Presidents’ Day Bingo (Activity & Printable!)

Written by special guest blogger Joyce from Childhood Beckons.

In honor of Presidents’ Day, I put together this fun activity that can combine money math with a bit of  presidential trivia. My son had a great time with this and really benefited from the hands-on learning.

To play this game, we used the coins from the Melissa & Doug Play Money Set and a simple bingo template that I created. I made this bingo card with blank squares and used the coins to change things up because it allows you to really customize the bingo card for your child and their skill level. If you’d like, you can grab the Coin Bingo printable here.

First, we played using presidential trivia. My son is 5 so I kept this simple. I called out the names of presidents or simple facts and he had to find the right coin. But you could easily make this more challenging. To mark the square, you could use a small marker, like a bean, or you can just flip the coin to tails.

Then we played to find the correct sum. I called out a number and he had to find the square with that amount.  I varied the difficulty on his cards because he is still learning about money and the values. The easier squares served as reinforcement, while the more difficult squares pushed him to practice adding with coins and adding multiple numbers. To mark the square, he either flipped the play coin over, or stacked the coins if there were more than one.

Again, the great thing about this is the ability to completely customize it to your child’s needs! You can play by calling out the name of the coins, the value of individual coins, presidential trivia, the value of coins combined, etc.
How will you play?
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Joycebiopic2Joyce is the mom behind Childhood Beckons, where she encourages parents to focus on their families and the childhood that beckons them. Her motto is “Childhood is calling my son to play and explore. And childhood is calling me to help him on his journey.” She enjoys discovering creative ways to play and learn and passing along her family’s favorites. You can find Joyce on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

February 18, 2013 at 10:29 am Leave a comment

From Melissa: Two Heartfelt Messages for Valentine’s Day

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we asked Melissa to share some thoughts inspired by the upcoming holiday!

Two messages from Melissa

What do you LOVE most about your job?

 What I love most about my job is the creation process.  There is nothing more fulfilling or exciting to me (other than having children!!!!) than starting with just a brainstorm, and nurturing it through the process until it is born into a tangible product to be enjoyed by children.  It is truly intoxicating to have a job that allows me to create something out of nothing.

I also love watching children use our products in ways that I never intended. That is the essence of creativity…breaking free from convention and using something in a completely unique and different manner than ever planned.  It is almost as if some products take on a life of their own once they are in the hands of children who know no limits or boundaries.  It reminds me how so many of us lose that reckless abandon once we enter the regimented world of responsibility and adulthood!  How fortunate my husband and I are that we have found a vocation that rewards us for thinking like children!

What have been your favorite homemade Valentine’s Day gifts from your kids throughout the years?

I cannot hear the words “I love you” from my children enough.  Maybe that’s because I have gone through the teenage years with them twice already, and know that those words virtually disappear from their vocabularies for many years!!!  So I now realize I need to build up a stockpile during the early years to console me and draw from during the latter ones!  Therefore, any Valentine’s gift that contains the words “I love you so much” is one I currently treasure more than ever.  The gifts I enjoy the most, however, include intimate and revealing personal details, whether through a poem with lots of insightful and meaningful tidbits about the family and our eccentricities, or a hand-drawn picture that includes lots of personal and experiential references.  These mementos not only make me smile or cry, but remind me of how important family bonds, rituals and memories are to children.

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What have been YOUR favorite Valentine’s Day gifts over the years? Share with us in the comments below, or join the conversation on Facebook!

February 14, 2013 at 8:36 am Leave a comment

From the Melissa & Doug Playbook: 5 Ways that Stuffed Animals Can Help Promote Developmental Growth

Stuffed animals are a very popular gift around Valentine’s Day, but did you know that, when you give the gift of a furry new friend, you’re actually helping a child’s developmental growth as well?

How stuffed animals can promote development

Here’s how:

1)      Even very young children learn through all of their senses. Stuffed animals have a soft texture that is easy to grab, hold, and hug – making learning enjoyable!

2)      Children can work out challenges they’re experiencing in a safe way – for instance, potty-training their stuffed animal!

3)      Stuffed animals are often comforting for children and can give them a sense of security when they are nervous or frightened, enabling them to engage in new experiences with courage. For a young child, stroking or holding a stuffed animal can bring much-needed comfort and confidence in a constantly changing world.

4)      Stuffed animals can be chameleon-like “Friends” that change personalities, abilities, and roles according to your child’s imagination. Stuffed animals help fuel larger-than-life imaginations and inspire wonderful make-believe play.

5)      Lifelike plush animals encourage children to learn about animals and take pride in their care. They make the perfect practice pet – with no mess or shedding!

February 12, 2013 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Stacy Shares: A Valentine’s Quest

Valerie is a Melissa & Doug Blog Ambassador
This activity is brought to you by Melissa & Doug, written by our Blog Ambassador Stacy Teet.

“One of the best parts of being a mom is finding ways to make learning and life lessons fun.”   –Stacy

It’s almost Valentine’s Day, so I thought I’d share a fun little quest we’ve been working on this month. We decided the world could use a little more chivalry and who better to deliver than a band of modern day knights in shining armor! I think it’s important to teach children Valentine’s Day is more about love and kindness, not just gifts and chocolate.

Thank goodness these two were happy to play the part! All they needed were a few cute knight costumes.

knight-costumes-for-kids

We came up with a Valentine’s Quest; a list of good deeds that each exemplify a different knightly virtue:

– Protect those that cannot protect themselves

– Give to widows and orphans

– Be strong, but disciplined

– Be loyal, and generous

– Always tell the truth

– Honor and respect women

– Obey those in authority

– Be fair, kind and just

acts of kindness for kids

When the kids accomplish all the tasks on this list, they’ll be knighted in a short ceremony and will probably be served cupcakes. In case you didn’t know, knights love cupcakes.

We made the quest in hopes you’d want to join in too.

You can find the instructions on how to make heart clings for your heart bombing here (<- you’ll love this)
We’re still working on that next to last one … but I have a feeling this handy chore chart might help

With every kind act we perform and each positive response we receive, the more excited the kids become and the more serious they start to take the quest. They are even coming up with ideas of their own for future quests!

If you think this sounds like something you and your children would like to try, feel free to print out the graphic and get started. We can’t wait to see and hear about your quest! Leave us a comment here or tag a photo of your knights on Instagram with the hashtag #MelissaAndDoug.

Stacy Teet of KidsStuffWorld.comStacy Teet is the military mom–turned-supermom behind KidsStuffWorld. Her writing is chock-full of tips for enjoying parenthood, saving money, entertaining your kids and making your family’s life a bit simpler. Check out her website, KidsStuffWorld.com, or follow her on PinterestTwitter or the KSW Facebook page.

February 11, 2013 at 9:00 am 8 comments

8 Creative Crafts for Valentine’s Day: A Melissa & Doug Blog Round-Up!

During the past few weeks on the Melissa & Doug blog, we’ve been sharing some creative crafts your kids can make to celebrate Valentine’s Day! These DIY projects can be used as simple activities, or as precious homemade gifts from the heart.  In case you missed any of our posts, here’s a quick round-up:

  1. DIY Bookmarks:

Use colorful, heart-shaped beads to create one-of-a-kind bookmark gifts! Kids will enjoy threading the beads and picking out colors and patterns, while YOU will enjoy helping them create a gift that’s truly from the heart.

Create your own wooden beads bookmark

  1. Personalized Gift Wrap

No gift is complete without some pretty wrapping paper. Take some plain colored tissue paper, some stamps and voila! You’ll have a gift your child can really feel they’ve “make their mark” on.

Homemade tissue paper

  1. Recycled Hearts

Have old toilet paper or paper towel rolls you’ve been saving for some crafty inspiration? With a slight bend and some paint, you’ll create a quick and easy heart painting that your kids will LOVE making!

Heart Shaped Stamps

  1. Reverse Masking

Get your smocks ready, because this activity is a messy – and delightful – treat! Tape a message onto sturdy paper and use finger paints color around it.  Remove the paint to reveal a sweet message!

Finger painting photo 1

  1. Decorate-Your-Own Heart Boxes

For a great Valentine’s Day party activity, or even play date craft, gather a few Decorate Your Own Heart Box kits and let each individual personality shine! Take a few small sweet treats for inside the box, and you have a perfect one-of-a-kind handmade gift,  too (or keepsake for the child to put their littlest prized possessions in.)

Decorate Your Own heart boxes for Valentine's Day

  1. Scratch Art Valentines

These little tags are perfect adornments to a gift, or can contain a sweet Valentine’s Day message for loved ones! Simply cut in a heart shape and let you child scribble onto the special Scratch Art paper to reveal their own unique designs!

Arts and Crafts Project for Valentine's Day

  1. Classroom Bookmarks

Rather than purchasing a pack of Valentine’s for your child’s class, why not help them create unique ones instead? With some construction paper, Scratch Art bookmarks and a few other tools, you’ll have memorable Valentine cards (and keepsakes!) for the whole class – with a little personality as well!

Homemade Scratch Art Bookmark Valentines

  1. Clay Initial Hearts

With some air dry clay and letter stamps, your child can create an adorable Valentine ornament to family or friends, while practicing their letters too! For extra pizzazz, use some glitter glue and colorful ribbon! This is a truly easy activity, but one your child will really enjoy making.

 How to paint clay hearts

We hope you enjoyed this week’s blog round-up! We are open to any and all feedback, play ideas, theme suggestions and questions, so please contact us at socialmedia@melissaanddoug.com

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Round up of 8 arts and crafts for Valentine's Day

February 10, 2013 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

It’s SNOW time! 5 Snow-Inspired Activities for Indoors & Out!

Winter storms getting you down (and giving your kids the “crazies”?) Here are some great ways to stay entertained indoors – and outdoors – when the snow starts to fall:

Activities for Snow

Embrace the Snow!

When the snow starts to fall, you may not necessarily need to stay indoors! As long as it’s safe (and not TOO cold outside), bundle the kids up for some snow and ice sensory fun.

1. Create a Snow & Ice Sensory Bin. Sensory bins are a great way to help focus and calm children, and let them truly explore their senses.  To create your bin, go outside and gather snow into large plastic, see-through tubs. Fill the bins halfway with fresh snow, and add some scooping, measuring and pouring tools (raid those kitchen drawers!) Then, add some of your children’s favorite plastic action figures and animals and pretend you’re on a frozen exhibition! Just remember to keep extra gloves around: little hands can get cold easily when playing in the snow!

Snow and Ice Winter Sensory Bin for Kids

For more information on how to create an ice and snow sensory bin, click here.

2. Use Summer Toys for Winter Play! Another way to embrace snow is by taking your favorite beach or pool toys out into the snow! Have a sand cupcake or ice cream set? Substitute the sand with some snow and open up a “Sweet Snow Shop”!

Sunny Patch cupcake set

Other outside toys that can be used for snow play? Here are a few:

–     Your sand bucket and shovel (Dig around to see what’s hidden underneath the freshly fallen snow! Gather snow to create a large “mountain” to jump in!)

–    Grab a pair of binoculars and check out how neat the snow looks on the trees or other homes in your neighborhood. Ask your child to describe what’s different about their surroundings.

–     Play “Snow Kickball”! Running in the snow can be a challenge, but lead to lots of laughs! Grab a ball and start to kick, or throw it, around the yard! Try not to giggle when everyone starts to tumble in the fresh, soft snow!

Stay Warm Indoors!

3. Pretend Snow Sensory Fun

No snow by you? Too cold to go outside? Try this texturally interesting sensory “snow” bin to stay warm while bringing the excitement of snow play inside! Simply pour mashed potato flakes or dry oatmeal onto a baking pan or cookie sheet! Now that you have “snow,” add blocks as buildings (Woah – the town is blanketed in snow!), a few vehicles, and some people. To simulate snow falling pour some “snow” through a sifter!

Pretend snow sensory bin activity

4. Color a winter scene! Gather up your arts and crafts supplies (the more the merrier) and set-up a “creative station”. Using coloring sheets like the ones below, ask your child to decorate a winter scene! For more winter-themed printables, click here.

Winter-Themed-Coloring-Page_Snowman

5. Make some sweet “Hot Chocolate”

While you’re warming up some real hot chocolate for the kids, have them create a sweet treat of their own using this Hot Chocolate sensory craft! All you need is this printable, Hot Chocolate Mix, some glue, cotton balls and child-safe scissors! Let you child “top” the hot chocolate using the pretend marshmallows, and prepare to gobble up some “real” ones, too!

Coca Printable

Get instructions for the hot chocolate printable here.

February 9, 2013 at 6:00 pm 1 comment

Weekly Deal Round-Up: Special Offers Only at MelissaAndDoug.com!

Our weekly deal round-up gives you the scoop on ALL the savings happening this weekend at MelissaAndDoug.com! Check it out:

Weekly deal Round Up

Save 50%with NEW Outlet Shop Bundles!

The Melissa & Doug Outlet Shop features some incredible products at up to 50% off! Plus, new items are being added regularly, like our new 2 for 1 value sets! You should hurry up though – these items have limited quantities and are only available at this price while supplies last.

2 in 1 bundles from the Melissa and Doug outlet shop

Free Gift with Purchase!

For a limited time, all orders over $50 will receive a FREE Sweets & Treats Sticker Pad!  The mega pad is perfect for a Valentine’s Day treat, and contains 100 delicious desserts with over 500 sweet topping options! This item will be automatically added to your order during checkout.

Free Gift with Purchase on Sticker Pad

Free Personalization on Puzzles!

All the puzzles in our Personalization Shop are now eligible for FREE personalization! Choose from a wide range of puzzles to personalize, like our Jumbo Knob puzzles or classic wooden jigsaw puzzles!

Free personalization on Melissa & Doug puzzles

That’s all for now! Enjoy these special offers and have a wonderful weekend!

~  Your friends at Melissa & Doug

February 9, 2013 at 3:00 pm Leave a comment

Learning Letters with Clay Initial Hearts

Written by Melissa & Doug Blog Ambassador Allison McDonald

This educational idea is brought to you by Melissa & Doug, written by our Blog Ambassador Allison McDonald.

“Everyday play is what childhood should be about.”  -Allison

Monogrammed Clay Hearts Craft

Learning letters is an exciting time for all kids, and my toddler is very excited to claim all the letter Ms she sees (” That’s MY letter!”) It was this possessive love that sparked the idea for this deceptively simple Valentine’s Day craft. These clay hearts can be used as gift tags, ornaments, paper weights ( just don’t make a hole) or – my favorite – a weight for balloons! They are simple enough for the youngest artist but still appealing to older kids, too.

Supplies: You will need some air dry clay, a heart cookie cutter,  alphabet stamps, acrylic paint, glitter glue, and ribbon.

Start by pressing your clay into a flat circle and cutting out your heart with the cookie cutter.

Making monogrammed hearts step 1
Stamp the middle of the heart with your initial. Older children can even spell a word! When you are sifting through the letter stamps for “their letter” make sure you label some of the others too. No need to turn this into a letter drill but don’t miss the natural learning that can happen.

Stamps used to create monogrammed clay hearts

Let dry. This can take up to 3 days but ours dried in about 36 hours in a warm spot. You can have your kids try to find the warmest spot in your house to leave them to dry.  Also, the thicker you make the hearts the longer it takes them to dry.

Now, it’s time to paint! We stuck with plain old red – but green, pink, or orange and blue polka dots works great too!

How to paint clay hearts

Next add the glitter glue to the initial for extra pizazz ! Thread a ribbon through and let dry.

Glitter glue on clay hearts craft

Enjoy!

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Allison from NoTimeForFlashCards.comAllison McDonald is founder and editor of No Time For Flash Cards. She has been teaching children in various capacities since 1993, so she has done her share of crafts, songs and circle times! Her son’s birth brought her home, and her love of teaching and helping other parents sparked the idea for No Time for Flash Cards. Early-childhood education is her passion . . . her heart belongs to the little guys! Get to know Allie and see her creative kids’ crafts and educational activities on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

February 8, 2013 at 9:00 am 3 comments

How to Make Watercolor Chinese Lanterns

This blog post was written by our special guest blogger Adrienne (theiowafarmerswife).

Chinese New Year is right around the corner (officially begins on Sunday, February 10th) and what better way to celebrate than by making some beautiful homemade Chinese Lanterns?  Lanterns are a popular symbol throughout the Chinese New Year celebration; the end of which is marked by the famous Lantern Festival. Plus, with varying traditions marking this exciting holiday, there are many opportunities to teach your child about new cultures, traditions, and cuisine!

I recently introduced my daughter to the Chinese New Year and we’ve done several activities to prepare for the event on February 10th. These watercolor Chinese lanterns have been our favorite so far. Here’s how they are made:

Any craft that involves paint is a hit in my daughter’s eyes! Now, this craft does involve scissors, but if your child isn’t old enough for scissors, simply have them paint the paper and you can complete the rest.

First, paint the paper (using watercolors) in the color of your choice, then allow the painting to dry completely. Hold the paper horizontally and cut a strip off of the end – this will be the lanterns handle. Fold the piece of paper in half lengthwise and make cuts on the fold (stop about an inch and a half from the edge) about 3/4 of inch apart.

Next, unfold the paper and bring the long edges together to form a tube. Tape the edges together to form the lantern. Tape the strip you cut off earlier to the top of the lantern to form the handle.

Hang your beautiful lanterns around the house with yarn or hang them on a tree for beautiful Chinese New Year decorations.

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Bio for Adrienne, Iowa Farmer's WifeAdrienne, aka The Iowa Farmer’s Wife, is a mommy blogger and mother of two who enjoys sharing simple ideas about educational activities for kids, frugal living and healthy eating. She lives in the Midwest, where she and her husband own a small farm. In addition to being a stay-at-home-mom, Adrienne teaches a speech course at a local university and serves as a co-coordinator of her local MOPS group. The Iowa Farmer’s Wife can be found on FacebookPinterestTwitter and Google+

February 7, 2013 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

How to Host a “Sweet & Easy Valentine Party”

We love when our guest blogger Tiffany (Peanut Blossom) shares her fantastic recipes, creative play ideas, and more on the Melissa & Doug blog. This week, she posted some wonderful tips for hosting a Valentine’s Day party for kids that we know you, our readers, will love.

In her posts, Tiffany often shares some of the challenges she faces from moving to a new place. So we suggested that Tiffany host a Valentine’s Day party for some new friends as a way to welcome people into her home and host an event the kids – and parents –will all enjoy.  For a full overview of the décor, and sweet treat she prepared, check out her entire post. We also rounded up some highlights of the event below. The best part is – the time commitment is minimal, so anyone could practically have a party like this ready in just a few days:

Plan some “Sweet Activities”

Having an organized activity is a great way to help little friends – especially new ones – get to know each other better! Tiffany set her table with our Decorate Your own Heart Box craft at each place setting, with a variety of sweet snacks for the kids to enjoy as they decorated unique, colorful boxes!

Decorate Your Own heart boxes for Valentine's Day

Keep the Snacks Simple

Tiffany suggests that, for any kids party, keep the snacks simple! And with picky eaters likely to join the bunch, try things that can be offered up plain, too (like her Strawberries with Cheesecake Dip treat with various topping options!)

Tiffany’s party was a great way to get kids –and families – together in a creative way! The outcome: some adorable hand-made heart boxes, and a day full of memories that won’t soon be forgotten.

For more details, and recipes, from Tiffany’s party, click here.

valentinepin

What easy Valentine’s Day party crafts & treats do you recommend for little guests? Share in the comments below, or join the conversation on Melissa & Doug’s Facebook page!

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Tiffany Dahle guest bloggerTiffany Dahle is the hostess behind Peanut Blossom where she shares her belief that strong families start with strong and happy mothers. She encourages you to develop everyday possibilities for stretching your creativity while doing what you do to keep that household running! You can find Tiffany on Facebook,Twitter, and Pinterest.

February 6, 2013 at 5:04 pm 2 comments

4 Heartfelt Valentine’s Day Gifts Kids Can Make

Written for Melissa & Doug by special Guest Blogger Julie Kieras from A Year with Mom & Dad.

It’s Happy Heart Day again (aka Valentine’s), and more than letting this day be simply a greeting card holiday, it can also be a time to teach children about showing love and kindness to others. Creating a treat or gift to drop off to a friend or family member is truly a labor of love, and one children will enjoy as they get full creative control from start to finish! Here are four simple arts and crafts your kids can make for loved ones this Valentine’s Day!

4 handmade valentine's day gifts

1. A beaded bookmark is easy for children of all ages to create. Younger children develop fine motor skills lacing wooden beads, and older kids can practice sequencing and patterning techniques. Here’s how to create a handmade beaded bookmark:

  • String about 5-7 beads of various sizes on one end of a string or ribbon.
  • Cut the string about twice as long as a paperback book.
  • Tie a knot at the end of the string and then another just above the last bead.
  • On the other end, repeat the process but with 3-4 smaller beads, so your bookmark clearly has a top and a bottom. The two beaded ends keep the string from pulling through the book pages.
  • Tie a knot on either side of these beads and you’re done!

Create your own wooden beads bookmark

2. Create your own gift wrap using heart shaped stamps to decorate tissue paper! Various stamps and ink colors will dress up plain paper, and kids can decide to decorate it however they’d like! This way, even if you’ve purchased a Valentine’s Day gift, the child can still have their personal “stamp” on it. (Tip: It helps to fold the tissue paper into a smaller piece and decorate each panel one at a time to avoid tearing and wrinkling the paper.)

Homemade tissue paper

3. Paint a personal picture with lots of hearts! Use a toilet paper roll bent into a heart shape to create a large heart stamp! Use this technique to create a border for a special photo, or a page full of floating hearts to hang up!

Heart Shaped Stamps

4. Design a card with reverse masking! No gift would be complete without a card that says, “I love you!” Proving that love can be messy,  finger painting over a taped off word or design will allow kids to have great hands-on textural experiences as they swirl paint around. Once the paint dries, remove the tape to reveal the message!

Before…

Finger painting photo 1

After…Melissa and Doug finger paint project

Valentine’s gifts aren’t just for romantics! Any child can show love and compassion creating easy handmade (and heart-felt) gifts to give! What ideas would you add to our list? Share with us in the comments below, or join the conversation on Facebook!

Related posts:

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About Julie:

Julie Kieras is mom to two active an inquisitive boys and wife to a wonderful husband. She can usually be found playing with her toddler and infant, organizing her craft closet, reading a good book, taking a walk, or perhaps baking her semi-famous apple pies. In between, she writes a blog about family life at A Year With Mom and Dad.

February 4, 2013 at 5:23 pm 6 comments

Val’s Quick Craft: Scratch Art Valentines

This week, our Blog Ambassador Val (Inner Child Fun) shared an adorable craft to help celebrate Valentine’s Day! We love it because, of all the arts and crafts available for Valentine’s Day, this one truly is quick and easy!

Arts and Crafts Project for Valentine's Day

Here’s a quick overview of her Scratch Art Valentines:

1)      Gather up the materials you need. She recommends Scratch Arts sheets (she used ones from the Scratch & Sparkle Deluxe Kit), cookie cutters (heart-shaped, of course!), tape, pencils, scissors, and doilies (if you have them).

2)      Trace your adorable shapes and start the Scratch Art fun! Scribble and decorate designs into your hearts however you’d like!

3)      Attach your doily and punch a hole for some ribbon to string through. Then, hang the adorable ornaments around your home, or share them as gifts!

To see Val’s entire blog post, click here.

Do your kids make Valentine’s Day crafts – either to keep as decorations or give as gifsts? Share your favorite crafts in the comments below, or join the conversation on Facebook!

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Inner Child Fun

Valerie Deneen is the author of Inner Child Fun, where she inspires parents to spend more quality time with their kids, and less money doing it. Inner Child Fun celebrates simple pleasures for all ages—with more than 1,000 frugal and creative projects sure to bring out the “kid” in you too! Follow Valerie on Twitter or say “Hi” on Facebook.

February 3, 2013 at 9:00 am 3 comments

Big Savings this Weekend at Melissa & Doug (Weekly Deal Round-Up)

We’re gearing up for Valentine’s Day at MelissaAndDoug.com and have some GREAT deals planned for this weekend to help you stock-up on some “sweet” gifts! Check out our weekly deal round-up for details:

25% Off Beeposh!

Here’s a surprise weekend coupon…that’s sure to warm you up! Get 25% off ALL our cozy Beeposh clothing, accessories & more! (This weekend only! Use code BEEPOSH25 during checkout). Shop here: http://bit.ly/BEEPOSH25

sale on Beeposh

Free Personalization in our Valentine’s Day Shop!

For a limited time, personalization is FREE on eligible items in our Valentine’s Day shop! From stuffed animals to stamp sets, puzzles and arts and crafts, we have everything you need to give a truly unique gift from the heart.

Free personalization offer in Valentine's Day shop

Free Shipping over $60!

If you’re stocking up on your Valentine’s Day gifts, be sure to take advantage of our Free Shipping over $60 offer! Just use code FREESHIPSIXTY during checkout.

Free Gift with Purchase

For a limited time, all orders over $35 will receive a FREE Alphabet Write-On Learning Mat and package of Erasable Crayons! This item will be automatically added to your order during checkout.

Free learning mat and crayons with purchases over $35

Don’t Forget the Outlet Shop!

The Melissa & Doug Outlet Shop features some incredible products at up to 50% off! Plus, new items are being added regularly, like our new 2 for 1 value sets! You should hurry up though – these items have limited quantities and are only available at this price while supplies last.

Melissa And Doug Outlet

That’s all for now! Enjoy these special offers and have a wonderful weekend!

~  Your friends at Melissa & Doug

February 2, 2013 at 3:00 pm Leave a comment

How to make teach mama’s “Homemade Scratch Art Valentines”

Are your kids giving Valentine’s Day cards to their classmates? Try something “from the heart” this year with these adorable homemade Scratch Art Bookmark Valentines from our Blog Ambassador Amy (of teach mama). We love the idea of having your kids get involved in making special treats for their friends and peers (plus it makes for an excellent indoor weekend activity…a cure for cabin fever, perhaps?)

Scratch Art Bookmarks

The best part is, your children’s friends can actually enjoy these bookmark cards after they receive them – so they double as a charming gift as well! Here’s an overview of Amy’s post, but for the full run-down visit her original blog post here.

1)      Gather the Melissa & Doug Scratch Art Bookmarks and any other supplies you’ll need to create a “wrapper”/card for the gift (stamps, markers, etc.)

2)      Create special Valentine’s Day messages using colorful card stock (Amy shares a printable that you can use as well)

3)      Add any designs, special messages, and ask your child to sign their name.

4)      Punch holes for the Scratch Art stylus to go, and a special ribbon to complete your Valentine!

Homemade Scratch Art Bookmark Valentines

Get all the steps to creating your Scratch Art bookmark Valentines here (including Amy’s printable!)

Do your kids make homemade Valentines for their classmates? Share your tips and ideas in the comments below, or join the conversation on Melissa & Doug’s Facebook page!

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Blog Ambassador Amy's photoHang with Amy over at teachmama.com for more cool, super-sneaky ways to throw in some learning in the name of fun or join her at we teach–a forum for parents and teachers to connect, share ideas and grow–no matter the classroom. Or tweet with her (@teachmama), pin with her or chat with her on Facebook!

February 2, 2013 at 8:00 am 3 comments

Puzzle Play Activity: A “Counting by 10’s Puzzle Hunt” (& Printable!)

Last week on the Melissa & Doug blog, we shared a few ways to enjoy our puzzle-themed printable. One idea was to have a puzzle treasure hunt! Our guest blogger Joyce (Childhood Beckons) expanded on this concept in her recent blog post: Counting by 10’s Puzzle Hunt!

Puzzle Hunt Activity and Printable

Here’s how the educational scavenger hunt works:

1)      Divide your puzzle pieces into 10 separate envelopes (she used our 100 Piece Solar System Jigsaw Puzzle so that each envelope contained an equal amount of pieces)

2)      Create rhyming clues for all the place you want to hide the pieces (her examples are below, OR print your own using her blank printable template)

Clues for creating a puzzle hunt                Puzzle hunt printable

3)      Place the clues inside the envelopes, and hide them throughout the house!

4)      Once everything is set-up, ask your child to go find the clues to help build their puzzle! (This is perfect for cold, or rainy days as your child can run around a bit and get some energy out!)

5)      Once all the pieces are collected and before you begin to assemble your puzzle, use this as an opportunity to practice “counting by tens”.

Now, put together your puzzle and enjoy!

Puzzle hunt using 100-piece solar system puzzle

For more “puzzle play” activities, check out these related blog posts:

For a list of 100-piece puzzles that would work well with this activity, visit our website.

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Joycebiopic2Joyce is the mom behind Childhood Beckons, where she encourages parents to focus on their families and the childhood that beckons them. Her motto is “Childhood is calling my son to play and explore. And childhood is calling me to help him on his journey.” She enjoys discovering creative ways to play and learn and passing along her family’s favorites. You can find Joyce on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

February 1, 2013 at 1:00 pm Leave a comment

How to Create Secret Play Spaces (in Exciting New Places!)

Does your home have oddly-shaped nooks, corners, closets, or crannies? Rather than using them for storage, consider creating a secret, exciting new play space for your kids!

Children love exploring these types of spaces: the sense of exploration and excitement is a powerful driver for imaginative play, which is why spaces like attics, crawl spaces, or even places underneath a raised bed are so intriguing.

Our guest blogger Tiffany (from Peanut Blossom) recently moved into a new home that was equipped with a charming, sloped nook underneath the stairs. Excited to create a place for her two daughters, she soon found the space quickly filled with moving boxes. In her recent blog post, Hidden corners for play, she shares how the space was transformed:

How to create a secret play space

1)      Clear out the “junk”! For kids to feel like the space is “theirs”, the first thing to do is to clear out anything cluttering the space.

2)      Tailor the space to nurture your child’s individual personality. Tiffany’s daughter LOVES to play Veterinarian to her little stuffed animals. So, their family decided to create an “Animal Hospital” underneath the stairs. Using many supplies the family already had around the house (book cases, baskets, etc.) the space quickly contained little cages for the “patients” and even a desk for wellness charts! With a cute “Doc is In” sign (using the Melissa & Doug door plaque) and mailbox to collect the office “mail” – the space was complete!

3)      Keep it colorful: Tiffany recommends transforming the space into something bright and attractive, with a theme. Choosing a consistent color palette will keep the space warm and welcoming.

Animal Hospital post

Tiffany shares other tips on how to create a unique playzone for your kids over on her blog: check out her ideas and tell us – do you have a space in your home that could be transformed? Join the conversation with us on Facebook!

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Related blog posts:

6 Ways to Revamp Your Play Space for 2013

The Cure for Cabin Fever: 4 Ways to Explore the Great Indoors

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Tiffany Dahle Peanut Blossom photoTiffany Dahle is the hostess behind Peanut Blossom where she shares her belief that strong families start with strong and happy mothers. She encourages you to develop everyday possibilities for stretching your creativity while doing what you do to keep that household running! You can find Tiffany on Facebook,Twitter, and Pinterest.

January 31, 2013 at 12:11 pm 1 comment

Therapy through Play: 5 Activity Tips Using Cardboard Blocks

A wonderful way to encourage kids to build key developmental skills is with toys! Guest blogger and mom of quadruplets (yes, you read that right!) Rebecca from A Beautiful Ruckus recently shared some wonderful therapy activities using our Cardboard Building Blocks. Here’s an overview of the activity tips she shared.

Using cardboard blocks in physical therapy activities

1)      Exploring

One secret to keeping toys fresh and entertaining is to rotate them in and out of play! Rebecca shares that, when the blocks are brought out for the kids to play with during physical therapy, she first allows some “exploration” time to help start the session on a positive note.

2)      Stacking

In their physical therapy sessions, Rebecca’s children are practicing stacking skills. Using blocks can help build these skills as kids can practice balancing items on top of each other (and have a little fun knocking them down!)

3)      Stepping

A wonderful way to help kids practice going up and down stairs (without any danger) is by using blocks! Blocks that are sturdy enough to stand on will help kids practice balance and focus simultaneously before they take the “leap” on a set of “real” stairs. Tip: Rebecca fills our larger red blocks with rice to weight them down, making sturdier, stackable stairs. She also has the kids “reach up, and step up” to help them practice doing two things at once.

Reaching exercise using blocks

4)      Obstacles

The process of walking around obstacles, or clearing them with feet, can be a tricky one to master. Using blocks, Rebecca sets up obstacles of different heights and widths for her children to master!

5)      Planking

Planking exercises can help kids who may struggle with their core strength. Using blocks, lift your child up and have them “step on” and “step off” the blocks using their hands. Having something bright and interesting to look at, like colorful blocks, can help make this activity a bit more interesting, too.

planking using blocks

For a full recap of the block exercises used by Rebecca and her physical therapist, read her full post here.

What toys do you use to help your child build key developmental skills? We would love to hear your original ideas and suggestions, so share with us in the comments below or join the conversation on Facebook!

January 30, 2013 at 12:23 pm 3 comments

Create-Your-Own Puzzle Printable (Plus 3 Activity Tips!)

It’s National Puzzle Day! In addition to playing with the puzzles you already own, download and print this puzzle-themed activity sheet!

Free printable for kids - puzzle themed

Here are some ways to enjoy this free printable:

1) Create a one-of-a-kind puzzle: Ask your child to color the sheet using crayons or markers. Then, using child-safe scissors, have the child cut (or, depending on their skill level, assist them in cutting) the puzzle pieces apart. Mix all the pieces up, and have the child enjoy re-creating the puzzle they’ve designed!

2) Plan a puzzle-themed Treasure Hunt! Ask your child to write “clues” on each puzzle piece. Then, after the pieces are cut apart, scatter them throughout the house and ask other family members or friends to embark on the scavenger hunt! Each puzzle piece should give a “clue” on where the next one is hidden. At the end, plant a special treat to surprise everyone!

3) Prepare a Puzzle “Love Note” gift! For a family member’s upcoming birthday (or other special occasion) ask your child to create a “Puzzle Love Note” gift. Either create a colorful love note using the entire sheet, or write a separate sweet note on each puzzle piece. Then, cut the puzzle pieces apart and package them in a heart box or little envelope for the recipient to enjoy piecing back together!

We’d love to see what your child creates! Share your photos with us on Facebook, or tag #MelissaAndDoug on Instagram!

Enjoy!

Download the Puzzle Printable.

January 29, 2013 at 11:00 am 2 comments

From Melissa: The Story Behind Our Passion for Puzzles!

In celebration of “National Puzzle Day,” Melissa shares some background on how our passion for puzzles began!

The story behind Melissa & Doug's first puzzles

Today is National Puzzle Day, which brings me back to the early days of puzzles and why puzzles were not only our VERY FIRST category of wooden products, but the dearest to my heart!!!  I am convinced that EVERY CHILD needs puzzles in their young lives for proper development, as puzzles are one of the key building blocks to early learning.  Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Manipulating the pieces of a puzzle develops the small hand muscles of children.  Fine motor skills are so important to young children, yet take lots of practice and repetition to properly develop, which puzzles encourage!
  2. Puzzles are also crucial for helping build eye-hand coordination.  The need to use visual clues like color, shape, or pattern in order to fit pieces together helps develop this skill.
  3. Puzzles can also help teach and reinforce early identification and recognition of objects such as letters, numbers, shapes, colors, and animals, and help build vocabulary and descriptive skills.
  4. Finally, puzzles help  build the important skills of memory and confidence.  Children love to master completing the puzzle, and then engage in the repetition of putting the puzzle together faster and faster, since puzzles are self correcting and only fit together one way.  Completing the puzzle again and again gives children a tremendous sense of accomplishment and builds their confidence!

Our first puzzle was a brainstorm based on one of Doug’s and my favorite childhood books, Pat the Bunny.  We loved the tactile, sensory aspect of the book, and believed that incorporating texture into a puzzle would be appealing to young children.  Thus our first two puzzles, the Farm and Jungle fuzzy puzzles were born!

The first Melissa & Doug puzzlesPreviewHere’s a bit of trivia:  At one point we had over a dozen fuzzy puzzles, including fuzzy faces and shapes puzzles!!! Twenty-two years later, we have freshened up the graphics, but our two original themed farm and jungle (safari) tactile puzzles are still in the line!!!

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What are your child’s favorite puzzles? Help us celebrate National Puzzle Day by sharing photos with us on our Facebook page, or on Instagram (@MelissaAndDougToys, #MelissaAndDoug)

January 29, 2013 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Making Room for the New! 6 Ways to Revamp Your Play Space for 2013

revamp play space

Ah, another year and another chance to start fresh! If all you see when you look around your child’s play area is clutter, clutter, clutter, it may be time to make room for the new and do something about the old, the broken, and the unused!

Creating an inviting play space.

TIP: Group like items together by function: puzzles, dress-up, action figures, arts & crafts, etc.

1. Make Room
The first step to creating an inviting play space for your child is literally making room. Start this process by sorting through all the toys. Your child can help with this, too! Group objects into definite keepers, ones broken/missing pieces, and ones that are no longer used.

2. Make a Donation
With the toys that you’re willing to part with, make a donation to a local charity, family member or friend. Children can often be happily persuaded to take part in giving away toys once they know where their once-cherished toys are going. Knowing that “Cousin Caleb” will be thrilled with these toys can make it easier to say good bye to toys that are no longer used. It can also help  children to develop a sense of gratitude and well-being for helping others.

3. Throw it Away
As a rule, broken toys should be discarded right away for safety’s sake. You will likely also find an assortment of toys that are missing pieces. Go ahead and throw them away, too.

4. Take Turns
Now, you’re down to the keepers! A great way to keep the play environment stimulating is to rotate toys in and out of the play area every 3 to 4 weeks. Take a large storage container (or a few) and pack away a portion of the toys (no favorites!). Let your child know that those toys are taking a break for a few weeks and will be back soon. When those toys come back into the play area they will be explored and enjoyed with renewed interest.

5. Get Out the Label Maker (or make your own)
If you’re feeling super-serious about wanting the space to stay organized, you can do what many schools do – label the correct location for each item. Not only does this assign a place for everything, but it also reinforces letter recognition and reading skills! For DIY labels, use stickers or construction paper, cut into strips.

6. Get Playing!
Your new improved play space is sure to inspire hours of creativity, silliness, learning and fun. What are you waiting for? Get playing!

What are your favorite ways to organize your play space for the new year? Share in the comments below, or join the conversation on our Facebook page!

January 4, 2013 at 9:00 am 4 comments

More Ways to Play and Learn: Froggy Toss & Catch Net & Ball

 

More Ways to Play and Learn: Extension Activities for Our Toys: Froggy Toss & Catch Net & Ball
Ready to catch a “fly” ball? Grab a Froggy net and get hoppin’! This toss-and-catch game includes two cool nets, two foam balls and lots of ways to have fun. Cheerful features and bright colors will have children smiling right along with Froggy as they play. This exciting set encourages gross motor skills, hand-eye coordination and social skills. Instructions for six games are included.More Ways to Play and Learn with Froggy Toss & Catch Net & Ball:Standard Play:

  • Toss the ball with one hand and catch it with your Froggy net. (The ball is intended to be tossed by hand.)

More games for 1-2 players:

  • Players stand apart from each other, each holding a ball in one hand and a net in the other. On the count of three, each player should bounce his/her ball on the ground and try to catch it (after the bounce) in his/her own net. The first player to make 10 catches is the winner!
  • Each player holds a net parallel to the ground and carefully places a ball anywhere on the green handle or rim. Each player must balance his/her ball on the surface of the racquet as long as possible, counting aloud to determine how many points he/she will earn for the round. (Stop counting points when the ball falls.) For an extra challenge, only award points if the ball falls into the net at the end of the round; no points for balls that land on the ground!
  • The player(s) begins by holding the net straight out in front, with a ball in the net. The player counts, “One,” while spinning the handle to rotate the net 360° (the net will face downward for part of the rotation – it takes a quick move to keep the ball inside!). If the ball remains in the net, the player then counts, “One, two,” taking the full count to make one full rotation. Play continues in this way, with each rotation becoming slower as the counting takes longer. Whoever keeps the ball in the net the longest wins!

Games for 2 or more players (or teams):

  • The first player holds a Froggy net with a ball in it; the second player holds an empty Froggy net below it. The first player must tip over his/her net, dropping the ball into the empty net. Both the dropper and the catcher get one point for every successful exchange. (Additional players may be rotated in if more want to play.) To increase the challenge, move the nets farther apart with every round. If the ball touches the ground, the game ends!
  • Divide into two teams of two players each. On each team, one player will hold a net and the other will hold a ball. The teammates begin by standing arm’s length apart while the player with the ball tries to toss it into the outstretched net. When the player gets the ball in the net, he/she may take one step back. Continue playing in this way, with the ball thrower taking a step back after each successful toss. The first to take five steps back wins!

Visit our blog every day for great new ideas about creative play! At Melissa & Doug, we see endless possibilities in every educational toy, and we’re committed to sharing the fun with you. Sign up to receive our blog posts in your email inbox and tune in to learn about new toys, hear from our Blog Ambassadors, and explore a world of imagination and learning.

May 20, 2013 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

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