Creative Boredom Busters Guaranteed to Cut the Winter Cabin Fever

Snowing? Pouring? Being stuck inside can be boring! Whether you’re a parent or a teacher, when winter weather keeps kids indoors all day, cabin fever can make you ALL a little crazy! Next time you’re trapped inside, give one of these fun, indoor kid activities a go—and find a cozy corner to sip your coffee in peace (well, in an ideal world)!

Take a Guess—“Gumball Guesses” are a great way to work on estimation—fill any container with gumballs or candy (you’ll need to know the final count), then use a scoop to remove a small portion and count them in front of your kids or class. Talk about the portion of the entire container that scoop might fill, then help your kids estimate how many scoops might fit into the entire container by multiplying estimated scoops by marbles per scoop. The winner gets a scoop of what’s inside (or the whole container, if you’d like!).

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Join the Maker movement and make a marble racetrack—Join the Maker Movement! Provide construction paper, scissors, a stapler, and duct tape, then watch your kids go to town, designing and constructing their own marble track! Check out our previous Marble Run post for detailed instructions.

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Bring the outdoors in—Create some wintery crafts using natural materials like pinecones, leaves, and branches. Glue a pompom head and construction paper wings and feet and turn a pinecone into a penguin. Add a tail and turn it into a mouse! Bundle twigs into a homemade frame. Twist them into a wreath and wrap it with colorful ribbon or pipe cleaners. The possibilities are endless—and creative!

Sparkle slime—Squish and squeeze your way to indoor fun with sparkle slime! Follow these instructions to make the slime ahead of time, sprinkle with glitter, then pass it out and watch the creativity ooze.

Craft a card—Revive the ancient art of correspondence with some homemade post cards! Stock your table with markers (our new Rainbow Prancers™ Markers add an extra fun touch!), crayons, colored pencils, glitter, glue, fabric scraps, ribbons, buttons, and any other creative materials you’ve got on hand. Provide stock paper cut into standard postcard size (4”x5”) and encourage your kids to write a message to a friend or family member before decorating the front of their cards. Then pop them in an envelope, hand cancel, and off go your handmade holiday wishes!

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Get moving—Too bad the energy doesn’t disappear when the sun does! To help kids get the wiggles out, try a game of freeze dancing! Just turn on some (kid-friendly) tunes an get the kids moving. Then pause the music—the kids who are still moving are out! A game of hot potato is another great way to burn a bit of energy. Kids pass a real potato (but not hot, please!) round and round; the child holding the potato when the music stops must answer a question. (Example: “What’s 2+9?”) There’s no right or wrong with hot potato-kids take a crack at the question, you respond with praise or the correct answer, turn the music back on, and keep on passing that spud!

Sock basketball is another safe way to release some pent up energy, at home or in the classroom. Bring a box or laundry basket and several sets of rolled up socks (crumpled paper works, too). Divide into teams, set the timer, and see who can make the most baskets before time’s up!

We’ve got a few more tricks up our sleeve, especially designed to keep a smaller number of kids busy and engaged inside. Why not:

Try a string challenge—Tack or tape string around the living room or classroom at various heights and distances apart and challenge your children to snake their way through the course without touching a string! Time them for extra motivation, then let them redesign and mount the next course!

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Go on an ice excavation—Frozen fun for everyone! Fill an ice tray or several small containers with objects (small toys, coins, buttons, rocks), cover with water and freeze. Provide each child with a frozen excavation site, in a bowl, and a kid-safe chipping tool like a butter knife and put your future paleontologists to work. Freeze edible objects for an extra incentive!

Take a guess—Introduce the concept of estimation with a game of Treasure Hunt. The Treasure Hunt requires a bit of prep on your part; first you’ll need to measure several objects around your house and make a list of your measurements, without identifying the objects you measured. Make some copies and set your kids loose, looking for household objects they think might meet your measurements, and measuring them. The first child or team to correctly note the objects matching your measurements wins!

10 Ways to Encourage Curiousity!

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Did you know that our brains are actually wired to release feel-good chemicals when we learn new things? Yep, we’re actually physiologically programmed to be rewarded for our curiosity. Obviously, curiosity is a critical piece of learning—it’s much easier to understand something you’re interested in, and research* indicates that being curious leads to a more positive academic experience and better results, both at school and at work. But the benefits of curiosity don’t end there! According to one study**, people who are curious exhibit more positive emotions, less anxiety, and are generally happier and more satisfied than their non-curious counterparts. Curiosity is also linked to stronger relationships and empathy. All good, right?

So how can we encourage curiosity in children, at home and in the classroom? After all, we can only answer “why” so many times. Read on for 10 tips to encouraging curiosity (and take heart, none of them have to do with why the sky is blue!):

  1. Ask open ended questions. “How was school?” “Fine.” We’ve all been down that frustrating path. But asking open ended questions like “What was that like?” when a child first jumps off of a diving board, or “How do you feel about…?” after reading a sad non-fiction passage in class leaves room for kids to formulate their own thoughts and perhaps even come up with more questions. Oh, and by the way, we also need to…
  1. Teach kids how to ask questions. Formulating and articulating a confusing thought that needs answering is a skill unto itself.  Teachers and parents can aid kids’ natural curiosity by helping them learn how to assemble a question. Repeating what you think a child is asking in detailed question form helps reinforce this critical skill. But then we need to…

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  1. Make time for questions! Parents are busy and teacher’s days are jam-packed with mandated lessons and super-tight schedules. But making time for thoughtful discussions now and then provides an opportunity for kids to express their opinions, understand other perspectives, ask questions, and identify the need for more information in order to answer them—all cornerstones of curiosity. Teachers know that some of the best learning happens when their lessons get derailed by a particularly passionate discussion.
  1. Work in groups. Group work in the classroom is a wonderful way to encourage curiosity. Provide enough context for kids to understand a topic, then assign each group a position and listen as they work through the ideas and challenges together, asking questions and formulating hypotheses.
  1. Be a mirror. Before responding, deflect your child or student’s question back to her. “Why do YOU think porcupines have quills?” What do YOU think we could do to solve this problem?” These questions not only reinforce how to ask a question, but also encourage the child to get curious and prove that her opinion is valued.
  1. Wonder aloud. To our students and children, we are adults who know everything. Curiosity, by nature, is wondering about things we don’t Show kids that YOU are curious, too, by sharing some of your own pursuits. “I’ve been reading about the pioneer days… I wondered what they ate during the winter when they couldn’t hunt.”

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  1. Follow their lead. Whenever possible, help kids pursue their own interests. If your class can’t stop talking about the ant infestation in the cafeteria, move your bug lesson up a month and dive in! Daughter doodling rainbows (with her Rainbow Prancer™ Markers) all the time? Research the weather conditions that cause the phenomenon online or hit the library for a book on rainbows.
  1. Encourage open-ended thinking. So many of kids’ daily experiences are completely directed. From classroom learning to video games, kids are told what to do almost all the time. Providing open-ended play props like blocks, dolls, and puppets like our Puppet-on-a-Stick™ are a great way to encourage curiosity. Let the kids loose and watch them wonder what to do!
  1. Stock the toolbox.Some tools are designed specifically for the curious. Providing kid-safe magnifying glasses, microscopes, telescopes, binoculars, chemistry kits, and other discovery tools gives kids the supplies they need to begin to discover and understand their worlds. Our GeoSafari® and Nancy B’s Science Club® lines feature the perfect props to satisfy kids’ natural scientific curiosity.
  1. Forget the mess. Speaking of satisfying one’s curiosity, that can sometimes be messy! Understanding why it’s hard to contain a handful of sand requires, yes, sand. Seeing what happens when you add water to a pile of dirt is downright filthy! Instead of discouraging messy exploration, contain it in a classroom center or backyard area and let kids go to town.

*http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/edu/94/3/562/
**http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/s15327752jpa8203_05#.VlSOGHarTIV

A Breath of Fresh Air: December’s Change It Up! Contribution

 

Change it Up - December

Imagine feeling short of breath, even when you were resting. That breathless feeling, along with a dry cough, aching muscles and fatigue, are just some of the symptoms of Pulmonary Fibrosis. The term Fibrosis means scarring and Pulmonary Fibrosis (PF) indicates scarring in the lungs. In the case of people suffering from PF, scar tissue builds up in the walls of the air sacs of the lungs, restricting the oxygenation of their blood and making it difficult to breathe, walk, or exercise.

Although there is no known cure, there is hope for those suffering from PF via The Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. The Foundation is the leading source of information on PF and aims to increase pulmonary fibrosis awareness, provide enhanced patient support, and increase research funding. Their signature programs include the PFF Care Center Network, PFF Patient Registry, PFF Patient Communication Center,and the PFF Ambassador Program, the PFF Summit, disease education materials, and an international network of support groups and online communities.

EI Production Artist Ramon Padilla has been personally affected by this difficult disease. His mother-in-law suffered and ultimately succumbed to PF in 2010, and he selected The Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation as the recipient of the EI team’s charitable donation for the month of December in her memory. We’re proud to support Ramon’s choice and hope you’ll join us in contributing to The Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation.

For more information on The Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation or to make your own charitable contribution, visit: www.pulmonaryfibrosis.org

Little Miss Manners: Teaching the Fine Art of Thank You

“Please” and “thank you” were probably among your child’s very first words and they’re definitely three of the most important words in the English language. “Thank you” comes into play big time during the holidays, with so many gifts and kindnesses to acknowledge. Whether for a delicious, home-cooked meal or a brand new bike, saying “thank you” goes a long way, especially during the holidays. Read on for some simple ways to teach your kids the etiquette of expressing thanks.

Opening Gift

Verbal Thanks

Gratitude comes naturally for most kids when they receive something they genuinely appreciate, but you may need to remind them that it’s the thought that counts before they dive into the stack of gifts under the tree. Have a quick conversation about how wonderful it is for someone to have thought about your child, making a special trip to shop for something they think your child might like, and spending their hard-earned money to purchase that gift, even if it’s not exactly what your child would have chosen. Whether it’s your kiddo’s cup of tea or not, the thought is truly what matters. If they seem to understand, you can also remind your child that many gifts can be exchanged if need be. Teach—and practice!—the three steps below before gift time:

  1. Look at the tag and say the name of the gift giver out loud: “Oh, this is for me, from Grandma Irene!” If there’s a card included, open and read the card before opening the gift.
  1. Open the gift and hold it up for all to see.
  1. If the gift giver is in the room, look her in the eye and say a sincere thank you—or, better yet, get up and give her a hug.

Are the abstract conversations getting you nowhere? Try a heart-tugging video!

In this vid, a kindly kid has mastered the art of gratitude, hugging and thanking his parents for the cutting board they pranked him with before giving him the birthday gift he really wanted. You don’t have to speak Spanish to understand the sincere gratitude he feels for the gift—any gift!

YouTube / baizer zac – via Iframely

 

Written Thanks

Thank you notes are an excellent practice and are expected by many older family members. Getting your child into the habit of sending a written thank you, within a week of receiving a gift, will instill a life-long habit that will serve them well (think future job interviews). Plus, research shows that an attitude of gratitude has countless mental and physical benefits, so it’s good for everyone! Thank you notes are a must, and you can make thank you notes a little easier anda lot more fun with these simple steps:

  1. Gather your supplies ahead of time. Paper, pens (a playful pen like our Puppet-on-a-Pen™ can make writing anything more fun!), crayons, markers, and stickers can make thank you notes feel more like an art project.
  1. Be sincere. If your child didn’t love the gift, he doesn’t need to say he did. Help him find another aspect to praise—how thoughtful the gift giver was to think of him, how much he enjoyed unwrapping the gift, how much time it must have taken to make the gift (in the case of a hand-made present).
  1. Add some color. Whether your child is writing her own thank you note, or you’re transcribing a younger child’s words, custom artwork adds a bit of flair to any note. A hand-drawn picture of your child using the gift, or of your family gathered around the menorah or Christmas tree, adds a special touch to any thank you.

Traveling with Kids This Holiday? 13 Thrilling Ideas to Help You Keep Your “Bon Voyage” a “Calm Voyage”

Travel Tips

Whether you’re traveling by plane, train, or automobile this holiday, transporting kids anywhere can be tricky. In addition to bringing along new books, movies, and apps, we’ve got you covered with 13 fabulous traveling activities for kids en route. Consider packing some of the following in your carry on:

  1. New coloring book and crayons—With so many coloring books for older kids (and adults!), it’s easy to find the perfect book for every kid—just be sure to give each child their own set of crayons to avoid arguments. A pencil box is great for storing supplies on the road.
  1. Playfoam®Keep the creativity rolling with no-mess Playfoam! This squishy, squashy substance is perfect for sculpting on the go! It never dries out so the fun never ends, andpsst: it won’t stick to the car seat or airplane carpet!

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  1. Fill in the Blank Stories—Found at your local book and toy stores (or you can even make your own, custom versions tying in to your trip!), fill in the blank stories are good for some serious giggles. You ask your child for a series of nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs, then insert them on the blanks and read their slapstick story aloud. These are fun for ALL ages (and educational, too. Shhh…).
  1. Card games—Think small and light, like The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel™ Card Game for little ones or Rhyme Out™ for whole-family fun.

Sneaky Snacky Card GameRhyme Out

  1. Puppets—From DIY finger puppets to our Puppet-on-a-Stick™ Monsters, Dinosaurs, or Rainbow Prancers™, puppets are the perfect prop for travel play. Act out some of the things you’ll be doing at Grandma’s or Santa’s trip down the chimney.

Dino Puppets

  1. Family photo album—Bring along some pix of the relatives you’ll be seeing on your travels and share your favorite stories about each one.
  1. Art supplies—Pack a bag of supplies including pipe cleaners, beads, blank notebooks, cut-out collage images, glue sticks, and markers and watch the creativity soar.
  1. Stickers—Sheets of themed stickers are perfect for storytelling! Encourage your child to place a few, then draw the rest of her story.
  1. Origami—Older kids love origami. Pack a how-to book and some paper for some fabulous folding fun.
  1. Small puzzle—Too many pieces and some will get lost, but little kids love assembling small puzzles on the plane, over and over again. You can even purchase a puzzle mat to help contain the pieces and roll partially-finished puzzles up for later.
  1. New journal—Who doesn’t love a new journal? Younger kids can draw pictures of their travels while older kids can keep track of their trip, feelings, and inner most thoughts.
  1. Cereal Jewelry—You’ll need snacks…why not make them wearable? Bring some floss and your favorite “O” shaped cereal, and teach your kids to string their O’s before they eat them!
  1. Quiet toys—Speaking of string, stitch some fun into your ride with quiet, independent toys like our String Along Lacing Kit.String Along Lacing Kit

What’s your best travel tip? Comment below to let us know and don’t forget to share this post with any friends who are traveling with little ones this season.