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Monday, August 31, 2009

Recognizing the Value of Quality Products in the Classroom Part 1

The days of substandard learning materials for classrooms around the country may be brought to an end by the stimulus package approved by President Obama. The package will include an extra $2.1 billion to the annual Head Start Program budget in order to provide classrooms with better materials, furnishings, and teaching aides. This is in addition to the $6.8 billion already offered to the schools and centers each year, and the money is set to be distributed in September.

This comes at a time when households are pinching every penny and additional emphasis is being put on education at both the early elementary and college levels. Although hiring qualified individuals to teach and direct students in a primary factor in reaching the nation's educational goals, those individuals will have a hard time teaching students if they are forced to use aging, broken or outdated tools and materials.

The money will be spent on important classroom essentials, including furniture, lockers, educational toys, sensory products, and other classroom furniture products. A few of the most important of these materials, as well as the importance of choosing quality over price, are listed below:

Classroom Furniture and Storage

Although the furnishings placed inside the classroom often go unnoticed by parents and students, keeping an organized and well maintained classroom setting is pertinent to overall learning. Many classrooms are currently equipped with compartments that are too small and overcrowded to hold student essentials, and many are near falling apart, making them a safety hazard for playing children.
The new stimulus money will be spent to purchase quality cubby spaces and storage lockers, as well as tables and chairs. The benefits of choosing top of the line products by manufacturers like Mainstream are many. New items will not need to be purchased as often, making them more cost efficient on a long term scale. They will also be more pleasurable to use and work with, enforcing learning by providing more comfortable working conditions for students and teachers alike.

Educational Toys

Emerging research has brought about new and exciting toys for children in preschool all the way through early middle school. Although classics like block toys and visually stimulating toys will always be relevant, newer varieties offer more enhanced learning to the mix when used in conjunction with old favorites.
Purchasing these new items will not only provide BETTER toys to classrooms, but will make it more likely that each teacher will have enough toys to go around.

Library Items

Buying new and more spacious tables, chairs, and book storage units for libraries not only will save money on replacing furniture every few years; but will also help books and other materials last longer by properly keeping them safely and securely stored. Without money being spent on buying books to replace damaged or lost items, more can be spent on buying new reading materials, enabling schools to offer a wider variety to students of all ages.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Getting Your Childrens Space Back to School Ready

Nobody likes homework. Your kids hate doing it, and odds are, you don't enjoy trying to help them solve eighth grade algebra any better. However, it's a part of life and if presse we may even have to agree that it's an important part. Luckily, you can help take the pain out of nightly homework duties by making sure your child has a neatly organized space in which to do his assignments. This area should include the basics like pens and pencils, and also a comfortable desk and chair placed in a quiet area.

SensoryEdge offers a unique line of kids desks from Room magic, KidKraft, and Wild Zoo. All of them made for a child's size and needs. Having a desk area tailored to your child is more important than you may think. Adult products are often too high up and hard to reach for a child to sit comfortably, and an uncomfortable kid is going to spend even less time concentrating on studies and more time fidgeting or getting up altogether.

The desks offered by Room Magic also feature spacious designs that can hold everything from books to pencils to calculators and erasers. Many models even feature hutches, like our Little Lizard or Tropical Sea varieties, providing even more room for storing the essentials. They’re also comfortable and roomy. It is important to offer a desk chair that offers maximum comfort to avoid back aches which are not only painful, but distracting.

It's also important to place the desk in the right area of your home to avoid distractions. Rooms where other children may be working or playing or areas where there are televisions and computers are probably not the best places to put your child's homework desk. (Keep the computer in another room, like an office or living room, and make homework space separate from the family's office space. If your child needs the computer for doing research or homework help, give him a set time limit to avoid distractions like MySpace or gaming sites.)

If there is no private corner in which to put your child's desk, his bedroom will suffice. If he already has a television or computer located in his room, set limits and stick to them. These may include not watching any TV at all until homework is complete and no web surfing other than research. Give time limits for each assignment. Most importantly, if you catch him breaking the rules, follow through with consequences. Remove the TV, or if that is not feasible, find out if you cable or satellite provider has a way to lock all programming from use.

Lastly, let your child have a hand in choosing the overall style of his homework space. Room Magic desks come in various themes and designs, so there is something there any child will appreciate. Designate a corner to homework and allow your child to pick out utensils and decor items to place there. Find wall hangings or murals to correlate with the desk. You may even purchase a room divider for added privacy. Make sure all supplies are easily within reach.

Now all that's left to do is hope the teacher goes easy on him.

Monday, August 24, 2009

School Fall Semester: Time for a New Backpack


It's that time of year again--back to school! You've gone through class orientation, you have the lists of supplies your kids will need this year, and you're ready to shop. Pencils? Check. Notebook paper? Check.

You've got everything you need to get them off to a great start. Now all you need...is some way for them to carry it.

Choosing the right kids backpack is a pertinent part of any back to school shopping spree. It's about more than just making a fashion statement (although that is important!), it's about finding a bag that is large enough, sturdy enough, and most importantly, safe enough for your child to use all year round. Anything less could result in having to spend money on a replacement bag halfway through the year, or even worse, back or neck injuries for your child.

Luckily, our line of stylish and affordable backpacks by Wildkin is just the thing you need to complete your back to school shopping.

Style...

Your child can virtually customize their own backpack because Wildkin has given us so many options to choose from. Whether she's into fairies and horses or he likes cowboys and construction: it's all right here. In fact, there is a bag for nearly all of your child’s hobbies and extracurricular activities; making it perfect for after school sports and games.

Durability...

These backpacks are as durable as they are stylish. Made from 100% polyester, you don't have to worry about rips, tears, and fading like with lower quality options. This not only helps your child look his or her best every day of the school year, but it helps save you money by ensuring you aren't paying for an additional bag halfway through the year.

Ample Storage...

Made especially for children, these backpacks are designed large enough to hold all the school essentials kids need on a day to day basis. Many even come with interior storage compartments to keep small items like pencils and sharpeners safely tucked away.

Safety...

An improperly sized backpack can wreak havoc on your child's neck, back, and shoulder muscles with continued use. This can result in soreness and swelling-even painful muscle spasms if the bag is heavy enough. That's why Wildkin designed backpacks are made just for children. They provide a snug fit with padded straps that adjust to a child's small frame and to help disperse weight evenly.

You have all the supplies you need, plus an affordable, stylish kids backpack that won't weigh them down. Now you're really ready.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Choosing a Kids Sleeping Bag


Nothing can be more terrifying and heart wrenching than sending your child away overnight whether at a friend's sleepover birthday party, or to live in a college dorm. You lie awake wondering if they are homesick or if they remembered to brush their teeth. But most importantly, you wonder if they are comfortable enough in their surroundings to get a good night's sleep.

You can't go with him on that first sleepover, nor can you tag along to chaperone her college education. What you can do is send a little bit of home with them to help you both make the transition just little bit easier.

Thankfully, the Cricketzzz slumber bag gives you a way to do just that. When you choose Cricketzzz you're not only giving your child a comfortable place to lay his head, you're giving him the security of knowing that you care.

The slumber bag is plush and soft, so it doesn't FEEL like a sleeping bag, it feels like he's been tucked into his own bed. With an incredibly soft interior and a supple detachable pillow, your little (or big) boy or girl will be snoozing contentedly even before lights out. And since each slumber bag is made from 100% polyester and cotton materials, it will get him through this sleepover, and many more in the years to come. Your kids will love it almost as much as you do!

The Cricketzzz slumber bag comes in a wide variety of colors, patterns, and themes so kids can choose the perfect one to match their own style. Not only is this a great way for kids to express their individual tastes, but it gives them another level of comfort by providing them something handpicked and unique to take along with them while they're away.

In addition to a great night's sleep, when the fun is over and it's time for him to return home, Cricketzzz slumber bag's come with Velcro straps that allow it to fold up tight and store away easily until the next trip. This prevents bulky sleeping bags taking up space on camping trips or in living room closets.

Most importantly to remember is that choosing the right sleeping bag for your child isn't only about the brightest colors or coolest characters; it's about giving him a simple reminder of your love and care, even when you aren’t physically present. That is the cornerstone for independence, and will help give him the courage and security for many more (and longer) sleepovers in the future.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A New "Spin" on Arts and Crafts: The Chalk Spinner


Children and arts and crafts go together naturally, with no prompting necessary from parents or teachers. At a certain age kids are prone to pick up any pen, pencil, or crayon they find; and start scribbling on any flat surface within reach. This natural inclination toward creativity is good. The mess that markers and crayons can leave behind…not so much.


Fortunately, it is possible to encourage your child's creativity and love of art without constantly picking up paper and shavings or cleaning his "artwork" from the walls.

The innovators at Kodo Kids have created The Chalk Spinner, a new "spin" on the sidewalk chalk you may remember as a kid, only with a little extra twist.
Not only does the chalk spinner have multiple benefits for your child, you will love it equally as much!

Kids love it…

You know your children or students will love using the multi-colored chalks to draw and color brilliant works of art, but did you know that drawing offers them more than just a quite pastime. The creative thinking involved in participating in the arts encourages overall brain development and function, fine motor skills, and hand eye coordination. Now, with the chalk spinner, there is even more reason to create. The unique cylindrical shape provides fun new angles to explore, along with more drawing space; so his friends can play too.

When used in a classroom setting, the chalk spinner encourages the concepts of working together and taking turns. Because more than one child can play, kids are introduced with the task of dividing up equal spaces to draw for each classmate, or working with one another to create one larger masterpiece to share. It also provides a fun and interesting option for spelling new words and math lessons that will be much more interesting than pencil and paper. Best of all, it helps save paper—a must for schools and homes that are conserving funds and the environment. 

Parents and Teachers Welcome it…

Because the chalk spinner uses chalk instead of ink or oils, you never have to worry about damaged walls or furniture. Your child’s markings wipe away easily and painlessly: although your child will be having so much fun using the spinner he'll find your walls and refrigerator much less entertaining.

The chalk spinner is also a saving grace on rainy days inside, with three models to choose from to fit any home or classroom setting. The table top spinner keeps the fun at the kitchen or play table- and children happily entertained for hours, while the "tubby spin" is ideal for large families and classrooms because it allows up to six children to play at once. The skinny version is portable, so it can go from room to room or child to child with ease; and then be tucked neatly away when not in use. 

The Tubby Spin table top version is perfect for both home and school, and comes with two boxes of dust free chalk and one towel for easy cleanup.

The Skinny Spin features a convenient toddler accessible center chalk storage and can accommodate up to three children at once, making it ideal for preschools and daycares. It comes with three boxes of dust free chalk and two towels.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Taking the Boredom Out of Rainy Days


Summer days mean lots of things: warm temperatures, vacations, and no school to worry about. But it can also mean frequent thunderstorms and rain showers in many areas. When your kids are stuck inside, it's a good idea to have a backup plan to keep them busy to prevent boredom until they can return to the outdoors. Here are a few ways to ensure you and your kids survive those summer storms without getting stir crazy.

Keep a toy chest, basket, or cubby full of toys that kids can only play with on rainy days. This will give them something in particular to look forward to while they're stuck inside and keep them occupied. Puzzles, coloring books, painting supplies, and indoor climbing toys are all great options. For example, the Child Brite Molded Plastic Easel with Casters will kids busy for hours painting and drawing.

Let them have in door "campout" using play houses and sleeping bags. Give them a flashlight, marshmallows to "roast" and you're good to go. This is a great idea for entertaining more than one child at once with very little mess.

Bake cookies or let the kids participate in cooking the family meal. Not only will this activity keep your kids occupied, but it will give you a chance to spend quality time teaching them important skills for the future. It will also instill a sense of confidence when your child gets to enjoy a yummy treat that he made himself. For younger toddlers who can't really help out, let them have fun "cooking" with a play kitchen while you're busy cooking in the real one.

In case of an emergency...such as an important phone call or something else that can't be interrupted; bring out the videos. Again, you can designate certain movies are shows as "rainy day" videos, but use them only when you really need the kids quiet and out of the way for a short period of time.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

5 Steps to Encourage Your Baby's Physical Development

From the day your child was born you've probably been reading all the child development books and talking to friends who have had children. Perhaps you've even fallen into the trap of comparing your baby to someone's else's and discovered that he isn't as far progressed. This is a natural, albeit nerve wracking, part of parenthood; but it's important to understand that no two babies are the same. Each child is an individual who will reach his own milestones in his own time. If you are concerned, or just want to further your child's progress in less time; there are a few things you can do to encourage muscle strength and development throughout his first year and beyond. The following five steps will get you started:

1. Young infants need plenty of supervised tummy time in order to help with neck, back, and arm strength. This can be done using a specialized pillow, wedge, or soft blanket. As your child grows, begin holding toys out in front of him to encourage him to look, reach, and follow it when his eyes. These techniques are essential in strengthening the muscles that will later be used for sitting up, crawling, and then walking.

2. Hold onto your baby's hands and hold him upright to encourage him to put weight on his legs and feet. This not only helps baby develop lower torso and leg strength, but gives him a chance to face and interact with you.

3. As baby learns to move on his own, he will start to explore the world around him. Give him a safe place to climb and play with an indoor play area. There are large playgrounds with multiple climbing units made of soft foam; as well as small foam shapes used for propping and climbing. Both are good options for helping children develop stronger muscles and in helping them learn to balance, jump, and perceive the distance between two objects. One of our favorites is the Jose's Jamarama Indoor Playground.

4. Keep plenty of stimulating toys around your child, with some of them in hard to reach areas. This will force kids to stretch, crawl, climb, and bend to reach them. Just make sure you don't have them on shelves that are high off the ground where your baby or toddler could be hurt; put them just high enough to get baby stretching those legs!

5. Get down and play with your child. There is nothing baby loves more than floor time with mom or dad, so get down there and tickle, wrestle, chase, and roll. He will enjoy trying to copy your moves, which will not only provide endless entertainment for you both; it will also help him learn to use varying muscle groups and fine tune fine motor skills.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Design an Outdoor Space Just for Kids

Everyone loves a barbecue, and your children are no exception. No matter their age, you can help them enjoy the summer experience by giving them their own unique place to sit back and appreciate the outdoors. Not only will they be happy, but with them chilling out at their own private party; you'll have more time to enjoy yours.

Start by using the right furniture. Your child's age will determine what the "right" furniture is, but there are a few general guidelines. First, make sure it's something fun. Versatility and a comfy design are a good combination no matter what the child's age. Secondly, be certain the furniture is safe and sturdy. Many tiny plastic chairs and character pieces are not made for uneven ground, nor constant outdoor use. The kids patio furniture you choose should be just as durable as the furniture you picked for yourself. One excellent choice is the table and bench set by KidKraft.

For maximum enjoyment of outdoor meals, it's also a good idea to keep the bugs away with candles or other methods of repellent. Just make sure it's safe for children and to use around food.

Finally, add in a few extras that children can enjoy. Maybe a colorful umbrella. Or buy some plastic dishes and cutlery in various shapes and colors for a fun touch to the meal. For very young children, you can also find bibs and tarps with various characters and in several bright colors.

The most important thing to remember when throwing a BBQ, for both yourself and your kids, is to relax and have fun.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Real Learning On Pretend Play Camp Outs

You'd be hard pressed to find a kid who didn't love the concept of playing around in a tent. There's just something about being in such a private little space, sharing secrets with friends and telling stories that grown ups wouldn't understand. Finding the perfect play tent is the first step in enhancing this important childhood experience, but you can also use their love for the outdoors to teach them important survival and wilderness skills--even if you never leave your backyard!

The number one fear parents have when their kids go for a real camp out (or anywhere for that matter...)? Getting lost. For those children who haven't quite earned their wilderness survival merit badges yet, give them a few pointers for staying safe during hikes and camp outs in the woods. Tell them to always stay close to other children and chaperons and to use the buddy system whenever possible. You can also give them a whistle to alert others if they become separated from the group. And, most importantly, if they do get lost, instruct them to stay in one place and wait for help. You can simulate this at your pretend campsite by having them go on a imaginary hike with everyone holding hands, shirt sleeves, or a rope that everyone can share. If your ears can take it, you can also let them go nuts with their emergency whistles. (found at most dollar stores across America)

Have the kids practice "Stop, Drop, and Roll" around the yard, and inform them of ways to prevent fires from getting out of control at a camp out: keep flames within a structured barrier, avoid dry areas with lots of dead grass or brush, and always keep water handy just in case.

Use your own pets, or the neighbor's golden retriever, to show kids who to respond to a wild animal. For bears, try and avoid them when at all possible. As you walk through the woods and around your campsite, make as much noise as you can by rattling pots and pans or singing campfire songs. This will help alert any bears in the area that there are humans present, and they will generally stay away. Close food containers tightly, and hang them high on specialized poles or tree branches. And, if you do see a "bear", talk to it in a normal voice and wave your arms so it can see that you are human. Try and walk away diagonally. If the bear does make contact, surrender by lying on the ground and playing dead. This will make a fun game for kids, as well as educate them for how to react in an actual dangerous situation.

Now you can get down to the fun stuff. Sit around the campfire, real or otherwise, and show the kids how to tie knots, cook over a fire, and tell stories about your own camping experiences.

Once the pretend camping trip is over, encourage them to get out with their play tent roll up their sleeping bags and practice what they learned. Now you can go on a real camp out knowing that your child will understand what to do in any situation. So get out and enjoy the wilderness...and don't forget the marshmallows.