Order Your Way to a Happier Holiday!

Amazon has spoken! The mega online retailer has reviewed thousands of toys and games chosen the best-of-the-best for their Holiday Toy List 2016, including eight award-winning selections from Educational Insights!

Make your holiday shopping as easy as point and click with these perfect presents for the little ones on your list:

Sneaky Snacky Squirrel

The Sneaky, Snacky, Squirrel Game®

The perfect first board game – fun for the whole family! 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! You could also spin “pick an acorn,” “steal an acorn,” or “lose an acorn,” so be strategic, little squirrel! For ages 3+.

Design and Drill Activity Center

Design & Drill® Activity Center

For the creative kiddos on your list… Kids power up their imaginations and build coordination and creative thinking skills as they drill chunky, child-sized components into a sturdy activity board. Children love following the colorful activity cards to create pictures and patterns—from trains and boats to flowers and fish or creating their very own designs. Just snap any one of the drill bits into the power drill or the screwdriver handle, grab a handful of bolts, and turn on the fun! Ages 3+.

My First Microscope

GeoSafari® Jr. My First Microscope

Instill a life-long love of science with this year’s holiday gift! 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. A bright LED with easy push-button action lights up details for even more discoveries. Ages 3+.

Once Upon a Craft

Once Upon a Craft™ The Gingerbread Man

Kids who love story time will love Once Upon a Craft! Make story time even sweeter with The Gingerbread Man! Read the story together; then bring it to life by decorating a foam gingerbread man, coloring seven story-based finger puppets, and putting on your very own show! Ages 4+.

Pancake Pileup

Pancake Pile-up!™ Relay Race Game

Order up! It’s a busy day at the diner, so don’t dilly-dally. Help your customers get just what they ordered by racing the other servers to the grill, relay style, and piling up pancakes in precisely the right order in this stack ‘em high, serve ‘em up, relay race game great for the active kids on your list! Ages 4+

Jungle Crew Lab Set

GeoSafari® Jr. Jungle Crew Lab Set™

Curious kids will roar into scientific exploration with this sturdy, 6-piece, animal-themed science set. Fun animal-shaped scientific tools introduce preschoolers to the wild side of science, and 10 hands-on activity cards offer fun, simple ‘experiment’ ideas using ingredients found in your kitchen or backyard! Ages 3+

Flower Power Studio

Design & Drill® Flower Power Studio™

Brilliance blossoms with this cute and colorful design studio! Girls love the action and sound of the kid-friendly power drill as they arrange and drill the designer plates and bolts into gorgeous, garden-worthy patterns and designs. When it’s time to pack up the fun, everything fits neatly into the fold-up board for no-mess creativity – and learning – on the go! Ages 3+.

Sneak and Peek Periscope

GeoSafari® Jr. Sneak and Peek Periscope™

Shopping for a kiddo with a sneaky streak? Kids can observe nature (and neighbors!) from their sneaky secret hideouts, peeking over a rock or around a tree, undetected, with the Sneak and Peek Periscope! Scoping in the dark? Flip on the LED light to spy on nocturnal animals in your backyard! This periscope features a wide viewing area, easy-grip handles, and soft goggles with a comfy nose placement guide to guarantee successful viewing, day or night. Ages 3+.

You’ll also find the following gifts on Amazon.com, sure to surprise and delight:

My First Telescope

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. Perfect for STEM learning. The 10x magnification provides fantastic views of the moon, while keeping the field of vision wide, which is essential for young children’s understanding of magnified views. Ages 4+.

SparkleWorks

Design & Drill SparkleWorks™

Power up their imaginations! Bright kids build coordination and creative thinking skills as they drill colorful, child-size bolts into a beautiful activity board to create their own custom, glow-in-the-dark creations! With Sound Activation Mode, the lights respond to music and voice! Just insert one of the translucent, charm-shaped bolts into the board, use the working, kid-friendly power drill to drill it in, and watch as colorful creations glow from the inside! Perfect for STEM learning and hours of light-up fun. For ages 3+.

Power Play Vehicles

Design & Drill® Power Play™ Vehicles

The little engineers on your list can build their very own vehicles simply by snapping pieces together! Then, they can use the motorized mini-drill to add colorful bolts. Finally, it’s time to add artistic flair and customize their creation with colorful stickers, and zoom into creative, kid-powered, STEM play! Ages 3+.

Dino Construction Company

Dino Construction Company

Part dino, part construction vehicle, Dino Construction Company is a monster mash-up like no other! These behemoth brutes can build and bash anything, anywhere, on carpet, sand, even snow! With moving parts and dino-tread tracks, there’s nothing too tough for this crew! Ages 3+.

Nancy B's Science Club - Stir-It-Up Chemistry Lab & Kitchen Experiments Journal

Nancy B’s Science Club® Stir-It-Up Chemistry Lab & Kitchen Experiments Journal

Surprise the science lover on your list with cool chemistry experiments she can conduct in the kitchen! Perfect for STEM learning at home, junior chemists can safely explore simple scientific principles including extinguishing a flame with invisible gas; making their own bubbling “lava” in a bottle; causing chemicals to change color; and more. Includes 22-page activity journal packed with kitchen chemistry experiments. Ages 8+.

Don’t see the perfect gift for the little one on your list? Visit www.educationalinsights.com for our full selection of toys and games.

Mom’s Perspective: Making friends with your kid’s friends

Friends

It’s funny how things change. For so long it’s just you and your little one. Okay, your spouse and family come into play, but your child’s world is populated with people you’ve essentially hand-picked.

Then your kiddo heads off to day care or preschool or Kindergarten and encounters… gasp… other kids! Kids you don’t know anything about. Kids who could be mean! Essentially, kids you didn’t raise. Kids who aren’t YOUR kid. As parents of young children our perspectives are often slightly (ahem) skewed toward our own children. Our kids are kind. Our kids are gentle. Our kids are inclusive. But those other kids? Who knows? This mama’s Mama Bear only reared her ugly head once or twice when my daughter was younger, but man is it shocking how fierce we can be when we perceive our little angels to be threatened. By those awful other kids.

But a couple of things happen as our little ones grow up. Or at least a couple of things happened to me. First, I began to realize that the parents of those little kids love them as much as I love MY little kid and are raising them with pretty much the same set of life rules. Second, I realized that one day soon, my little kid would do the same rotten thing that other little kid just did. They all have their moments.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, I’ve recently started realizing just how important those other kids are to my daughter and how critical they are to her happiness. At age 10 her friends are not quite her whole world, but they’re getting there. And I couldn’t be more grateful for them. For their friendship, their kindness, their humor. For having my daughter’s back when she needs it. For providing a support system. For giving her someone to talk to at school and sit with at lunch. I started thinking about her life without her friends and how lonely she would be. And suddenly I was incredibly grateful for those girls. And interested in who they were. And making sure they were happy and comfortable at our house. Because what would happen if they weren’t around?

Yes, those kids are becoming very important to me. And your kids’ friends will become just as important to you, too.

———

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

#UnpluggedPlay – Grateful for Play

Unplugged Play

From healthy families to food on the table, we’ve all got lots to be grateful for, but this Thanksgiving we at EI are especially grateful for play. Yes, play! As parents, we’re grateful for just about anything that make our kids happy, right? From friends and family to pets and toys and… play. Think about it:

Play Is Joyful. Pure and simple. Nothing puts a smile on a parent’s face quite like seeing their child at play. That’s because kids at play are 100%, completely, and undeniably happy. That’s why they do it.

Play Is Unstoppable. Speaking of the why… kids can’t help but play! Even when they’ve got no place to play and no toys to play with, children will find a way to play. Think of those moving photos of kids blowing bubbles, riding bikes, and playing soccer in war-torn streets and cities around the world. Play is so inherent in children, such an absolute necessity, that the United Nations Commission on Human Rights recognized play as a fundamental right of every child in 1989. It’s what kids are meant to do. So watching your children play is witnessing them being their truest selves. What a profound privilege to witness!

Play Is Revealing. What and how kids choose to play provides a glimpse into their little souls. The games they prefer, the friends they pick, the words they choose, the pictures they paint… they’re all telling the story of your child.

Play is Empowering. Kids’ lives are almost completely directed. From the time they wake up to what they wear, eat, and do all day, young children make very few decisions for themselves. Except when they play. Through play, kids are empowered to call all the shots, make up the entire story, act it out their way, draw whatever they want, run as fast, jump as high, climb as far as THEY decide they will. At play, even if just for those few moments, kids are completely in charge. And it feels great!

So it’s no wonder that our kids are happier and calmer after a session of open-ended, undirected, free play time. The next time your little one sits down or heads out to play, take a moment to be truly grateful for the power of play.

#UnpluggedPlay – What Play Is Teaching Our Kids

Why do we parents breathe a sigh of relief when our kids put down their tablets and pick up an action figure, dress up outfit, or hula hoop? Because we know balance is key! Tablet time isn’t tragic – it just needs to be balanced with reading, drawing, building, imagining, exploring, and exercising. But why? What is it that kids get out of #UnpluggedPlay that they don’t get anywhere else? Read on to find out.

Pretend Play

Pretend Play – There’s really nothing sweeter than listening to your kiddo act out a scenario using action figures, dolls, stuffed animals, or play props like kitchen and doctor sets. But pretend play isn’t just cute! Dramatic play helps kids explore the different roles they see in their lives, from parent to friend to baker to builder, developing not just an understanding of the world around them, but also building empathy skills. Pretend play with a friend helps kids learn to take turns, play cooperatively, and problem solve. Coming up with pretend story lines develops imagination and creative thinking skills. And “acting out” that pretend play scenario develops vocabulary and language skills.

Arts and Crafts

Arts & Crafts – It’s obvious that coloring, drawing, and crafting with tools like Playfoam® develop creativity and encourage self-expression. But creating also develops fine motor skills, the kind required to hold a pencil or paint brush, and bilateral coordination, the process of using both hands together, as in one to hold the paper and the other to cut it with scissors. Artistic creation also teaches trial and error, patience, and perseverance. And, best of all, creating is an incredible confidence booster – no right or wrong answer, just pure joy.

building

Building – Be it with blocks or other, more advanced, construction sets, the benefits of building are nearly endless. The perfect STEM learning activity, building introduces key scientific principles including gravity and balance, engineering concepts like arches and towers, and mathematic concepts and academic vocabulary including grouping, sorting, counting, addition, and subtraction. And, of course, manipulating blocks develops motor skills and hand-eye coordination, too.

games

Games & Puzzles – Games are great for getting your family laughing and playing together, but they’re good for more than fun! Playing games helps kids develop thinking and reasoning skills, strategic problem solving, spatial awareness, concentration, and focus. Word games develop language skills and vocabulary, while dice and math games like Even Steven’s Odd™ build and practice math concepts and facts. Game play also helps younger children develop social skills like turn taking and winning and losing gracefully.

Outdoor Play

Outdoor Play – Aside from reaping the benefits of fresh air, exercise, and the great outdoors, kids who play outside are exploring and discovering, developing and quenching scientific curiosity, and gaining self-confidence and self-efficacy.

We all need some down time and electronics are a great distraction. But the benefits to be gained from #UnpluggedPlay are not to be overlooked. Be sure to balance tablet time with some of the above ways to play each day!

#UnpluggedPlay – Outdoor Activity Ideas Your Kids Will Love

unpluggedPlayPost

#UnpluggedPlay – Outdoor Activity Ideas Your Kids Will Love

You’ve seen the data. You’ve set the screen time limits. But getting your kids to turn it off and do something – anything! – else isn’t always easy. It’s likely going to take a little engagement on your part – so clear those calendars and get ready for an afternoon of #UnpluggedPlay for all! The experts at Educational Insights are here to help, with 10 awesome ideas for outdoor #UnpluggedPlay activities that will have your kids turning off their tablets and racing for the backdoor. Give them a go today!

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1. Invisible Basketball (Or Football or Soccer…) – You don’t need a hoop – or even a ball! – to tip off this terrific, imaginative play session! Just face off, arms up, and let the games begin, exercising both your body and your mind.
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2. Build a Backyard Obstacle Course – Transform your yard into an obstacle course, American Ninja Warrior style! You can go big by building everything from a balance beam, rock wall, and rope walk – together! – or you can use what you’ve got lying around. A hula hoop makes a great bean bag toss target and a 2×4 is the perfect balance challenge. Use your creativity – setting up is half the fun! And definitely don’t forget your timer.
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3. Make Pet Rocks – Hard and fast friends, pet rocks are a great way to spend some time at #UnpluggedPlay. Simply collect some specimens, paint them to look like the members of your family, aliens, farm animals, pets – whatever!, let them dry, and voila! Dig them a home in the dirt, collect pine needles for a mattress, build them a backyard see saw with a branch – the possibilities for pretend play are endless.
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4. Take a Listening Walk – Turn traditional scavenger hunts upside down with a listening walk! List 10 things you might hear in your neighborhood on a sheet of paper and set off to “hear” them, using your best listening skills. From an airplane overhead to a lawnmower, birds chirping, or dogs barking, you’ll be honing attention and focus while having fun.
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5. Get Dirty – Giving your kids the go ahead to play in the mud will make their day. Simply supply a bucket or hose, find an unused dirt patch in your yard (or dump some dirt on the grass), and watch them go wild. Adding water a little at a time teaches the scientific concepts of density and resistance. Watching mud pies dry introduces the power of heat and the magical concept of evaporation. And, from baked goods to entire villages, mud play easily slides into imaginative play. Now that’s worth the mess!
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6. Go Buggy – Nothing says “unplugged” like an afternoon of bug collecting! Surprise your kiddo with kid-cool tools, like the GeoSafari® Jr. BugWatch™ set, to capture and study the critters in your yard. A hands-on introduction to the incredible world of insects could spark a lifelong love of life science!
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7. Blow it Up (With Bubbles) – From bouncing bubbles to colorful Kool-Aid bubbles, bubbles have come a long way, baby! Mixing your own bubble solution is a great first chemistry lesson and what could be more fun than blowing bubbles! Try string, straws, and berry baskets as bubble wands – then build your own, big and small. Test different solutions and study which ones make the biggest, longest lasting, most colorful, or most catchable bubbles. You could even capture your data in a chart…
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8. Create a Monster Truck Track – Use parts you’ve got lying around your garage to set up a temporary monster truck track in your yard. From ramps and straightaways to curves and mud pools, you’ll also be giving your kids a glimpse into Newton’s Laws of Motion. Supplement your course with sidewalk chalk spectators for an added, creative, twist.
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9. Speaking of Sidewalk Chalk – Even older kids can get into artistic expression with sidewalk chalk! Trace their bodies and have them color a crazy outfit. Create your house, street, or town. Go wild with a graffiti-like design. Trace the shadows of plants or trees projected on your driveway. With a little encouragement, sidewalk chalk can turn into hours of unplugged, creative play.
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10. Make – and Fly – a Kite – Take advantage of the gusty fall weather to make and fly your own kite! It’s easy and all it takes is a piece of printer paper, a bamboo skewer (or a pencil!), and some string. Plus, you’ll be providing a crystal clear demonstration of the concept of lift.