focus attention games

Focus Attention Games for Children

With children nowadays being bombarded with sensory overload from a very young age, we shouldn’t be surprised that the number of children diagnosed with ADD has been increasing. In this post I am going to present a few focus attention games for children that do not require much time and preparation on your part, and which will help your children train and increase their attention span and the ability to stay focused, which will be of tremendous use in school and ultimately in all the other fields in life.

You probably already know some of these games, since they are classical, but I will present them anyway so as to bring them to your attention and seeing them under a “focus attention game” tab is probably going to shed a new light on them. Sometimes we overlook the value of things that we got used to and once in a while it is good to shed a new light on things and put them in a new perspective. So, here we go. I’ll start with a very popular game that is great for attention training and is entertaining as well:

Simon Says

Procedure:

Choose one person who will be Simon. Simon gives different orders, but the other players only have to do something if they hear the phrase “Simon says” before the order. For example, if Simon says “Simon says: jump once”, the players should jump once. But if Simon only says: “Jump once!” (without saying “Simon says” first), the players are not supposed to listen to the command.

This game is great for all ages and is a good way of teaching focus and attention.

Here are a few command ideas:

  • play the guitar
  • fly like a butterfly
  • jump like a kangaroo
  • stand on one foot
  • say something in another language
  • do a log roll
  • sing the ABC song
  • clap your hands three times

The player who makes a mistake is out. The winner is the last person to be in the game (besides Simon :).

Variation:

Draw a start line and have the players line up at the start line. Give orders like “Simon says: take three steps forward/ jump forward once/ take five baby steps forward, etc.” If you say “Take two giant steps forward.” without saying “Simon says” first, all the players who move forward need to go back to the start line. The first person to touch Simon is the next Simon.

Traffic Light

Another classic game that is very easy to play and good for teaching children to stay focused is Traffic Light. I have already described it in this post: Games with Kids

Cooking

Cooking with your child is another great way to teach him or her to stay focused. While cooking children follow directions and they also learn to follow through with a project (once you start mixing ingredients, you have to keep working till you finish). The fact that this activity has a finished product that is (hopefully 🙂 also something to look forward to, helps the children stay on track and improve their focused attention. Here are a few easy recipes to make with kids that I recommend:

Easy Recipes to Make with the Kids

For more good ideas of games and activities that help teach your child to stay focused, I recommend this article: Games that Increase Attention and Focus in Children with ADD. I know the article was written primarily for children with ADD, but these activities will definitely help all children increase attention and focus.

Another great article I found about activities that help increase attention in preschoolers can be found here: 7 Close-Ended Games, Activities, & Toys to Build Attention in Preschoolers

I hope you find my article about focus attention games for children useful. I would be most glad to hear from you in the comment section below. Thanks for stopping by!

piano games for kids

Piano Games for Kids

A few months ago I wrote an article about our favorite piano books for kids here. We have been using both books successfully (My First Keyboard Book and Music for Little Mozarts). But what my daughter likes best and the way she learns the most is through games.
The “Music for Little Mozarts” kit provides plenty of games and activities for young children, that will make learning the piano fun, and help them learn basic piano skills at the same time.

But besides those, we came up with our own games and tricks.

piano games for kidsMy daughter’s favorite piano book is “My First Keyboard Book”. I guess she likes it so much because it contains every child’s favorite tunes, it is beautifully illustrated, and the way the music is written is very easy to follow.

BUT that is just a little book, so playing that is not quite exactly the same as playing a real piano. When we saw that our daughter just loved that book, we decided to find stickers with the same colors, and we stuck those to our piano keys.

P1190179Now, my daughter is reading this book and playing the tunes on the actual piano. I know it’s not the same as reading actual music, but still, it gives her good practice, and I just love to hear those tunes coming to life under her little fingers. She feels very encouraged too, and without me prompting her all the time, every once in a while she’ll just sit down and practice her piano songs.

I hope you find these piano games for kids useful too. If you have others that you are using successfully, we’d love to hear from you.

In conclusion, after using these piano books for kids for almost a year, I can definitely say they are great, as far as I know the best piano books for kids out there.

        

 

how to make a tire swing

How to Make a Tire Swing

First of all, CONGRATULATIONS! I hear you are interested in putting together a tire swing. What a great idea! It’s a great, inexpensive project to do with the kids. You’ll be proud of the result, and the kids will have fun for hours and years to come.

Here’s WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

  • how to make a tire swinga TIRE -get one FREE from American Tires. We went to the location close to our house, told the gentleman there what we needed, and he gave us a nice large one for free.
  • 3 U-BOLTS
  • CHAIN
  • 1 CARABINER or QUICK LINK
  • clear sealant -optional
  • 1 ft of hose or other protective pad for the branch
  • a solid branch

How to Make a Tire Swing:how to make a tire swing

  1. Measure the circumference of the branch you will tie the swing to. Add 20 inches. This is the length of the first piece of chain that you will need.
  2. Measure the distance from the branch to the ground. Subtract 2 ft. This is the length of the next 3 pieces of chain that you will need.
  3. Prepare the tire that you will be using. Wash it. After it dries, you can give it a coating with a clear sealant. It will look better and last longer, but this step is optional.
  4. Drill the holes for the u-bolts in the tire at equal distances from each other. (Measure the circumference of the tire, divide it in tree, and that is how far apart you are going to space the u-bolts.)
  5. Put the u-bolts through the 3 equal pieces of chain and then screw the u-bolts in place on the tire.
  6. Place the first piece of chain around the branch. Use some sort of padding to protect the branch. One possible solution is to use an old piece of hose that you cut in half lengthwise and put it under the chain so that it does not cut into the branch.
  7. Using the carabiner, connect the piece of chain that goes around the branch to the chains connected to the tire.
  8. Congratulations! Your swing is ready to use!

Tips:

  • Place the tire on a stool to make it easier to connect the chains. how to make a tire swing
  • When you buy the chain, you will find various types of carabiners or quick links right next to where you buy the chain from. Make sure the carabiner (or whatever type of link you use to connect the chains) is large enough for three different chains to go in on the bottom. Also check and make sure the link will hold a heavy load. Remember it’s not just the children’s weight that it is supposed to hold, but also the tire. Consider momentum too. Look at the picture on the right to see what I used to connect the chains.
  • The most expensive part of this project is the chain. Make sure you take the right measurements. Once you have the store cut it to your requested length, they will not take it back.

Why we like a tire swing better than a regular swing:

  • The children can both go in it at the same time.
  • There are multiple ways in which you can use it. My children love to swing, but they also like to spin it and go round and round. My son lies down on his belly and pretends he is superman, my daughter likes to lie down on her back in it. It looks really comfy. 🙂
  • I like the classical look. I think it looks great in our backyard. Everybody who comes over (and I don’t mean just children who come for play dates!) likes it. I guess it just reminds people of childhood and good times.
  • You cannot go very fast in a tire swing, not as fast as in a regular thing. Some children will take that as a minus, but I feel it’s safer that way.

I hope you find my article about how to make a tire swing useful and easy to follow. I would like to hear from you if you have any questions in the comments section below. Also, if you have pictures of your own tire swing, we’d love to see it!

If you would like not just a swing, but an entire nice playground in your backyard, take a look here: My Favorite Playground Sets for Backyard

 

playground sets for backyard

7 Things to Consider When Shopping for Playground Sets for Backyard

All of us who have kids and a decent sized backyard like to see the kids playing nicely in there. Outdoor play is healthy, fun, helps keep the indoor space ordered and gets the wiggles out. And the backyard is the most convenient and safe place for that. But the kids won’t just play outside because the fresh air feels nice. They need something fun and entertaining out there, like a playground set, for example. Fortunately nowadays you can find nice playground sets for backyard to fit all budgets and spaces available. So, here are

7 Things to Consider When Shopping for Playground Sets for Backyard

1. Dimensions

Measure the space you have available to set up the play-set and try to make the most of it. Online shopping is very convenient, but photos can sometimes be deceptive. Always check the dimensions of the set you are looking at and make sure it fits the allotted space. Besides the space occupied by the equipment, keep in mind that you need to plan for use zones.

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, stationary climbing equipment and slides should have a use zone extending a minimum of 6′ in all directions from the perimeter of the equipment. This area should be free of other equipment and obstacles onto which a child might fall.

Swings should have a use zone extending a minimum of 6′ from the outer edge of the support structure on each side. The use zone in front and back of the swing should extend out a minimum distance of twice the height of the swing as measured from the ground to the swing hangers on support structure.

This leads us into the next thing to consider:

2. Safety

The most frequent playground related injuries are caused by falls to the ground, that is why it is important to have protective surfacing under and around the playground equipment. Some of the most common materials you can use to create a shock absorbing protective surface would be wood chips, double shredded bark mulch, or even fine sand.

To prevent injuries from impact with moving swings, swings should not be too close together or too close to the support structures. Swing spacing should be:

-at least 8 inches between suspended swings and between a swing and the support frame.

-at least 16 inches from swing support frame to a pendulum see-saw.

-minimum clearance between the ground and underside of swing set should be 8 inches.

Swing sets should be securely anchored.

Openings that are closed on all sides should be less than 3′ 1/2″ or greater than 9″ to avoid potential head entrapment.

Any moving parts which may present a pinching or crushing hazard should not be exposed.

When purchasing playground sets for backyard, the manufacturer needs to provide you with written material to indicate that they have tested their product in an independent lab and that it meets the safety standards set by ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials). If it does not pass, you should not purchase the product.

3. Materials

The three most used materials for playground sets for backyard are wood, metal and plastic. Each one has it’s advantages and disadvantages.

playground sets for backyard

WOOD has a natural look, it is easy to repair and easy to attach elements to. It is inexpensive and can be used in creative ways for various designs. While not as durable as metal or plastic, it can definitely last for a long time if properly maintained. The only disadvantage that I can think of is that it can have splinters or splits.

playground sets for backyard

PLASTIC has no splinters, it is smooth and friendly to hold, which makes it great for toddlers playgrounds. It lasts a long time and does not get hot. Initially it can be bright and attractive, but beware, colors fade over time, that is why I would advise going with natural colors that blend in the landscape, rather than artificial ones that show wear more obviously. Cost wise plastic can be expensive, but on the other side, you will find small plastic play-sets which are affordable and fit smaller spaces.

playground sets for backyard

METAL (steel or aluminum) is strong, lasts a long time, is sturdy and can be painted in any color. The disadvantages would be that it can get hot, it is expensive and it hurts to fall against. Metal playgrounds are also harder to add to as you wish.

Most playgrounds use a combination of several different materials.

Click on any of the images for more details.

4. Design/ Features

I was going to put design on top of the list, but I got a dose of realism and went for safety and space first :). Now, we get to the design, which is my favorite part. Of course the way the playground looks matters. It’s gonna be there for a looong time, so it’d better look good! 🙂 But that’s not actually what I’m thinking of first and foremost. When I talk about design, I mean features, the type of activities children can have on it. You know your child’s skills and preferences best, so go for the features that your child loves most. Some of the most popular are:

  • swings playground sets for backyard
  • slides
  • climbing wall
  • monkey bars
  • sand box
  • picnic table
  • play house
  • trapeze bar
  • tunnel

There is a variety of types of swings and slides -standard belt swings, baby swing, swing glider, straight slide, curvy slide, covered slide, etc.

Please try to look at the playground set from the perspective of your child, and not only considering the aesthetic elements. Let me give you an example. A new playground had recently been built in our neighborhood and my kids couldn’t wait to go check it out. My daughter had been on tons of slides, she is agile, rarely falls or has accidents. The first time she went down the curvy slide at the new park she smacked her face against the side of the slide where it curved. She cried, and she does not cry out of nothing. She got a bruise on her face like never before! While I was still comforting her, another girl about the same height went down the same slide and had the very same type of collision. That made me realize that the accidents were due to the angle the slide was at and the way it curved. I wonder if that slide was tested for such incidents. There was a smaller straight slide that would have been perfect for younger kids. The only thing was that the steps led to this bigger (and dangerous!) slide. The only way to get to the small slide was by walking on a rope to an island a few feet away, and then go down the small slike. The younger kids were not even able to hold to the sidebars when walking on the rope, since the sidebars were too far away for their reach. Do you get the picture? This playground looked all nice, but it wasn’t functional, and it was even dangerous. I’m sure it was put together by some guys who knew everything about plastic, wood, metal, and even design from an aesthetic point of view, but close to nothing about children, whom the playground was designed for! I bet there was no mom on the team! A mother would have noticed those things. What a pity to have invested into a playground that was a failure, from a child’s perspective, from the start!

5. Long Term Use

If you invest in a good quality, big size playground set, you will obviously want to make the most of your money and have it used for many years. Besides buying sturdy equipment made with good quality materials, think about the way the playground is going to be used and how you can make it grow with your child. Some sets allow you to add on new components and subsystems to keep up with the increased activity levels and new play interests of your child. On the other hand, some playground features, like the swing, monkey bars, play house, are classical, all time favorites, that young and older children enjoy alike.

6. Shipping

A playground set is not something you can fit in your trunk, even if you have an SUV. Look for places that deliver the play set for free.

7. Assembly

Take into account the fact that the playground set will need to be assembled. Some stores offer professional installation, you can hire someone to do it, or you can do it yourself. Usually the set comes with all the hardware you need to put it together and with instructions. Think of putting everything together as part of the fun. After you put your own time and work into it, you will be proud to see the beautiful playground, your kids happily playing on it… it will be a special kind of satisfaction.

Best Places to Shop for Playground Sets for Backyard

Amazon is a great place to shop for playground sets for backyard. It offers a wide selection of play sets, free shipping, and most of the time the best price. You can take a look at a bunch of options from the comfort of your home, and you can also read a lot of reviews from other people who have purchased those playground sets.

Toys R Us offers a wide selection too, but is a little bit pricey. If you have a nice discount coupon, then this might be the way to go. Unfortunately, even if you do go to a physical Toys R Us location it’s unlikely that you will be able to see one of these playground sets set up, so you would still have to order one online.

Home Depot sells good quality playground sets and have quite a few options too. They also have a few set up for display, so that would give you a better idea of how the playground will actually look.

Backyard Fun specializes in playground equipment. They have a wide selection of play sets available, you can even make your own combinations depending on your children’s preferences and space available. Backyard Fun has showrooms in quite a few locations, so visiting one of these would again, hopefully, give you a good chance to see actual products before purchasing them.

My Favorite Playground Setplayground sets for backyard

After looking at tons of playground sets for backyard, my top choice is the Southampton Swing Set Kit.

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT IT:

It has all of my kids’ favorite things to play with on a playground:

  • two swings (so there’ll be no fighting about who goes in the swing first, plus swinging with a buddy is better than swinging on your own!),
  • two different slides (my son loves the enclosed tube slides so this one is a must)
  • climbing rock wall with rope assist
  • ring/ trapeze combo bar -my kids both do gymnastics and they love the ring/ trapeze bar
  • picnic table and clubhouse -what’s better than having a snack outdoors on a nice day. The table is also perfect for crafts. I prefer to see my little artists work on their projects out there than inside the house. I love to see their creativity, but they can make quite a mess. The outdoor playhouse is so much better for some projects than the dining room table!

Other things I like about this playground set:

  • meets and exceeds ASTM safety standards
  • the slides come with a lifetime warranty against cracks and breaks
  • looks absolutely wonderful!

DIMENSIONS:

The dimensions of the assembled set are: 19 Ft. W x 16 Ft. L x 12 Ft. H.

The recommended safety use zone for this assembled unit is 31′ x 16′

RECOMMENDED AGE:

3 years – 10 years

BEST PRICE:

Hope you find this information useful! If you have any questions, please feel free to post them in the comments section below.

easy recipes to make with the kids

Easy Recipes to Make With the Kids

My kids, 3 and 5 years old, love to cook with me. They have play food and cooking play sets, but they like the real thing the best (of course!). And while there are so many benefits to letting your kids cook with you, we have all dreaded their “help” now and then. In this post I am going to talk about a few things that are going to help make cooking together be a good experience both for you and your kids. I’ll start with probably the most important element: when cooking with the kids, it is essential to plan on using easy, kid-friendly recipes. So, without further delay, here are a few easy recipes to make with the kids that we recommend:

Eggs-traordinary Egg Bake 

easy recipes to make with the kids
Eggs-traordinary Egg Bake

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 chopped red bell pepper -optional
  • 1 green onion chopped or herbs -optional

DIRECTIONS:

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Crack all the eggs into a bowl. Then add the milk.
  • Whisk the eggs and milk together.
  • Add the Greek yogurt or sour cream, butter, cheese, salt, pepper and chopped bell pepper and green onion or herbs. Whisk the egg mixture until all the ingredients are combined.
  • Pour the mixture into a 9×9 inches baking pan. Then ask an adult to put it in the oven.
  • Bake the mixture for 30-35 minutes or until it is mostly firm.

ENJOY!

NUTRITION FACT:

  • Eggs are protein-packed and a great source of vitamins! What a great day to start the day!

PERSONAL NOTE:

  • My daughter, who has just turned 5, loves to make this recipe! She has learnt to crack eggs and is very fond of it. 🙂 This egg bake is really fluffy and tasty. We definitely recommend it for breakfast or brunch. (We actually had it once for dinner too, per my daughter’s request :).

Creamy Guacamole easy recipes to make with the kids

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2-3 ripe avocados
  • 1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice
  • 1/2 of a tomato -chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • tortilla chips

DIRECTIONS:

  • Cut the avocados in half and remove the pits (this is the grown ups job).
  • Use a spoon to scoop the avocado flesh out of its skin. Place the avocado flesh in a bowl.
  • Use a fork to mash the avocado.
  • Add the lime or lemon juice, salt, and chopped tomato. Stir everything together.
  • Serve with tortilla chips.

NUTRITION FACT:

  • Avocados are a super fruit packed with fiber! Their vitamins and minerals do great things, like give you energy and keep your skin healthy.

Mini Muffin Pizzaeasy recipes to make with the kids

INGREDIENTS:

  • English muffins
  • tomato sauce
  • shredded mozzarella
  • toppings: pepperoni, olives, and/or mushrooms

DIRECTIONS:

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Place the muffin halves on a baking sheet.
  • Spread tomato sauce on each muffin half using a spoon.
  • Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the sauce. Then place your favorite toppings over the cheese.
  • Bake for 10 minutes of until the cheese melts. Let cool for 5 minutes. Enjoy! 🙂

NUTRITION FACT:

  • Tomatoes are rich in vitamins A and C. They contain lycopene, which helps reduce the risk of heart disease. Cooking tomatoes brings out even more hear-healthy lycopene!

Crispy Cookies easy recipes to make with the kids

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 stick (4 oz.) butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • nonstick cooking spray or vegetable oil
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups Rice Krispies or similar cereal
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet with the oil or spray.
  • In a bowl, mix the butter and sugar until creamy.
  • Add the egg and vanilla. Mix some more. Add the flour, salt, and baking soda and mix well. Stir in the cereal and chocolate chips.
  • Use a tablespoon to scoop a mound of dough, and form it into a ball with your hands. Place it on the cookie sheet. Space the balls about 2 inches apart.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes.

NUTRITION FACTS:

  • Ok, ok. I must admit there is no super health benefit here, but I just couldn’t pass the cookie recipe. Who does not enjoy making cookies, and eating them! 🙂

Tips for cooking with kids

  • Be patient, and make sure you set aside enough time for this activity.
  • Don’t worry too much about the mess. Make the clean up after the cooking part of the “game”. That’s something the children need to learn to do as well.
  • Be safe. Make sure the children know what is ok for them to do in the kitchen, and what is not. Do not let them handle hot or sharp objects, or anything that might cause an accident.


Best thing I found for cooking with my kids

My daughter has just turned five. One of her birthday gifts that she received on this occasion was a kids cooking seteasy recipes to make with the kids similar to the one in the picture on the right. The set contains kitchen tools that the child can use to prepare real food. You might wander why you would need something like that when you have an already well equipped kitchen. Well, the great thing about the set is that while all the pieces can be used for “real” cooking, they are safe for children (it even contains knife and scissors that are safe for children to handle).

The other great thing I love about it is that it comes with recipes that are very easy recipes to make with the kidseasy to follow, even for children who cannot read yet, since every measurement tool has a different color and the instructions use a color code. The recipes are perfect for kids, and the instructions are accompanied by colorful pictures, safety tips, and even fun facts.

My daughter is very happy with her cooking set and is using it a lot. It’s great that she is learning to follow directions, she is gaining cooking skills, and we are having a great time together.

So, I definitely recommend this kit. For more details or to order it, click on the amazon icon below.

If you are looking for a cooking set for an older kid (6 years and up) I recommend the Deluxe Cooking Chef for ages 6+:

Hope you have a great experience cooking with your kids. May every recipe you make turn into a delicious dish, and most of all, make unforgettable priceless memories!

I’d love to hear about your favorite recipes you make with your kids in the comments section below!

PS -Looking for a chef costume like the one featured in the top picture? You can get one here.

spring activities for preschoolers

Spring Activities for Preschoolers -Fun, Creative Projects With So Much to Learn From

Before you read: If you do not have a backyard, a garden, or green fingers, please do not go away when you see the word “gardening”! 🙂 Read on and you’ll see quite a few creative projects that kids are going to have a great time with, and which do not require a garden per se or a lot of knowledge and gardening skills.

I love spring! The air is warm and so pleasant, just bursting with possibilities! My kids and I love to go out in our backyard, enjoy the fresh air, and do gardening, or at least play the gardeners. There are quite a few spring activities for preschoolers that you can do with gardening in mind.

I believe gardening is great for kids! What kid doesn’t like to dig in the dirt?! Observing the seeds sprout and grow is a great science activity for preschoolers, very hands on and with a lot to learn from too. Growing your own vegetables is also a great way to get the kids to eat healthy foods. For example, my daughter had not been very fond of tomatoes, till we started growing our own cherry tomatoes. While she wouldn’t touch the ones from the store, she would pluck them off the vine and eat them as soon as they started to ripe in our garden. Other important things that your child will learn when doing a gardening project will be patience, following through, and being responsible. What parent or educator wouldn’t want their children to learn and practice that?!

So, here are a few spring activities for preschoolers that you can do with your kids this time of the year:

Sprouting -Science Experiment 

Click on the picture to purchase bean seeds that are guaranteed to sprout.

What you will need:

  • 2-3 Bean Seeds
  • 1 clear small jar
  • 4 cotton balls

What to do:

Soak the cotton balls in water. Put 2 cotton balls in the jar, place 2 bean seeds on top and add 2 more cotton balls. Place the jar in a warm place (room temperature is fine) where it receives good light.

The seeds will sprout in 3 days, and they’ll grow right under your eyes! You can transfer them to an outdoor garden, or you can just watch them grow in the jar.

I did this experiment as a child and 30+ years later I still remember it! It must have been something! 🙂

Plant and Indoor Garden spring activities for preschoolers

Want to take things one (or a few more) step(s) up? Then I definitely recommend this Grow & Learn Indoor Garden Craft Kit for Kids. The kit contains two safe clear plastic jars that your child can decorate to their heart’s desire (paints and stickers are included in the kit too). It also comes with tasty herb seeds selected for kid-appeal and fast growth. There are enough seeds in the kit to grow and replant herbs for an entire year! The activity booklet included in the kit will provide extra related activities and information.

This is not a toy that you play with for 5 minutes and then toss aside. While the child has a lot to do as soon as he or she opens this box, the fun and the activities keep lasting for an entire year, and the love of learning, gardening, fresh food, cooking, and much more last for a life time!

For more details or to order this Indoor Garden Kids Kit click on its picture on the right.

Fairy Garden 

spring activities for preschoolers
Click on the picture for more details about the Fairy Garden Kit

It may sound like magic, but I promise you can have this for real in your own house or garden! Just take a look at this kit: Enchanted Fairy Garden Kit. The kit comes with everything you need to create and grow your own magical miniature fairy land. Plant the seeds, sprinkle some pixie dust on top, and watch the seeds sprout and grow, while you decorate and arrange your beautiful garden.

For more details or to order the Fairy Garden Kit click on its picture on the right.

Visit a Local Farm

Visiting a local farm is a great way for the kids to learn about where their food is coming from. Local Harvest is a website where you can go to find farms in your area that are open to visitors. Please remember that farmers are very busy people, and the farms are their businesses and their homes at the same time, so you need to respect their privacy. It’s always best to call ahead and make sure they are open for visitors at the time that you are planning to go.

Plant a Garden 

spring activities for preschoolers
Like this girl’s gardening kit? Click on the picture for more details.

While I kept giving ideas to people who would love to do some gardening but do not have a garden, I should not neglect the real thing: Take the kids outside and let them get their hands dirty and have fun while learning and working on your garden. Start by preparing the area that you are going to plant. Pull out the weeds, water the soil if it’s dry, add some garden soil if the quality of the soil you have is not great for gardening. Plant the seeds following the directions on the package and continue tending to them as necessary. You’ll be surprised by how fast the kids learn about plants and nature with this hands on activity and how better they’ll eat the food they’ve grown than the store bought food.

Tips for gardening with kids:

    1. Always remember first and foremost that you are raising kids, not plants! Sometimes when you want to do both, these two goals can conflict and that may cause tension. While you do want to teach your child about gardening, about being gentle and careful with plants, do not get mad or frustrated if the child picks the tomatoes before they are ripe or pulls out a nice plant instead of a weed.
    2. Just forget about “Please be careful and don’t get messy.” This is a dirty job. If you worry too much about staying clean you are going to be really frustrated!
    3. Be wisely about the seeds and plants you choose. It’s always best to go for native plants that grow really easily. Other favorites for kids are: sunflower, cherry tomatoes, herbs, beans, corn, lettuce… That’s already quite a bit!

For more tips and spring activities for preschoolers related to gardening, click on the books below:

          

 

best gifts for 3 year old boys

Best Gifts for 3 Year Old Boys -Checked!

A couple of months ago we visited some friends who had a marble run, and my son, who was only two at that time (closer to three though) absolutely loved it! So, I was wondering whether to buy one for him for Christmas. Would a marble run be a good gift for a 3-year-old boy? What would be the best gifts for 3 year old boys? I looked into this for quite a bit and here is the conclusion I came to, after researching and also trying things out with my son, who, by the way, has just turned three today!!! 🙂 Hip-hip-hoooray! :))

Option #1: Marble Run best gifts for 3 year old boys

As I’ve said, my son loved the marble run at his friends’ house, so I was sure he would like one too. But would it be safe for him? Would he be able to put it together?

Because of these questions, I started looking into alternatives.

The first one I could think of was to buy a car race track. Thus, the concept would be similar, with the cars racing down the spiraling track, but safer, since cars would be harder to swallow! Here’s a nice one that I looked at:

Option #2: Fisher-Price Little People City Skyway best gifts for 3 year old boys

As I’ve said, this looked like a safer option for my little one. It has a lot to play with too, and the child doesn’t have to put it together to play with it. It needs to be assembled by an adult when first taken out of the box, and then it stays that way, since the pieces are screwed together. It definitely looks like something a little boy would love, and it has great reviews too!

Option #3: Fisher-Price Spinnyos Racin’ Chasin’ Super Slide best gifts for 3 year old boys

While pondering whether to get the marble run or not, I came across another alternative that looked very appealing: Spinnyos. Again, it is similar with the marble run in that you have things racing down a track, but obviously safer since the YOs (the pieces that spin down the track) are far bigger than marbles (they are about the size of a yo-yo).

What to choose?!

All of these three options looked great. (By the way, if you want more details or reviews for any of these, just CLICK ON THE IMAGES. I inserted links there to make it easier for you, if you are interested, to find more info.)

Spinnyos looked VERY interesting, with the magnetic slide. I tried one out at the store and it was fascinating, even for an adult, to watch the YO spin down the track! But I wasn’t sure how long this would be fun to play with, since you don’t get to change the track, or even put it together. You just let the YOs spin down and watch them. As I’ve said, it was almost love at first sight, but because there wasn’t much to actually DO with it, I went back and looked at the marble run again.

The car track definitely looked like a great option too. There were a few more things to do with this than just let the cars run down one way. The child can flip switches to change the exits on the Skyway, it also has a gate that can be opened and closed, a working crane, traffic signals, gas pump, parking meter… lots of stuff little boys can get busy with.

The one feature the marble run has that the two other options do not, is the fact that the 100 pieces can be assembled in a wide variety of ways. This way, the child is not just letting the marbles run down the structure and watching them, but they are also using their fine motor skills and thinking skills to assemble the marble run. And putting all of that together, testing it, and developing the structure further, is lots of fun too. Younger kids can build simpler structures, and older ones (like my husband) can put together very nice complex ones.

What did I get?

I’d say that all three of these are among the best gifts for 3-year-old boys. I bought the Imaginarium marble run for my son, because I liked how you can do a lot with it and the building part as well. The gift has been opened a month ago now, and our entire family (3-year-old boy, almost 5-year-old girl, parents and grandparents, cousins and uncles) has enjoyed playing with it. I know the article title is about boys gifts, but my daughter is just as interested in this marble run as her brother is. They both love it! And it also provides opportunity to do a science lesson about the laws of physics.

In Conclusion, the marble run is a great gift for preschoolers (3-year-olds and up).

If you have younger children in the house, I would stay away from marbles though (as I’ve said, my other child is older), and go for the Spinnyos or the car track.

If you would like to see more details about any of these products, or ORDER them, please click on the corresponding icon below:

          

To see more great toys for 3-year-old boys, take a look at article too:

Best Gifts for 3-Year-Old Boys (1)

odd or even number game

Odd or Even Number Game -Math Fun

I love educational games that help children learn and practice important skills while playing and having fun! Here is a simple, but very efficient odd or even number game that can be used at home or in the classroom to teach this elementary math concept in a fun way.

Ladybugs 

Number of players:

  • 2 or moreodd or even number game

What you will need:

  • 10 index cards for 2 players. Add 5 more cards for each additional player.
  • pencil, red and black crayons or markers
  • scissors

Preparation: odd or even number game

  • Cut the index cards in half.
  • Draw a ladybug on each card.
  • Color the ladybugs red and add on black dots, giving two ladybugs one dot each, two lady bugs two dots each, and so on.

How to play: odd or even number game

  • Place the cards face down.
  • One player’s aim is to collect 10 ladybugs with an odd number of dots, and the other player is going to collect the ladybugs with an even number of dots.
  • Take turns drawing a card.
  • If the player who is collecting ladybugs with an even number of dots draws a ladybug with even dots, he will keep the card. If the card he has drawn has an odd number of dots, he will return the card to the pile and wait for his next turn to draw another card.
  • The player who is the first to collect 10 cards wins.

Variations:

  • You can write index cards with numbers and have the children match the number cards with the lady bugs (count the dots on each ladybug and choose the matching number card).

Tips:

  • For younger players you can have a list of odd numbers and a list of even numbers that you give to players for reference.

I hope you like this odd or even number game and that your children enjoy playing it and learning their numbers.

Here are a few other great number/ math games that I recommend. Click on any of the amazon icons below for more details or to order:

               

 

 

Educational Coloring Pages for Preschoolers

I have just discovered a great free resource and I would like to share it with all of you:

Educational Coloring Pages for Preschoolers educational coloring pages for preschoolers

The Educational Coloring Pages website offers a wide variety of FREE printable coloring pages that are great for preschoolers. If you scroll through their left hand side menu you will find free printable coloring pages that can be used to teach the alphabet, numbers, math skills, thinking skills, shapes and colors, and more. You can also find coloring pages for every season, holiday, and a lot of coloring pages with cartoon characters that little boys and girls love. These are great not just to keep kids busy. Coloring is a great exercise that prepares kids for writing.

If you are interested in more than just a few educational coloring pages, I definitely recommend their Jumbo Workbooks for Early Learning. For only $24.95 you can download all 5 jumbo workbooks and print and reprint them as many times as you want. Children will work on their ABCs and 123s without even realizing they are doing school work :).

To download the Jumbo Workbooks, click HERE.

Christmas Games for Little Kids

Whether you are looking for Christmas games to play with your kids these days, as we prepare to celebrate this beautiful holiday, or you are looking for ideas of things to do with little ones for your Christmas party or family reunion, you’ve come to the right place. The Christmas games for little kids that I am going to describe below are written with kids ages 3 to 6 in mind, but I believe children of all ages will enjoy playing. As to the number of players, I will present games that are very flexible in this respect -they can be played with as few as 1 or 2 kids, as well as with a large group.

Nativity Play Christmas games for little kids

Ever since my kids were very little, I noticed that they paid more attention and remembered stories better if we acted them out. The first Christmas story, of when Jesus Christ was born, is a great story to act out, since most children are familiar with it. I just did that with my kids the other day. We pretended to be the magi. It was a rainy day, so it wasn’t hard to pretend it was night and we were exploring the sky, when we noticed a very special star. We realized right away this had to have a special meaning. We looked through our books and came to the conclusion a great king, probably the greatest of all, was born. We got really excited and decided to leave right away searching for the king. We took special gifts, got on our camels (my son climbed the rocking horse, I was “riding” a stuffed horse and my daughter was riding Maximus, Rapunzel’s horse -but we pretended they were all camels). The journey was long -we couldn’t reach the destination in one day, so when night came again we set up a tent, fed the camels, had our dinner around a camp fire, and slept in the tent. They really loved this part, so we repeated it several times, and that was actually the accurate way to play, since the magi’s journey took quite a few days and nights.

After a while we reached Jerusalem. King Herod (a stuffed bunny) hadn’t heard anything of a king being born, and was upset to hear about it. But he provided us with precious information, after talking with his counselors. He told us the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. He also asked us to stop by his palace again on our way back and let him know exactly where we found the new king, so that he could go pay homage too.

We continued following the star and before long we found Him! (I set up our Little People Nativity set with the stable, baby Jesus in the manger, Mary, the farm Christmas games for little kidsanimals, a shepherd and a few sheep, an angel…). When we found the King we jumped up and down with joy, and then we bowed before Him and presented our gifts. The next night, an angel spoke to us in our sleep and told us to go back on a different route and not tell King Herod about baby Jesus, and so we did.

Our play ended here, but the kids liked it so much that they asked me to play the nativity play with them over and over again.

If you have more players you can assign more parts -Mary, Joseph, angles, shepherds, magi, King Herod, inn keeper and his wife. You can have as many angels, shepherds and magi as you want, depending on how many kids you need to engage.

The next time we played, in order to get some variation and expand a little, we built up houses from our lego pieces and had Mary and Joseph go from house to house asking for shelter. They were turned down every time, but in the end they found a stable where they could spend the night.

My kids (ages 3 and 5) loved acting out this story. They enjoyed putting up the props too, and that kept them engaged for quite some time. The tent was their favorite part, and they also took the time to prepare the food we served around the camp fire. Another thing that is sure to get the kids excited is dressing up for the play. You can play without dressing up, but if you can do it, that will be a lot of fun too.

You can keep it simple or do a detailed presentation with more elaborate props and costumes, depending on how many children you have, what ages they are, and how long you want to spend playing this game.

You can play just for fun, to keep the kids engaged in an educational fun game that will help them understand and remember the nativity story better, or you can practice first and then present the play to the other family members/ adults present at the Christmas party. That way you will have a great activity to engage and entertain everybody, to get into the atmosphere of the first Christmas and to create unforgettable memories.

Christmas Hot Potato

Children sit in a circle and pass a ball or stuffed animal around while you play Christmas music. When the music stops, the child who has the ball chooses a surprise gift from a box that you have prepared with small surprise gifts (stickers, spinning tops, yo-yos, harmonicas, bounce balls, balloons, etc.)

Christmas ABC Game

Have the children sing the ABC song and find something from related to Christmas for each letter of the alphabet (for example -A is for angles, B is for Bethlehem, C is for Christ, D is for the donkey Mary rode on, E is for elf, F is for frankincense or for Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la, G is for gifts, and so on).

There are many was you can play starting from this idea:

  • You can go through the alphabet and challenge the kids to come up with words as described above.
  • You can ask the kids for words related to Christmas and then ask what letter those words start with. Cross out the letters of the alphabet written on a wipe board or paper as you go through them.
  • You can work on this task as a team, or split the kids in two teams and ask the questions alternatively. The team that gets stuck on finding an answer loses.
  • You can play the ABC song off youtube. During this time, the kids pass a ball around. When the music stops, the child who has the ball has to say one word starting with the letter that the music stopped on.

Christmas Coloring Pages Christmas games for little kids

Every time you have little kids around, it’s a good idea to have some crayons and coloring pencils ready so that they have something nice and quiet to work on. Most kids love coloring (especially if you have some nice coloring pages) and recent studies show that coloring has great therapeutic effects for people of all ages, not only children. To print a few nice Christmas coloring pages, follow this link. On the left hand side menu, in the “Holiday Coloring Pages” section, you’ll find “Christmas Coloring”. Select a few different coloring pages of various difficulty levels and print out as many as you need.

Other Games

Here are a couple of my kids favorite games to play. You can play them any time you have young kids around and they’ll have a great time.

  • Mr. Fox -to see full description click here
  • Mother, May I? -to see full description read this article

Traffic Light

This game is similar to Mother May I described above. Players line up at one end of the play area, and one player, who represents a traffic light, stands at the other end. When the “traffic light” has his/ her back turned to the other players, he/ she calls “green light” and the players advance carefully. When the traffic light turns quickly and says: “Red light!”, all players freeze. Anyone caught moving goes back to the start line. The person who gets to tag the “traffic light” wins and becomes the next traffic light.

Birdie, Birdie, Move Your Nest

Mark the “birds’” nests about 12 feet apart. Have one less nest than players. Players occupy the marked spaces. The player who does not have a “nest” stands in the middle and gives various commands, such as:

  • Birdie, birdie, flap your wings.
  • Birdie, birdie, sing a song.
  • Birdie, birdie, wash your feathers.

…or whatever else you can think of. The players act as directed. When the person in the middle calls:

  • Birdie, birdie, move your nest!

all the players have to leave their marked spots and find a different “nest”. The player in the middle will occupy one of the nests. Since there is one less nest than players, the birds need to react fast when this command is issued, or they will remain without a nest and then be the next person to stand in the middle.

This game is best played with 5 to 10 players. Try it next time you have a play date with friends, or a party.

I hope you like my list of Christmas games for little kids and you found some inspiration here.

Have a great time with your little ones and Merry Christmas, everyone!