A List Of Our Favorite Toys

Toys are an important part of childhood. They may create clutter and stress in our lives as parents and teachers, but the truth is, they can be essential to our kid’s childhood. They don’t have to be noisy and there doesn’t have to be a lot of them, as long as they are intentional. Here are our favorite toys we keep at our house. In fact, the less noisy and flashy they are, the better development wise. 

Magnet tiles- Learning more about magnets AND the ability to build various structures. They are also an easy add-to collection. Where we can continue to purchase more as gifts to my kids, but our abundance of toys doesn’t feel overrun. 

Wooden blocks- Again, building! Imagination! And sustainable materials. 

Kitchen set with food and dishes- More pretend play has happened in our play kitchen (both outdoor and indoor) than anywhere else in our house. 

Pop open tent- I’m a big fan of these because they fold flat for easy storage behind or under the couch. Our next purchase will be a pop up tunnel. 

Baby dolls- Both my son and daughter love playing pretend with our collection of baby dolls. None of them are very fancy and we’ve thrifted the majority of them. 

Outdoor kitchen with real pots and pans- I spent a weekend thrifting old pots, pans, silverware, and other kitchen dishes that we’ve put into our little playhouse in the backyard. These combined with some dirt and water seem to be our most popular toy! 

The toys you choose to have in your home for your kids don’t have to be extravagant and don’t have to be flashy. In fact, the less batteries required, the better! The more work your child has to do in order to play with the toy, the more learning and growing that is happening. 

What are some of the favorite toys in your house? 

Importance Of Reading 20 Minutes A Day

benefits of reading 20 minutes a day

Many, many schools push 20 minutes of reading a day. And while using reading charts or similar methods may not be beneficial in the long run, sitting down to read for 20 minutes a day is. Especially if it’s done in an authentic way. Here are some statistics of reading 20 minutes a day: 

Children who read 20 minutes a day are exposed to 1.8 million words in one school year.

They are also more likely to score in the 90th percentile on standardized testing. 

There was also a study done on children reading 15 minutes a day that showed academic achievement and gains in regards to reading, but not as high as the students that read 20 minutes a day. 

Students reading 5 minutes or less a day were more likely to fall behind their peers academically and needed intervention methods to bring them to grade level (statistics from kidskonnect.com).

Beyond just statistics and test scores, what are the other benefits of reading? 

A widened imagination and higher levels of creativity. 

Reading can help foster empathy. 

It exposes children to multiple cultures, ideas, and worlds. 

Reading improves writing skills. 

It expands vocabulary. 

Taking 20 minutes to read every day can boost mental health. 

Improves critical-thinking skills. 

Can encourage them to ask more questions when they don’t understand concepts in the book, such as why some cultures eat, drink, or act in the ways they do. 

Have I convinced you yet?! Encouraging 20 minutes of reading a day can do wonders for children’s education. There are amazing benefits to it! Stay tuned for a blog post in the future on how you can foster a love of reading in your students as well. 

Fostering Independent Play

I recently wrote an article on how play is a learned trait for children, they aren’t just pre-programmed knowing how to play alone. And another on the benefits of independent play. After preaching all of these great aspects of independent play, I think I owe it to the world to provide a few ways to foster independent play. Here are a few tips. 

  • Schedule independent play. Have a conversation with your child about it and set aside a time in the day for it. 
  • Make independent play predictable and an open conversation. 
  • Set the timer during the scheduled independent play. Start out small with 5 minutes, and work your way slowly to more and more time. 
  • Keep toys organized and available. It’s hard for kids to have a starting point for play if toys are scattered and unavailable. 
  • Keep toys minimal. It’s easier to keep them clean and organized when you are not overrun with too many. 
  • Create curated “activity bins” with all of the pieces and materials needed for specific activities such as a “race car” bin filled with cars, tracks, shops, and people. Or a “baby care” bin filled with baby dolls, pretend diapers, bottles, and maybe even a small bath. 

Most importantly, make independent play FUN! It can turn into a negative process for kids when they are constantly told to “just go play.” They can feel as if they are being shut out and unwanted. When independent play is worked on, enjoyable, and looked forward to, it can turn into a great process that eventually will become something that you don’t have to work hard to have your child practice, it’ll come more and more naturally to them. 

What other ways do you foster independent play in your children? 

A Whole Page For Informed Decisions

It’s here, it’s here, it’s here!

The last few months I’ve been writing articles on different types of schools you can choose as a parent. The choice can be so overwhelming, with many different options and many different choices within those options.

The choice seemed overwhelming to me, so I sought out to help others make their decision easier by researching the different schools and lining out the facts. I tried to stray from a pro/con list because there are some facts about these schools that can be a pro for one family, and a con for another family.

So here it is! A page where you can read more about each school.

Informed Decisions For Different Types of Schools

The Benefits Of Independent Play

Last week I wrote down some of my thoughts about independent play and how it took time for my daughter to learn how to play. Play is not just something kids do for fun. It’s actual work. It is how their brains put together new experiences and learn to interact with the world. And while I was trying to push my daughter towards more independent play so that I could have a few minutes alone to work on what I needed, there are also many other benefits you can find from independent play. 

  • It fosters imagination. It gives them time to explore a whole new world that has yet to be created. 
  • It aids in problem-solving. When someone else isn’t there helping them solve their problems of blocks not fitting together right or the tower not stacking properly, they start relying on themselves and their own problem-solving skills. 
  • It boosts confidence! Allowing them the opportunity to utilize their own toys and manipulate them in the way they want can create confidence in themselves that otherwise may not be there if there is someone else present playing with them. 
  • Independent play can be a great way to prepare them for school. Working independently is a part of anyone’s education, and learning how to do this through play can prove to be more beneficial in the long run. 
  • It teaches them about alone time. Yes, as a parent you are given a few minutes of alone time to accomplish what you need to, but it’s also teaching your child how to have alone time and use it to recharge or accomplish what they need to. 

The next time you feel bad telling your kids to “go play”, you don’t need to! Allowing them independent playtime can be great for many reasons. Keep your eye out over the next few weeks for my post on how you can foster independent play for your own kids that may not do well with playing on their own. 

Play Is A Learned Trait: It’s Not Always Natural For Kids

Play, play, play! 

If you throw the word “play” up in the search bar of this particular blog, you’ll find a plethora of articles on children and play. 

Here’s a full page with my play articles somewhat organized.

But there’s another point I want to touch on when it comes to play. This article comes from a time a few years ago when my oldest child  was almost two years old. I was trying to make dinner and the typical battle of trying to either keep her busy in the kitchen, or distract her with toys outside of the kitchen ensued. I generally love cooking, but have such a hard time with it when I have a kid standing right at my feet demanding attention! 

I kept saying the same thing over and over to her- 

“Go play! Please! Go find some toys and play!” 

This battle continued for days and weeks on end. Nothing ever worked! 

I started researching online ways I could get my daughter to play on her own, and there were some great ideas out there. However, I read one piece of advice that I so badly wished I would have saved so I could reference! But the article stated this- 

Play is not something that just comes naturally to every kid, it’s a learned skill they all need to develop over time. 

It was such simple advice, yet it was still advice that changed my whole perspective! I was a great parent at pulling out a sensory bin or whipping up a quick color match activity. However, I was never a parent that pulled out the blocks and showed my daughter how to build. Or drive the toy cars. We never played pretend with the baby dolls or made the plastic animals move. If no one ever showed her how to play with the toys, why should I have expected her to know what to do with them? 

Over the next several weeks we spent time down on the floor together building towers and rocking babies to sleep. And then it was a slow transition to “invitations to play” where I would leave out a small set up to spark my daughter’s imagination and I would let her take it from there. 

Eventually, she learned the skill of play, and making dinner became so much easier! We continued to practice playing together and she continued to practice it by herself when I needed the time to be alone. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a start in the right direction. 

My hope is that if you’re struggling with getting your child to play by themselves as well, this article can be eye-opening for you as well. 

Tell me in the comments how you helped your child learn the art of play! 

Choosing A Montessori School: Is It Right For You?

Let’s talk about Montessori schools! The term Montessori is thrown around a lot, especially recently, it’s become a very popular method among schools, caretakers, and parents. But what is the Montessori method? Here’s a quick introduction. 

Maria Montessori developed her method of learning as an Italian physician in the early 1900s. Her work focuses on children being independent in their learning and that they have a natural tendency for inquiry in learning. With the proper tools and set up, the child can be independent in their learning. The typical tools in a Montessori classroom are wooden, simple, and always at a child’s level.

Her work was never trademarked, so any school or center can tag “Montessori” onto their title and claim they teach Montessori method, but may not actually follow exactly what Maria developed. This is important to remember when looking into a Montessori school! 

A few facts about a Montessori school: 

If choosing a Montessori education, you may have to change your expectations of what school will look like for your children. They most likely will not be sitting in desks at any point in the day, but instead wandering and exploring and learning at their pace. 

Because the Montessori method is not a trademarked learning style, it is important to do research on specific schools to watch how they are learning and what the school’s style is to see if it meets the needs you are seeking. 

The Montessori method was well developed for elementary aged students, but Maria never created a curriculum for middle or high school students. Some schools have taken the Montessori principles and adjusted them to a high school level, creating a Montessori secondary education program, however, they may be few and far between. 

If you have chosen a Montessori program for your kids, how did you come to the conclusion that it was the right choice? 

Cover photo from thetot.com