Your Back-To-School Prep List

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

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

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Step 1: Get Organized

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

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

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

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Step 2: Go Shopping

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

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

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

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

Step 3: Create a New Schedule

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

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

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

Step 4: Prepare to Learn

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

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

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Host Your Own Family Olympic® Games

Guest Blog by Susie | Lakeshore Blog Ambassador from Busy Toddler

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

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

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

1. Backyard Skee-Ball

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

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2. Bowling for Cones

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

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3. Paper-Plate Flying Disc

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

4. Fast Number Feet

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

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5. Bicycle Obstacle Course

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

6. Balance Beam

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

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7. Pass the Ball

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

8. Seal Ring Toss

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

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

susie

Summer Fun: 6 Ways to Learn Through Play

by Patti Clark | Lakeshore VP of Research & Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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3. Act it out!

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

4. Go on a reading treasure hunt…outside!

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

5. Turn an ordinary nature walk into an educational expedition

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

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

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

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

How to Keep Kids Learning Over Summer Break

by Christine MacGregor | Lakeshore VP of Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Free Crafts for Kids

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

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

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

Gift Ideas for Teacher Appreciation Week

by Chelsea Guerrero | Lakeshore Marketing

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

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1. Crayon Wreath

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

2. Flower Bouquet with Magnetic Letters

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

3. Teacher Appreciation Supplies

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

4. Flower Pens

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

5. Original Artwork

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

6. Teacher Survival Kit

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

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

7 Spring Break Activities | Turn free time into creative fun!

Guest Blog by Lindsay | Blogger from My Creative Days

Hello, Lakeshore Learning readers! My name is Lindsay and I am very excited to be guest posting today. Since this is my first time here, I thought I would share a little about myself. I am a wife and mom of two great kids who are growing up way too fast. I started my blog, My Creative Days, a few years ago to share how we live creatively on a small budget. Today, I am here to share 7 activities that will inspire your kids to get creative this spring break. We always look forward to these days when the schedule isn’t jam-packed and we can relax and do some fun activities with the kids. If you are a planner like me, these activities are great to have on hand before the break starts, so you aren’t struggling to find things to do when the “Mom, I’m bored” antics start. 🙂

Make Your Own Games

Make-Your-Own-Game Activities
Kids love to play games, and my kids love to create their own games. It was easy for them to design their own memory game using simple paper squares with different patterns. Use glue dabbers to adhere the squares onto a sheet of construction paper. Then, simply laminate and cut them out. These squares could be used for so many activities for kids, from sorting and patterning to counting games!

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Build

Build Activities
Both of my kids have watched my husband and me DIY our way through so many projects. They have seen it so much that my daughter has come to us asking for projects she can try. There are some fantastic woodworking kits out there that provide kids with instructions and supplies to build numerous projects―or even to create one of their own. This one was perfect for my daughter. She DIYed her way through a pencil holder and then decorated it with glitter tape. I think that building activities for girls are great for building confidence and creativity. It’s also a fun activity to do outdoors.

Magna-Tiles®

Magna Tile Activities
My kids have the most fun with Magna-Tiles! They have created everything from small villages to skyscrapers with these tiles. As a parent, I love them because they encourage creativity and imagination. Plus, they are exploring early geometry concepts like angles and symmetry while they’re playing. Whenever a toy can do all this and keep my kids engaged without the television involved, I am a happy mom.

Tissue Paper Art

Tissue Paper Art Activities
I remember doing this craft when I was a kid, and my daughter loves to do it now. There are so many different masterpieces to be made with tissue paper squares. When my daughter was younger, I would draw a picture with different colors for her to fill in with the tissue paper. Now that she is older and loves to create on her own, she comes up with her own creations. All you need to do this is a pencil, white glue and tissue paper squares. Wrap the tissue paper around the eraser of the pencil and dip it in some white glue. Then press the tissue paper onto the paper.

Make Your Own Selfie Props

Make Your Own Selfie Prop Activities
My daughter received a new camera for Christmas, so she has been all about photography and taking pictures. She used wooden craft dowels to make her own props for a selfie station. She colored some funny props on white drawing paper, and then we laminated them and cut them out. We used Velcro to attach the props to the dowels so she could easily change them up when she wanted to.

Plan for Your Summer Garden

Plan for Your Summer Garden Activities
With spring and summer right around the corner, we have already started talking about all the things we want to grow in our garden this year. The Watch-It-Grow Window Greenhouse is a great activity to have on hand during spring break. It gives the kids the chance to work on their “green thumb” before the real thing happens in the summer. Science-related activities like this are always popular with our kids. They love learning about different processes, and when it is fun, they retain a lot of what they are learning.

Free Creative Play

Free Creative Play Activities
I think that free creative play is so important for every child at every age. Ever since our kids were little, we have had a “creation station” set up in our home. It is full of paper, crayons, markers, paint, scissors, tape, glue, recyclables, glitter, etc.,  for the kids to create with whenever they want. Sometimes, I will add something new to the station. Rainbow Scratch Paper is a great product for change up your “creation station.” When I add new paper, my kids soak it up like sponges. They create in a new way and experiment with it for hours. I even like creating on this paper. 🙂

I hope these activities have given you some ideas for your kids during their break. Please stop by my blog, My Creative Days, to say hello and see what other creative projects I am sharing.

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Valentine's Day Card

by Michelle Mahony | Lakeshore Editorial Director 

Valentine's Day CardHaving moved to California from “across the pond,” my family doesn’t get to visit with relatives nearly half as often as we’d like. To help my children stay connected with faraway loved ones, we communicate often via phone and computer—but sometimes it’s nice to send more tangible greetings to stay in closer touch. This craft provides a terrific way to send a warm hug to distant relatives—while also helping young children practice their printing skills!

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

You will need:

Directions:

  1. Print out the handprint template and cut out the hands.
  2. Glue one hand to each end of a sentence strip.
  3. Cut hearts out of construction paper in various colors. You’ll need one large heart and several small ones for decorations.
  4. Glue the large heart onto the middle of the sentence strip.
  5. Inside the heart, write the verse below. (Or have your child create an original rhyme.)
    I know you miss me when I’m away,
    So I made this hug for you today!
    This special hug, from me to you,
    Will give you hugs all day through!
  6. Have your child write “From” or “Love,” on the left side of the sentence strip and print his or her name on the right side. Remind your child to use the ruled lines on the sentence strip to form the letters correctly. If your child needs a printed reference for forming each letter, you can create your own custom template here.
  7. Decorate the card using the small cutout hearts and the other craft materials.
  8. Fold the sides of the sentence strip into the middle so that the hands appear to be holding the heart.
  9. Your Valentine’s Day Card is now ready for delivery!

Valentine's Day Card

Brain-Boosting Activities to Beat the Winter Blues

Guest Blog by Christina | Vlogger from The Purple Alphabet 

On cold winter mornings, I often find myself wondering how to keep my children entertained while staying warm indoors. We have plenty of activities, toys and books around the house, but sometimes they lose their luster. It’s easy to rely on mindless entertainment, but as a mother, I’d rather see our indoor time spent on activities that boost their young minds. Here are three ideas to create a fresh perspective on your indoor play.

Brain-Boosting Activities

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Take Imagination to a New Level

If heading out into the cold or traveling through snow is not an option, bring a dreamy destination into your living room with a little imagination. Perhaps your kids will travel to another country to relax on the beach or taste the local cuisine. Maybe they’ll become famous Italian chefs, sorting and cooking up fresh pasta in their very own restaurant. Or perhaps they’ll visit the moon. Whatever their destination, use props to bring it to life, such as a blanket for a tent in the woods, pretend food, costumes for a scene from a favorite book or an oversize cardboard box to fly to outer space. Exploring through imagination is great for storytelling skills, creative thought processing and language.

Sort the Unsorted

Create new, less obvious categories for sorting toys. Sort large stuffed animals from small stuffed animals, breakfast play food from dinner play food, red race cars from blue race cars or fiction books from nonfiction books. Sorting into different classifications teaches organization, is a precursor to math skills and encourages critical thinking.

Make an Indoor Obstacle Challenge

Construct an obstacle course of any kind. You can include chairs, pillows or hula hoops. Obstacle courses keep those little bodies moving, especially when outdoor play is not an option. Add in normally stationary toys such as a puzzle or a collection of items. Have your child move one piece of the collection or puzzle through to the other side of the course until all the items have been moved. Doing so creates a goal for the child to accomplish, increases motor skills and provides a new challenge to old toys.

The winter blues will subside when you introduce new ways of playing with older games and toys. How do you turn your winter days into brain-boosting times of play? Let me know in the comments; I’d love to hear your ideas.

The product featured in this post is the new Pasta Playset. You can see my video review of the product on my YouTube Channel, The Purple Alphabet.
Brain-Boosting Activities

Happy New Year Glasses Craft

by Christine MacGregor | Lakeshore VP of Marketing

My kids rarely stay awake until midnight—even on New Year’s Eve—but celebrating the New Year is still a big deal in our house. It’s a great time for us to look back at all of our accomplishments—in school, at work and as a family—and make resolutions for the year ahead. This year, my kids will be getting into the spirit by making these outlandish glasses to ring in the New Year—as we share our hopes, plans and goals for 2016.
Note: This craft can easily be adapted for the classroom by setting out the supplies at multiple crafting stations. You can also discuss the concept of New Year’s resolutions as a group, and then invite students to write or illustrate their own resolutions.

New Year Glasses

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You will need:

Directions:

  1. Trace the template onto tagboard and cut out an eyeglass frame for each child.
  2. Invite children to attach a wooden dowel along one side of the eyeglass frame with glue or craft tape.
  3. Let each child use the craft materials to decorate their glasses however they like.
  4. While kids are decorating, talk about the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions. Help younger children understand the word resolution by defining it for them (something a person decides to do; a goal someone makes). Explain that resolutions can be very specific (I’m taking a vacation to the beach!) or more general (I will be more kind to others). Discuss why people might make resolutions at the beginning of the year.

When kids are done crafting and are waiting for the glue to dry, help them write a list of personal resolutions for the year ahead—and write one for yourself! Post your lists on the refrigerator as a reminder throughout the coming year.New Year Glasses

5 Fun Ways to Keep Kids Learning Over Winter Break!

by Stacie Palka | Lakeshore Merchandising Manager

The kids finally have a break from schoolwork, and they couldn’t be more excited that the holidays are here.  Still, it’s important to keep children’s skills sharp even over the short holiday away from school—so they can pick right up after the New Year without missing a beat.  The good news is that there are a number of super-sneaky ways to keep kids learning over the winter break—that your kids will actually love doing!

learning over the winter break

  1. Bake cookies and other holiday treats! Cooking offers tons of ways to teach kids practical math & language skills—from reading a recipe to measuring ingredients. As you and your child bake together, point to the recipe as you add ingredients and ask pointed questions that encourage your child to add, estimate, measure and more. For example:  Can you find the ½ mark on the measuring cup? How many cookies do you think will fit on the baking sheet?  How many cookies will we need for everyone in the family to have three? 
  2. Read winter- or holiday-themed books together! Reading is one of the most important things your child can do to keep their skills sharp over the winter break. Take a trip to the library together and select storybooks that echo your own family celebrations—or introduce new traditions from other cultures.  Be sure to include a few nonfiction titles, such as books about winter weather or how animals adapt to snow and freezing temperatures.  When it’s reading time, make the experience extra-cozy—and memorable—by curling up in front of the fire or snuggling under a blanket together.
  3. Decorate! Kids will love decking the halls with paper snowflake chains, red & green construction paper chains or strings of popcorn.  Not only will kids be exploring their creativity—which boosts cognitive skills and encourages children to become expert problem solvers—they can also incorporate math skills by measuring the space they want to decorate before they start crafting their decorations.
  4. Take a trip to an aquarium, museum, or observatory—and let your child plan your day! Research your destination beforehand and print out a map of the location from the Internet.  Help your child use the map to plan an itinerary of how you’ll spend your day, jotting down the approximate times you’ll spend in each location—and being sure to include lunch breaks and any timed events you want to take in!  On the day of your trip, encourage your child to use the map as you make your way from one exhibit to the next—and check your watch to make sure you’re sticking close to your schedule.  Kids will build time-telling and planning skills, as well as practice map reading.
  5. Create and write thank-you cards for holiday gifts.  This activity teaches children to show appreciation for the gifts they receive, lets them engage in simple writing & spelling practice and allows them to exercise their imaginations as they decide how to decorate the cover of each card.  You can find blank note cards and envelopes at craft and hobby stores—or make your own!