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.

5 Fall Crafts for Kids

Guest Blog by Lindsay | Lakeshore Blog Ambassador from My Creative Days

Hello, Lakeshore Learning readers! My name is Lindsay and I blog at mycreativedays.com. I am super-excited to be here today sharing five fall crafts for kids.

Fall is our family’s favorite time of year! We are all about crafting and creating pieces we can use throughout the season—especially now that the kids are old enough to really get involved. The five crafts I am sharing with you today are all great ways to get your kids involved with fall decorating, gift giving, and even setting the perfect Thanksgiving table!

1. Wood-Block Pumpkins

Wood-Block-Pumpkins

These Wood-Block Pumpkins are so fun! We used Lakeshore’s Wooden Craft Cubes and our favorite craft adhesive, Tacky Glue. We played around with different pumpkin builds and came up with a tall pumpkin that we really liked.

We glued the blocks together and then painted them orange.

We used tiny blocks for the stem of the pumpkin. We painted the blocks green, then added a green paper leaf and wrapped some floral wire around the stem. These would be great for a teacher’s desk, or you could write names on the leaves and use them as place cards for your Thanksgiving table.

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2. Thankful Journals

people-shapes

These journals are fun to make—and they’re perfect for the season of thanks! We used Lakeshore’s People Shapes™ Project Kit and Blank Softcover Books to make our Thankful Journals. This year, my kids wanted to make them for all our Thanksgiving guests. They designed a journal for each adult guest, and we decided to set out a basket of supplies on Thanksgiving…so our youngest guests can make their own!

3. Turkey Napkin Rings

Turkey-Napkin-Rings

Speaking of Thanksgiving, we could not resist making some Turkey Napkin Rings for our table this year. We used Natural Tree Rings, some goodies from our Arts & Crafts Supply Center, and Tacky Glue.

My daughter loves the Arts & Crafts Supply Center. She uses it for all her creations. For our Turkey Napkin Rings, we used foam pieces, googly eyes, and ribbon—all from our supply center.

To make each turkey’s feathers, we folded a few pieces of ribbon in half and glued the ends together. Then we glued each loop to the back of a Natural Tree Ring.

After that, we added googly eyes and foam pieces to make each turkey’s face.

We cut more ribbon and glued it to the bottom of the tree ring to make feet. To turn the turkeys into napkin rings, I hot-glued rubber bands to the backs. They are so cute—the perfect addition to any Thanksgiving table!

4. Dipped Acorns

dipped-accorns

We have been doing this fall craft for years. The kids always have a blast, and I love using the colorful acorns in my autumn decorations. Just grab some acorns and paint to get started!

I put the paint in small cups, and the kids used tweezers to dunk the acorns in the paint. We laid them on wax paper to dry.

The acorns make beautiful additions to vases, bowls, and more.

5. Gift Tags

Gift-Tags
We do a lot of baking in the fall. Homemade gift tags are the perfect touch to our homemade goodies!

‘Tis the season for gift tags! I love to use homemade tags to add a special touch to gifts and favors. We have made many gift tags over the years. This year, we designed some with Lakeshore’s Draw & Shrink Craft Kit. The kit lets you turn any drawing into a plastic charm. (We made pumpkins and acorns!)

I hope you have been inspired to make some of these fall crafts with your kids.

Happy crafting!

Make sure to stop by My Creative Days or say hello on my Facebook page to see what else I am creating for my favorite season!

Inspire STEM Learning Through Cardboard Creations

Posted by Victoria Montoya | Lakeshore Director of Public Relations

Imagine you’re a kid. Mom and Dad just received a huge package. After you see what’s inside (and discover it’s just a boring appliance), what’s the first thing you do? Play with that glorious, empty box! Is it a car, a robot…a fort? It can be anything you want!

To encourage this kind of creative thinking, Lakeshore’s Research & Development team dreamed up the Cardboard Creator Tool Kit—a set of kid-safe tools and reusable hardware that makes it easy for children to build anything they imagine with an ordinary piece of cardboard.

I sat down with Lynette Hoy, a manager in our Product Development department, to find out more about these cool new tools.

market

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VM: What inspired the Cardboard Creator Tool Kit?

LH: The son of one of our product developers inspired us. The little boy had a brilliant building idea…he just needed some help from his father to bring it to life.

  • The materials: an old computer-shipping box.
  • The vision: a robot with moving arms.

As the pair tried to make the robot, they found a major hole in their resources: kid-safe tools. Since our developer had to do all the sawing and cutting, his son didn’t get the hands-on experience he could have. That’s when this engineer chose his next product to develop—safe tools to help kids bring their brilliant ideas to life with their own hands.

cardboard creator tool kit
Our kit includes kid-safe tools, reusable hardware, and an activity book. Kids will have a blast!

VM: How can parents guide kids through the designing and building process?

LH: Turn cardboard creating into a family event! Here are some tips:

  1. Start by talking about recycling, then discuss how reusing cardboard can help the environment.
  2. Ask your kids what they want to make! You can make anything you want, but the kit comes with an activity book filled with projects and step-by-step instructions if you need a place to start.
  3. Turn the idea into a plan. Tell your kids planning is a key part of the design process, and explain that a good plan helps the final product turn out perfectly. Have them sketch the overall design, as well as the individual parts. Decide on a good size and gather the materials you need. Before you start creating, outline all the pieces onto the cardboard so you know where to cut. Remind your kids to measure everything before they make any cuts; they’ll want to make sure all sides are equal to build a stable structure.
  4. Keep a discussion going as your kids build. If they run into problems, ask questions to help them persevere and develop solutions. For example, if your kids don’t know how to add moving arms to their robot, ask them to think about what kind of connector they should use. (Hint: Attaching the arm with just one rivet will allow it to move and swivel.)

VM: What STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) skills does the Cardboard Creator Tool Kit promote?

LH: Our kit is all about using the STEM design process and persevering to take ideas from start to finish, an important 21st-century skill.

We suggest kids build confidence by making the projects in our activity book, so they’re ready to create their very own designs. That’s why we made all the pieces in our kit reusable—so kids can build again and again, boosting their STEM skills in these areas each time they practice:

  • Spatial awareness
  • Problem solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Measurement and data
  • Engineering
  • Structural stability

boat

VM: What will kids love about this product?

LH: Kids get a rush of pride when they see the final creation and realize they can actually build something they imagined. After that, they can’t wait to discover what else they can make.

Kids also love using our “grown-up” tools. Our tools work just as well as the real thing, and since they look so “official,” they give kids the confidence they need to build.

VM: What are some creative things you’ve seen kids make using the Cardboard Creator Tool Kit?

LH: The possibilities are endless! For example, the kids over at the Lakeshore preschool, Kids & Company, just used the tool kit to make these adorable costumes.

cardboard-costumes

They simply used their imaginations, our tool kit, and some craft materials, including:

No other kids on the block will have costumes like these!

Dollars & Sense: Teaching Kids About Money

Guest Blog by Suzanne | Lakeshore Blog Ambassador from Mom Confessionals

Kids today are far more social than we were…and their “social” isn’t simply going to the park. Over the summer, my 9-year-old daughter, Ava, went out with friends several times a week. They did dinner, movies, museums…and even zip lining. My husband and I were doling out $20-$50 for each outing! When I realized that was more than my own lunch budget for a week, I decided it was time for some money lessons, and came up with this four-point plan.

1. Give an allowance

I was thrilled when Ava asked for an allowance. We chose $5 a week—not enough for her weekly outings but definitely a good start. Since Ava loves her smartphone, we decided to get an allowance app to help her manage money.

We knew the app alone might not teach her the value of money or the importance of saving, so we turned to Lakeshore’s huge selection of toys that teach kids about money, like The Allowance Game®. My kids love this game—especially landing on the bank and collecting $0.50 in interest!

the allowance game

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2. Teach through pretend play

Since my kids are 3, 6, and 9, it’s tough to find toys and games they’ll enjoy. That’s why I love the classics, like our beloved play kitchen. To work some financial education into our kitchen play, we picked up Lakeshore’s Real-Working Cash Register and Let’s Pretend Restaurant Writing Box. The kids had hours of fun pretending to be chefs, customers, waiters and cashiers. The real-working calculator in the cash register was a great teaching tool. It helped our waitress (Ava) check her calculations for each “check.” (However, the calculator didn’t help our budding restaurateurs price the food accurately—$42 for a hamburger, anyone?)

real working cash register

3. Build skills with games and puzzles

I love Lakeshore’s Money Equivalency Puzzles. In addition to teaching money skills, the puzzles reinforce many widely valued learning concepts, such as the “same but different” equivalencies. Plus, it’s easy for my kids to figure out if their answers are correct without asking me. If it doesn’t fit, it isn’t correct, and they can try again.

Board games are also a huge hit in our family. They help us unwind and connect as a family while staying away from the “screen.” My husband loves how the Making Cents Money Game challenges our kids to think abstractly…and to remember the value of different coins.

making-cents-money-game

4. Teach through real money experiences

Even little Lucas (age 3) is benefiting from our family’s financial play. When we were out shopping and he found a toy he wanted, he was keenly aware that he needed money to get it:

“I need money, mommy. You buy for me with money?”

It was too cute for words.

We’ve even started asking Ava to figure out the bills and coins we would need for payment if we weren’t using credit cards. Sometimes, we ask Marcus (age 6) to guess how much change we’ll receive when we make small cash purchases.

Getting kids involved in these everyday transactions helps them grow into informed consumers…and gives their math skills a boost!

So far, this money-savvy year is off to a great start! Now, let’s see what financial lessons we can learn while holiday shopping.

Mom Confessionals