through Sand & Water Play

Guest Blog by Danielle | Lakeshore Blog Ambassador from Mom Inspired Life

My kids love sand and water play, so I’m always brainstorming activities that inspire joy and learning. These sand and water activities did not disappoint! In fact, they were a huge hit—they kept my kids engaged and learning for hours.

I hope your kids enjoy these summer learning activities as much as mine did!

Activity 1: Scoop Up Kinetic Sensory Sand Ice Cream!

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My four-year-old daughter loves using her Sensory Sand Ice Cream Set to pretend she’s working at an ice cream shop! I love how the set helps her develop fine motor skills and practice social and emotional skills like sharing, cooperation and communication as she serves “ice cream” to others. It’s also perfect for dramatic play. My daughter has been getting super-creative with the invisible toppings she offers. Anyone want some sweet “rainbow syrup”?

Activity 2: Make Kinetic Sensory Sand Cupcakes!

For this pretend-play activity, you’ll need some Kinetic Sensory Sand, a cupcake pan, cupcake liners and candles. Tell your kids to pretend they own a cupcake shop, and ask them to bake some colorful treats. Your kids will have a blast! Up the fun factor by adding some candles to the cupcakes and hosting a pretend birthday party.

Activity 3: Explore “Sink or Float” with the Water Exploration Station!

The Water Exploration Station makes it easy to do a variety of activities with kids. We used it to explore whether items sink or float in water. My kids went around our yard collecting items to test—rocks, sticks, leaves, flowers, mulch, seeds and more. Then we made predictions about whether each item would sink or float.

I invited my kids to drop items into the tubes to test their predictions. My daughter was mesmerized. She was excited every time she dropped a flower or stick into the tube. After we tested all the items, my daughter continued to search the yard for other things to test. She absolutely loved it…and she caught on to the science part of it. It took her only a few tests to realize that heavy items sink and light items float.

My six-year-old son got great satisfaction from correctly predicting many of the outcomes. But there was still an item or two that surprised him. This led to great discussions about why those items didn’t behave in the way he expected.

Activity 4: Cook Up Pretend Soup!

My kids couldn’t get enough of this activity!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Large pot
  • Ladles/spoons
  • Measuring cups and spoons (I put water in a watering can so my kids could pour it into the measuring cups.)
  • Plastic saltshaker
  • Bowls
  • Sand (I added some sand to a plastic saltshaker so the kids could pretend to add seasonings to their soup.)

My kids started by adding water to the pot with measuring cups and spoons. Then they added lots of “seasonings.” They also used the measuring cups and spoons to scoop in sand as if it were sugar or flour.

After they stirred and stirred (great gross motor practice), the kids looked for other things to add to the soup. My son added some grass to look like fresh herbs. My daughter added some rocks—they looked just like potatoes!

As the little chefs worked, they had some squabbles over who could use the ladle to stir the soup and who could use the saltshaker. This gave them the chance to develop social skills—to work through issues and practice sharing, cooperating and communicating effectively. Did they do this perfectly? Absolutely not! They needed guidance from me, but that is to be expected. When all was said and done, though, my kids were extremely proud of their “soup”!

We are definitely going to do these sand and water activities again and again this summer! Not only are they a total blast, but they’re also a fantastic way to build skills. Enjoy!

Outdoor Activities to Boost Math Skills

by Ron Mohl | Lakeshore Lead Educational Presenter

For kids, outdoor play is a nonstop adventure! As they frolic in the fresh air, their senses are heightened and their attention is sharp—they open up to new experiences. That’s why engaging outdoor moments provide a golden opportunity for helping kids build a stronger relationship with math. Here are some skill-building math activities kids can enjoy while having fun outside.

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Let's Predict!

Kids make an immediate and personal connection to learning when they guess what might happen during an upcoming activity. Guessing also helps kids become persistent explorers and problem solvers. Before kids head outside, have them make predictions they can test as they play. Try out these questions to get started:

How many animals/bugs will you see?
Kids can use binoculars to find birds and magnifiers to search for bugs in the grass or garden.

How many bubbles can you make?
Using the Lakeshore Big Bubbles Kit, encourage children to estimate the number of bubbles they can make each time they blow through or wave a bubble wand. Ask kids if they think they can make more bubbles on the next try by changing their technique. You can even have them predict the size of the biggest bubble they can blow.

How long will it take to dry?
Spray water on concrete, a sidewalk or a wall. Set a sand timer and have kids guess if the wet area will dry before or after time runs out. Try a variety of time increments to mix things up!

Measure It!

Kids get plenty of practice using rulers and other standard measuring tools in school. They can practice nonstandard measurement while having fun outside!

What’s the measurement?
This activity works with any nonstandard measuring tool. I personally love starting with feet—the kind with toes! Have children use the length of their feet to measure something outside by counting the number of toe-to-toe steps it takes to go along a fence, around a tree or around other landmarks outside. They can also measure using household items, like a ladle or paper towel roll.

How many claps from here to there?
Have kids count handclaps to measure how long it takes to run, skip, leap or gallop from one point to another. Ask them what they reach faster—the swing set or the basketball court. (Remind them that fewer claps indicate a faster journey!) Tip: Set the pace of the clapping to help children stay consistent.

Game-Hoop Sorting

Finding and gathering items in nature is the perfect way to introduce classification and sequencing. Have kids start by gathering items like leaves, rocks and pinecones. Then extend their play with these math ideas:

How would you classify these items?
Lay a game hoop on concrete pavement. Then use chalk to divide the inside area into “pizza slices.” Have kids use each “slice” to sort nature items into different groups by size, color, texture, etc.

How should we arrange these items?
Next, draw a line on the pavement and have kids sort their items from large to small, soft to hard or light to dark. This form of organizing helps kids work on their ability to put items in order.

 Get Moving with Math!

It’s easy to enrich gross motor activities, like jumping and leaping, with math practice to help kids build balance, muscle and math skills at the same time. Here are some ways to get kids moving:

What’s your next move?
Create an obstacle course! Put up signs to prompt kids to repeat a physical pattern (touch your toes, hop, crawl, touch your toes, hop, crawl, and so on) as they move between two different points outside. Test children’s recall by using a game hoop or other marker to replace one of the movement prompts to see if they can remember the missing move.

How do you do that move?
Break down any move—like a jump, hop or leap—into its separate sequential moves while modeling ordinal counting with children. For example:

Jumping
1. Bend your knees.
2. Blast off with both feet to go up.
3. Land on both feet.

Leaping
1. Stand on one foot.
2. Thrust forward, leading with the foot in the air.
3. Land on the foot that was in the air.

How long is our train?
Have children create human trains by lining up together based on characteristics you call out. You might say, “Line up if you’re wearing blue…if you’re a girl…or if you have buttons on your clothes!” Then have kids count off how many of them are in the train.

As the weather warms up, try any—or all—of these activities! Children will never look at math practice the same way again. Have fun!

References:
1. Angela Oswalt, “Cognitive Development: Piaget Part III,” MentalHelp.Net, last modified June 9, 2010, https://www.mentalhelp.net/articles/cognitive-development-piaget-part-iii/.

Learn Through Play All Summer Long

by Clara Lauwers | Lakeshore Marketing

Do you want to know the secret to organizing educational summer activities kids will love? Get them involved in the planning process! And here’s another tip: It’s easy with Lakeshore’s free, downloadable summer learning calendars.

Packed with two full months of activities, these calendars are my go-to resource for activities to keep my 3-year-old son, Lucas, busy and learning all summer long. I let him pick the activities he wants to try, so I know he’s just as pumped for his summer of learning as I am.

Here are just a few of the many activities he can’t wait to try:

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Sunday, June 11: Eat breakfast outside.

Breakfast, sunshine and cooking are a few of my son’s favorite things, so this activity caught his eye immediately. We’re going to make French toast, his favorite morning meal, and take it outside for a family picnic. I’m excited (nervous) to see how sticky we all get from the maple syrup!

Wednesday, June 21: Have a slice of watermelon and count the seeds.

Lucas is obsessed with watermelon. I love watching his little face disappear as he digs in! I’m so glad he’ll get to enjoy his favorite warm-weather snack while practicing his counting skills.

Thursday, July 6: Go outside and find pictures in the clouds.

This creative exercise requires no materials…and no preparation! Lucas already loves looking up at the clouds, so I’ll just ask him to describe what he sees. We’ll be on vacation on July 6, but it’s no problem since we can do this activity anywhere.

Thursday, July 13: Use chalk to make a racetrack on your driveway. Race toy cars on the track.

When my son sees a toy car, he just has to race it. (Or drive it over all our furniture!) Chalk is an inexpensive and easy way to create a huge racetrack outside in seconds. Lucas and his dad are already busy planning an epic track that will take up the entire driveway.

Tuesday, July 18: Make up dance moves to your favorite song.

My little one loves moving and dancing, which is fine by me! It’s a great way for him to burn off some of his energy. We’re going to double the fun by inviting a friend over to dance with us.

Thursday, July 27: Go on a “listening walk” with your child. What does he or she hear?

My family of hikers can’t wait to do this activity multiple times! It’s important for young minds to take time out and listen to nature sounds…and even neighborhood sounds, like driving cars, chirping birds and barking dogs. This activity is also perfect for staying active while learning.

Free Crafts for Kids

Lucas loves going to Free Crafts for Kids at our local Lakeshore store. He can’t wait to make a Dad’s Day Craft-Stick Card on June 17, and he really can’t wait to give it to his dad on Father’s Day. We also plan to make Sail Away STEAM Boats on July 15. Lucas is already scouting out places where he can see how well his boat floats!

To discover more ways kids can learn through play this summer, visit our Summer Learning Guide.

Color Mixing with Bubbles! Lesson Plan

by Emily McGowan | Lakeshore Early Childhood Product Development Manager


Forget everything you thought you knew about blowing bubbles! We’ve come up with a way to add educational value to this carefree outdoor activity. Use this lesson plan to let kids blow bubbles and learn all about color mixing at the same time.

Note: This lesson is designed for preschool–kindergarten. While this lesson plan was created for the classroom, it’s also a fun activity to try at home!

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Objectives:

  • Kids will identify red, yellow and blue as primary colors.
  • Kids will learn how primary colors combine to create secondary colors.

You will need:

Directions:

  1. Read aloud Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh.
  2. Ask kids to recall the three colors of paint the mice jumped into in Mouse Paint (red, yellow and blue). Explain that the colors red, yellow and blue are called primary colors.
  3. Encourage kids to share what they learned about mixing these primary colors together. (They will make new colors!)
  4. Pour some clear bubble solution into two different trays. Add a few drops of blue food coloring to one tray and yellow food coloring to the other.
  5. Ask a volunteer to blow blue and yellow bubbles onto a sheet of white chart paper or butcher paper. Ask kids to observe what happens when the two colors mix on the paper. (Yellow and blue make green.)
  6. Remind kids that mixing two primary colors together will make a secondary color, like green.

Guided Practice:

  1. Pair up the kids and take them outside for this activity. Give each pair two trays of clear bubble solution, a bubble wand and a sheet of white paper.
  2. Have each pair select two primary colors (red, yellow and/or blue). Help kids add a few drops of one food coloring to the first tray and a few drops of the other food coloring to the second tray.
  3. Encourage the partners to take turns blowing bubbles onto the paper, mixing their two primary colors together to discover what new color they can make.
  4. Allow the paper to dry and display the colorful bubble creations on a bulletin board or refrigerator. Invite kids to share what they discovered. (Red and blue = purple; yellow and blue = green; and yellow and red = orange.)

Download this lesson plan.

Get Kids Moving: 6 Ideas for Active Play

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

Active play is not just an important piece of all our homeschool days—it’s a vital part!

As kids move their bodies through play, they are not only improving their health but are also developing a sense of self and space. They are physically internalizing the concepts of left and right, above and below, forward and backward, etc. These are important prerequisites for reading (left-to-right, top-to-bottom progression), math (moving forward and backward on a number line) and so much more!

On warm, sunny days, it’s easy to get outside and play…but staying active when stuck indoors can be a bit more of a challenge. That’s why we’ve added a few new versatile toys and games to our home. They can be used outdoors in the beautiful spring weather, or they can be brought indoors when it’s rainy. Either way, we are prepared for fun and active play this spring!

Here are a few of our favorite ways to keep our minds and bodies active:

Idea 1: Go “alphabet” bowling.

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This isn’t your average bowling set! The Alphabet Bowling set from Lakeshore Learning comes with every letter of the alphabet and a foam “bowling” ball. We couldn’t wait to set it up!

We played this game both inside and outside for the chance to compare and contrast how the ball rolls on different surfaces. Bowling is also a great way to work on eye/hand coordination and practice friendly competition.

Here are some more ways we plan to use the game:

  • Spell words (sight-words, kids’ names, etc.) to knock down using the ball.
  • Use the foam letters in a seek-and-find game.
  • Stack the letters to form alphabet towers.

Idea 2: Skip, hop and jump to boost math and reading skills.

We’ve discovered hours of learning fun using a sidewalk and some chalk.

To practice reading skills, we draw a 5′ x 5′ grid on the sidewalk and write a letter in each square. Then we call out simple words, and the boys hop on the letters that spell each word.

We use the same simple grid for a math maze by erasing the letters and replacing them with numbers. The boys love counting from 1 to 20 or skip-counting by 2s, 5s, 10s or 100s as they hop around the grid.

Next time, we plan to draw an out-of-order number sequence grid on the sidewalk and have the boys hop and skip over the squares to count in the correct order. When it’s time to learn multiplication, we’ll shout out numbers and have the boys jump on the two factors.

Idea 3: Play ball!

We love playing with lots of different balls—footballs, soccer balls and baseballs are some solid favorites. Playing ball is great for eye/hand coordination and promoting cooperative play skills. Our new favorite balls are these rainbow-colored, Soft & Safe Comet Balls from Lakeshore. They are unique and completely irresistible to kids!

The balls come in a rainbow of colors, and they’re so fun to throw! The ball portion is made from a soft, easy-grip material that won’t hurt other kids (or break windows).

My boys didn’t limit themselves to tossing from the head of the comet. They gleefully spun the ball from the tail and sent it flying sky-high, too! You can use these balls for countless games, such as:

  • Comet tag. Simply toss the ball to tag a friend.
  • Target practice. Aim balls at a chalk target on the sidewalk.

We took out a bucket and practiced making comet baskets for a fun twist on a classic activity. This game can also be taken indoors on rainy spring days!

Idea 4: Enjoy leapfrog (and other classic childhood games)!

Leapfrog, hopscotch, jump rope—these are some of the classic childhood games my kids and I enjoy together! The games only require a few supplies (or no supplies at all) for fun and active play and can be modified for both indoor and outdoor use. For example, use painter’s tape (instead of chalk) to make an indoor hopscotch game.

Leapfrog, hopscotch, and jump rope all provide great opportunities for kids to improve balance and coordination while having fun. As kids go through childhood growth spurts, their center of gravity shifts, so it’s important to play these types of games often! Their little bodies need the physical feedback this type of play provides to stay confident in their abilities.

Playing classic games is also a great way to connect and reminisce with your kids about your own childhood. (“I used to play hopscotch like this when I was a kid!”) Recalling a story from your past provides a great framework for teaching retelling skills, an important literacy skill in early childhood education.

Idea 5: Take aim with Lakeshore’s Indoor/Outdoor Kids’ Croquet.

Croquet is a classic game that I enjoyed playing as a kid, so I couldn’t wait to share it with my boys!

This set is unique because it can be played both indoors and outdoors. We played on grass and carpet—and had fun both ways!

Playing croquet develops eye/hand coordination, promotes good sportsmanship, improves muscle control and much more! It has been one of our favorite games to play this spring.

Here are some other ways to enjoy croquet with friends:

  • Take a field trip to a senior home and invite the residents to play a game of croquet with the kids.
  • Hold a neighborhood croquet tournament. If there are more than four players, create teams of two for more fun!

Idea 6: Go for a good old-fashioned run.

When it comes to active play, running is about as classic as it gets. Whether they’re running down grassy hills or racing against one another, kids always enjoy a good run! If you want to mix things up a little bit, here are some fun variations to include in your kids’ run game:

  • Use a stopwatch to time their runs. Encourage them to beat their last times!
  • Challenge them to change direction mid-run by calling out “left” and “right” at random intervals.
  • Have them run while holding streamers behind them. (This is fun to do on a breezy day!)

There are countless ways to include running in your kids’ playtime activities! It is one of the most basic gross motor skills kids develop throughout childhood, and helping kids enjoy it offers long-term benefits.

There are so many ways to play and stay active this spring. These great games can all be taken outdoors for fun in the sun…or brought inside on rainy days. Enjoy!

Teacher Appreciation Week: Gifts They’ll Love

by JoAnna Rowe | Lakeshore Retail Marketing Manager

Every day, teachers do a million incredible things, from designing mathematical adventures to reading books in the perfect character voice. Teacher Appreciation Week (May 1 – May 5) is our big chance to say “thank you!” Here are some gift ideas to help you come up with the perfect way to show your teacher they are appreciated.

Idea 1: Bundle up some books.

Teachers always need more books for their reading corners or libraries. Bundle up some of your favorite titles along with other reading-time essentials, like Story Wands. Of course, there’s always room for a personalized message! (“You made this year one for the books!”) This also makes a great group gift! Just have each student make a contribution, then wrap all the books together.

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Idea 2: Dazzle them with décor.

Have you ever met a teacher who doesn’t love storage bins? Teachers enjoy sprucing up and organizing their classrooms, and even small accents can really brighten up a space. Vibrant borders and colorful organization bins help give any classroom a mini makeover.

Idea 3: Customize a basket of supplies.

I guarantee every teacher in your life always needs supplies. Turn a bunch of school essentials into a thoughtful gift basket using the art of presentation. We nestled arts & crafts materials in a Clear-View Storage Box.

Idea 4: Make a memory book.

Nothing says “thank you” like fond memories from students. Grab a Blank Hardcover Book and have kids fill it with memories from the school year. Kids can work independently—or with the whole class—to write messages, draw pictures, create collages, paste photos and more. Teachers will love whatever their students decide to do!

Idea 5: Create a teacher-style “tool belt.”

Glue, scissors and pencils disappear around my house all the time, and I only have one kid! This gift idea helps teachers keep important items where they’ll always be able to grab them in a snap. To make one, just fill an All-Purpose Teacher’s Utility Apron with essential supplies. You can even throw in a cute message to make it more personal. We love “Thanks for giving us the tools to succeed!”

Idea 6: Put it on a card.

A gift card is perfect in nearly any situation. To add a personal touch for Teacher Appreciation Week, pair a gift card with a classroom essential and a cute pun. Here are some examples:

For even more ideas, check out our post “Gift Ideas for Teacher Appreciation Week.”

Learning Through Sensory Play

by Patti Jo Wilson | Lakeshore Professional Development Specialist

Sensory play isn’t just about touch. It’s about engaging all the senses children use to learn about the world. In fact, the more senses children use during an activity, the more learning potential it has. Sensory play can even help babies meet developmental milestones!

Follow these tips to infuse any space with opportunities for infants, toddlers and preschoolers to enjoy sensory play at school or at home.

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Sensory play for infants:

  1. Stimulate visual development using secure mobiles babies can swipe, bat and grab.
  2. Play soft, soothing music to nurture babies’ hearing. Be sure to avoid harsh, sharp and loud sounds. You can even purchase CDs made just for little ones, like Singable Songs for the Very Young.
  3. Provide a wide variety of soft sensory toys. For example, our star-shaped beanbags are perfect for sensory play because they incorporate textures and colors little ones love. If you’re caring for nonmobile children, take the toys to them.

Sensory play for toddlers:

  1. Set up stations for sensory play. You can use full-sized units, like our Toddler Sand & Water Table, or simply place a variety of sensory objects in a craft tray filled with dry rice. Try to include items that stimulate as many senses as possible, like Stack & Nest Sensory Toys featuring bright colors, bold patterns and fun-to-touch textures.
  2. Add soap and different types of sponges to your water play area. Toddlers will love playing with the soapy bubbles and squeezing the sponges.
  3. Play a variety of sounds and have children guess what they hear. You can even group sounds into categories to make the guessing easier.
  4. Introduce dough play! There are plenty of store-bought options, like Lakeshore Dough or Theraputty™, and it’s even easy to make your own.

Sensory play for preschoolers:

  1. Set up a secondary sensory table to provide even more opportunities for kids to explore. Stock it with open-ended sensory items that can be left out for long periods of time, like our Nonhardening Modeling Foam or our Tactile Letters.
  2. Turn a nature walk into a tactile scavenger hunt. Ask kids to collect objects that are smooth, rough, heavy, shiny, squishy, etc.
  3. Set out shaving cream to help kids explore touch and smell. Children love squirting shaving cream out of the can and squeezing it between their fingers!
  4. Have children take off their shoes and explore with their feet while walking on sensory mats, like our Silly Shapes Sensory Mats. You can even use the mats for seating!
  5. Let kids paint with their fingers! Change up the texture by adding glitter or picking up some of our Foam Sensory Paint.

Sensory play at home:

  1. Help babies respond to sensory stimulation by massaging them after their baths. Rhythmically massage their arms, legs and torsos using a baby-safe lotion or oil.
  2. Help toddlers collect items that have different textures (like bubble wrap, flannel, aluminum foil, kitchen scrubbers and sandpaper) to put in sensory books they can feel and explore.
  3. Poke holes in the tops of small containers and fill them with items that smell different (bananas, vinegar, vanilla, etc.) so children can explore with their noses.

Find our top picks for sensory play here, and start filling your space with opportunities for exploration today!

References:

  1. “Infant Massage for Babies with Sensory Impairments,” California Deaf-Blind Services, last modified 2011, files.cadbs.org/200001096-b825fb91fa/Infant%20Massage.pdf.
  2. “Why Infant Massage?,” Infant Massage USA®, accessed 2017, http://infantmassageusa.org/parents/parents.php.
  3. Thompson, Stacy D. and Raisor, Jill M., “Meeting the Sensory Needs of Young Children,” NAEYC 2013. Accessed 2017. https://www.naeyc.org/yc/files/yc/file/201305/Meeting_Sensory_Needs_Thompson_0513.pdf.
  4. “Growing In Sync Children,” NAEYC, accessed 2017, http://www.naeyc.org/tyc/article/growing_in_sync_children.
  5. “Why Sensory Play is Important,” The Spruce, last modified September 1, 2016, https://www.thespruce.com/why-sensory-play-is-important-2086510.

2017 Blog Ambassadors

by Victoria Montoya | Lakeshore Director of Public Relations

We are thrilled to introduce our 2017 Lakeshore Learning Ambassadors! These moms and teachers share our passion for finding creative ways to help children learn. We can’t wait to read all the brilliant ideas they’ll share as they join us in our mission to help children reach developmental milestones and achieve educational goals—while still having fun!

Follow our blog for their tips, tricks and activity ideas, and make sure to visit their blogs to learn about the experiences they’ve had using Lakeshore products with kids.

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Apples and ABC’s, Michelle Griffo 

A passionate teacher with 10 years of experience, Michelle has taught kids in kindergarten through fourth grade. She loves creating engaging classroom environments where all students can develop emotionally, socially and intellectually. Michelle is also a blogger at applesandabcs.com, where she shares teaching tips, teacher style and curriculum for the primary classroom. When she’s not teaching or blogging, she’s busy being a mommy!

Favorite Activity with Kids:
Michelle loves having kids play with sensory bins because they incorporate all her favorite things—bright colors, a hands-on element and an academic focus.


Busy Toddler, Susie Allison 

Welcome back! Susie is the blogger behind Busy Toddler and a busy mom to three busy kids. That’s a whole lot of busy! Making it to naptime each day is a big deal in her house—a house full of kids under the age of four! Susie loves finding easy, simple and creative ways to keep her little ones active throughout the day. Her activities are engaging and fun, and—most importantly—they can be re-created in seconds using household items. A former elementary school teacher, Susie’s goal is to share activity ideas with other parents and help them make it to naptime, too.

Favorite Activity with Kids:
Susie prefers sensory-based activities. Susie loves inviting her kids (and their friends) to get a little messy and have a ton of sensory fun playing with JELL-O®, finding foam letters in cornmeal and more.


Mom Inspired Life, Danielle Buckley 

Danielle is a stay-at-home mom with two kids, ages three and six. As a former elementary teacher, she enjoys the opportunity to educate her own children at home. She loves creating fun and playful learning activities that engage and excite her kids. She started the website Mom Inspired Life three years ago because she wanted to inspire parents and teachers to make learning fun!

Favorite Activity with Kids:
Science experiments top Danielle’s list of activities! She’s learned that nothing excites and engages children as much as scientific exploration, from growing plants to combining baking soda and vinegar to create a reaction.


Munchkins and Moms, Clarissa Hooper

Welcome back! Clarissa is a master bubble blower, accomplished mud-pie baker and dedicated home-preschool mom of two boys. She’s also a learning-through-play advocate! Teaching her boys in fun and creative ways is her greatest passion. In her spare time, Clarissa is the writer behind Munchkins and Moms, a blog where she shares playful learning activities for toddlers and preschoolers.

Favorite Activity with Kids:
Clarissa loves taking her kids on field trips, which include visiting museums, touring a local bakery and more. She loves the opportunity to learn on the go!


Fun with Mama, Nadia Tayob 

Nadia is the mother of three wonderful kids! She has two girls (ages 3 and 8) and a boy (age 10). She started her blog, Fun with Mama, to celebrate the magic of childhood from a mother’s perspective. On her blog, Nadia shares parenting tips, activity ideas and pointers for encouraging creativity at home. She is passionate about early childhood education and believes that children should have a dedicated art area at home. Nadia loves spending time with her kids and creating intentional, play-based learning opportunities.

Favorite Activity with Kids:
Nadia loves simple activities that are engaging, challenging and full of fun. She once threw plastic letters into a tub of water. Her daughter caught them with a strainer, saying each letter out loud and giggling the whole time.

Learn, Create and Explore—7 Easy Springtime Activities

Guest Blog by Lindsay | Blogger from My Creative Days

Hello, Lakeshore readers! It’s Lindsay from mycreativedays.com. I’m here to share seven spring activities I use to get my kids learning, creating and exploring. Try these activities outside to soak up the spring sun, or save them for indoor play on a rainy day.

Activity 1: Make and share mini treat baskets.

My kids love making these baskets and sharing them with friends, family and neighbors. Lakeshore’s All-In-One Craft Tub, Collage Pots, Collage Flowers and Brush-On Washable Painters are perfect for this activity. Since the Collage Pots are not too big or too small, they’re easy to decorate, and they hold just the right amount of goodies.

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The kids painted the pots with Brush-On Washable Painters. These painters were a huge hit with the kids. They loved how the paint came right out of the brushes, and I loved how we weren’t wasting paint since the kids could squeeze it out as needed. (My kids usually pour way too much paint when preparing for a project, and most of it gets wasted.)

Then the kids added Collage Flowers, Wooden Collage Letters and other embellishments from the All-In-One Craft Tub. We glued chenille stems to the inside of each pot to make handles.

These baskets are going to make our friends and neighbors very happy this spring! We plan to hang them on doorknobs and put them on teachers’ desks.

Activity 2: Craft a carrot garland.

My kids swell with pride when they see their handiwork displayed in the house. When I told the kids I needed a spring garland to hang on the wall above our entry table, my daughter thought a carrot garland would be perfect because we already have a bunny “wreath” hanging on the wall.

To make the garland, I folded a piece of orange construction paper into eight rectangles.

Then my daughter drew a carrot on one of the rectangles.

She then refolded the paper so she could cut out a bunch of carrots at once. Next, we punched a hole in the top of each and made carrot tops using green chenille stems from the All-In-One Craft Tub.

Finally, we strung up the carrots to make the perfect garland to complete our spring entry table!

Activity 3: Use STEAM skills to design floating boats.

This Design & Play STEAM Boats Kit is perfect for hosting an all-day playdate, which we did at my house. The kids colored and designed for hours.

The Design & Play STEAM Boats Kit comes with everything kids need to put a boat together. Some of the kids looked at the pictures on the box to get ideas, while others decided to wing it.

After the boats are completed, kids can take them to a sink or tub to see if they float. But since we have a creek at the end of our street, we were able to turn the activity into an outing. I packed a snack while the kids designed and decorated. When they were done, we grabbed our picnic blankets and went down to the creek. I set up the blankets and the snacks while the kids tried to float their boats. They had a blast watching their boats sail down the creek. They also got to see fish and frogs, skip rocks and climb around until they were tired. Talk about the perfect day!

Any activity that lasts more than a few minutes is a favorite in my book! I’m dreaming about using the Design & Play STEAM Boats Kit at our next birthday party. We could all design our own boats and eat cupcakes as we watch them float.

Activity 4: Explore textures on paper eggs.

Exploring and playing with textures is fun at any age! We cut out big eggs using construction paper from the All-In-One Craft Tub. Then we created cool designs on each egg using washable paint and sponges in different shapes and textures from the Big Barrel of Art Sponges.

My daughter loved testing out the different sponges. She manipulated them to produce cool effects. I think she ended up decorating at least six eggs. They make our refrigerator bright and happy for spring!

Activity 5: Plant seeds and watch them grow.

Planting is one of our favorite things to do in spring and summer. Not only is it fun, but it also teaches kids patience as they learn that seeds need time and care to grow. Planting is a full-circle activity that truly produces something in the end—in the ground and in kids’ minds.

Ever since we added an outdoor kitchen to our backyard, our daughter has been all about dirt. When she saw Lakeshore’s Watch & Record Plant Lab, she was excited to plant some seeds. The Watch & Record Plant Lab is amazing, because it shows kids how the growing process works as it happens. It includes heavy-duty bags that don’t rip as kids handle them. This is a major plus when kids are working with dirt!

Activity 6: Create chicks in nests.

A list of seven spring activities would not be complete without a chick craft! This craft can be customized to any learning level. If you have young children, help them out by preparing all the pieces. If you have older children, they can work independently.

The All-In-One Craft Tub had everything we needed for this craft. We used construction paper, feathers, glue, markers and wiggly eyes. We cut out circles to make the chicks. Then we cut out orange triangles for the beaks. We glued colorful feathers on each chick and added wiggly eyes. The older kids added “twigs” to the nest with the brown marker.

Simple crafts like these are easy to pull together to keep kids busy while you do other things. I always have ideas and materials stashed away so I can grab them in a pinch.

Activity 7: Color a rainbow!

The All-In-One Craft Tub has a lot of pieces that are perfect for crafting and learning. When I was thinking about a spring activity that would incorporate learning, I thought a rainbow would do the trick. For this activity, we cut a cloud from white paper and glued cotton balls all over it. Then we counted and sorted craft sticks to make the rainbow.

I wrote numbers on the bottom of each wooden stick, and the kids counted and glued foam squares from the All-In-One Craft Tub on the rays. This got them categorizing colors and counting.

The rainbow is so pretty and colorful! Keep this craft in mind when you want kids to create and learn during the same activity.

I hope these activities help you integrate lots of creative fun into your spring!

If you liked this post, come over to My Creative Days and say hello! I am always creating something, and I would love to have you visit my project today.

Creative Days Blogg

4 Tips for an Engaging Toddler Learning Environment

by Ron Mohl | Lakeshore Lead Educational Presenter

Toddlers make new discoveries everywhere—especially in their own learning environments! When you create a nurturing space filled with excitement and wonder, you can help toddlers develop social-emotional, language, motor and cognitive skills. Follow these four tips to create an engaging learning environment that sets toddlers up for success through play.

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Tip 1: Encourage choices to foster independence.

Furniture can be especially helpful to toddlers’ physical development. Toddlers might try standing and walking at any moment. Support their curiosity and independence by filling your environment with super-sturdy units with rails, like our First Steps® Double-Duty Storage Center. Toddlers can use the furniture to pull themselves up and maintain balance during their first steps.

Keep your space stocked with safe materials toddlers can easily grab and use. For example, our Soft Seats make it easy for little ones to choose where they want to sit in a play area.

Tip 2: Help toddlers soothe themselves.

The ability to self-soothe is important to the social-emotional development of toddlers. Make sure your environment includes areas where toddlers can get some privacy while remaining in view, like our Toddler Treehouse Hideaway. Areas like this help toddlers soothe themselves until they’re ready to play with others.

Tip 3: Facilitate sensory learning.

Sensory exploration helps toddlers engage with their environment and connect to learning. Look for sensory materials that make sounds, look stimulating and feel interesting and inviting. Here are some examples:

Tip 4: Be a play partner!

Increase the value of play by getting involved! Join children on the floor and describe actions and objects to help build vocabulary. You can even make the experience more comfortable with our Backpatter’s Seat.

As toddlers play, ask open-ended questions. If they’re using our Community Play Carpet, you might ask:

  • Where in town can we park our cars?
  • Where in town do you want to work?

Allow for conversations that have back-and-forth exchanges. Even if you get a simple coo or goo in response to a question, show respect by following up with a reply.

Perfect your learning environment! Check out our new catalog to find developmentally appropriate materials for infants and toddlers.