As parents, we’re always looking for fresh ways to engage our children. These unique items are NAPPA Award Winners, each one a game, toy or activity to help your kids learn in new, exciting ways. We hope they inspire so much fun in your home.
Ready for School
For many of our kids school is either starting this week or will start in the next couple of weeks and we want to provide some inspiration as you continue your back-to-school shopping. We’re excited that our friends at NAPPA Awards put together this wonderful guide filled with award-winning supplies, books, apps, learning tools and toys and games that mix fun and learning.
Fill through the pages and you’ll find adorable lunch boxes and labels to keep everything organized, math games, colorful STEM learning tools, educational apps and books covering topics such as race and inclusion, the stories of inspiring women and better ways to talk about feelings.
Every product included in this guide has been tested and evaluated. NAPPA Awards is one of the longest running award programs in the industry. It has been celebrating the best in family products for more than 31 years.
Click HERE to see the Back-the-School Guide
For more award-winning products visit nappaawards.com
10 Energizing Brain Breaks for Children
Ideas for maximizing mental breaks kids can take in between learning tasks
With children on devices for extended periods throughout the day learning at home, it is essential for them to disengage from devices and take intentional brain breaks. It’s also important to find ways to calm minds before and after school. Creative outlets can be an effective way to prepare for the day ahead, as well as provide a meaningful and blissful way to end the day. Here are a few ideas to provide their brain a necessary time out and all while having some fun!
1. Play with Play Dough!
Try making your own play dough — and playing with it! There is something so calming about making a batch of play dough and then having the opportunity to do what you want with it. You can discover the therapeutic qualities that come from rolling it, pounding it, making designs and yes, you can even make peanut butter play dough and eat it! You are never too old to play with play dough! For those with nut allergies you can use this great recipe with flour at https://www.iheartnaptime.net/play-dough-recipe/
Peanut Butter Play Dough Recipe
- 3½ cups peanut butter
- 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 3½ cups honey
- Cream together; the confectioners’ sugar and peanut butter. Beat in the honey and fold in the mixture. You can freeze it until you are ready to use it if you wish.
2. Dance Party!
Turn on your favorite age appropriate tunes and let loose! Spotify, Amazon Music and XM Radio all have good kid friendly options. Mom/Dad, don’t forget to join in. Nothing turns a mood around faster than a good beat and some silly dance moves.
3. Take a Mindfulness Break!
Fablefy.com is chock full of books, printables and videos. You can quickly access all 114 videos on their YouTube channel: Fablefy – The Whole Child. Practice a quick body scan, balloon breaths to ease anxiety. They have activities for young children, teens and adults. Shilpi Mahajan, the founder, is an inspiration.
4. Plan Family Evening Events!
Yes, Mom and Dad are trying to work during the day, and so are the children. This makes coming together as a family even more significant in the evening. Plan a family magic night. Make an invitation with paper and markers and pass out your invites to your family. Come up with a couple of magic tricks that you will show them at the event. You can invite other family members to show their magical talent as well. If magic isn’t your thing, you can do the same thing with family comedy night. You can tell all of your favorite jokes. For an added treat, Zoom in grandparents to share the show and laugh along with you!
5. Indulge Your Creative Side!
If you are looking for a longer break, a guided Art Date with Miss Kate is just what you need. She has a wonderful YouTube channel called PeaceLoveArt with 53 videos that are perfect for students K-8, or anyone who wants to try something new.
6. Dive into a Book!
Looking for an escape from your daily life? Jump into someone else’s for a chapter or two. There are so many great options for picture books, graphic novels, chapter books and novels these days. Want to check out a publisher that specifically lifts up educators? Look at EduMatch Books! They have some fantastic books that are perfect for an escape but also teach a lesson. Some great titles from EduMatch include One Drop of Kindness by Jeff Kubiak, Play? Yay! Baby Talk by Breann Fennell, Fur Friends Forever by LaTezeon Humphrey Balentine, and the I’m Sorry Story by Melody McAllister. (Also, be on the lookout for a graphic novel called The Lab Coat Kids: Monster in the Hall coming out this fall by Melissa Sidebotham and Jennifer Reagan.)
7. Get Outside and Play!
Feel the sun on your face. Play with the hose. Make a mud pie. For a good socially distant but social activity, go for a bike ride with friends! Wear your mask. You will get exercise, be able to chat, laugh and interact with people without getting too close.
8. Channel your Inner Chef!
Try being creative in the kitchen. Write down some recipe ideas you have. Ask Mom and Dad if you can pick up the ingredients the next time you go to the grocery store. When you create a recipe you like, you can write it on a recipe card and add it to your recipe collection. Have recipe swaps with other friends.
9. Help your Community!
Write letters and/or draw pictures for the local senior living center. If you can knit or crochet, you can make some blankets and pillows for the local animal shelter or home for community members in need.
10. Try Scrapbooking!
Pictures are not only fun to take and capture memories that last a lifetime, but they are fun to arrange in unique and colorful ways. You can be creative with fun captions that explain what was happening in the picture. You can draw or cut paper for creative backgrounds. Ask Mom and Dad if you can have pictures to get creative with. Be sure to get your parents’ permission before using any photos for scrapbooking.
At first glance, brain breaks might just seem like a fun distraction for kids. This is definitely true, yet these are also so much more! Regular brain breaks help your child’s mind reset, so they have more mental energy to learn.
Next time your child is working, watch how much they can benefit from these activities and perhaps these will inspire them come up with even more creative activities on their own. And don’t forget to take creative brain breaks during your work time too.
To learn more about Stratford School, visit us online at stratfordschools.com.
How to Know if Your Child is Ready for Summer Camp
When your child hits a certain age, you might think that they’re ready for summer camp or sleepaway camp. However, being ready for camp isn’t as clear as reaching an age. Many kids start summer camp when they’re 8 to 10 years old. Other kids aren’t ready until they’re 11 or 12. To figure out if your child is ready for summer camp, take a look at their maturity level and personality by asking yourself these questions below.
How independent is my child?
Independence is a big factor when determining if your child is ready. At summer camp, and especially sleepaway camp, your child must be independent enough to do things like brush their teeth, shower or bathe, dress themselves and navigate most of their daily routine on their own. Camp counselors may remind campers about their personal hygiene, but it’s most important that kids already know how to do this.
Being self-reliant and mature enough to go to camp goes beyond personal hygiene. If an issue comes up, it’s best if your child knows how to ask an adult at camp for help. Has your child had successful sleepovers at friends’ homes? Have they had successful experiences with babysitters? Going to camp does teach kids independence, so if you’re unsure that they’re ready, look at the other signs.
Is my child confident when trying new things?
For most children, going to summer camp or sleepaway camp is an opportunity to experience new things. Is your child ready to handle it with confidence?
Your child will likely participate in many activities that they haven’t tried before, from archery and sailing to pottery and ceramics. If your child reacts positively when being introduced to brand new things, they’re likely ready for camp.
Confidence is also necessary for making friends and adapting to new surroundings. Think about your child’s previous experiences with meeting unfamiliar kids, meeting new teachers, or exploring new classrooms. Were they excited, or were they upset and tried to avoid the situation? Going to camp can help nudge your child out of their comfort zone, but it’s best that they welcome new things and activities with open arms, at least for the most part.
Does my child take direction well?
Camp life is filled with schedules, planned activities, and rules. Does your child follow instructions well? Do they listen, remember directions and follow through on what they’re told? If your child has a stubborn streak or still has tantrums when they’re told what to do, they may not be ready yet.
While kids are not expected to be perfect at camp, remember that many camp rules are designed for child safety. When they’re not followed, the consequences can be disastrous. Your child should be willing to follow instructions given by adults, whether that’s going to bed at a certain time, moving on to a new activity, or remembering to do something for safety’s sake.
Is my child asking to go to camp?
Here’s a sign as clear as day that your child is ready for camp: they’re asking you to go! Maybe they’ve never experienced camp before and they’ve heard about it from their friends at school. Or maybe your child has been to day camps and is ready for a new adventure at an overnight camp. In either case, if they’re asking to go, that’s a very good sign that they’re ready for it.
What do I want my child to learn?
When you’ve determined that your child is ready, ask yourself what you want them to learn at camp. Many summer camps and sleepaway camps are tailored toward certain activities, educational subjects or adventures.
For example, if you and your child are interested in coding and computers, an academic camp that focuses on that can be really fun for them. If you want your child to spend more time outdoors and moving around, an adventure camp with hiking, canoeing and survival skills is a good option. Is your child a budding creative type? Check out the arts summer camps that focus on theater, dance, art or writing.
If your child isn’t quite ready for overnight camps yet, try sending them to summer camps during the day as a trial run. Summer@Stratford infuses a STEAM curriculum into an enriching, fun summer camp experience. Summer@Stratford has designed subject-based, engaging camp experiences for preschoolers and kindergarteners, elementary-age kids, and middle schoolers. Learn more about Stratford summer camp programs by visiting www.stratfordschools.com/summer.
By Cassandra Lane
When we become parents, getting used to a healthy dose of uncertainty and adventure is part of the game. And the YouTube show The King of Random encourages families to intentionally let “random” happen to enhance your sense of wonder with everyday items such as hairspray, Legos and even candy.
The King of Random (aka TKOR) describes itself as a place where curiosity, creativity and experimentation meet. “We’re all about learning how things work, doing cool projects and sharing our discoveries with you,” says co-founder Janae Thomas. “We’ll blow things up, get our hands dirty, and all learn something new every day.”
After watching a few of TKOR’s videos — “Which Hairspray Makes the Best Flamethrower?,” “Making Hamburger-Sized Skittles” — we sat down over Zoom to speak with Thompson (mom to four curious boys) and co-host Grace Dirig to get an inside look at the origins of the show and how parents of kids of different ages can use these TKOR videos to keep things exciting at home.
Dirig says the show is a mix of hosts, scientists and artists coming together to form a “big brain” to explore why and how things work. TKOR was the brainchild of Thompson’s late husband Grant Thompson, who started doing experiments in the couple’s garage around 2008 and filming trials from start to finish.
Check out our Zoom chat with Janae Thompson and Dirig here.
Diversity and Inclusion – The Benefits in Raising Your Children to be Accepting
By Jeanne Huybrechts, Chief Academic Officer, Stratford School
“Diversity is the mix. Inclusion is making the mix work.” – Andres Tapic
We live in an increasingly diverse world where our children encounter people of varying races, cultures and abilities. As parents, teaching our children about diversity and inclusion is paramount as we focus on raising tolerant, accepting, and empathetic children.
How do you guide your child to grow to be a diverse, inclusive, and compassionate individual? Here are three ways where you, as a parent, can teach your child to have a positive attitude and approach.
1. Be a Role Model. Parents have so much influence on their children’s view of the world and ways of thinking, especially in matters related to how they treat other people and how they make decisions. Parents should message to children at an early age that diversity is not just a nice-to-have, feel-good goal but is a smart goal. Multiple studies of group dynamics in schools and in business have demonstrated the business value of assembling teams composed of people who have different perspectives, different ways of looking at problems and different life experiences to contribute to the collective intelligence of the group. Groups that are more diverse make smarter decisions than homogenous groups. There are deep and long-lasting benefits that inclusion policies and practices can bring to team dynamics, to organizations and to interactions among children in the classroom and on the playground.
2. Explain Differences, Don’t Ignore Them. When developing curriculum and programming related to diversity and inclusion, my three go-to resources are Facing History and Ourselves, the Teaching Tolerance organization, and Common Sense Media. Facing History uses lessons of history to challenge teachers and their students to stand up to bigotry and hate, and they do this by creating rich and rigorous histories of past injustices, of discrimination based on sex, religion, national origin and race – injustices fueled by unaddressed nationalism, racism and prejudice. Included in every lesson package are prompts and exercises that lead to reflection on the sustained damage produced by the injustices. Facing History has many resources for parents seeking to reinforce the values of acceptance and inclusion within diverse communities – the value of getting to know people different from ourselves.
Along these lines, my favorite resource for parents (and teachers) is Beyond the Golden Rule, published by Teaching Tolerance. The 50-page book is free and downloadable. It features advice and resources for parents of toddlers, teenagers and all ages in between. From the Teaching Tolerance website: “Whether you are the parent of a 3-year-old who is curious about why a friend’s skin is brown, the parent of a 9-year-old who has been called a slur because of his religion, or the parent of a 15-year-old who snubs those outside of her social clique at school, this book is designed to help you teach your children to honor the differences in themselves and in others — and to reject prejudice and intolerance.”
3. Use Children’s Books to Explore Differences. Finally, Common Sense Media maintains a wonderful list of books that promote diversity and inclusion for children of all ages – again, toddlers to teens. Among my favorites are A Snowy Day and Last Stop on Market Street, both read aloud books; New Kid, a marvelous graphic novel; Maniac Magee; Stella by Starlight; Wishtree; and American Born Chinese. What these books have in common is that they promote values of diversity and inclusion in memorable stories about interesting characters — stories that show rather than tell, thus grounding abstract concepts like inclusion in examples of real people having authentic experiences and processing genuine feelings.
It’s tempting to try to be completely politically correct when talking about diversity and inclusion, as children are naturally curious about the world around them. When we help children understand these differences, they’ll be one step closer to respecting and celebrating the differences in all people, cultures and experiences and how those differences ultimately can bring the joy of living into our world.
Stratford School has three locations in Los Angeles County with a focus on infusing a strong liberal arts curriculum with STEAM inspired learning. For more information visit stratfordschools.com
Celebrate International Women’s Day with PBS
Parents, teachers and caregivers have the ability to help girls and boys learn how to lift each other up and champion women’s empowerment and equality. We’re happy to share some fun and informative tools available from PBS to open conversations and families move towards a more gender-equal future.
- With PBS LearningMedia’s virtual art collection, Unladylike 2020, kids can learn about key female figures in the civil rights movement, along with groundbreaking women in STEM and the arts.
- In PBS KIDS for Parents’ “How to Raise a Self Confident Girl,” Katie Hurley arms caregivers with easy reminders of questions and beliefs to share with their daughters.
- Learning new skills and volunteering with the community are awesome ways for girls to lead with courage. Parents can find additional ideas in PBS KIDS for Parents’ “How to Raise a Leader.”
- This book list, perfect for ages 3 to 9, is filled with stories featuring girls from different cultures and backgrounds, exploring how dreams can lead to lifelong learnings
Strategies For Struggling Readers
Whether they have a learning disability or other special needs, your child can build a relationship with books.
by Christina Elston
Paul Curtis’s favorite childhood book was The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. He read it in fifth grade, and there is a particular reason that it stayed with him. “It was the first book that I think I really pictured in my mind, and I can still see those images fairly vividly that I created in fifth grade,” Curtis says.
Curtis, the Lower School Reading Chair at The Westmark School in Encino, says imagery can be key to helping struggling readers enjoy a story.
If you notice that your child is getting frustrated with reading, Curtis suggests reading to them. And while you do, talk with them about what they think the characters in the story look like, help them act out parts of the story, or let them color a picture about the story. This engages your child’s sense of dynamic imagery, which could be quite strong even though they struggle with the text on the page. When your child understands that they can still comprehend and enjoy a story, even though they have trouble decoding the words, they’re more likely to want to spend time with books.
It can help if children with special needs or a learning disability understand that, according to Curtis, “their brain is functioning in a different way.” You can have this conversation with your child in an age-appropriate way, and focus on the positive (i.e. and that’s exciting, because you think differently).
At home, let your child take ownership of their reading and choose their own books, and keep the pressure off. “At home, it really is creating that environment where there is no pressure,” says Curtis, who advises parents to resist the urge to correct mistakes when a child is reading for pleasure. Instead, step back and let your child enjoy.
Finding books for struggling readers is a delicate balance between reading level and interest, especially as children get older. The books they are interested in might be a real struggle for them to read. “That’s where reading to the student can come in handy,” Curtis says. Have your child make a list of things they are interested in, and seek out books about those topics at a variety of reading levels. Your child’s teacher can help you choose some books at your child’s reading fluency level, for your child to read independently for practice. And you can reward them by reading aloud to them those at the higher level.
Recently, many of Curtis’s students at Westmark were interested in reading The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. The school contacted families and suggested that parents reward their children for doing school-assigned reading by reading the book aloud.
If your student is getting reading intervention at school or through another program, Curtis advises against pushing them to read too much at home. “You don’t want to burn that student out,” he says. “It really pushes the student away from reading, and that’s the last thing you want.”
But do support a child who chooses to read for pleasure – no matter what the format. A graphic novel or comic might give your child less practice with text, but still builds their relationship with reading. “At least they’re picking up something,” Curtis says.
Tablet computers and other technology can even make reading easier. Westmark uses iPads in a variety of ways, adjusting the background color to make text easier to read, reducing the number of words on each screen for students who are intimidated by seeing too many at once, and using a text-to-speech option so that students can get help with words they are stuck on. Older students can record themselves reading passages out loud, then follow along with the audio and then catch their own mistakes. This takes the parent and the teacher out of the equation and lets the student be independent.
All of these strategies can work together to help build a positive relationship between your child and reading. “I think that the relationship with reading is the most important aspect of a student improving,” says Curtis. “It’s really about the joy of reading.”
The ultimate goal? Building fond memories of a favorite book that will last a lifetime.