Spread the Love! Free Printable Valentines

‘Tis the season of love and a great time to teach your kids how to show their love for their friends! Our free, downloadable Valentines are perfect for passing out to classmates, cousins, neighbors, and anyone else your child values. Simply choose from the color-your-own or pre-colored cards below, each featuring a favorite EI friend. Then print, copy, cut, and sign. It’s that simple!

Pre-colored:

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Color-your-own:

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What’s your favorite family Valentine’s tradition? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to share your kids’ colored creations on our Facebook page with hashtag #EILove.

Five Fun Careers for Curious Kids

Kids do some curious things—mostly because they’re, well, curious! From following pets around the house to bashing pots and pans together, kids are exploring and discovering the worlds around them, and they’re all drawn to different things. Read on to find out what your kiddo’s specific curiosity might mean for his or her future and the unique career options that may await!

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Kristen Kline, Associate Veterinarian

Is your kiddo curious about pets? Most kids love anything furry and four-legged, but if your little one’s appreciation for pets goes beyond a passing interest, he or she might be inspired by the wonderful world of veterinary medicine!

Florida-based vet Kristen Kline admits to being a curious kid (she’s still a curious adult!) and that curiosity serves her well at work. She’s treated everything from a Bactrian camel and an elephant, to dogs and cats, and sometimes the diagnoses are not straightforward. In those cases, Kristen sets her curious mind in motion to research possible problems and solutions. Her everyday responsibilities include seeing appointments, reviewing medical records and lab results, and prescribing treatments and medications, but she’s also had some spectacularly exciting moments in her career. She’ s even performed CPR to successfully revive a dog in complete cardiac arrest. Talk about job satisfaction!

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Kimo Morris, Marine Biologist

Got a beach baby? He or she may be harboring an interest in marine biology, like Marine biologist Kimo Morris! Kimo spends many of his workdays scuba diving. From the frigid waters of Iceland to the tropical depths of Tahiti, Kimo has explored the oceans around the world! Part of his job is describing the amazing sights he sees to others and trying to understand why animals prefer certain habitats over others in the ocean.

Kimo is also an associate professor of biology at Santa Ana College and an environmental consultant, and says curiosity plays an important role in all of his work. He encourages his college students to ask good questions to help them grow and learn and finds that curious scientists are able to think more creatively. Kimo himself has been curious about the ocean ever since his first SCUBA outing with his father at the age of 14.

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Nina Schau, Professional Facepainter

If your kiddo loves to color and draw, perhaps he or she is headed for a career in the arts! Artist Nina Schau still remembers what it felt like to layer and blend the colors of her set of 72 colored pencils as a child, and puts some of the same techniques to use as a professional facepainter.

Nina paints faces and bodies at special events and parties, designing custom creations for each of her subjects. She particularly enjoys painting children and adults with special needs, connecting with them, putting them at ease, and designing something special just for them. When she’s not painting, Nina is busy marketing her services, networking with other artists, sending contracts and invoices, and stocking her traveling supply chest of paints. Curiosity keeps Nina creative and she enjoys dissecting the works of other painters to understand the layers, colors, and techniques they use. She advises kids who are interested in becoming face and body artists to study color theory as well as human and animal anatomy, and to do something artistic every day!

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Steve Zuckerman, Mega Musician and More

If your little one loves banging and bashing pots and pans, don’t despair! He or she could be headed for a career in music! After all, one of Steve Zuckerman’s most memorable projects included dragging a superball (yes, those super-high bouncing balls from the ’80s—many modern orchestrations actually call for the use of these surprisingly musical toys!) across a 15-foot sheet of metal for the crazy, experimental score he created for Disney’s Black Hole trailer. Steve has composed music and songs for countless commercials, TV shows, and movies, including beloved Capital I and Lower Case N of Sesame Street fame.

Composing, orchestrating, writing, directing, producing, sound-designing, and commercial editing are just some of Steve Zuckerman’s many musical responsibilities. Being naturally curious helps Steve keep one step ahead of emerging technology and tools, enabling him to offer his clients the very latest before it becomes mainstream. Steve advises kids to explore all of their interests, to be eclectic and curious, and to jump right in to what they love. And he’s got secret weapon for competing against those who might just be a little bit better than you are—work harder than they do! It’s the ultimate competitive edge.

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Mary Jo Reutter, Game Inventor

If your kiddo can’t stop asking questions, you may be looking at a future game inventor! Mary Jo Reutter, the inventor of dozens of best-selling adult and children’s games, is constantly asking herself “what if?” As in, what if we changed the theme, the way the game plays, the size of the parts, etc. Mary Jo’s constant questioning and curiosity leads to fine tuning that ultimately makes her games even better. Ask her what her favorite part about being a game inventor is and she’ ll tell you it’s using her mind in creative ways all day long! Whether it’s coming up with brand new game ideas, fixing a part of a game that’s not working, or considering the graphics for a new game, she loves spending her days solving problems. Mary Jo recommends that kids who want to pursue a career as a game inventor study music, play sports, get artistic, and pursue anything and everything they’re curious about!

6 Kid-Cool Stations for a Super-Successful Career Day

It’s a brave, new world, and the jobs out there prove it! From Chief Google Doodler to Pet Behavior Consultant, there really is a job to suit every unique skill set. Students love career day, so this year, why not shake things up by supplementing your traditional stations with some surprisingly modern choices? Read on for the supplies and info you’ll need for a super-successful and engaging career day stations in your classroom—and don’t forget to ask parents who do these jobs to help man your stations!

Tried-and-True Kid Favorites – Traditional Career Stations

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Doctor/Dentist

A career for kids who are curious about…science and the human body.

In a nutshell – Doctors and dentists provide medical and dental care to kids and adults, including giving check-ups, prescribing medicine, and treating various medical and dental problems.

Pros and cons – Doctors and dentists get to help people feel better every day and teach people how to take care of themselves and live healthy lives. Developing these skills doesn’t happen overnight! In order to become doctors and dentists, one has to study, and stay in school for a long time.

Props – Doctor’s kit, chair, cot, scrubs, dolls, stuffed animals, plastic skeleton, plastic skull, bandages, wraps, toothbrush, toothpaste, crutches, small flashlight, prescription pad

Activity Ideas – Play the Operation game, dress a doll’s “ wounds” with wraps and bandages, practice proper brushing on a mouth print out or plastic skull, or introduce the basics of CPR.

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Police Officer/Firefighter

A career for kids who are curious about…the law and helping others.

In a nutshell – Police officers and firefighters help protect our community from crimes and are there to help us when we’re in danger.

Pros and cons – Police officers and firefighters are trusted, respected members of our communities, but their jobs can be dangerous and they can get hurt doing them.

Props – Police and fire hats, rubber rain coat, blue button up shirt, gloves, vacuum hose, badges, play phones, walkie talkies, whistle, flashlight, clipboard and pencil, steering wheel

Activity Ideas – Learn to dial 9-1-1 and your home phone on a play phone (or download our worksheet here!), make a masking tape intersection and practice crossing with the signals, or introduce fire safety—crouching low and checking door knob temperatures.

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Teacher

A career for kids who are curious about…everything!

In a nutshell – Teachers help students of all ages learn specific things, from the alphabet and phonics to physics and chemistry.

Pros and cons – Teachers take great satisfaction in seeing their students master newskills and concepts, but they must be able to work with all different types of personalities and learning styles.

Props – Mini white boards or chalk boards with white board markers or chalk, pointer, glasses, mug, apple, calculator, books, calendar, map, globe, bell, stickers, stamps and stamp pads, red pen

Activity Ideas – Provide simple matching worksheets that kids can complete and grade (with a red pen, stamps, and stickers, of course!), teach the ABCs and CVC reading with white boards, markers, and magnetic letters, or read books aloud to each other.

Cutting Edge Careers – Modern Day Career Stations

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Game or App Programmer

A career for kids who are curious about…technology.

In a nutshell – Programmers write directions in a variety of computer languages that turn designs created by software developers and engineers into instructions a computer or smart phone can follow.

Pros and cons – Bringing written directions to life on screen is exciting and rewarding, but programming can be tedious, too.

Props – Wooden blocks, pitcher, water, tablet with coding games for kids, like the Foos

Activity Ideas – Play coding board games, play coding tablet games, or pair students in coding challenges with one giving and the other receiving step-by-step directions for a simple task, like building a tower of blocks or filling a pitcher with water, to demonstrate the precision and detail needed for programming.

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Animator

A career for kids who are curious about…art.

In a nutshell – Animators are artists who draw, paint, sculpt, or design images on the computer that can be put together to show illustrated movement in cartoons, movies, and computer games.

Pros and cons – Animators get to create art and use the computer all day long and their work turns into something really cool but there isn’t much room for growth or change in their jobs.

Props – Blank flip books and markers, plastic overlay sheets cut in quarters and printer paper

Activity Ideas – Provide multi-page, stapled “ flip books” and encourage students to draw a slightly changing scene on each page—then flip to animate or have students draw a scene on a piece of printer paper and a character on a plastic overlay and slide the overlay across the scene to see their character “move”.

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Organic Farmer

A career for kids who are curious about…science and agriculture.

In a nutshell – Organic farmers raise fruits, vegetables, and meats without the use of man-made pesticides or herbicides.

Pros and cons – Organic farmers are outside all day, tending to their crops and stock, and take pride in producing healthy and safe foods for their communities, but sometimes things that are out of their control can affect their work, like weather, bugs, and diseases.

Props – Shoebox “crates”, plastic fruits and vegetables, plush farm animals, table with checked cloth, pot with dirt and seeds to plant, flannel shirts, plastic gardening tools

Activity Ideas – Plant seeds or bulbs in egg cartons full of dirt, harvest your school’s garden, provide various root vegetables and seeds to explore, have an apple taste test.

And there you have it! Six great center ideas for career day at school—from traditional to cutting-edge. Which career day stations have your students most enjoyed? Share your tips and activity ideas with your fellow educators in the comments below and let us know how career day goes!

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