Brand New Year, Brand New Ways to Play!

Make 2017 the year of play with our brand-new line of play packed with possibilities, perfect for preschoolers. We’ve got smart toys, co-operative games, and real working scientific tools designed specifically little ones that support key developmental milestones while they play. Check out a few of our favorites, below:

 

wiggle

Wiggle Waggle Whiskers™ – You and your little one will take turns building fences to claim backyard space for your four-legged friends in this preschool strategy game for two, based on the classic game Dots and Boxes. Ages 4-7.

PlayfoamGO

Playfoam® Go! – Now your kiddo can get creative on the go! This set of squishy, squashy, Playfoam comes in a clear carrying case complete with built-in shape molds and color compartments. Perfect for the car, plane, waiting room, restaurant, Playfoam never dries out and won’t stick to carpet or clothing. Ages 3-6.

DD Robot

Design & Drill® Robot – Engineer an afternoon of fun with this DIY building set! First, kids assemble and decorate their own robot; then, they play! Features snap-together pieces, a kid-friendly screwdriver, and colorful bolts, and more. Ages 3-6.

Zoo Crew

Zoo Crew Puppet-on-a-Stick® – Little imaginations run wild with these adorable, zoo-themed Puppets-on-Sticks, perfect for pretend play, puppet shows, and more! Set includes a monkey, lion, giraffe, and elephant with movable mouths. Ages 3-6.

Visit our Pinterest board  to see our all of our new ways to play, learn, and get silly in 2017!

 

Catalog Crazy

f your mailbox is like mine, it’s been clogged with holiday catalogs and mailers since Halloween. Instead of being bummed about the waste, regard it as a bounty of colorful craft materials!

first

Holiday catalogs are a cool, free resource for creative ways to enjoy some learning fun, especially during that LONG school break. Once you’ve flipped through them, try these ways to recycle them.

Super Story Starters

super-story-starters

Fuel your kiddos’ creativity and communication skills with stimulating story starter cards.

You’ll Need

  • Catalogs
  • Index cards
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Encourage children to find interesting images of people, animals, places, and situations to cut out and glue onto the index cards. Let the cards dry and, if necessary, set them under some heavy books overnight to flatten.

Time to Play

  1. Stack the cards face down. Have someone draw a card to start the story telling. Take turns drawing cards and adding to the story.
  2. As the story is being told, line up the cards in chronological order so that everyone can remember the sequence of events.
  3. Foster language development by modeling rich vocabulary and descriptive language that appeals to the five senses. (Once upon a time, there was a man with a fantastic power. He could fly like a bird. One day, he zoomed up into the sky. There were puffy, white clouds all around him…)

TIP: For younger or more inexperienced story tellers, choose just a few cards, arrange them face up, and use them as inspiration for a cooperative story.

Psst…They’re Learning        

As kids play with the cards, they’ll sharpen their sequencing skills and their understanding of cause and effect, build their listening and speaking skills, and share thoughts and feelings.

Picture This!

picture-this

Promote children’s drawing with simple finish-the-picture prompts.

You’ll Need:

  • Plain white paper
  • Catalogs
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Markers, crayons, colored pencils, etc.

Cut out small to medium-sized, action-oriented pictures from catalogs. Mount one picture on each sheet of paper, making sure there is plenty of room for your child to add to the picture. Provide drawing materials and invite your child to add details to finish the picture. Children might also want to add a title or caption to their drawings.

TIP: Vary your placement of the pictures (middle, bottom, corner) so that your child has a different spatial challenge each time.

Psst…They’re Learning

As children draw, they are exercising the fine-motor skills needed for handwriting.

Awesome Alphabet Books

alphabet-book

Bring the alphabet to life with personalized alphabet books that kids create themselves.

You’ll Need

  • Catalogs
  • Paper
  • Stapler
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Markers or crayons

Staple paper together so that you have a 26-page book plus cover. Write, or have children write, each letter in its uppercase and lowercase form. Then have them search through catalogs to find pictures that begin with each letter and glue them on the appropriate pages. One or two letters a session is plenty for early learners!

Psst…They’re Learning

As kids create and use their books, they are establishing letter-sound relationships, a critical pre-reading skill.

Custom Collages

custom-collage

Inspire imagination with collages based on your child’s passions.

You’ll Need

  • Catalogs
  • Card stock or manila folder
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Cut the card stock into a shape such as a heart, a picture frame, or even your child’s initials. Encourage your child to cut out small pictures of items that he or she likes such as: foods, objects, colors, sports, places, animals, anything that has meaning to them. Then have them glue them – mosaic-style – on the shape.

TIP: Younger children will find it easier to glue their pictures on a simple rectangular piece of paper.

Psst…They’re Learning

As kids create their collages, they are building self-esteem and developing spatial reasoning skills.

“I Spy” Games

i-spy-games

Cuddle up with a catalog to play this familiar game!

Choose a catalog with lots of pictures on each spread. Describe a picture without naming it. Clues might include: color, shape, size, sound it makes, function, and so on: “I spy something blue. It has two wheels and a horn.” To make the game challenging, give clues that might apply to several objects at first. Take turns being detective, giving your child the opportunity to describe a secret object.

Psst…They’re Learning

As kids play these games, they increase their listening comprehension and expressive language skills and hone their observation abilities.

Paper Chains

paper-chains

Hang colorful paper chains from walls, ceilings, even on the tree for fast, simple, holiday decorating.

You’ll Need

  • Catalogs
  • Scissors
  • Tape, small hand-held stapler, glue stick

Cut rectangular strips about an inch wide from catalogs. Tape, staple, or glue the ends of the paper strip together to form a loop or ring. Thread another strip of paper through the center of the first ring and secure with tape, stapes, etc. Keep adding links until the chain is the desired length.

TIP: Alternate the catalog rings with solid-colored construction paper rings to create patterns.

Psst…They’re Learning

As children create paper chains, they are building fine-motor skills and hand-eye coordination as well as creating and completing patterns, an important beginning math skill.

Wonderful Weaving

paper-weaving

Transform holiday staples, from cards to placemats, with whimsical weaving.

You’ll need:     

  • Paper (construction paper or card stock)
  • Strips of paper (1/2” to 1”) cut from catalog pages
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Glue

Time to Weave

  1. Create a “loom” on the back of your sheet of paper. (You will need to prepare the loom for young children.)
  2. Mark two horizontal lines a half-inch from the top and a half-inch from the bottom of your sheet.
  3. Then mark vertical lines between the two. The vertical lines should be the same distance apart as the width of the paper strips.
  4. Cut along the vertical lines with a scissor or craft knife, leaving the half-inch border at top and bottom intact.
  5. Have your child start at the first slit, weaving a catalog strip under and over until they have gone all the way across.
  6. Start the next row of weaving with the strip of paper beginning over and under.
  7. Continue alternating starting position of each strip until you have reached the bottom of the loom.

To turn your child’s work into a greeting card or wall art, make a paper or cardboard frame for it. This hides the edges and reduces the amount of finishing required. To do this, cut a shape from the middle of a piece of card, and place it over the woven paper, so the weaving shows through the hole. The frame doesn’t have to be rectangular, and you can mount the woven piece at any angle – experiment to find an effect you like.

Psst…They’re Learning

As children weave, they exercise fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

STILL HAVE SOME CATALOGS LEFT?

Here are two quick ways to use them up:

  • Shred pages to create perfect packing material for shipping gifts to loved ones.
  • Wrap small gift boxes or tape several pages together for “patchwork” wrapping paper.

An Unplugged Holiday – A Mom’s Perspective

Unplugged HolidaysThe holidays are upon us! At our house, we’re all looking forward to our favorite foods (well, okay, the two of us who eat more than corndogs and dino nuggets are looking forward to the food), meet ups with friends, a few days away, and lots (and lots!) of family time. But for those of us with pre-preschoolers or students with 2+ weeks out of school, filling the days without resorting to hours of YouTube, MineCraft, or Roblox can be a challenge. (On a total side note, do any of your kids watch the Eh Bee Family on YouTube? I totally don’t get it. My kid’s real-life family is right in front of her but she’d rather watch someone else’s? We must be doing something wrong.)

Anyway. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for zoning out, especially after a long day at school. And I’m the first one to share those Facebook posts about how Minecraft builds STEM skills. But with days off school and no plans in sight, an hour easily slips into two or three and then? Bring on the Mom guilt.

To combat the guilt and make the most of our time off together, I’ve compiled a list of five of our favorite unplugged play ideas. Give them a go this holiday break. Your kids might have so much fun that they’ll beg to unplug and play a little bit more. Just maybe.

  1. Bring a Story to Life – Kids love being read to – even big kids. So pick a favorite story or hit the library and find a new one (ooh – library picnics are another of our favorite unplugged outings!). Read it together, then find a way to bring it to life. Act it out with puppets, draw a few scenes on paper, come up with alternate endings, rename the characters. The fun doesn’t have to end when the story does! Educational Insights’ Once Upon a Craft™ kits make it easy to extend story time, with book and craft sets that include all the materials you’ll need to bring each story to life and fun ideas for extending the story time fun.1115-OUAC-Gingerbread-Main
  1. Indoor Scavenger Hunt – I love scavenger hunts. Indoors, outdoors, wherever. If winter weather’s got you trapped inside, uplug your kids and get them moving with a list of things to find in the house. Get creative and sneak in some learning – use foreign language words for older kids, list objects of specific colors and shapes for little ones. Or tie the list to family history – the sweater mom wore to the last piano recital, Johnny’s favorite stuffed friend, etc. Timing your competitors is always a hit. And try having the kids take turn making the search list for each other!
    scavenger-hunt
  2. Obstacle Course – My daughter loves an obstacle course. In fact, she’s been dying to try Parkour ever since that one episode of Adventure Time with Shelby… but I digress. If you’re willing to risk your furniture – particularly your couch pillows – you’re way ahead of the game, but you can also create a course out of other objects. Weave­ your way through a string of shoes, limbo under a yarn pole pinned to the sides of the door frame, hop on one foot around a baseball cap. Get creative and be sure to let your kids help plan the course – that’s half the fun! And, of course, don’t forget the timer. Challenging kids to beat their time can be extremely motivating. EI’s Pancake Pile-up Relay Race game is another way to get your kids up and moving, with a relay style challenge to race to and pile up pancakes and toppings in precisely the right order.
    3025-Pancake-Pile-up_13
  3. Bake Something – We’re big time bakers. Nothing too extreme, mind you. At our house it’s more about frequency. But kids love to measure, pour, and mix and, let’s face it, I’m not going to turn down a lick of the beater, either. Whether you choose a time-honored family recipe or a mix-in-a-box, baking is good, quality, unplugged time together. Share stories from when you were a kid, take turns licking the spoons, heck, you can even teach your kids how to wash the dishes while you wait for your creation to cook.bake

You can find more boredom busting unplugged play ideas here. And if you live in a warmer climate, be sure to check out our outdoor unplugged play idea post What are your unplugged play plans for the holiday break? Let me know in the comments below!

Amy Opheim is a mom, wife, and freelance writer based in Southern California.

Light Up the Season!

Icicles shimmering. Candles flickering Holiday lights reflected in snow. And, as if right on cue, our brand new IllumiCraft™ line launching, just in time for the holidays!

Circuits and Crafting

What’s extra special about the twinkling lights in our IllumiCraft kits is that YOUR kids will wire them. Yes! You heard us right. Your kids can and will create complete electrical circuits as part of these amazingly creative, super-empowering, engineering-introducing, love-of-science-inspiring craft kits!

IllumiCraft

Designed for kids ages 8 and up, each IllumiCraft kit includes super-sparkly stickers and other decorative materials kids use to decorate and dazzle objects ranging from picture frames to cell phone speakers. The kits also include step-by-step instructions and all the materials needed to construct a simple circuit to light each object up.

IllumiCraft

Assembling an IllumiCraft kit is a relaxing, rewarding, and super fun way to spend a winter afternoon. And, at $19.99, the kits are a great holiday gift or birthday buy. Plus, you’re giving so much more than a craft kit! With IllumiCraft, kids are getting hands-on experience with a basic electric engineering concept, building scientific confidence and laying the foundation for future STEM success. Talk about a bright idea!

With 6 IllumiCraft kits to choose from, there’s something for everyone:

  • IllumiCraft Light Up! Jewelry Organizer
    The spotlight’s on your favorite gems and jewels with this personalized, light-up organizer featuring a circuit kids wire themselves and their custom paint and design jobs!

  • IllumiCraft Light Up! Cell Phone Speaker Dock
    Kids can amplify their sound and style with a light-up cell phone speaker doc featuring a simple circuit they wire themselves and their custom paint job and personalized decorations!

  • IllumiCraft Light Up! Pencil Case
    Kids illuminate their style with a light-up pencil case, featuring a circuit they create yourself and custom designs and decorations!

  • IllumiCraft Light Up! Frame
    Kids can shine some light on their family and friends with a light-up frame featuring a circuit they wire yourself and their custom paint job and decorations!

  • IllumiCraft Light Up! Journal
    Kids can record their bright ideas in a light up, hard-cover journal featuring a circuit they lay yourself and their very own designs and decorations!

  • IllumiCraft Light Up! Wall Mirror
    Kids can light up their lockers with this illuminated mirror, complete with a circuit they lay themselves and their custom paint and deco jobs!

The perfect combination of crafting and STEM learning puts IllumiCraft kits at the top of every holiday wish list!

Re-Gram to Win the Perfect Holiday Gifts!

Welcome to EI’s 31 Days of Gift-Aways giveaway! With 31 days of giveaways including award-winning toys and games for boys and girls of all ages, we’ve got great gifts for everyone on your list – and winning is easy!

First, be sure you’re following us on Instagram. Then, watch for our daily 31 Days of Gift-Aways posts and regram them. It’s that simple! We’ll choose a winner each day in December and ship your prize directly to you!

Check out the calendar below to see which goodies we’re giving away when!

1201_PinToWin-illumicraft-IG

December 1 – Illumicraft™ Light Up! Cell Phone Speaker Doc

This two-in-one cell phone dock and speaker keeps your phone in place AND amplifies sound. Kids learn to engineer simple circuits, then customize this delightful docking station to light up!

December 2 – Design & Drill® Brightworks™

Budding designers can follow one of 12 included patterns or create their own custom, glow-in-the-dark creations. Just insert one of the translucent bolts, use the real working, kid-friendly power drill to drill it in, and watch as your dynamic creation glows from the inside!

December 3 – Nancy B’s Science Club® AquaScope™ and Underwater Wonders Journal

With the Nancy B AquaScope, you don’t even have to get wet to explore the wonders of life underwater. AquaScope has 5x magnification to focus closely on observations. This underwater telescope for kids also comes with an activity journal packed with fun science experiments.

December 4 – GeoSafari® Jr. My First Microscope

My First Microscope allows kids to see a magnified hidden world with ease! This fully functional microscope is a real working science tool with two extra-large eyepieces and a chunky, kid-sized focusing knob.

December 5 – GeoSafari® Omega Refractor Telescope

Explore the faraway wonders of space, from the Moon’s craters to Saturn’s dazzling rings—even deep-sky phenomena like star clusters and nebulae!

December 5 – Design & Drill® Power Play™ Helicopter

Your little engineers can build their copter by snapping the pieces together. Then, they can use the motorized mini-drill to add the bolts. Finally, it’s time to add artistic flair and customize their creation with colorful stickers, and zoom into creative STEM play! Once their chopper is ready to hit the skies, they can use kid-power to spin the blades and lift off!

December 7 – Magic Moves®

Stomp like a dinosaur! Soar like an eagle! Ninety fun, physical commands, twinkling light shows, and 26 musical tunes get little ones up and keep them moving, exercising their bodies, creativity, and listening skills!

December 8 – Even Steven’s Odd™

It’s a race to the dice! The first player to complete ten math challenges and grab Steven wins this fast-paced, dice-rolling race!

December 9 – The Sneaky, Snacky, Squirrel Game®

Your forest friends are hungry and they need your help! Spin the spinner, squeeze the matching colored acorn with your Squirrel Squeezer, and place it into your log. Be the first to fill your log with delicious acorns and you win!

December 10 – Nancy B’s Science Club® Microscope and Activity Journal

This 2-in-1 light and dissecting microscope gives up-close views—30x, 100x, and 400x magnifications—of anything you can imagine, from peacock feathers and goldfish scales to your own skin and cheek cells. The included keepsake journal features 22 pages of fun science experiments for kids and activities from observation to creative writing, drawing, and more.

December 11 – GeoSafari® Jr. Kidnoculars®

The only binoculars designed specifically for little kids! Enlarged focus-free eyepieces—more than three times the size of ordinary binoculars—and perfect-fit goggles with placement guide enable kids (even toddlers) to see up close!

December 12 –  Illumicraft™ Light Up! Journal

Jazz up your journal! Kids can stash their secrets in journals decorated with working, light-up circuitry they lay themselves

December 13 – Wave of the Wand™ – A Cinderella Game

Become Cinderella for a day! Players take turns flicking the Magical Wand Shaker and placing matching colored tokens on their castle cards. The first to fill her castle with tokens wins the game AND the “glass” slipper!

December 14 – Design & Drill® Power Play™ Monster Truck

Your junior mechanics can build their vehicle by snapping the pieces together. Then, they can use the motorized mini-drill to add the bolts. Finally, it’s time to add artistic flair and customize their creation with colorful stickers, and race into creative STEM play! Once their monster truck is ready to hit the road, they can use kid-power to send their car speeding!

December 15 – Illumicraft™ Light Up! Pencil Case

Illuminate your style with a light-up pencil case! Kids learn to engineer simple circuits, then use their creativity to customize their colorful crafts.

December 16 – GeoSafari® Jr. Talking Microscope™

Investigate twelve fascinating bugs up close, listen to cool bug facts, and challenge your knowledge of each creepy critter in fun quiz games.

December 17 – Ready, Set, Woof!™ Game

Find and feed hungry puppies! Players shake the Dog Bowl Randomizer to find out which pup to feed, then scan the board for the pup with matching colors. The player who finds the matching pup first feeds it a bone. The first player to give away all bones first wins!

December 18 – Nancy B’s Science Club® MoonScope™ and Sky Gazer’s Activity Journal

Grab your MoonScope and take a tour of the nighttime sky complete with visits to the stars, Saturn, Jupiter, and even the mountain ranges and craters on the moon! The Sky Gazer’s Journal is packed with fun activities, like learning about the lunar phases, writing a moon myth, drawing your own man in the moon, and more!

December 19 – Blurt!®

What word means “a partially dried grape?” Be the first to say “raisin” and you’re on your way to winning this riotous game of rapid word recall. Sounds simple, but as the race for the right word heats up and the blurting gets boisterous, it’s easy to get tongue-tied!

December 20 – Robot Face Race™ Game

Help a crazy inventor find the heads he needs to complete his robot bodies in this frantically fun feature-finding game! Shake the Robot Randomizer, then scan the board for the robot head with the matching eyes, nose, and mouth. It’s a frantic feature-finding game that’s fun for the whole family!

December 21 – Illumicraft™ Light Up! Picture Frame

Fancy up your favorite photo with a light-up frame! Kids learn to build a circuit, then customize their frames with decorative stickers and paint.

December 22 – GeoSafari® Jr. My First Telescope

Discover amazing, up-close lunar exploration with GeoSafari® Jr. My First Telescope! Little ones can explore the moon with this focus-free telescope, built specifically for little hands and growing minds.

December 23 – Kanoodle®

Construct caboodles of 2-D and 3-D puzzles with this brain-twisting solitaire game. Pick a puzzle from the book, set up the challenge, and then place the remaining pieces to solve the puzzle. Hundreds of possible combinations, but only one completes the puzzle!

December 24 – Sophie’s Seashell Scramble™ Game

Help Sophie the Otter find yummy shells to eat in this pattern-matching spin and swim game! Players spin the spinner and use the Sophie squeezer to pick up a shell with a matching pattern. The first player to collect one shell of each pattern wins!

December 25 – Illumicraft™ Light Up! Jewelry Organizer

Jewels in a jumble? Not for long with the lovely light-up jewelry organizer! Kids can engineer a circuit to light up their hanging organizer, and can personalize it with stickers and paint

December 26 – Shelby’s Snack Shack Game ®

Shelby buried bones in the sand and needs your help collecting them. Help her dig up the most bones and you win! Kids take turns using the adorable Shelby Squeezer to fill their dog bowl with bones. Sounds simple, but be careful—spin a sneaky seagull, and you’ll lose some bones or get sidetracked chewing a flip flop and miss your turn!

December 27 – Design & Drill® Power™ Play Race Car

Your junior pit crew can build their vehicle by snapping the pieces together. Then, they can use the motorized mini-drill to add the bolts. Finally, it’s time to add artistic flair and customize their creation with colorful stickers, and zoom into creative STEM play! Once their racer is ready to hit the road, they can use kid-power to send their car speeding!

December 28 – GeoSafari® Jr. My First Microscope

My First Microscope allows kids to see a magnified hidden world with ease! This fully functional microscope is a real working science tool with two extra-large eyepieces and a chunky, kid-sized focusing knob.

December 29 – Magic Moves® Rainbow Jam™

Join our color groovin’ jam session! Mini maestros touch a color to hear its musical note, touch multiple colors to compose their own masterpieces or sing along to nine jammin’ color songs!

December 30 – Illumicraft™ Light Up! Mirror

This “reflection” of crafty engineering skills is the perfect size to hang in a locker! Kids engineer a circuit to light up the hanging mirror like a mini vanity, and decorate it with awesome stickers, cutouts, and paint!

December 31 – Playfoam®

Get “in shape” with no-mess Playfoam®! Let little imaginations soar with this all-new, dinosaur-themed, squishy-squashy set that can be shaped and sculpted over and over again.