Posts filed under ‘articles for parents & grandparents’

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

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.


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

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



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 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.


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

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

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