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/.

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.

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.

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!

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!

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!

Classroom Decorating Ideas: Real Teachers, Real Style

by JoAnna Rowe | Lakeshore Retail Marketing Manager

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

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

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


Richard, Preschool Teacher – Superhero Collection

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

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Decorating Tips:

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

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Jodi, Fun in First – Chalk Art Collection

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

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Decorating Tips:

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

little-girl


Mel, Seusstastic Classroom Inspirations – Chevron & Dots Collection

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

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

Decorating Tip:

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

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

Decorating Tip:

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

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headshots-2

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

7 STEM Activities You Can Do at Home & Beyond!

by Eric Chyo | Lakeshore Product Development Manager

stem-image

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

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

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

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1. Join the maker movement

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

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

robot-final1

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

2. Turn wonder into discovery

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

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

3. Tinker with everyday tools

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

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

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

4. Take advantage of community workshops & events

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Learn up-close at a museum

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

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7. Observe workers in action

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

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


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

2016 Blog Ambassadors

by Victoria Montoya | Lakeshore Director of Public Relations

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

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

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

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Read More →

Susie Allison, Busy Toddlerbusy toddler thumbnail

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

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

Recent post: Early Learning: Math With Toddlers


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

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

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

Recent post: Building And Playing For A Hands On Summer


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Recent post: 8 Bug Activities For Kids


Suzanne Chan, Mom Confessionalsmom-confessionals-logo-thumbnail

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

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

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