EI Knows… Creativity

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A.K.A. Five Fun Things to Do with Playfoam® on a Saturday Afternoon

Playfoam® is the perfect crafting material. Seriously! We’re not just saying that because we make it. We’re saying it because we have kids who craft on our carpets, stick it to their car seats, and sport it on their tee shirts. But that’s cool, because Playfoam doesn’t stick to anything and it never dries out! So we find it, we scoop it up, we smash it in a baggy, and we carry on being our super bad selves. Plus, it’s totally awesome for getting crafty. Besides the finger fun of squishing, squashing, and squeezing, it’s great for getting artsy. So grab your Playfoam (and your kids. Or not…) and try one of the awesome ideas below:

Craft a Critter

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You can make some seriously cute, 3-D creatures with Playfoam – even if you’re not an awesome artist. Start with a round, ball-shaped body, then squishy in a few legs, a round head, and a tail. Now add some fun features – ears, eyes, nose… Don’t worry about mixing colors – your Playfoam will still look pretty. From spooky spiders to pert little piggies, you can craft your very own pet shop! Make a baby for each creature and help your little one match them up. Or make food for them to eat or beds for each pet or…

Letter’ Rip!

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Sneak in some serious preschool skills while they’re not even looking! Kids can learn those letters – and numbers and shapes – with Playfoam Shape & Learn Sets. Just pick a card and place it in front of your kiddo. Then see if they can make the matching letter or number out of Playfoam. Way more fun than practicing with a pencil – plus they get to smash it when they’re done. You can also bury a refrigerator letter magnet in a ball of Playfoam and challenge your smarty to tell you the name of the letter and the sound it makes.

Make a Mosaic

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Do some collaborative crafting with a Playfoam mosaic! Start by creating a simple, flat pattern of Playfoam colors in the center of the table. Park your kids around the table and let them add to the pattern until the table is covered in a colorful, Mandala-style mosaic. Then let them smoosh the whole thing up into one, big, rainbow-colored pile of Playfoam.

Grow Your Own Garden

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Mary, Mary Quite Contrary… you can grow your own garden – minus the dirty dirt and wiggly worms – with Playfoam! Start by pinching off a finger of Playfoam and smashing it flat to make your first petal. Continue until you’ve got a flower-full, then roll a green stem and pinch two green leaves and smoosh them beneath to form your flower. Roll a round sun and press it flat, add strips of green grass below, and voila!

Cut It Out!

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Grab those cookie cutters and shape up the fun! Let your little ones use a plastic rolling pin to flatten their Playfoam. Then choose a cookie cutter, press, and pop out a super-cute shape! Add some dimension with a Playfoam themed set, featuring reusable, 3-D molds. Choose from Undersea Adventures, Dino Pals, Vroom & Zoom, and Fairy Tales and turn craft time into creative play – total two for one!


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You can also craft your kiddo’s favorite foods and play diner, sculpt the characters from the book du jour and act out the story, and so much more! Feeling left out? Don’t. There’s a brand new, grown-up game using Playfoam to complete crazy, timed sculpting challenges. Pick up Sculptapalooza™ for your next party today!

EI Knows… Astronomy

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Around the Moon in 28 Days – A Parent’s Guide to Lunar Phases

If it happens to be clear where you are tonight, take a look up at the night sky and you’ll see… nothing! Wait a minute? Where’d the moon go?

Not to worry… it’ll be back. In exactly 29.53 days. Yes, tonight starts the first phase of the new lunar cycle. Lunar cycle, you ask, with cartoon question marks in your eyes? Again, not to worry. We’re here with a quick refresher on exactly what’s happening out there… in space.

Remember that as the Earth makes its annual trip around the sun, the moon is also circling the Earth. Now the moon doesn’t actually put off any light of its own. It only reflects sunlight. So, while the entire moon is always there, we can only see the part of the moon that is facing the sun at any certain time. For example, at certain times of each month we can see the entire lit up side of the moon. That’s what we call a full moon. Other times, like tonight, we can’t see any of it. That’s called a new moon. Here’s a bit more about each of the eight phases of the moon and what you’ll see (or not see) in each:

New Moon – The beginning of the lunar cycle is the new moon. This phase occurs when the moon is directly between the Earth and the sun. The moon is basically blocking any light that would illuminate it, so we can’t see it. (But we swear it’s still there.)

Waxing Crescent – The next lunar phase, waxing crescent, occurs when less than one quarter of the moon is being lit by the sun, but illumination is increasing. This phase looks like a crescent roll 😊

First Quarter – When the moon looks like it’s been cut in half vertically, that’s the first quarter moon. The sun is shining on exactly one quarter of the moon.

Waxing Gibbous – Almost there! Waxing gibbous occurs when the moon is almost completely illuminated by the sun, but not quite.

Full Moon – When the sun shines fully on one side of the moon, lighting the entire side up, we’ve got a full moon.

Waning Gibbous – Just like a waxing gibbous, a waning gibbous is the name for an almost entirely lit moon – but this time the bit that’s not lit is on the other side.

Third Quarter – The third quarter lunar phase occurs when one full half of the moon is lit – the opposite half than what you saw in the first quarter.

Waning Crescent – Ditto the waxing crescent, but this time the crescent roll is on the other side of the plate.

After the waning crescent phase, the moon turns away from the shining sun to create another new moon, and the cycle begins again. And again. And again! Spending a few minutes scoping out the phases of the moon is a really easy way to start your kiddos down the path to science. If you don’t have a scope stashed away, EI’s got a full range of affordable telescopes to choose from – check them out today!

EI Knows… Science

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What Kind of Science Will Your Kids Like Best?

Simply put, science is the study of our world, which pretty much means we’re all doing science all the time (no wonder we’re so smart 😊)! With so many different areas of the world to study, from animals to astronomy, there’s a branch of science for just about  everyone. Take our kiddo quiz below to find out what kind of science your lil’ smarty might like best and what you can do to nurture their natural love of science!

1. What’s your kiddo’s favorite thing to do in the kitchen?

a. Mix up potions, concoctions, or slime
b. Play with your family’s pet
c. Talk to you

2. When you take a walk outside, what is your little one most likely to notice?

a. Interesting cloud formations
b. Tall trees and colorful leaves
c. People going about their biz

3. Which display at the children’s museum would your little one love most?

a. Magical Magnets
b. Digging Up Dinos
c. Our Caveman Cousins

4. Would you say your child is more…

a. Curious
b. Adventurous
c. Compassionate

5. Which of the toys below would your kiddo choose at the toy store?

a. Nancy B’s Science Club Reflections Kaleidoscope
b. GeoSafari® Day ‘N’ Night Ant Factory
c. Just-Like-Me Baby Doux Baby Doll

If you chose mostly…
A’s – Your child is into the physical sciences, including physics, astronomy, chemistry, and geology. Encourage your kiddo to start a rock collection, star gaze with a telescope, and try some simple kitchen chemistry!
B’s – It’s biology all the way for your baby! From zoology to botany and of course paleontology, your little one is interested in life sciences. This spring, observe a butterfly hatching from a chrysalis or grow a plant together (try a clear container, so you can see the roots, too!).
C’s – If you feel like your kiddo is in your head, you might not be far off. Your sweetie is intrigued by the psychological sciences, including sociology and anthropology. Ask about their day, who did something kind, who ate lunch with whom, and how the teacher seemed to be feeling. You might be surprised by the insights you hear!

Five Random Facts About Fall

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Cozy sweaters, wood fires, warm apple cider… what’s not to love about fall? Also called autumn or harvest (after the harvest moon), fall is a favorite season for many of your EI friends. In tribute, we’ve culled some of our favorite, little-known facts, just for you!

Fall Foliage

Despite what most people think, leaves don’t turn orange, yellow, and red in the fall. In fact, they’re always orange, red and yellow. It’s just that these colors are overpowered by the bright green produced by chlorophyll during the brighter, longer days. Weaker sun for fewer hours decreases chlorophyll production and lets their natural colors shine. It’s thought that catching a falling fall leaf brings a full month of good luck the prior year, if you believe that sort of thing.

Oh Baby

More Facebook users change their status from “single” to “in a relationship” in the fall than in any other month (more break ups happen in summer, in case you were wondering). This might explain why more babies are born in September than any other month of the year. Bonus – autumn babies are more likely to live to be 100 years old than babies born in any other month!

Run for the Border

Monarch butterflies embark on a serious journey every fall, flying up to 2,500 miles to find warmer weather. Monarchs who summer east of the Rockies migrate all the way to Mexico; those coming from the west of the Rockies wind up in Pacific Grove, California. Either way, they migrate to the exact same trees every year – remarkable, considering they’re not the same butterflies (monarchs only live 2-6 weeks).

The Real Yin and Yang

During the autumnal equinox, which takes place September 22 this year, the Earth’s equator is perfectly aligned with the sun, ensuring equal day and night hours. This means we’ll have exactly as much daylight as darkness (12 hours each). The word equinox actually means “equal night”.

It’s All Greek to Us

Legend has it, we can thank Greek goddess Persephone for these crisp, cool autumn months. Snatched by Hades to be his underground bride and tricked into eating the food of the underworld, young Persephone was destined to spend her days with the dead. Luckily, her mother, Demeter, struck a deal that allowed her daughter to spend six months in the underworld and six months above ground every year. Sadness overtook the Earth when the young beauty was gone, resulting in the fall and winter months.

Reading Rocks

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You know reading is important, but you may not know just how far the benefits of reading extend. Beginning in infancy and extending through the teen years, reading to your child, encouraging your child to read on their own, and listening to your child read aloud to you has an incredible impact on their future success, both academically and emotionally. Plus, it’s fun!

Why Read TO Your Child?

When you read out loud, you’re modeling the smooth flow of language, which is key to fluency. Odds are you’re “doing the voices”, which helps your child transition from one character to another and follow along with the story. You’re probably also adding emotion and expression to your readings, which provides context for new words, helps children interpret the tone of the story, and keeps them interested and engaged for longer. All of these pieces add up to a kiddo who enters school with the ability to understand instruction and follow directions, has a better ability to focus and concentration, demonstrates enhanced speech and language skills, and has a larger vocabulary, which has a proven effect on academic success. Developmental benefits aside, reading together is also a great way to strengthen your relationship with cozy, focused time for just you two!

It may be tempting to stop reading aloud once your kiddo learns to read, but don’t! Reading aloud to your older child continues to build vocabulary and enhance listening and comprehension skills. Reading to your younger child also lets them enjoy stories that may be too difficult for them to read themselves. Reading with tweens and teens affords parents an opportunity to work through mature scenarios together and provides a contrast to the sometimes dull texts they read at school, reminding them that reading should be fun!

Why Encourage Your Child to Read on Their Own?

Reading is a more complex task than watching TV or playing games on the iPad. In fact, reading actually builds new neural connections (this may be why you never see kids staring at the pages of their books with glossy eyes and a dazed look on their faces). Books can also expose kids to new ideas, cultures, and peoples, broadening their worlds and encouraging empathy. Plus, practice makes perfect, so the more they read, the better they get, and research indicates that better readers get better grades. Perhaps most importantly, though, reading can help kids learn to express themselves without getting flustered or frustrated, building confidence and a strong self-image.

Why Ask Your Child to Read to You?

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Reading out loud is different than reading to yourself. Where you can gloss over unknown or tricky words or phrases in your head, reading aloud requires fluency and smoothness and the more you do it, the better you get. Expressive reading – doing the voices and adding appropriate intonation – requires kids to really understand what’s happening in a story and with the characters so that they know which emotions to communicate. This means they must fully comprehending the material – an important skill for studying and learning.

No matter their age, make sure you are building reading time into your child’s day each and every day. And don’t forget to model reading as a fulfilling hobby yourself. ‘Scuse us while we grab a book and a cup of tea!