Make 2017 the Year of the Great Outdoors!

Whether you live in the snow, sleet, or California sunshine, our brand-new line of scientific tools and toys will help your kiddo explore, study, and learn about the nature that’s all around you. Kick the year off right with new outdoor exploration products from Educational Insights, like our:

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GeoSafari® Jr. Bug Vac ‘N’ View – Your kiddo can catch and study incredible insects – without even touching them! Simply switch on the gentle suction to capture a creature – the air holes will keep them safe until you’re ready to release and 4x magnification shows every detail up close!

Critter Habitat

GeoSafari® Jr. Critter Habitat – If your kiddo captured a keeper with the Bug Vac ‘N’ View, they can store and study it safely in the Critter Habitat! Perfect for examining bugs, frogs, fish, rocks leaves, flowers, and more, this critter-friendly container supports dry and wet habitats and even features a unique, rotating feeder.

walkie-talkies

GeoSafari® Jr. Walkie Talkies – Keep track of your junior explorer with this set of two Walkie Talkies with no slip rubber grips, speakerphone feature, and built in sound effects! With a 300+ foot range, these are a great way to keep in touch, indoors and out!

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GeoSafari® SeaScope® – Land, ho! Magnify underwater finds with this 5x scientific scope featuring a built-in LED that helps kids investigate sea life, from sea stars to kelp beds, without getting wet!

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

Go Big This Year with Brand New Toys and Games for Big Kids!

Start the year off BIG with brand-new, big-kid tools, toys, and games to help your not-so-little one discover and explore through unplugged play with Educational Insights. Our new-for-2017 product line-up includes tools for outdoor, natural, and scientific exploration, STEM based DIY circuit-building, hilarious party games, and so much more, like our:

Solar Rover

GeoSafari® Solar Rover – Your soon-to-be scientist can experiment with solar energy with this sun-powered vehicle, using his hand to alternate light and shadow to power the solar cells, move forward, and turn left or right and blocking the sun to stop!

Laser Lab

GeoSafari® Ultimate Laser Lab – It takes laser-like focus to complete the 10 laser experiments and activities featured in this set, which includes a class 1 laser with 5 settings, 1 diffracting grating, 2 mirrors, 2 stands, and a blank slide.

Word on the Street

Word on the Street® – The whole family can take the fast lane to fun with this fast-paced word game! Race to come up with a word that fits a specific category, moving the letter tiles in that word across the street, one space at a time.

Afterwords

AfterWORDS™ – Think fast! Name a word that fits in the category in play AND begins with the last letter of the last word played! This backward twist on word games will really get your big kid thinking!

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

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:

 

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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!

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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

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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!

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!
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  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.
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  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.