A Better Toy for Travel Than LEGO: Plus Plus Blocks Ideas

Do you wish your kids would play with something other than LEGO? Mix it up with this building toy, perfect for ages 3-10 years! This toy is great for creative thinking and it's wonderful for travel, for playing at a siblings practice, or for playing at home.

In this video, you'll learn what Plus Plus Blocks are, why you should try them out, and the favorite things our kids build with them:



What are Plus-Plus Blocks?

They are little plus signs that allow kids to build in all directions.

Why do we love them?

1. Perfect for grabbing on the go, the tube packaging is easy to stuff into a bag or large purse and run out the door. It's no big deal if a few are lost because they are all the same! I've spent hours looking in the grass for a dropped LEGO!

2. Great for all ages - they have larger pieces for young kids, and the regular sets are even fun for adults!

3. They don't hurt if you accidentally step on one!

What do we build?

People, robots, humans, dogs, eagles, babies, animals,...

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3 Easy Ways to Foster A Love of Reading in Your Preschooler

We just got back from a trip to visit my brother and his family in Minnesota.

Their 5-year-old and 7-year-old wake up in the morning and read chapter books. They ride in the car and read chapter books. They bring books along everywhere and literally read for fun often throughout the day.

Our daughter also loves to read, but our 9-year-old son just started liking books and our 5-year-old rarely pick up books for fun. Here are three tools we've used to foster reading when we can't read aloud. 

Here's the video, with all the details!

For easy reference, here are the tools mentioned:

1. LeapReader Pen and Books

2. meReader Book Packs

3. Starfall app

4. Fun With Dick & Jane Books

These tools are great, but the most important thing you can do for a pre-reader is READ ALOUD often. This book is a handy resource to have available for reference on which books work for which ages. 

It states the commonalities early readers have are:

1. Was often read to.

2....

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The Secret Building Toy Our Oldest Likes Better Than LEGO!

There's more to building toys than basic blocks and LEGO. Our oldest child started with this toy at age four and is still building with it five years later!

What in the world could it be? It's called: ZOOBs. I found them on super sale a few years ago and I kind of bought them on a whim. But what was surprising to me was how much our son absolutely loved them. He would lie in bed for hours and build.

What makes them unique is the pieces that you use to build. They have five different pieces that join together in different ways, a few with round balls on one end. What you can do is join these pieces together in different ways to make toys that can move and swing and have a rotation in all sorts of directions.

ZOOBs are perfect for preschool to early elementary kids. So ages four to ten. If you have a child who's under the age of four, it's not that they can't use them because as you can see the pieces are pretty big, but it takes a lot of small motor skills and strength...

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Magna-Tiles Ideas to Keep Your Kids Playing All Day

Are you looking for ways to keep your child playing so you can get work done from home? Today I'm sharing three ways to play and three things to build with this favorite toy of kids five and under.

This post is best as a video, but scroll down if you prefer to read!


When you want to get some work done and you have your kids with you, Magna-Tiles are a great option. They work for all three of our kids and a lot of our friends' kids. Most preschools and elementary schools have Magna-Tiles because there's so much learning that you can do with them. There are so many benefits to playing with Magna-Tiles. They're really fun and they encourage imaginative play. They help kids learn early math concepts. They're great for colors, for shapes, for problem-solving and for 3D thinking.

So what are Magna-Tiles? They're little shapes that click together. There are magnets on each side of them and then they just click together really easily.

Kids can make shapes with them and little structures....

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Easy 4th of July STEM Activities for the Best Summer Ever

Are you looking for ways to entertain kids this 4th of July? Keep the kids busy and having fun this holiday with these easy to set up STEM activities and coloring pages.

When the kids are done running around, it's helpful to put out some markers, crayons, coloring pages, and blank paper. You can create your own with a tracing pad, or check the description, where I've linked up a few of our favorite coloring pages.

We believe in setting up activities that use STEM, which is science, technology, engineering, and math. We also add in art, so it makes it STEAM. We encourage all of those activities for our kids at home, to keep them challenged, and busy, and having fun. STEM jobs pay almost double per hour, and are growing at a rate of 13%.

Science

Challenge the kids put together marshmallows and toothpick constellations. This is a great activity for them to do for the 4th of July. Just gather up some mini marshmallows and some toothpicks. You might have to break some of them in half. Use...

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Ollivander's Wand Shop - Do You Have A Harry Potter Wand?


Have you had a chance to visit Ollivander's Wand Shop at Universal Studios? Your first stop should be to get interactive Harry Potter wands for the kids.

The experience is well worth the 30-minute wait time because when you're allowed to enter, there's a small chance you'll get chosen to have the shopkeeper find a wand for you. 

There's a show of a wand choosing one person, then after you can enter the shop lined with wands from the floor to ceiling. There are character wands and regular wands, each with different strengths. It's really fun to find one that suits your own personality.

The interactive wands are marked with gold stickers, and for a few extra dollars, they allow you to perform magic in the shop windows outside all throughout Harry Potter world. 

Our son chose Lord Voldemort's wand. He's the villain, but I asked if I should be worried and was told, "There is no bad wand, only a bad wizard or witch." 

Our daughter chose a holly wand that...

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5 Ways to Use STEAM on the Longest Day of the Year - The Summer Solstice

Do you have plans to celebrate the summer solstice? It's the longest day of the year and the first day of summer. Today I'm going to share with you how you can celebrate with activities that are STEAM or STEM related with your family. That's science, technology, engineering, art, and math.


The summer solstice marks the first day of summer and the longest amount of light in one day of the year. Because the earth is not straight up and down, but tilted almost 25 degrees, the summer solstice in June is actually the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere. So the northern hemisphere has the summer solstice June 20 to 22. This year, in 2019, it's June 21, but it is opposite for the southern hemisphere. That would be their winter solstice. The winter solstice in the northern hemisphere is around December 21.


So here's how to celebrate this event using STEAM learning with your kids. That's, again, science, technology, engineering, art, and math. STEAM used to be STEM, but then...

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Should You Try A Screen Free Week With Your Family? How We Survived Screen-Free Week.

We just went an entire week with our kids screen-free. 

So what is screen-free week? It's an international event that's put on by the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. It's when families are encouraged to put away the screens, go outdoors, spend time together as a family, and only use screens if you have to for work or homework.

So our family tried it.

We didn't follow the rules exactly. We were off screens whenever the kids were around and awake. 

The reason we did it is we wanted to see what kind of changes might happen after just turning off and not using screens for a week.

I've been reading that Silicon Valley executives who've created all these screens and apps and social media sites don't allow their kids to use screens, and its made me think maybe there's something to this. Maybe we can see some different personality traits, or differences in our own family if we try to go screen-free for a short time.

I've been doing lots of research and...

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How Much Screen Time Is Too Much for Our Kids? // Screen Time Guidelines 2019


Last month the World Health Organization came out with screen time guidelines for our children. How much screen time is the right amount for our kids? 

The World Health Organization says too much screen time is hurting our kids and their development. They came out with their first-ever recommendations last April of 2019. The screen time recommendations are no screen time under two years of age, one hour of screen time under five years, and three hours of active play for two to five-year-olds.

Do you think that's realistic?

At first, I thought no, but then I did some research, and I've realized that we've kind of fallen into some bad habits as a family. Have you, too?

I think we are tired.

I think we are bored with the slow pace of watching a little one all day.

I think we don't have other tools at our disposal that work as well as screens do.

I think we want our children to be comfortable with technology.

We think we're doing great, because the kids are doing something...

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Sensory Bins for Toddlers, Preschoolers and Big Kids

If you’re struggling to keep your little ones busy while you work, don’t worry, I have a way to keep them busy and challenged without handing over an iPad or turning on the TV. All three of our kids LOVE sensory bins!

 

A sensory bin is a Play Present that focuses on activating multiple senses at once. Most use seeing, hearing, smelling, and feeling. You can even make edible sensory bins that use tasting! They’re important because kids learn through their senses and older kids destress with sensory activities.

 

Five easy steps to set one up:

1.  Find A Location  Sensory bins can be messy if you don’t prepare. Find a spot outdoors with a kid-sized table or soft space to sit. Grab towels and a bucket with water for easy cleanup. If you’re inside, lay down a sheet, oilcloth or tablecloth (we love the flannel backed vinyl ones). Afterward, you can gather up the sheet and pour any spills back into the bin or shake it out or wash it. Keep...

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