The Best Graphic Novels for Early Readers

By sara / February 14, 2017

Why Graphic Novels? 

Graphic novels have long been beloved by teen and adult readers the world over. From Japanese manga to well-known American comics, this literary format has millions of fans and its popularity has only continued to grow. Academic libraries report that graphic novels are among their most-requested materials, and in 2015 the sale of graphic novels in the United States topped $1 billion, confirming their steadily rising popularity among teen and adult consumers. But few realize that graphic novels can also provide a wonderful entry point to very young beginning readers. Because they're pictorial in nature, they're a suitable alternative to more traditional "easy reader" series, ideal for small children as well as older kids for whom reading is a struggle.

Why  these  graphic novels? 

The following list of recommendations has been curated for age-appropriateness and tailored to readers in kindergarten through second grade. Many of these books have been endorsed by the American Library association or the Association for Library Service to Children.

Each title combines simple, fast-paced plotting with sequential illustrations to make them easily navigable to even the most reluctant readers, as well as children who struggle with reading comprehension. They're attention-grabbing, straightforward, and most importantly fun!

20. Little Robot by Ben Hatke

Ben Hatke created his reputation as a celebrated children's graphic novelist with the beloved sci-fi book Zita the Spacegirl, and he lives up to that reputation with the nearly wordless Little Robot. In this charming story, a five-year-old girl discovers a small robot in the woods and accidentally activates him. They become fast friends, but some bigger, nastier robots come along with a plan to steal him for their own questionable purposes. It's up to the little girl to protect her robotic companion with only a wrench and her sense of loyalty. This is a delightful book about the importance of friendship and overcoming your fear.

  • Target Age: Kindergarten & Up 

19. Hamster and Cheese by Colleen AF Venable

This book is the first installment in the Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye series. In this colorfully illustrated volume, guinea pig private investigator Sasspants is hired by Hamisher the hamster to track down pet shop owner Mr. Venezi's missing sandwiches. There are two informational pages about the pet shop's inhabitants, and page after page of full-color cartoons.

  • Target Age: Kindergarten & Up 

18. Little Mouse Gets Ready by Jeff Toon

The hero of this story, Little Mouse, is perfecting a skill most beginning readers will have only recently mastered: getting dressed! Before he goes to the barn, Little Mouse selects underwear, socks, pants, shoes, and a shirt to wear, and he must find his way around zippers, Velcro, and buttons to finish the job. Finally, in a surprise twist, Little Mouse's mother reminds him that mice don't wear clothes.

  • Target Age: Kindergarten & Up 

17. Benny & Penny in the Big No-No! by Geoffrey Hayes

This is the second installment in Geoffrey Hayes Benny & Penny series, following the adventures of a brother and sister mouse. In this follow-up to the first book, Benny's pail goes missing, and he and Penny suspect their new neighbor, a hedgehog, is the culprit. Even though they know it's a "big no-no," they sneak into their neighbor's yard in search of the pail. What happens next teaches them about friendship, misunderstandings, and the importance of saying sorry when you make a mistake.

  • Target Age: Kindergarten & Up 

16. A Day at the Fire Station by Richard Scarry

A Day at the Fire Station is just one installment in Richard Scarry's now-classic My Community series, teaching young readers all about the world they inhabit and the people in it. In this book, house-painters Drippy and Sticky visit the Busytown Fire Station and learn about the day-to-day lives of the firefighters who work there, as well as the actions the take when they answer a call. There's even a glossary and a bibliography defining terms and pointing readers to supplemental books and websites.

  • Target Age: Kindergarten & Up 

15. Airplane Adventure by Cari Meister

Airplane Adventure is part of the My First Graphic Novel series, which includes helpful illustrated instructions for first-time readers about how to read a graphic novel. In this story, brother and sister Juan and Anna step on an airplane for the very first time to fly to Mexico and visit their grandmother. Young readers will learn all about air travel, and a discussion guide and writings prompt offer parents and teachers talking points for additional learning.

  • Target Age: Kindergarten & Up 

14. Hilda and the Troll by Luke Pearson

The adventurous, blue-haired Hilda is the subject of Luke Pearson's Hildafolk book series. Set against a magical Scandinavian backdrop, this story follows Hilda as she sets out to explore the mountains surrounding her home and draw some of the fantastical creatures to be found there. When she spies a mountain troll, she sits down to sketch him and soon falls asleep, waking up to find herself lost in a snowstorm. On her way home, she encounters even more unusual creatures.

  • Target Age: Kindergarten & Up 

13. Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires

Binky the cat is a space explorer -- at least in his own mind. In reality, he's a house cat with a BIG imagination. Through the power of make-believe, Binky transforms a trip outside into the backyard to chase bugs into an exploration of outer space, complete with battles with alien attackers who threaten Binky's human family. After drafting blueprints and building a spaceship, Binky is ready to blast off with his favorite stuffed mouse/copilot Ted when he realizes he's left behind something important.

  • Target Age: Kindergarten & Up 

12. The Shark King by R. Kikuo Johnson

This is another book in the popular TOON series of graphic novels for young readers. This beautifully illustrated story about a young boy named Nanaue will introduce kids to Hawaiian culture, and especially resonate with boys who aspire to be just like Dad. Nanaue, a young adventurer born to a shark father and a human mother, must learn to balance his desire for his father's guidance with his need for his mother's warmth and nurturing.

  • Target Age: First Grade & Up 

11. Tippy and the Night Parade by Lili Carre

This magical story is also part of the TOON series with gorgeous illustrations in a nocturnal blue color palette. All Tippy remembers is going to sleep, but when she wakes up she finds her bedroom full of plants, animals, and shells. Where did they all come from? We discover the answer as Tippy sleepwalks outside, gathering an entourage of animal friends who follow her on her nighttime adventures.

  • Target Age: First Grade & Up 

10. NINA in That Makes Me Mad by Hilary Knight

Little ones who are still learning to tolerate frustration will be able to relate to this story about Nina, a young girl who often loses her temper and throws tantrums. By learning to express her anger in words instead of through fits, Nina soon learns that she can deal with her feelings and come up with solutions to what makes her mad with some help from the adults in her life.

  • Target Age: First Grade & Up 

9. Written and Drawn by Henrietta by Ricardo Siri Liniers

This book is available in both English and Spanish, making it ideal for non-native English-speaking children as well as young bilingual readers. The heroine, Henrietta, not only loves to read books, she also enjoys making her own! With a fistful of colored pencils, Henrietta creates her own quirky world inhabited by a brave little girl, a three-headed monster, and no shortage of adventure. Young readers will be delighted and inspired by her creativity.

  • Target Age: First Grade & Up 

8. Otto's Orange Day by Jay Lynch

Otto is an orange cat who is given a magic lamp by his aunt. When he releases a genie who agrees to grant him one wish, Otto wishes to turn his whole world orange. At first his newly colored world seems like a lot of fun, but pretty soon Otto realizes that living in a totally orange world isn't everything it's cracked up to be. When his mom serves him an orange lamb chop (yuck!) and an orange traffic light causes an accident, he reconsiders his wish.

  • Target Age: First Grade & Up 

7. Dinosaurs in Space by Pranas T. Naujokaitis

Author Pranas T. Naujokaitis combines two subjects favored by kids since time immemorial: dinosaurs and space travel! In this hilariously illustrated graphic novel, space-dwelling dinosaurs from Planet Lettuce and Planet Meatball bicker over who's better: dinosaurs who eat salads, or dinosaurs who eat hamburgers. Readers of all ages will love the silly story and the comical cartoons alike.

  • Target Age: First Grade & Up 

6. Where's Leopold? Your Pajamas Are Showing! By Michael-Yves Schmitt

Translated from the original French, the story of Leopold and his big sister Celine will make you laugh out loud. When he wakes up one morning, Leopold is shocked to discover that he can turn invisible at will. Unfortunately, he can't make his clothes invisible, too, so he spends most of the book running around in only some underpants, tormenting his sister, and getting up to all sorts of other antics. Due to some "potty humor," this story is probably better suited to slightly older readers.

  • Target Age: Second Grade  & Up 

5. You Can't Take a Balloon into the Museum of Fine Arts by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzmann

This book is a little wordier than some of the others on our list, and for that reason it's a better choice for slightly older kids (second grade and up). This story takes the reader on a fun journey through Boston, where a little girl's balloon gets away from her in the Museum of Fine Arts. Her chase after it takes her to all sorts of historical landmarks, including Fenway Park, Trinity Church, Paul Revere House, and other noteworthy locations. Kids and adults will enjoy searching for the many famous Bostonians hidden in the illustrations, like Louisa May Alcott and Ted Williams.

  • Target Age: Second Grade & Up 

4. Patrick in a Teddy Bear's Picnic and Other Stories by Geoffrey Hayes

This is another wonderful graphic novel by the award-winning children's author Geoffrey Hayes, who has penned over forty picture books for kids. This one is about Patrick Brown, a lovable teddy bear who loves his mom and dad, life, and exploring the world he lives in. In this book, Patrick goes on a picnic with his mother, takes a nap, and stands up to a bully called Big Bear. Young readers will be able to relate to the challenges he faces and feel inspired when he comes out on top.

  • Target Age: Second Grade & Up 

3. Silly Lilly and the Four Seasons by Agnes Rosenthiel

Reader who are new to the world of Agnes Rosenthiel will soon understand why she's one of France's favorite children's authors. Protagonist Lilly loves the four seasons and the many pleasures they offer, from eating apples in fall to gathering seashells in summer. In this story, she learns all about the great outdoors and introduces beginning readers to the different colors, shapes, and words that show up in nature. The dialogue is minimal, with only one-word balloon per panel and only one sentence per word balloon, making it a highly accessible read.

  • Target Age: Second Grade & Up 

2. Johnny Boo: The Best Little Ghost in the World by James Kochalka

Ghost aren't always scary. In fact, this one is downright endearing. Johnny Boo is an adorable ghost with the special gift of "boo power" (the ability to go "BOO!" very loudly). His pet ghost Squiggle has "squiggle power," enabling him to fly super fast and make loop-de-loops. In this book they come up against the intimidating Ice Cream Monster, who they soon learn isn't very scary at all.

  • Target Age: Second Grade & Up 

1. Luke on the Loose by Harry Bliss

When Luke's dad takes him to Central Park, he soon gets absorbed in boring "daddy talk" while look is fascinated by the pigeons who live in the park. They lead him on a thrilling chase through Manhattan and across the Brooklyn Bridge before eventually settling on a rooftop. This book is especially memorable for its colorful cast of characters and its racial diversity.

  • Target Age: Second Grade & Up 

A Guide To Adaptive Toys for Special Needs Children

By sara / February 10, 2017

Adaptive Toy Solutions 

As a parent of a special needs child, you encounter challenges at every turn. Depending on your child’s abilities, simple tasks can become frustrating experiences for your little ones. Even choosing a simple toy for your child can be overwhelming as each child can respond differently to different stimuli, even if they have the same diagnosis. It can become an individualized process to find the right toys that will entertain your child as well as help him learn and reinforce his therapy.

One family has taken this fact to heart and created their own company,  LDK Adaptive Toys, LLC, that provides toys for their child as well as other children that require the same support. Their son was born with a rare seizure disorder and is globally developmentally delayed. While searching for toys that he could operate, they became frustrated at the high prices that were being charged for adapted toys for children with special needs. So, they took matters into their own hands and started adapting toys themselves and offering them at a more reasonable price point.

Adaptive Technology Solutions 

LDK Adaptive Toys purchases gently used toys from consignment shops. After the toys are cleaned and sanitized, the toys are adapted to work with special needs switches. The original switches no longer work and the toy will only work with the special needs switch.

Special need switches allow a child with a physical disability the power to play and learn independently. When they have the use of a switch, a child with a physical disability can be included in playtime fun with other children. The switch adapted toys enable children to learn sensory awareness, cause and effect, and social skills by playing and interacting with other children and their environment.

When shopping for a child with disabilities, it is important to focus on their interests instead of what they aren’t able to do. Every child has some interest that makes their face light up and gets them excited. Whether it is music, sports, or spaceships, there will always be a toy that they will be excited to get.

It is also important to focus on the individual child’s abilities. If you are the child’s parent, you are already aware of what makes your child excited, but relatives can often feel lost when choosing a toy for a child with a disability. Too often, relatives only see what the child struggles with instead of what their achievements are. Parents know that every day can be another step towards achieving the next milestone. So, if a child likes music, it can be helpful to find a toy that will encourage the child to play a musical instrument, which can improve their small motor skills. If you find a toy that encourages them to dance, you are inspiring them to improve their gross motor skills.

Skill levels are also important to consider when choosing a toy. When you think about what skill level they are at, it is ok to try and push them a little. Toys are a great way to motivate a child to push beyond their current limitations. When a child loses themselves in play, they are entering the world where anything is possible, and they allow their everyday barriers to disappear. They become superheroes, astronauts, and rock stars. If you find a toy that helps push an area where your child is currently struggling, your child may amaze you and himself with what he can accomplish.

Types of Toys for Children with Disabilities

Kids that have a hard with fine motor skills, such as children with Down syndrome, need large pieces to work with. A good example of this type of toy is large puzzle pieces with large knobs on them that the child can grasp giving them the ability to put the puzzle piece in the right place. Another good activity is a toy that can be custom fitted to the individual child’s needs and their developmental stage such as a piggy bank with larger coin pieces. This helps them improve their fine motor skills with pieces that are large enough for them to grasp and place into the opening of the bank. Toys with larger parts are also better for children with cerebral palsy who often have involuntary, spastic movements such as Duplo blocks.

Cause and effect toys that require pushing a button to get a response are good for children with autism, especially toys that promote interaction by eliciting a verbal response. Electronic toy laptops will help them learn letters, number, and words with engaging games and fun songs.

Pop-up tunnels and tents are great for those children that suffer from sensory integration impairment. This can affect children one of two ways. They either feel like escaping, or they seek out more interactions. For those that want to escape, pop-up tunnels and tents are a great way for them to escape the overstimulation and find a quiet place to relax.

For any condition that affects the motor system like muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy, it is important to look for toys that will work with limited movement. Toys that work to increase a child’s upper body dexterity and concentration are ideal.

Sometimes children have a hard time focusing on directions. For children with ADHD, open-ended crafts can be beneficial. If your child likes arts and crafts, something like Paint a Rock Pet where he can have plenty of creative control and there is no wrong or right way to paint it is best. For a child with autism, anything that spins is perfect as they tend to like repetition. Gear sets are an excellent choice, especially if the set has a motor and lights.

Here are a few additional things to look for when you are toy shopping:

  • Adjustability – Can the volume be adjusted? How about the speed and level of difficulty?
  • Child's Individual Abilities – Does the toy match the development age of your child? Would your child’s interest and age match the level of ability needed for the toy?
  • Safety – Does it have appropriately sized parts? Is it moisture resistant and can it be washed or cleaned? Does it fit your child’s size and strength?
  • Interaction – Does it encourage your child to be an active participant? Does it encourage social interactions with others?
  • Multi-Sensory – Are there sounds, lights, and moving parts that will engage your child? How about textures, scents, and colors?
  • Activation – Will it be frustrating for your child to turn on and operate? Is a lot of force needed to activate the toy? Are there a number of steps or complex step to activate it?
  • How It Will Be Used – Will the toy used in different positions, specifically on its side on a wheelchair tray?
  • Learning Success – Does it allow for open play, or is there only a right or wrong way to play with it? Can it be adapted to a child’s ability and pace?
  • Popularity - Is it a toy that reflects the current trends, so that your child feels like ''any other kid''?

Remember, it is worth the extra effort to look for special features on toys that make it more appropriate and adaptable for children with special needs. So, don’t feel overwhelmed at the toy store, dive in and find something that will stimulate and excite your child. The look of delight on your little one’s face will be well worth it.

You can visit the LDK Adaptive Toys EBay store or follow them on Facebook at LDK Adaptive Toys for additional information. 

The 50 Most Educational Family Vacation Ideas

By sara / February 10, 2017

When considering your next family vacation, a lot of emotions can come over you. Excitement, stress (lots of stress), and happiness at the thought of spending time with your family. It is important to pick a vacation spot that everyone in your family will enjoy, which can be difficult depending on your children’s ages and interests.

Many families are opting for vacations that have an education element to them, which has become a very popular option over the years. According to a CBS News article from 2007, 32% of travelers were planning to include educational activities into their vacation plans in 2008, which was up from 25% the year before. I can only imagine what the percentage is now.

Many parents feel that a vacation is another opportunity for learning. This fast growing travel option is gaining popularity as parents look for more ways to combine their love of travel with a chance to make teachable moments.

Parents have also let their kids become more involved in making vacation plans with 60% of parents letting the children have some say in where they go, according to Homeaway.com. They also reported that children in the U.S. want a vacation that includes adventure and the opportunity to do something that they wouldn’t get to do at home.

Children can learn anywhere, especially if it is an environment that is new to your child, and he is introduced to something he has not experienced or seen before. You can either choose a place like a museum or a zoo that will be filled with learning opportunities, or you can research specific sites to explore in a particular city or region giving yourself enough chance to enjoy learning experiences as well as relax while you are on your vacation. Living history sites may not seem as relaxing, but they will keep your children occupied and happy throughout your trip.

When you combine your vacation with educational elements, your family is not only getting a fun getaway, but you are broadening your children’s horizons and allowing them to learn something that won’t see at home or at school. There are several types of educational vacation formats:

• Museum or historic sites have an informal learning format where families can come and see artifacts and exhibits

• Camps or resorts that provide enrichment programs where participants get to try something new

• National Park offer visitors the change to learn about wildlife, geology, and the environment

• City visits can be eye openers for young children, and families can immerse themselves in art, culture, science, and history in a short period of time.

• Historic destinations and living history museums like Colonial Williamsburg can give families a fun way to get hands-on learning while being educated about life in another time

• Interest-based travel is used if there is a special interest like dinosaurs, horses, and outdoor sports

The methodology that I used to write this article was to search through educational vacation ideas that represented the six different formats listed above. Specifically, I wanted to include ideas in each format that could be found all around the country, so that they were spread out enough to interest as many people as possible.

I also wanted to choose a lot of different types of trips that would appeal to families with varied interests and economic backgrounds. Some families are very into camping, and national parks and I tried to include the most iconic of these as well as a few that I was surprised to find were a part of the national park system. I also wanted to make sure that the museums on the list were also varied and that they weren’t all focused on our Founding Fathers.

My favorite part was searching the interest-based travel ideas, and I was amazed at the many locations that had specifically designed camps for families like Space Camp and Dino-Dig. There were several destinations that appeal to outdoor loving families as well as many ideas that are easier for families with children with disabilities like children’s museums, zoos, and aquariums.

As I was doing my research, I found that the top destinations for educational vacations include:

• National Parks

• Children’s Museums

• Zoos

• Historical Monuments and Sites

• Theme Parks

The one destination I did not include is theme parks as I wanted to focus on some less obvious and out of the way spots that could get overlooked otherwise. Theme parks are really not your first thought for learning, but many theme parks do incorporate some educations aspects, and you can always learn about engineering and physics as you are roaring down the tracks of a roller coaster.

I also listed certain activities that I hoped might stimulate creativity in your travel plans and, even if that location may be nowhere near where you live or plan to travel, it might inspire you to see if there is something like it close by, or would get your creative juices flowing so you would be encouraged to look for other out of the box ideas. Good luck with your planning and I hope you have a somewhat restful, but fun-filled and educational vacation.

1. Plimoth Plantation, Massachusetts

One of the best vacations you can take is to reinforce something your kids have already learned. Every child learns about the Mayflower and Plimoth Rock, so they will be super excited to go and see it for themselves. This is a great opportunity to show your kids how the pilgrims and the Native Americans lived, and you are even able to go on board the Mayflower II that is an exact replica of the 1620 Mayflower.

Kids can also visit the Wampanoag Indians that lived near the pilgrims and learn about their traditional arts and crafts. If you happen to visit on Thanksgiving, visitors are invited to join in the traditional Thanksgiving dinner the feature to celebrate the original meal.

You can learn more the Plimouth Plantation here.

2. National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

All children learn the story of Harriet Tubman and runaway slaves. At the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, children will hear other stories of fugitive slaves as they escaped slavery and headed north for freedom. The Freedom Center also presents the stories of those individuals that helped the fugitive slaves on their journey north and illustrates how dangerous and illegal it was to do this.

One fun family activity that is featured at the Freedom Center is the ability to research your family lineage onsite. Families can get a free copy of their family tree and get personalized help with their research. The Freedom Center also documents the continued work being done today to help people attain freedom in their exhibits “Everyday Freedom Heroes” and “Invisible Slavery Today.”

You can learn more about the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center here.

3. Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, California

Over 35,000 animals and plants are found inside a sardine-cannery-like building in Monterey, California. Almost 200 exhibits fill up the aquarium using all of the kid-friendly features they could think of including light-up buttons, touchable, flip books, and slide-up panels. The signs are even interactive and written with rhythm and rhyme making them tons of fun to read aloud.

Kids especially love the 7,000 square foot Splash Zone that houses over 30 hands-on features for kids under 9 years old. Children of all ages will have fun using squirt toys to learn how to resist a crashing wave, crawl through tunnels with tropical fish, or use underwater video cameras to steer through wetlands and tidal pools. There are also four touch pools for exploratory fun, projects to make using scrapbooks and crayon rubbings, costumes to try on, small microscopes to examine specimens, and a special mirror that lets you see yourself as a hairy-nosed otter.

You can learn more about Monterey Bay Aquarium here.

4. Mount Vernon and Monticello, Charlottesville, VA

Visiting the homes of Presidents is a time-honored family vacation tradition. When you visit Charlottesville, VA, you have the opportunity to visit the homes of both President George Washington and President Thomas Jefferson. Mount Vernon, George Washington’s plantation on the Potomac River includes his mansion, reconstructed slave quarters, his burial tomb, a working blacksmith shop, a demonstration farm, plus eleven video presentations and an immersion theater where it will actually snow on you.

Monticello is Thomas Jefferson’s beloved home and plantation where you can see the first floor of his home, tour several exhibits, walk the expansive gardens, and tour Mulberry Row where exhibits and reconstructed buildings tell the story of those that lived and worked at Monticello. Children will also enjoy the Mountaintop Hands-On Activity Center and the Griffin Discovery Room. And, if you haven’t gotten enough of our Founding Fathers, the home of James Madison is only thirty minutes away in Montpelier and James Monroe’s home, AshLawn Highland, is also close by.

You can learn more about Mount Vernon and Monticello here.

5. Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Known as the largest children’s museum in the country, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis covers 472,900 square feet and features an exhibit of China’s Terra Cotta Warriors and of pirate Captain Kidd’s shipwreck. It is also home to the National Geographic Treasures of the Earth exhibit that allows children to inspect three major archaeology excavations.

Interactive tools let kids decipher hieroglyphics and dig for fragments of clay while the Dinosphere exhibit allows children to examine dinosaur fossils including a teenage Tyrannosaurus Rex and a baby dinosaur that is still curled in its nest. For older children, there is a moving exhibit that describes the lives of three different children, Ryan White, Anne Frank, and Ruby Bridges, who changed the world despite the prejudice that they all faced. Foreign cultures are also explored with an exhibit depicting the clothing, food, art, and traditions of cultures all over the world.

You can learn more about the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis here.

6. Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, Omaha, Nebraska

Who knew that one of the county’s coolest zoos was in Omaha? It features the world’s largest indoor desert, replicas of the deserts in Australis, Africa, and the southwest U.S., that is housed under a 13-story geodesic dome that includes cobras, meerkats, and peccaries. In contrast, there is also a tropical rainforest replica of South America and Asia’s Lied Jungle where visitors will see macaws fly by, monkeys swinging in the trees and tapirs and pygmy hippos roaming the waterfalls and rope bridges.

Other incredible exhibits include the world’s largest nocturnal animal exhibit with bats and giant salamanders, a Madagascar exhibit with lemurs and giant jumping rats, and open air habitats where orangutans and gorillas prowl. A 14,000-square-foot Butterfly & Insect Pavilion also features 20 to 30 butterfly species for children of all ages to delight in.

You can learn more about the Henry Doorly Zoo here.

7. Washington, D.C.

When you can’t narrow down a few things to put on this list from one city, it’s just easier to include the whole city. Washington, D.C. is the perfect family vacation, especially for older children, where you can learn about history, politics, government, and tour many amazing museums. Not only can they visit the U.S. Capitol and see where bills and laws are made, but they can also visit the U.S. Supreme Court and see the justices hear and vote on important national cases.

Make sure to take a trip to the National Archives and Records Administration where you can see the original Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. There are is also the National Mall, the White House, the National Monuments, and the Lincoln Memorial to name a few other stops that should be included on your list.

And then there are the Smithsonian Museums that include so many different topics, you may need several trips to see them all. There are nineteen museums including air and space, American history, arts and industries, and the U.S. Holocaust Museum, plus don’t miss the National Zoo.

You can learn more about the Washington, D.C. area here.

8. Grand Canyon National Park

Do you remember the Brady Bunch episode when they went to the Grand Canyon? That episode epitomized this vacation destination as the iconic trip that hundreds of thousands of families have made over the years. It is the first National Park entry on our list, and it is one of the most amazing natural wonders in the world as well. This geographic wonder will not only awe the kids, but it will give them an opportunity to learn about nature and geology.

The most accessible part of the Grand Canyon is the South Rim where you can easily bicycle or walk along the Desert View Drive, and you can learn about the canyon’s history and geology on a cell phone tour along the trail. There are also shuttles and private bus tours that will take you to scenic overlooks like the 75-foot-high Desert View Watchtower for fabulous panoramic views of the canyon.

If you have older children, the classic mule ride deep into the canyon can either be done in a day or you can stay overnight at the Phantom Ranch. The western end of the canyon features the Skywalk where you can walk on a glass floor 4,000 feet above the canyon floor for an unforgettable experience. Teens will also enjoy the opportunity go whitewater rafting on the Colorado River through the Canyon.

You can learn more about the Grand Canyon National Park here.

9. Space Camp & Rocket Center, Huntsville, Alabama

For those families that enjoy rockets, space, and engineering, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center is a must see. This is a world-renowned museum in Huntsville, Alabama that features exhibits with all kinds of ways that children can learn about NASA’s achievements in space. The U.S. Space & Rocket Center is also home to the world’s largest space attraction, the Saturn V which hangs ten feet above the floor in the Davidson Center.

Dozens of interactive activities fill the museum including the Olympus Mons Climbing Wall, the Mission to Mars Simulator, and the Spacedome IMAX Theater. Outside exhibits offer an opportunity to ride on the Space Shot and the G-Force Accelerator which gives visitors an idea of the physical impact astronauts experience when they are in space. Most exhibits are geared for older children, but little ones will enjoy dedicated play spaces just for them. This is also home to Space Camp where kids and parents can enjoy a weekend or three- and four-day family camp experiences about space.

You can learn more about Rocket Center here.

10. Brooklyn Children’s Museum

The first museum to open just for children, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum opened its doors in 1899, and it includes an incredible collection of objects from around the world. Over 30,000 objects are on a rotating display that can also be searched online. Objects include an elephant skeleton, minerals, shark’s teeth, and Indonesian shadow puppets.

Children can also enjoy examples of New York’s multiculturalism by celebrating the Chinese New Year, dancing to Russian ballet, making a pizza, observing Mexico’s Day of the Dead, and creating their own Caribbean Carnival costume. There is also a nature exhibit that lets children explore the city’s different habitats including the beach and woodland areas while babies and toddlers enjoy a padded play space. One of the best features of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum is a special room for children with autism where they can explore their senses in a setting especially designed for them.

You can learn more about the Brooklyn Children’s Museum here.

11. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

The next national park on our list is the Carlsbad Caverns National Park that is home to a huge system of over 117 underground caves and tunnels. This park is all underground and features the Big Room that is a 14-acre chamber located 750 feet underground of pale limestone. Younger children will enjoy the elevator ride to the Big Room while older kids will delight in the one-mile path that takes you to even more underground rooms.

Here, kids will learn the meaning behind the words “stalagmites” and “stalactites”. If you visit in the summer, you will also see almost a half-million Mexican free-tail bats that fly out above the desert at sunset to search for insects. Evenings also bring an opportunity to enjoy a Star Party where kids and parents alike can view the beauty of the night sky.

You can learn more about Carlsbad Caverns National Park here.

12. Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

If you are a family that enjoys history, the nation’s largest living history museum is must for your vacation list. Colonial Williamsburg is a wonderful opportunity to get a glimpse of 18th-century life in Virginia during the time when the colonies in America were forming. Visitors can roam the streets of Colonial Williamsburg where they will see costumed characters working in their shops, walking through the streets, and reenacting day to day life as well as important battles.

This is a multiple-day destination with events taking place in both the day and night. This is an entire town that is dedicated to the history and depicting the life of those that lived in the colonies hundreds of years ago.

You can learn more about Colonial Williamsburg here.

13. San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo has long been known as one of the best zoos for kids. It was a pioneer for innovative exhibits that was the first to use open settings and moats for the over 4,000 animals that call the zoo home.

Exhibit features include the Elephant Odyssey that includes elephants, jaguars, and lions in marshy wetlands, the Lost Forest that features tigers, gorillas, and hippos in open meadows amid waterfalls, and the Australian Outback where they house the largest koala colony outside of Australia.

Kids and toddlers will enjoy weekend talks, and animal encounters with Sichuan takins and Galapagos tortoises. The 2,200-acre Safari Park lets families watch herds of gazelles, rhinos and zebras roam, and Discovery Station allows visitors the opportunity to pet deer and antelopes.

You can learn more about the San Diego Zoo here.

14. Soldier Field

Sports fans will enjoy a pilgrimage to one of the oldest football stadiums in the country. Since 1924, Soldier Field has been home to football, but it wasn’t until 1971 that it became home to the Chicago Bears. It is always fun to root for your favorite team from the stands, but it is also a lot of fun to get a behind the scenes look at the locker rooms and skyline suites.

Tours at Soldier Field will give you a glimpse of jerseys worn by famous players throughout the history of the NFL, the Doughboy Statue that was placed at Soldier Field to honor the World War I veterans, the South Courtyard, the grand concourse, and the impressive Colonnades event space. Most importantly, visitors are allowed out on the field to get a feeling of what it is like to play in the NFL.

You can learn more about Soldier Field here.

15. National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, N.Y.

Another fun trip for the family that enjoys sports is a trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. This is a museum that celebrates America’s favorite pastime which has been around since the 1800’s, and this is a great opportunity to learn more about the history of the game as well as some of the baseball greats like Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth.

The Baseball Hall of Fame can tell the story of baseball with over 500,000 photographs and 40,000 artifacts that show how the game has evolved. Exhibits include the game-changing era of women’s baseball including uniforms that were worn by women in the 1940’s, relive memorable moments from World Series games, and see life-size photos of many of the famous players. Smaller children will enjoy the Sandlot Kids’ Clubhouse that includes baseball movies like “Curious George Plays Baseball,” and dress up area full of old fashioned baseball uniforms.

You can learn more about the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum here.

16. Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site, Atlanta, Georgia

The next national park on our list is the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site located in Atlanta, Georgia. This location is made up of several sites including The King Center, Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, his Birth Home, and the Visitor Center. Families will enjoy seeing the many exhibits that document Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of equal civil rights for all U.S. residents.

Children will enjoy the interactive exhibit “Children of Courage” in the Visitor Center which depicts the story of children during the Civil Rights Movement in a way that helps children relate to their struggle. There are also other exhibits that detail Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and career as well as the advancement of the Civil Rights Movement.

You can learn more about the Martin Luther King, JR. Historic Site here.

17. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore – Glen Arbor, Michigan

There are a ton of national parks out there that are off the beaten path and are totally worth a visit. Among them is the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Glen Arbor, Michigan. The big draw at Sleep Bear Dunes is the huge sand dunes that give the park its name and encourage tons of families to stay every year. The one experience kids of all ages must try is the “dune climb” and the trip back down.

Besides hanging out in the water, other activities include fishing, camping, hiking, and biking. Nearby Glen Haven General Store will help you will any camping necessities that you forgot, and, if you visit in August, a trip to the Port Oneida Fair will take you back to life in the 1880’s with soap, butter, and candle making for kids to try.

You can learn more about the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore here.

18. Bristol Renaissance Faire, Kenosha, Wisconsin

Most children dream of being a princess or a knight and often play out these roles in dress up and play time. The Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha, Wisconsin allows children the opportunity to play these roles for a day in the recreated town of Bristol in the year 1574. The fair includes over 200 artisans and crafters, delicious food, rides, games, music, and dancing.

Children will enjoy participating in “Kids Quests” while allowing five to11-year-olds the opportunity play out a live-action fantasy game that includes quests to defeat evil villains. Other kid activities include magic shows, tea parties, toy ship sailing, storytelling, pike drills, and Bristol’s Kids Kingdom that is a playground that includes a giant sandbox, crafts, a pirate ship and its own theater. Queen Elizabeth even makes an appearance to hail all the children, ladies, and lords.

You can learn more about the Bristol Renaissance Faire here.

19. Caretta Research Project, Wassaw Island, Georgia

If you enjoy a beach vacation and also want to help out the local wildlife, head to Wassaw Island, GA where your family can work with the Caretta Research Project and help save the sea turtles. Caretta Research Projects gives families an opportunity to learn about the environment and spend time together while monitoring and protecting the nests of loggerhead sea turtles at the Wassaw National Wildlife Refuge.

An unforgettable hands-on experience for children of all ages, volunteers help collect data and watch over the turtles and their eggs while learning about this threatened species. Your family can also enjoy the beach and wonderful ocean views, and, if you are lucky, you might even get to see baby sea turtles hatch from their nest.

You can learn more about Caretta Research Project here.

20. Yosemite National Park

Our next iconic family vacation spot is the Yosemite National Park. For those families that love outdoor activities, Yosemite National Park is a year-round vacation spot where you can enjoy cross-country skiing and ice skating in the winter and camping and hiking the many granite cliffs and domes that grace the landscape.

Included in this national park is the world renowned El Cap that is a must visit for any rock climber, the beautiful wildflowers that saturate the Tuolumne Meadows, and the opportunity to see 200 foot high sequoias in the Mariposa Grove. Hiking up Upper Yosemite Falls is a great day trip, and your kids will have the opportunity to sign up to be a Junior Ranger or Little Cub.

You can learn more about Yosemite National Park here.

21. LEGOLAND, Carlsbad, California and Orlando, Florida

One of those ubiquitous toys that grace almost every child’s toy box is the Lego. With theme parks in both California and Florida, children have the opportunity to have fun with Legos in a way that inspires the budding architects and engineers inside them.

Lego-based rides, activities, and exhibits fill the theme park with endless fun for Lego enthusiasts. Each park has different themed areas including Dino Island, SEA LIFE Aquarium, Ninjago World, Castle Hill, and water parks at each theme park. This is a great theme park for the entire family, but has more activities for the younger visitors.

Activities that stimulate children’s creativity include building contests and building workshops. Other park features include a Duplo section for toddlers, a Lego Friends area, and a Star Wars exhibit.

You can learn more about LegoLand here.

22. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming/Montana border

The nation’s first national park is located on the Wyoming-Montana border. Yellowstone National Park is home to Old Faithful, one of the many geysers you will find throughout the park. Take a spin with the family on the popular loop road and get up close to elk, moose, and buffalo, or hike out on your own in Hayden Valley where you can see wildlife in their natural habitat way off the beaten path.

Fishing is another favorite pastime with trout swimming in some of the clearest water you will ever see. Kids will enjoy becoming a Young Scientists that comes with an interactive, hands-on activity booklet. It is available in the visitors’ center for $5 and when the kids have finished the booklet, they get an awesome souvenir.

You can learn more about Yellowstone National Park here.

23. Philadelphia – The City of Brotherly Love

Philadelphia is another city on our list that has so many places to visit; the entire city just needs to be listed. The City of Philadelphia plays host to many of our country’s firsts including Carpenters’ Hall where the First Continental Congress met and Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were both signed. Pennsylvania Hospital, the country’s first hospital founded by Benjamin Franklin, the U.S. Mint, and the Liberty Bell Center are also all found in Philadelphia.

Your first stop should be a visit to Independence Visitor Center to pick up information on all the city’s history and culture. You can also pick up the AudioWalk and Tour which is a 74-minute walking tour that narrates the historic sites of the city as well as parts of Society Hill.

You can learn more about the City of Philadelphia here.

24. Old World Wisconsin

For a different take on a living history museum, Old World Wisconsin tells the story of the European immigrants that made their way to the Midwest to start their farms. At the Crossroads Village, families can visit the general store and see blacksmiths at work. Kids can also visit the one-room schoolhouse, try out old-fashioned games, and see what chores were like for kids way back when.

Visitors also visit farmsteads that feature German, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, and Polish farming techniques and food preparations. These immigrants brought their Old World food, crafts, and traditions with them to America, and they are all demonstrated here at the different farmsteads. Each farm will give you a sense of what it was truly like to be a farmer in the 1800’s and starting out a new life in a new world.

You can learn more about Old World Wisconsin here.

25. Space Needle/City of Seattle

An iconic city symbol, the Space Needle is 605 feet high, and it was the symbol of the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962. The futuristic design of the space needle was part of the fair’s theme of “Century 21.”

The Space Needle is now the top tourist destination in Seattle, and it is a well-known emblem of Seattle. Visiting the Space Needle is a great way to learn about architecture, engineering, and the history of the area, plus it’s not often you get to see an existing piece of World Fair memorabilia.

Tickets are required to reach the observation deck, but a 43-second elevator ride will take you quickly up the 520 feet where you will get a 360-degree view of Seattle. You can also eat at the SkyCity Restaurant that revolves around the Space Needle 500 feet in the air.

You can learn more about the Space Needle here.

26. Wisconsin State Fair

Who doesn’t have fond memories of fairs when they were a kid? State Fairs are extra special as they are large centers of food, fun, animals, and music. The Wisconsin State Fairs is an affordable option for families to have fun with a non-stop schedule of musical acts that is included with admission featuring rock, pop, country, and contemporary Christian music. Other entertainment includes comedians, magicians, and acrobats.

Families will enjoy the Sky Glider, the Giant Slide, and the Ag Oasis that features musical and drama performances with 4H style revues. In the Fair’s amusement ride area, over fifty rides are featured with tons of games to play.

There are opportunities to learn about agriculture and farming at every turn. The many barns feature hundreds of animals including cows, horses, rabbits, pigs, and chickens. Children will learn about the many different breeds for each type of animal and see how they are judged on stage.

You can learn more about the Wisconsin State Fair here.

27. Austin City Limits Music Festival – Austin, Texas

Music festivals are not only fun for adults, but they can be fun for kids too. The Austin City Limits Music Festival in Austin, Texas not only includes music, markets, and food, but they also feature an area just for kids. Held in September and early October, this annual festival is held on two different weekends and features The Austin Kiddie Limits for children 10 and under that helps children learn the fundamentals of music.

Kid’s activities include karaoke, a hip hop workshop, fake tattoos, and rock star hairdos. Children are able to build basic music skills as they learn songs from different genres and develop their own singing talents.

You can learn more about the Austin City Limits Music Festival here.

28. Cape Hatteras National Seashore – Outer Banks, North Carolina

One popular vacation spot that families go back to each year is the Outer Bank of North Carolina. Not only is it a great beach spot, but families can also spend time at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Families will enjoy over 70 miles of shoreline with pristine beaches, boat tours, and water sports.

There are several towns and beaches along the seashore to add some extra fun to your vacation. Plus, the kids will love a visit to the Wright Brothers National Memorial and The Lost Colony which is a show that reenacts the events of the first English settlement in the U.S.

You can learn more about the Cape Hatteras National Seashore here.

29. The Freedom Trail, Boston, Massachusetts

If your family loves history and actually wants to walk in the footsteps of our Founding Fathers, the Freedom Trail in Boston will do just that. This is a 2.5-mile route that leads you to 16 different historical sites and guides you through the city’s rich history. Included on the route is Boston Common, home to the site of the Boston Massacre, Bunker Hill, the USS Constitution, and Paul Revere’s House.

Around fourth grade, all children learn about taxation without representation, the Boston Tea Party, and the first shots that were fired at Lexington and Concord. This is a great opportunity to reinforce what they have been taught by picking up the route map at the Boston Common Visitor Information Center. The map lists individual sites that are open year round, but it is always a good idea to double check on their fees and hours of operation when you plan your excursion.

You can learn more about The Freedom Trail here.

30. Golden Gardens Park – Seattle, Washington

As we have included several national parks, it is only fair to offer a few state parks that might not be your first thought to visit. Although most people think it rains all the time, Seattle summers can be quite fabulous, and the Golden Gardens Park can offer you a vacation like you have never experienced before.

It is a little bit hidden in Puget Sound, but Golden Gardens Park can be found on a very quiet stretch of beach with calm waters, shaded picnic tables with grills, restrooms, and a playground. You can spend the day hiking through the woods and then finish it off around a fire pit enjoying a gorgeous sunset.

You can learn more about Golden Gardens Park here.

31. Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park features the Avenue of the Giants which is a 32-mile section of road that takes you through 17,000 acres of old-growth redwood forest. Don’t forget you don’t have to stay in your car; you are encouraged to get out and take a hike. There are several trails along the Avenue of Giants to get out and walk to give you a closer look at these gargantuan trees.

Redwoods are covered in a shaggy bark, and their trunks are the size of a truck. It is nearly impossible to see the tops of these trees, but at the Drury-Chaney Grove you can climb up on top of a fallen redwood and walk at least 100 yards along that tree while standing 15 feet in the air. Their massive size is just mind-blowing, and at Myers Flat you can also drive your car right through the roots of one redwood called the Drive-Thru Tree where many visitors have stopped to take to an iconic redwood photo.

You can learn more about Redwood National Park here.

32. San Francisco River Outfitters

For adventurous families, traveling the half-million acre Gila Wilderness on horseback and sleeping out under the stars is a fabulous vacation idea. The Gila Wilderness is close to the border of Arizona in the southwestern part of New Mexico. San Francisco River Outfitters lead pack trips across the desolate country where campers will see 10,000-foot peaks towers, vastly eroded canyons, and miles and miles of lonely river.

This is the territory where Geronimo led Apache raids against the early settlers and large herds of elk and sheep, black bear, and mountain lions once roamed. Riding along the trail on a quarter horse, you’ll see vast sections of tall saguaros and ponderosa pines and an immense amount of stars at night. Included in the trip are camping equipment, horses, and hardy steak dinners all for an affordable price.

You can learn more about the San Francisco River area here.

33. Lake George, The Adirondacks

More adventure is waiting at Lake George in the Adirondacks. Here you will find a 31-mile long that is similar to a river that is narrow and edged in by the Adirondack peaks. There you will see the landscape that was painted by Georgia O’Keeffe and the best way to see it all is from the water.

The Sagamore, a classic Adirondack resort, has been around for over a century has sea kayaks and paddleboards for rent. When you paddle out past the open waters, you will find Dome Island, a round wooded area, in the middle of the lake with a fabulous view of pristine forest creating a beautiful mountain silhouette against the sky.

You can learn more about the Lake George area here.

34. Emandal, a Farm on a River, Willits, California

Have you ever thought about going to summer camp with your kids? Family camp is a great way to spend time with your kids in a unique setting. The Emandal Farm is an educational camp experience that teaches kids where their food comes from. Located on the Eel River, all the produce that the campers eat is grown locally, and campers are encouraged to join in with the farm work collecting eggs, harvesting vegetables, and milking cows.

When the work is all finished for the day, you can relax on the river in an inner tube, count the night stars, or sleep away the afternoon in a hammock. Guest lodgings are all private cabins with running water and private bathrooms.

You can learn more about the Emandal Farm here.

35. Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta, Georgia

The world’s largest aquarium is found in Atlanta, Georgia and is home to 8 million gallons of water and tons of habitats and sea life. Found across the street from Centennial Olympic Park, this 550,000-square-foot complex has a food court, two gift shops, several touch pools, including one with rays, sea urchins, and bonnethead sharks.

The largest exhibit, Ocean Voyager, has over 60,000 animals that include the only whale sharks in the country. A 100-foot-long tunnel allows families to view sea life while they surround visitors on three sides and contain a floor-to-ceiling window. Kids will also enjoy a touch-screen wall where they can learn more about the digital fish that are swimming by and pop-up windows where children of all ages can get a closer look at piranhas and penguins. And, of course, don’t forget the playground with the whale slide, rubber floor, and many crawl tubes.

You can learn more about the Georgia Aquarium here.

36. New York City

New York City has way too many places to list individually. How can you include some but not others? It was much easier to list the whole city and mention certain locations as don’t miss features like Central Park, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, and the Empire State Building.

If your family is into museums, you won’t be bored in New York where you can visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History. When you are tired from all the cultural, you can grab a slice of pizza or have a sundae at Serendipity.

And, nothing says amazing family vacation than taking in a Broadway Show. Not only do your children get to experience the excitement of New York City and theater life, but they can see the indescribable “The Lion King” on Broadway. The visual effects will amaze both children and parents alike and everyone will enjoy the incredible retelling of one of their favorite Disney movies.

You can learn more about NYC Tourisim here.

37. Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve, Arco, Idaho

If you family is into things that may be a little weird, the National Park Service calls the Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve “the only officially weird park” in the country. The landscape was formed almost 15,000 years ago by volcanic eruptions forming a jagged, black landscape. The surface is very moonlike, so much so that the astronauts from the Apollo 14 mission used it to train on in 1969.

One of the best features of the park is its lava tubes which are passageways found underground that were by hardened molten rock. If you are brave enough, you can take a flashlight and head on down into Indian Tunnel that is 50 feet wide and 30 feet high, but, only if you are really adventurous will you want to attempt exiting the cave at the far end. You will need to climb over a large rock pile and then squeeze through a small opening to finally exit.

You can learn more about the Craters of Moon National Monument here.

38. City of New Orleans

New Orleans has a little something for everyone. Adults will enjoy the romance of the city and the various architectural influences from Spain, France, and the Caribbean. Kids will enjoy riding in an old-fashioned steamboat along the Mississippi River or taking an airboat ride in the swamp.

Jazz music pours out over the city in Jackson Square and the color of Mardi Gras at Mardi Gras World will delight the senses. Don’t miss the Audubon Insectariums where kids will discover bugs they never dreamed existed.

You can learn more about the City of New Orleans here.

39. The Biltmore, Asheville, NC

At first thought, you may not think of the Biltmore as a family vacation destination. But, when you think about it, it is one of the few castles that you can tour in America. This 250 room home built by George Vanderbilt in 1895 is a historical and architectural wonder. It is a wonderful opportunity to teach children about the Guilded Age and there are many features children will be enthralled by including the ice cream parlor, confectionary, and toymaker’s shop.

There is also a village that houses historical exhibits as well as dining and shopping. The Pisgah Playground allows children to engage their imagination by climbing logs and rock formations. Younger children will enjoy the sand area and water pump. The Antler Hill Village farm also provides various farmyard animals to pet and plenty of antique wagons and tractors to climb on and explore.

You can learn more about The Biltmore here.

40. Museum of Western Colorado, Cortez, Colorado

Anyone that has seen Jurassic Park knows how exciting dinosaurs can be, but did you ever imagine you could spend your vacation digging for them? Dinosaur digs are available through the Museum of Western Colorado in Cortez, Colorado. They offer Half-day, full day, and three-day digs in western Colorado, and even a five-day dig in Utah.

For families, they also offer a weeklong family camp in Cortez, Colorado. Camps are designed for children ages 5 and up with their families at the Mygatt-Moore Quarry. This is the perfect summer vacation for any family with a budding paleontologist.

You can learn more about the Museum of Western Colorado here.

41. Gettysburg National Park, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

For a military or history based family vacation, a journey to Gettysburg National Park is a must. Visitors can enjoy ranger walks and tours that tell the history of the battlefield and the background of the Civil War as it was fought in Pennsylvania.

Gettysburg itself is home to several museums, but during the anniversary of the battle at the beginning of July, there is a living history encampment where kids can see reenactors that represent both sides of the battle. There are also full battle reenactments of the three days of the battle placing the blue against the gray once again on the very fields that they fought on over 150 years ago. Throughout the rest of the year, visitors can learn more about the battle and the soldiers that fought there through living history exhibits and nearby attractions.

You can learn more about Gettysburg National Park here.

42. Niagara Falls, New York

Most people think of Niagara Falls as the go to honeymoon spot for couples in the mid-20th Century. Despite its iconic reputation, Niagara Falls remains a majestic waterfall that is still a must-see if you are in New York near the U.S.-Canada border.

Children will enjoy riding an elevator 175 feet down into the Niagara Gorge and feel what it is like to be sprayed with tropical-storm force spray as they stand on the Hurricane Deck by the 181-foot Bridal Veil Falls. Complimentary yellow ponchos and sandals are provided to guests as they stand near this massive natural wonder.

You can learn more about the Niagara Falls area here.

43. High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon

Another living history spot where children can see and reinforce what they have learned in school is the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. The Oregon Trail is a fixture of American History that is taught in school and the High Desert Museum can bring the true challenges of the Oregon Trail to light.

Activities that include dipping candles, splitting wood, and churning butter will give kids an idea of what life was like along the trail. And you’ll see exhibits of rescue animals that were native to the Northwest area like bobcats, lynx, rattlesnakes, falcons, and Gila monsters. Kids will leave the museum understanding all the hardships that pioneers experienced as they made their way westward.

You can learn more about the High Desert Museum here.

44. Mystic Seaport: Museum of America and the Sea, Mystic, Connecticut

Once the shipbuilding capital of New England, Mystic Seaport is now home to the largest maritime museum in the country. An authentic 19th-century village is available for exploration featuring a drugstore, lighthouse, and bank.

Ship restorations are ongoing in the Preservation Yard and you can even visit inside the Benjamin F. Packard, an 1883 sailing ship that is on exhibit. Children can also learn about life and activities in the late 18th century like old-fashioned card games and the how captains used flags to communicate with each other when they were out at sea.

You can learn more about the Mystic, Connecticut area here.

45. Camp Denali, Denali National Park, Alaska

If you are looking for a camping trip that is also a once in a lifetime experience, Camp Denali guarantees to be the family vacation you will never forget. Camp Denali is located in a remarkable location and has been around for over 60 years.

Wilderness lodges are available for families that are interested in learning more about the beauty and wildlife in the Alaskan wilderness. There are two unique, full-service lodges that focus on active and adventurous vacations that also have an educational emphasis for those families that want to get the most out of their visit. Activities include naturalist-guided outings, views of the Alaska Range, and a better understanding of the local wildlife.

You can learn more about Denali National Park here.

46. Kennedy Space Center

If you are looking for a vacation spot where science and history are out of this world, the Kennedy Space Center will provide you family with tons of interactives and real artifacts from space. The Kennedy Space Center is the premier institution in the country where visitors will learn about America’s history of flight by touring the Space Shuttle Complex. The 90,000 square foot Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit includes a full-scale, 184-foot space shuttle stack plus two solid rocket boosters and an external tank.

This has also been a launch site since 1968, but the site has changed dramatically since then. The Visitor Center resembles something of an amusement park with its Rocket Garden, children’s playspace, an Early Space Exploration exhibit, the very popular Angry Birds hands-on exhibit, 2 IMAX shows, an Astronaut Memorial, and the Astronaut Hall of Fame. You can also take a bus tour where you will be driven up to the Apollo/Saturn V center and out to the legendary launch pads.

You can learn more about the Kennedy Space Center here.

47. Boston Children’s Museum

Another century-old children’s museum is the Boston Children’s Museum. A pioneer in groundbreaking children’s programming, the Boston Children’s Museum removed all of their no-touch signs in the 1960’s. In the 1970’s, they furthered their innovative techniques by creating a young children’s play area where babies and toddlers can now use the PlaySpace’s Messy Sensory area to develop fine motor skills with bubbles, shaving cream, and Play-Doh.

Children are encouraged to perform fairy tales on KidStage, and concerts, storytelling, and dance are also part of the daily fun. Older children are encouraged to learn about other cultures when they examine the over 50,000 historic and natural history objects or tour the century-old silk merchant’s home from Kyoto, Japan.

You can learn more about the Boston Children’s Museum here.

48. Memphis Zoo

The Memphis Zoo features 3,500 animals on 70 acres, and it is one of four zoos in the country to house giant pandas. A three-acre exhibit featuring Chinese architecture, native flowers and fauna, and a 50-foot pagoda is the backdrop for these adorable pandas. An underwater exhibit also features sea lions and polar bears in giant tanks with a 500 seat amphitheater where visitors can see sea lions perform in the Northwest Passage exhibit.

Cat Country features tigers, lions, and cougars wandering grass savannas and rocky outcroppings. A five acre, open-air Primate Canyon houses ten monkey species and the Dragon’s Lair exhibit features three Komodo dragons.

You can learn more about the Memphis Zoo here.

49. Chincoteague Bay Field Station, Chincoteague Island, Virginia

If your family is environmentally conscious, children of all ages will enjoy the Chincoteague Bay Field Station family camp where the education is based around ecology. A campus-like environment with a full dining hall and suite-like sleeping quarters are provided for all families that stay at the camp. Besides educational tours of the protected Wallops Island, families can also enjoy campfires, camp games, seafood boils, and water sports.

You can learn more about the Chincoteague Bay Field Station here.

50. Wilderness Inquiry

If you are looking for a wild vacation, Wilderness Inquiry can help you find it. They have scheduled trips throughout the year to satisfy any wild heart. They are a non-profit adventure travel organization that connects people to adventures in places like Glacier National Park, the Mississippi River, and the Hawaii’s Big Island. Activities include rafting, hiking, dogsledding, safaris, hiking, and sea kayaking.

The great thing about Wilderness Inquiry is that they have accommodated people with disabilities since 1978. They have designed integrated adventures for both people with and without disabilities, so that they are treated as equals and peers. Their mission is to bring outdoor adventures to everyone, and they have great adaptive gear that they have found or created along the way to make sure that everyone feels included.

You can learn more about the Wilderness Inquiry here.

The Best Travel Books for Kids

By sara / January 31, 2017

One of the best ways for teaching kids about the world is through reading. According to an article from Children First Foundation USA, children get higher grades and a boost in their confidence when they travel. Reading about different countries may stir their interest in visiting someday. There are several excellent books for grades K-3 that introduce different countries and cultures in an enjoyable way that they can understand. Children learn to respect others who may look, dress, and think differently in other parts of the world. At the same time, they find empathy in the many similarities we all share. Here are some of the best travel books for kids that teachers, parents, and their children can share to discover new places:

Africa

It is difficult the discuss the horrors of terrorism with children. This book displays the compassion of strangers across the world during one of America’s darkest hours. After witnessing the tragedy of 9/11, a man returns to his native Massai village in Kenya and describes the awful event. The villagers are moved with compassion for the Americans and decide that they should offer a gift to help. Their gift of 14 cows represents a sacrifice of true friendship. This story transcends race, culture, and nationality and displays the empathy of the global family in a way for children to comprehend.

There are many children who must deal with the loss of a parent, and books can be useful tools. In this poignant story, eleven-year-old Martine is suddenly orphaned, and she is sent to live with her grandmother whom she has never known. Her grandmother lives on a wildlife reserve in the plains of Africa. While adjusting to her new surroundings and the culture of South Africa, Martine hears the villagers talk about the white giraffe, a mythical animal that supposedly lives in the area. This is a fun adventure to take with young readers as Martine finds if the white giraffe is fact or fiction.

This book for middle schoolers is based on a true story about two children in Sudan. The boy’s story begins in 1985 and the girl’s in 2008. Both of them are 11 years-old at the time of their story. Salva, the boy, roams over Africa searching for his family and a place of refuge. He is one of Sudan’s “lost boys”. He must endure unspeakable dangers from armed rebels and wild animals. The second story in the book revolves around the girl, Nya. Twice a day, she must make a two-hour journey on foot to get her family water from a pond. In a touch of fate, Salva’s and Nya’s paths meet to weave a touching and beautiful story. It teaches children about the hardships in third-world countries and the resilience of the human spirit.

Anyone who has ever played the game of “telephone” as a child knows how quickly facts can get distorted down the line. People end up telling a version of the story that rarely resembles the first one. In Verna Aardema’s Caldecott Award winner, a crisis hits the African jungle when a mosquito tells a story to an iguana and everything is lost in translation. The stunning illustrations in the book make it an ideal story to read to younger children. Through the antics of the West African insects and animals, children learn the importance of clear communication and telling the truth.

Asia

The summers in northern India are notoriously hot. The sights and sounds of the country come alive through the senses of a little girl who is waiting for the rain. Each page is a rich pastel that illustrates the inspiring culture of everyday life in India. Readers see the busy market place and all of the hundreds of shoppers trying to finish their work in the sweltering heat. Everyone is eagerly waiting for the skies to open up and shower them with the cool, healing rain. Children will enjoy reading about the climate and culture of this fascinating country.

Young readers can explore the ancient Japanese Samurai culture with this story of a canine overlord who has his castle overrun by an evil rat. He turns to his friends, three powerful Samurai cats. The first cat brandishes his mighty sword and is struck down by the agile rat. When the second Samurai cat approaches the fiendish vermin in a suit of armor, he also fails to win the battle. The hope of the castle lies in the third Samurai cat, who is old an raggedy. Could he have a secret weapon that will save the day? This book highlights Japanese culture, martial arts, and overcoming bullying with wit.

In this beautifully illustrated book, children learn a lesson in honesty with a little boy who loves to grow flowers. Set in ancient China, young Ping hears that the Emperor is choosing a successor by using a test. The emperor hands out flower seeds to the children across his kingdom. He declares that the child who brings him the most beautiful pot of flowers would be the next emperor. Even though Ping nurtures his seed to the best of his ability, nothing grows. What will the Emperor say when all of Ping’s peers have beautiful blossoms, and he stands with an empty pot? Some things are not always as they seem.

China has some of a fascinating histories in the world, and this book shares it in a fun way for children. The author takes them on a journey into past Chinese dynasties, culture, and the building of the Great Wall. The book has illustrations that make the story easier to understand. Young readers can enjoy the Great Wall trivia questions in the book and see similarities in Chinese culture with their own. Kids can have fun while they are learning valuable history lessons.

Europe

The Sasek series of children’s travel books are probably familiar to most teachers and parents, since they may have read them as children. This is Rome is part of the series from the 70s that describes the history and culture of some of the greatest cities in Europe. Every book has been lovingly reprinted with the original illustrations, including updates that bring it to modern day. Right from the comforts of their reading chair, children can study the historical events that made Rome what it is now. They can appreciate some of the city’s fascinating architecture and renowned monuments. After traveling to Rome, they will want to visit other famous cities that are highlighted in Sasek’s collection.

Young readers can soar over the snowy lands of Russia in this re-telling of a classic Slavic folktale. According to legend, there is nothing in the world as amazingly beautiful as the firebird. The problem is, no one has ever seen it. Determined to set eyes on the elusive bird, the Tsar’s youngest son, Ivan Tsarevitch, sets out on a precarious journey. He encounters a talking wolf after flying an impossible path over the mountain tops. He bravely defends himself against the wicked witch, Baba Yaga, and challenges Koshchei the Immortal to save a magical princess. The enchanting finale of the story and its awesome illustrations are delightful for adults and children alike.

Stories of the mythical Greek gods and goddesses have enchanted readers for centuries. This great edition brings the immortal residents of Mt. Olympus to life in a way that children of all ages can enjoy. They will be spellbound with the grand illustrations and the celestial adventures of the Greek divinity. While reading or listening to these stories, children will find that the immortals were fallible and often made disastrous decisions. Each adventure gives readers morals to think about and the consequences of our actions.

North America

Native American tribes have a vast oral history of legends and delightful folklore. This Navajo folktale is re-told with enchanting illustrations that make it an ideal read-aloud book for younger children. According to the legend, the First Woman wanted to write the laws of the land for everyone to see. So, she tried to use the stars in the sky. Her efforts were foiled by the perennial trickster, Coyote. This is a lovely story that shares Native American customs and their sacred mythology.

Beginners can reinforce their knowledge of the alphabet and its sounds while perusing some of the greatest treasures in Canada. They will learn about various highlights in Canadian culture, history, and its people. The illustrations in M is for Maple are truly outstanding. This fun book presents Canada in a unique way that can be enjoyable for readers of any age.

It is a blessing to find a beginners book that can illustrate the unconditional love of parents for their children. In this little board book set in Alaska, a little girl has a meaningful conversation with her mother about love. It has pretty illustrations of the Alaskan landscape. She invents different situations that she may be in, and asks her mother would she love her still. In each instance, the gentle Inuit mother reassures her daughter of her unending love. This would be an excellent gift for new parents.

Children can learn about Spanish customs for the holidays in this beautiful book. While she was helping her mother make tamales for their holiday celebration, Maria decides to try on Mama’s precious diamond ring. Mama had taken it off while she was cooking and went to another room to get some more ingredients. Before she can take the ring off, Maria accidently loses it in the tamale batch. This warm tale of zany family holidays teaches other customs and the importance of togetherness.

Pacific Regions

This book for younger children is a tale of the enduring friendship between a boy and a penguin. When the little boy finds a penguin sitting on his doorstep, he assumes the bird was lost. They embark on a journey to the South Pole to find the penguin’s home. While they are traveling the frozen waters, they encounter several bad storms. There are still good times on the trip, as the boy shares stories with the penguin. When they finally reach the South Pole, the penguin decides that all he wanted in the first place was a friend. The book has pretty pictures and is an ideal read-aloud story.

Most children love to read books about animals. In this delightful diary, they get to meet the Australian wombat. The wombat chronicles a hectic week in his life, filled with digging holes, eating, and taking long naps. He says that he enjoys training his humans to give him treats on signal. Readers will immediately find pleasure in the funny text and illustrations. They may even see some similarities they share with this cuddly-looking creature.

It is not easy for parents to balance careers and family time. Sometimes, children can feel lost in the hustle of daily living. Koala Lou feels like her mother is too busy to give her enough attention and does not love her anymore. Determined to make her mother proud and win back her affection, Koala Lou decides to participate in the Bush Olympics. This is a wonderfully illustrated story that reminds busy parents the importance of spending time with their little ones. It also reassures young readers that they will always be loved.

Coming-of-age stories and those that involve gender equality are popular with middle school readers. In this touching story from the East Coast of New Zealand, a young girl tries desperately to win the approval and attention of her great-grandfather. He is the chief of the Maori tribe, which claims that they descended from the fabled “whale rider.” Kahu is the only heir to her great-grandfather, and he is adamant that a woman cannot lead the tribe. When the whale population is threatened on the coast, Kahu’s amazing abilities may change his way of thinking. This story helps young people understand the struggles against bias that arises in all cultures, and how love and understanding can overcome them.

South America

There is nothing as fun as out-tricking a trickster, and Cuy the guinea pig proves it. This tale is set in the Andes Mountains and has a definite South American voice. Tio Antonio spies Cuy searching for wild spinach, and thinks he has found his lunch! The fox may be smart, but the guinea pig is smarter. Youngsters will giggle as they read about how Cuy fools the fox three times. The block artwork is superb and children will learn the importance of problem-solving.

This is an excellent book that exposes children to the wonders of the Amazon Rain Forest and the importance of conservation. The author, Lynne Cherry, actually visited areas of the forest to write this enduring book of a man who tried to chop down a giant kapok tree. Exhausted from his work, he decides to lie on the grass and take a little nap. While he naps, various creatures of the forest whisper in his ear about how important trees and all living things are in the web of life. Even a child from an Amazonian tribe whispers some truths into the sleeping man’s ear. Young readers can feel a connection with the environment when they read this book and admire the beautiful illustrations.

In may come as a shock to some of our children that not everyone in the world has easy access to books. This bilingual story is based on the true story of a librarian who dreamed of bringing literacy to people in the remote mountains Colombia. Every month, he loads his little burros (named Alpha and Beta) with a cargo of new books. The village children wait eagerly for the Biblioburro to arrive. Children can enjoy this inspiring story in either Spanish or English.

Outer Space

A lot of kids dream about being an astronaut when they grow up. In this incredibly illustrated book, the author takes readers on a fantastic journey to the moon. It is written in the second person, so children feel like they are actually in the story. It is a perfect book for beginners as they learn about the moon, planets, stars, and outer space.

The 15 Best Ideas to Increase Fluency for Young Readers

By sara / January 30, 2017

​Is Your Grade School Student or Child Struggling with Reading? Don't Miss These 15 Top Ideas for Increasing Reading Fluency Today

Teachers managing classrooms from toddler age to third grade often are focused on making sure their students are reading a grade reading level. That's because, as the U.S. Department of Education has noted two out of three children are failing to achieve proficiency in reading fluency.​

15. Praise Them

Once you've tried all of the reading fluency exercises in this guide, it's good to remember to encourage and praise your child or student. Try to say one positive thing about his work followed by an improvement. As example: "You did an incredible job getting all your words right -- but at times I thought you were reading too quickly. Next time, do everything just as you have -- except slow down just a little. Great job!" By filling your child or student with praise, they will continue to approach reading fluency exercises with gusto and confidence.

14. Pair Below-Grade Level Readers

What happens when you pair below-grade level readers in high school with below-grade level readers in elementary school? You find that both readers become better at reading fluency. You give high school students access to elementary school content in a non-stigmatizing way.

And, you empower them to encourage and help younger students who are struggling. A D.C. non-profit called Reach Incorporated has done this success -- and even has launched a children's book component in which these tutors and students write books that are being used as part of the D.C. public school curriculum.

13. Enlist the Help of Tutor "Buddies"

Reading buddies are an effective tool for helping below-grade level readers improve -- and you can implement this practice in classrooms with readers who are closer to the second and third grade ages. Enlist the help of tutors -- either volunteers or retired teachers -- or above-grade level reading students, and have them read preselected literature or poetry together. By pairing them off and letting them lead each other and learn from one another, they not only build a secure and trusted friendship -- but they help each other improve.

12. Launch a Podcast

Divide students into groups and tell them they have to come up with their own ideas for podcasts. They'll write their scripts, practice reading them, record them and play them for the entire class to hear. You can loop this activity into topics you're teaching in your class, so that you're engaging with more than one subject.

At each step in the process, they'll be working the building blocks of reading fluency. They'll be writing words and practicing them. They'll be experimenting with flow and phrasing. They'll record and listen to their voices, noting where improvements could be made. And, they'll proudly broadcast their projects to the entire class -- further building their self-confidence and energy around the activity.

As the teacher, you can make sure you pop in to different groups to see how they are doing and to correct any mistakes you hear. They'll appreciate the autonomy you give them -- while at the same time knowing you're always there to help.

11. Turn Your Class into a Theater

This is a fun group activity that involves readers of all levels in your class. Begin by giving one student the script of a monologue. Have her read it aloud solo. Then, assign a small group of students to read the script aloud together as an "echo." Finally, ask the entire class to read the script together as the "choir." By doing this, you are engaging several skills already practiced -- modeling good reading behavior, repetitive reading and reading aloud.

10. Try Phrased Readings

Poems are great examples of phrased writing because words are clustered together and help students hear how they flow together. Try a phrased reading in class by writing the lines of the poem on strips of pasteboard. These strips are the cue cards that show students how words flow together in a group. Hold up the cue cards and ask students to read the phrases. This is a great step for more advanced readers -- moving them from reading aloud individual words to combined words that form phrases and influence cadence and flow in their speech.

9. Track Progress to Boost Confidence

At the end of the day, reading can difficult for everyone at some point. But there is a lot of empowerment and confidence that comes when your child can see progress over time. To build on the quiz exercise, have your child chart progress via a handmade chart. A bar graph is a great example of this. You can have your child chart growth daily or weekly -- and reward him or her for making improvements along the way in recognizing and saying correctly the words on the page. Literacy expert Robert Marzano has said: “When students track their own progress using graphic displays, there is a 32 percentile gain in achievement.”

8. Turn Reading into a Game

Once your child or student has gained a little confidence in reading, put them to a fun test. Make two copies of the passage you would like the child to read. Have the child read the passage, and as he does, circle any word he misses, doesn't know or pronounces incorrectly. You can use this quiz to incentivize with prizes.

7. Go Higher

Once you've established a regular routine of reading together and executing guiding practice, it's time to move on to slightly harder books. Select a book that is just above your child or student's reading level and read it aloud as he or she follow along. This practice introduces new words and cadences. Then, try guided practice with the same book. If your child hesitates for more than five seconds when reading a word, go ahead and tell him or her the word and ask the child to repeat it.

6. Read Together on Repeat

Repetition and forming good reading habits is key to raising reading fluency -- so try a repetitive reading exercise to boost your child or student's reading skills. Pick a book and read it aloud as your child follows along. Then, go back and repeat the reading exercise two or three times. You'll need to make sure to pick a favorite book to help your child stay focused and engaged.

5. Guide Your Little Readers

Guided practice is an extremely effective tool for improving reading fluency, and it can be used in concert with the modeling reading behavior tip mentioned earlier in the guide. To execute guided reading, select a popular book from your child's bookcase. Read through the book once with your child. Then, return to the beginning of the book and read the first line. Ask your child to read the line back to you while you point to the words.

This exercise can easily be adapted to a classroom exercise -- or used in one-on-one interactions with your students. You also can make this a group activity, reading the line aloud and then having a different child repeat it back. It turns into a fun activity that everyone is engaged with in the group.

4. Sing Together

An alternative to reading a work meant to be performed is to sing a song. You'll get some of the same reading muscles working simply by hearing the words and singing them with a cadence and flow. Try not to choose a song that is too fast or slow. Mine children's song libraries online and pick a few that you can play in your classroom to get the day started or to play in your car as you and your child trek around town. Listen to your child as she sings the words -- and if she struggles with a word or phrase, turn the music down or pause it and repeat the word or phrase. Ask her to repeat it -- and then start that music back up again.

3. Go Theatrical

Select a favorite poem or monologue and perform it for your child through a live reading. Try to avoid anything that isn't in common English -- so forego those Shakespearean plays or the King James Version of the Bible. You want a script that is easy to understand to modern audience today -- as that is the way we speak and the way your child or student will begin to learn to speak.

Another benefit of reading a poem or monologue is that they were meant to be performed, and by reading them around, you'll give your child a model for how the words are pronounced and expressed. They'll get to see your expressions and hear your tone first hand -- and that will help them understand what it means to be an engaged reader and speaker.

2. Listen to Audiobooks

There isn't always time to read a book together every day. As an effective alternative, have your student or child listen to audiobooks during downtime. Audiobooks feature professional narrators who have practiced the art of speaking and telling a story -- making their words, expression and cadence one to model. The only thing you miss via an audio book is being able to see the facial expressions and mouth movements of the reader.

1. Model Proper Reading

Increasing fluency in your student or child begins with proper modeling. One of the bestFluency practice tips to use at the beginning is to read a favorite book together at least once a day. Sit with your child and read the text with expression and at a natural pace. As you read the words aloud properly, your child or student will adopt your cadence and style.

The Best Online Math Games for Kids

By sara / January 26, 2017

Learning math involves many hours of practice and repetition to establish a good foundation on which to build more difficult concepts. Using games for math learning offers a way to add entertainment and variety into learning the basic principles that many children find challenging and sometimes frustrating. Math games are also an excellent resource for children to use at home to reinforce new learning and skills and practice fundamentals, and because they are fun, they can be used as rewards.

Below are online resources offering math games for fluency and math practice for the young child from preschool through grade three. In reviewing the vast number of online math game resources, ranking consideration was based on ease of website use and clarity of instructions, aesthetic appeal of website design and use of graphics, depth of resources and number of math problems or activities on the website, and finally, value, if there was a required subscription fee.

Adapted Mind features lessons and games for both math and reading. Math exercises cover material appropriate from grade 1 through grade 8, with topics ranging from counting, telling time, addition and subtraction, multiplication, introductory geometry, and decimals. There are hundreds of lessons at each grade level, and while the graphics are eye catching and appealing to the young child, the absence of instructions can make playing the games a bit confusing for even an adult. There is a paid version that involves a membership and access to additional resources that may be more comprehensive with instructions. A nice feature is that the free version allows for the ability to create an account and save progress for future use.

Math Goodies offers interactive games, lessons, and puzzles for kindergarten through grade 5, free of charge. Some examples of material covered include addition and subtraction, decimals, graphs, and word problems. Worksheets can also be downloaded for continued practice. A nice feature of some games is the ability to indicate a difficulty level from easy, medium, and hard, as well as access solutions to problems and search for specific content. Of course, a child may take advantage of the opportunity to choose the easiest setting and not review more challenging material, so parents will want to monitor use of the site. The website design is a bit jumbled with advertising, an email signup, and numerous links to content both onsite and offsite. Regardless of the design, the site contains a robust amount of information that may simply require a little more patience in locating all of it and ignoring the advertising.

Designed by teachers, Kids Numbers presents a fun, interactive resource for young children to learn and strengthen math skills. Early math foundations are presented for number recognition and counting, addition and subtraction of single digits working up to mixed integers, multiplication, and division. As an bonus, the language setting can be adjusted so children can learn numbers and count in other languages. While website access and features are free, there is a paid version that offers additional functionality and more customized settings.

12. Fun Brain

Among the many learning resources on Fun Brain is a math arcade with games organized by grade level from kindergarten through grade 8. Younger children can play games with a parent in the "Moms and Kids Playground" section. One downfall of Fun Brain is the heavy presence of ads promoting Poptropica, a virtual world game requiring a subscription purchase.

Toy Theater offers free interactive games for several subject areas, including math. Games are arranged by subject area and grade level, with difficulty appropriate for the preschool to early elementary age child. Math content is focused on core competencies and early foundations, including matching, patterns, simple counting, and identifying greater than and less than values.

10. Hooda Math

Hooda Math was developed by a middle school math teacher. The website features more than 700 math games that organized into categories for logic, geometry, and basic arithmetic. The site is simple, no fuss and covers a broad range of math concepts in a fun manner.

Math Slice offers interactive math games from the traditional Chess and Bingo to the more recent popular games like Guitar Hero and Math Millionaire (a play from Who Wants to be a Millionaire.) Math concepts from basic addition and subtraction are appropriate for the young child in kindergarten, and growing to more complicated concepts like fractions, introductory statistics, and measurement. In addition to interactive games, parents return to the old school approach and print math worksheets for offline quizzes and practice.

Rick’s Math Web offers a full range of math concepts for the pre-kindergarten age child through early elementary school age, including telling time, numbers, addition, and subtraction. As children grow and learn, the offerings of this site will continue to appeal to their math learning with more complex math concepts like decimals, square roots, ratios and proportions, and geometry. The site features more than 4,800 math problems and tips and tricks for each focus area, all free of charge. Worksheets can also be printed from the website.

Brain Bashers is a no frills, simple website that presents math logic, puzzles, stereograms, and illusions to help users build their brain power and develop math skills. Games like Sudoku and a daily puzzle are offered, and those who are stumped can click for a hint to help solve the answer.

Math is Fun strengthens math skills with interactive tools that grow in difficulty as children age. Basic addition and subtraction interactive learning expand to long addition and long subtraction. Drill activities help children memorize concepts with repetition and math practice. There is information on money, data, and measurement, and as children get older, they will find the material on algebra and geometry helpful. Information is presented in a textbook style format with some games intermingled and full access to the site is free of charge.

Illuminations focuses on learning and offers an ad-free website with online math games divided into grade groupings: kindergarten through grade 2, grades 3 through 5, grades 6 through 8, and grades 9 through 12. This is a website that grows with a child as the learning material encompasses all grade levels. The website is not flashy but offers substantial teaching materials in a game format with a description and screenshot of the game for review before beginning.

Mr. Nussbaum offers interactive tools to reinforce learning and develop skills associated with rounding numbers, multiplication, graphing, and other math concepts. The website features a simplistic design with a sports theme rather than a lot of flashy graphics or videos. Educational material is organized by grade level with difficulty strengthening as children progress from the easier rounds to the harder material.

3. PBS Kids

PBS Kids appeals to the very young child who is learning basic math concepts including shape recognition, counting, sorting, measuring, and comparisons. Popular characters like The Cat in the Hat, Curious George, and Clifford present interactive math games that children will enjoy. One of the best features of PBS Kids is that it is free of advertising so children can focus on the learning content without distraction. Parents will want to monitor their child’s use as there are many videos that children may hone in on rather than engaging with the math concepts, thus making the website more of a television show rather than a learning resource.

2. Dream Box

Dream Box appeals to children who enjoy video games by offering math games covering complex math that resemble arcade games. The website offers online learning for children as young as pre-kindergarten and aging up through high school. Concepts are taught through video segments, charts and graphs, puzzles and other visual aids, with coins awarded as children progress through each learning module. Coins can then be redeemed at the online “carnival” to play other games. Before children can proceed to the next level, they must master a skill at the lower level. Limited access is available to some math games while the site requires a paid subscription to access all of its offerings; however, some will find its offerings comprehensive and worth the fee.

1. IXL

IXL offers math games for kindergarten through grade 8 and organized by content. One of the site’s greatest strengths is that it is aligned with individual state guidelines as well as Common Core. Upon registration on the site, the user is immediately served with problems that support learning in accordance with individual state standards. Parents and teachers can choose a specific topic from addition to geometry for children to practice. The website will track how long a child spends on each question, keep score, and record overall progress by awarding online prizes upon completion of each milestone. Dynamic learning is part of the website as the difficulty adjusts to the child’s skill level by skipping over problems when previous ones are correctly answered and serving more when previous questions are answered incorrectly. The website is free for access to a few sets of math problems per day, but there is a subscription fee for unlimited learning.

The Best Educational Board Games for Kids

By Rebecca / January 26, 2017
Best Educational Board Games for Kids

The best way for a child to learn is through hands-on experience and fun. Board games are capable of increasing a child’s brain power and skills while being able to spend much-needed quality time with the family.

There are several benefits to playing board games:

  • Learn the concept of following the rules
  • Deal with moral problems and what is right and wrong
  • Learn to detect patterns
  • Learn to plan ahead
  • Enhance thinking skills
  • Encourages logical reasoning
  • Improve memory function
  • Learn alternate outcomes
  • Gain social skills
  • Reasoning skills
  • Teamwork
  • Learn how to be a good sport

Cooperative Game Play

Cooperative gameplay encourages all the players to work together to achieve success in the game. It helps to develop social skills and teamwork while providing a fun and enjoyable experience while further developing other skills such as learning how to follow directions, help the other players, and develop relationships. Cooperative gameplay develops a strong sense of community among the players as they all reach for a common goal and outcome.

When choosing a good educational board game, you will want to find something that involves strategy, rather than just luck. You want to encourage your child to think through their options and weigh their decision before they make a move. It enhances their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Different games can teach different skills. Monopoly, for example, teaches financial skills, while Chutes and Ladders can help teach about the number line.

Price Guide: 

                                                       $                                                                 Under $100 

                                    $$                                                          $100 - $200

                                    $$$                                    $200 or more 

Best Educational Board Games for Toddlers

ThinkFun Roll and Play Board Game

The Thinkfun Roll and Play Board game introduces your child to roll and play activity with the aid of a plush cube and 48 different game cards. It encourages creativity, active play, and motor skills. Along with the game cards and plush cube, you also receive a storage packet for the cards and a parent’s guide to help your child through their learning journey.

To Play

The child will start by tossing the plush cube and identifying the color that lands facing up. The child then has to choose a matching game card for the corresponding color and perform the activity. Activities include “Make a Happy Face,” “Moo like a cow,” and “find something blue.”

Skills the Child Can Learn
  • Colors
  • Counting
  • Social interaction
  • Emotions
  • Image and word recognition

Price

$

Recommended Age Group

18 months and up

Key Points                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Endless learning possibilities, encourages social interaction and engagement and encourages creative exploration


HABA My Very First Games-First Orchard

The First Orchard game is designed for children two years old and up and encourages shape and color recognition, as well as teaching your child how to follow simple rules. It is suitable for one to four players and takes about ten minutes to play through. It doubles as a game and a pretend play set. All of the pieces are larger and safe for smaller hands, and it includes a basket to encourage cooperative play.

To Play

The children roll the die and collect the fruit and try to harvest all the fruit before the raven can reach the orchard. If the child rolls the raven, then the raven moves one step closer.

Skills the Child Can Learn
  • Social skills
  • Color recognition
  • Numbers and counting
  • Shape recognition

Price

$

Recommended Age Group

Two years old and up

Key Points                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Doubles as pretend play and a board game, specially designed for younger players, can be played alone or with others


Peaceable Kingdom Hoot Owl Hoot! Cooperative Board Game

The Hoot Owl Hoot! Board Game is an award-winning color-coded cooperative matching game. It features two different play levels so that it will grow with your child. It teaches children to work together because they all have to be successful to win this game. It is designed for two to four players and requires simple strategy and encourages social development, positive self-esteem, playfulness, and cooperation.

To Play

The children will play a color card and then fly to the corresponding space on the board. If a sun card is drawn, then they are one step closer to daylight. The object of the game is to get all of the owls’home before the sun rises. This game encourages teamwork rather than competitive play, so the children cannot win unless they learn to work together.

Skills the Child Can Learn
  • Simple strategy
  • Problem-solving
  • How to follow directions
  • Social development
  • Cooperation
  • Color recognition

Price

$

Recommended Age Group

Four to eight years old

Key Points                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Cooperative game that promotes a non-stressful play situation, emotional development, decision making, and promotes a strong sense of community among the players


Best Educational Board Games for Preschoolers

Peaceable Kingdom Snug as a Bug in a Rug Preschool Skills Builder Game

Snug as a Bug in a Rug is a bug matching game that features three play levels so that the game grows with your child. All the players must work together to hide the matching bugs under the rug before the stink bugs come by. This game has won several awards including the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award and Dr. Toy 10 Best Educational Toys Award.

To Play

This game comes with a game board with built-in spinner, 24 colorful bugs, three stink bugs, one die, and instructions because there are three different ways to play. Ultimately, the child must use their matching skills to succeed while working together with their fellow players.

Skills the Child Can Learn
  • Color, number, and shape recognition
  • Social interaction
  • Counting
  • Visual discrimination
  • How to take turns and follow directions

Price

$

Recommended Age Group

Three to six years old

Key Points                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Encourages cooperative play and teamwork and teaches the basic rules of gameplay like taking turns and rolling a die                                       


Elephant’s Trunk

Elephant’s Trunk is a fun and interactive game for preschoolers that uses wooden pieces and small tin suitcases. There are approximately 15 minutes of gameplay, and no reading is required. The game is designed for two to four players at a time. Emmet, the elephant, needs help packing before the sneaky mouse can come and dump everything out of his suitcase.

To Play

The children will take turns rolling the die, and with every roll, they will place a piece of clothing into the elephant’s suitcase while matching the colors up. Always be aware of the little mouse that is trying to sneak up and cause disaster for the elephant’s trip.

Skills the Child Can Learn
  • Color identification
  • Motor skill development
  • Pattern identification

Price

$

Recommended Age Group

Four to eight years old

Key Points                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

No reading required, simple and straight-forward game rules, encourages social interaction with other players                                                                       


Pigs in Pants Board Game

The Pigs in Pants Board Game is a fun and colorful matching game that requires strategic thinking to win. The child will want to collect the most pairs of pants on the pig by matching the patterned pants to the four cards. The other players shout, “I’m going to pinch your pants!” This is an exciting game that encourages interaction and fun while being able to yell and be silly.

To Play

Match the patterned pants to the four cards located in the center of the board game and pinch pants from the other players to get the most. Just remember, that your cards can be easily pinched by another player so carefully anticipate all the moves that are made.

Skills the Child Can Learn
  • Matching and memory skills
  • Observational skills
  • Personal and social skills
  • Color recognition
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Analytical skills

Price

$

Recommended Age Group

Four to five years old

Key Points                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Requires strategic thinking, it can get loud, requires matching skills                                                                                                


Monkeys Up Educational Family Game

Monkeys Up is fun for the entire family. All the players compete to get the best score by flipping, switching, and stealing monkeys. It requires one to six players and is a game that involves memory and strategy. The game comes with eighteen plastic monkeys, one cube, and a simple instruction booklet for gameplay. The game is simple and easy to learn and fun for the entire family regardless of age.

To Play

Every monkey will have a value that is hidden under their feet, and you will only be able to see this value if the monkey is flipped. To win, the players must switch, steal, and flip the monkeys the best to reveal all the hidden values and get the best score.

Skills the Child Can Learn
  • Memory skills
  • Strategy
  • Critical thinking
  • Social development

Price

$$

Recommended Age Group

Six years old and up

Key Points                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Encourages quality family time and laughter while educating and improving thinking and memory skills                           


Best Educational Board Games for Grade School Aged Children

Brain Freeze from Mighty fun

Brain Freeze is an award-winning board game that is perfect for kids and families. It is a great way for your child to learn strategy, logic, deduction, and memory while combining elements of other popular strategy games. It requires two players, or you can split off into two teams with two players each. The players or teams must race to guess the secret sweet treat that the other player or team has chosen.

To Play

The game includes two brain freeze grid boards, two secrecy shields with stands, two dry erase pens, two dry erase wipe cloths, and a rulebook. You must use strategic thinking, logic, and deduction to guess what treat the other team has chosen. Players make their guesses, record their answers, and continue to eliminate variables until they feel that they can guess the treat correctly.

Skills the Child Can Learn
  • Social interaction
  • Improved memory function
  • Deductive reasoning
  • Logical thinking

Price

$$

Recommended Age Group

Five to ten years old

Key Points                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Promotes quality family time and improves critical thinking skills and memory function                                                         


Latice Board Game (Standard Edition)

Latice is a game of strategy and requires two to four players for game play. It involves simple rules that combine with strategy. It takes three minutes to learn the game, 20 minutes to play the game, and a lifetime to master the game! In the game, you must match tiles by color or shape and match on different sides to gain more moves.

To Play

Latice comes with 84 cardboard tiles, a 14” game board, four tile racks, 32 acrylic stones, the box and an 11-page instruction manual. The players must match their tiles by shape and color and use strategic thinking skills to move their tiles, wind them, or shift them around the board to get ahead of the other players. The first person to play all of their tiles is the winner.

Skills the Child Can Learn
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Strategic thinking skills
  • Cognitive skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Special recognition
  • Planning

Price

$$

Recommended Age Group

Six years old and up

Key Points                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Fun for the entire family, teaches strategy and offensive and defensive playing skills                                                                                         


Mattel Blokus Game

The Blokus Game by Mattel is a strategy game that is suitable for the entire family. It takes less than a minute to learn and features fun challenges for everyone. Game time for this game is approximately 30 minutes and is a very fast-paced game with endless possibilities. Blokus Game also won a Mensa award for promoting healthy brain activity and encourages friendly competition between all the players.

To Play

All the players take turns and place their 21 pieces on the board so that each piece touches another piece of the same color at the corners. You claim your territory by fitting as many of your pieces on the board while also blocking the other players. The player with the lowest number of pieces remaining wins the game.

Skills the Child Can Learn
  • Strategy
  • Social development
  • Follow directions and rules of game play
  • Critical thinking

Price

$

Recommended Age Group

Five to fifteen years old

Key Points                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Encourages family time, social interaction, and strategic thinking skills                                                                                                                                 

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The Best Computer Kits for Kids

By Rebecca / January 26, 2017
Best Computer Kits for Kids

Computer kits are an excellent way to begin building your child’s STEM skills. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. These are all vital subject areas that play a critical role in your child’s development and future.

STEM is a curriculum that is designed to teach your children in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. You combine fun with learning, and it helps improve your child’s skills as well as memory functions. STEM lessons focus on real-world problems and teach children to come up with solutions to these problems. Children receive a hands-on learning experience while being given the opportunity to explore and think through problems to come to a solution.

STEM also encourages social development as well as teamwork.

STEM toys encourage:

  • Innovation
  • Creativity
  • Learning
  • Imagination
  • Cause and effect thinking
  • Observation
  • Practical experience

Price Guide

$

Under $100

$$

$100-$200

$$$

$200 or more


For Toddler-Aged Children

Fisher Price Think and Learn Code-a-Pillar

The Fisher Price Think and Learn Code-a-Pillar will help your child learn letter identification, categorization, objects, and properties. The point of this toy is for the child to configure the segments so that the Code-a-Pillar can reach its targets. This toy is one of the bestsellers of robotics kits.

To Play

The child connects the segments to make the Code-a-Pillar move forward, left, or right, and as it does, each segment will begin to light up.

Skills the Child Can Learn
  • Problem-solving
  • Planning
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Sequencing

Price

$$

Recommended Age Group

Three and up

Key Features                                                                                        

Motorized head, lights, sounds, and blinking eyes


Lite Poppers STEM Learning 3 in 1 Helicopter Construction Toy Kit

The Lite Poppers Construction Toy Kit is a build-and-play activity kit that encourages imaginative play. It will help children improve in vocabulary, math, geography, and science while learning how to follow a manual. It can be combined with other kits to make larger play patterns.

To Play

The child will put the pieces together and build models based on their imagination. This toy influences an open-ended play pattern and is themed with relatable stories and characters. When they get a new kit, they can add right to the original kit for even more fun.

Skills the Child Can Learn
  • Math skills
  • Reading and language skills
  • Develop social relationships
  • Improved motor skills
  • Modular reasoning
  • Building and perspective
  • Logarithms
  • Creative reasoning

Price

$

Recommended Age Group

Three years and up

Key Features                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Step-by-step instructions and manual, kits can be combined, LED touch sensor with USB rechargeable and reflective power base


For Preschool-Aged Children

Learning Resources Code and Go Robot Mouse Activity Set

The Learning Resources Code and Go Robot Mouse Activity Set introduces children to coding and puzzle solving through this programmable mouse and maze. The mouse lights up and makes sounds and features two different speeds that are good for either floor or table play.

To Play

This toy will teach your child how to build a maze and program the mouse to go through the maze to reach its prized cheese. The set comes with maze grids, maze walls, tunnels, the robot mouse, and materials to help guide the child through play. They have the opportunity to make many different maze combinations which will provide endless hours of fun and learning.

Skills the Child Can Learn
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Problem-solving
  • Analytical thinking
  • Spatial concepts
  • Following multistep directions
  • Cooperative play
  • Visual tracking
  • Sequential thought processes

Price

$

Recommended Age Group

Five and up

Key Features                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Lights, sounds, two different speeds, push button controls, programmable                                                                     


Snap Circuits Beginner Electronic Discovery Kit

The Snap Circuits Beginner Kit has 14 parts that can be used for over 20 different projects. It is engineered for smaller children and includes safety features for your youngest little engineer. This set is part of the award-winning Snap Circuit line of Electronics Discovery Kits.

To Play

The child can take all of the different pieces and learn the basics of how switches and circuits work. Your child should simply follow the easy instructions in the color manual to begin play.

Skills the Child Can Learn
  • Problem-solving
  • Following directions
  • Troubleshooting

Price

$

Recommended Age Group

3-5 years and up

Key Features                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Easy to follow color manual, award-winning, 14 pieces, over twenty possible projects                                                                      


Kibo 10-Kit

The Kibo 10-Kit is an introductory kit that includes ten programming blocks, four parameter cards, two motors, and two wheels. Children can program a robot using a building blocks system and also customize their robot however they want. The Kibo system does not require the additional help of a computer, tablet, or smartphone.

To Play

The child begins by creating a sequence of instructions using the Kibo blocks and then the scan the blocks with the Kibo body to be able to tell the robot what to do. Once the robot is programmed, they can decorate it to look however they want.

Skills the Child Can Learn
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Technical skills
  • Problem-solving
  • Improve cognitive skills
  • Art expression
  • Math
  • Literacy
  • Cultural explorations

Price

$$$

Recommended Age Group

Four- seven years old

Key Features                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Customizable, no additional electronics required, can be purchased individually or in sets                                                                                                                     


LightUp Edison Kit-Learn Electronics

The LightUp Edison Kit uses magnetic blocks to build circuits quickly and does not require any other wires or soldering. It teaches core STEM concepts about electricity, circuits, and engineering while also teaching your child the basics of coding. You can always update this kit so that your child can build and take part in many more projects later as they grow and learn.

To Play

Snap together the magnetic blocks, download the LightUp Learning app for additional guidance and several projects and then watch as the electricity flows with the LightUp Smart Lens. The blocks can be built on a table, whiteboard, or even refrigerator. The Edison Kit teaches your child about the basics of coding while they build flashlights and SOS beepers to learn about voltage, current, and resistance. Once they have mastered these concepts they can upgrade to the Tesla Kit which is compatible with the Edison Kit.

Skills the Child Can Learn
  • Engineering
  • Basic coding
  • Following directions

Price

$

Recommended Age Group

Five-fifteen years old

Key Features                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Can be upgraded, includes rechargeable battery, red LED, buzzer light sensor, wire blocks, micro USB cable, free iOS app                                         


For Grade School-Aged Children

Kano Computer Kit

The Kano Computer Kit is easy to use and requires no technical skills at all to use. It teaches your child how to code art, music, apps, and games and has won several different awards including the Family Choice Award and the Webby Award. The kit comes with everything your child will need including Raspberry Pi 3, case, speaker, wireless keyboard, memory, HDMI and power cables, coding challenges, stickers, and many apps.

To Play

The child can follow the simple story to learn how to build their own computer. They do not require any tools; they simply put all of the parts together. It teaches your child basic coding and programming skills like Python, JavaScript, and Linux commands.

Skills the Child Can Learn
  • Real coding skills
  • Following directions
  • Programming essentials
  • Problem-solving

Price

$$

Recommended Age Group

Six years and up

Key Features                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Easy to use, simple step-by-step instructions, kit includes all the essential items your child needs to begin                           


Piper Computer Kit

The Piper Computer Kit is an educational computer that teaches your child STEM and coding skills. This kit is made with a handcrafted wooden computer case and comes with an LCD monitor. It is Wi-Fi enabled and is a self-contained computer that runs on a raspberry Pi 3 project board with 1 GB of ram and a 1.2 GHz quad-core CPU.

To Play

There are blueprint instructions included with the kit. The child will first start off by assembling the fifty plus puzzle-like pieces, and this will make the wooden case and power boxes. They will then have access to the Piper learning system and will teach your child about technology and engineering. The challenge levels increase in difficulty and teach them step-by-step as they play.

Skills the Child Can Learn
  • Critical thinking
  • Building
  • Electronics
  • Coding
  • Problem-solving

Price

$$$

Recommended Age Group

Ages eight to thirteen

Key Features                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Wooden computer case, HD LCD, Raspberry Pi 3 project board, LED lights, buzzers, buttons, switches, and sensors, USB mouse with retractable cable, 8 GB SD card, free automatic level updates, Piper screwdriver


Cubit Introduction to Computer Science Kit

The Cubit Introduction to Computer Science Kit is a great tool for your children to learn how to build and program. It also teaches them how to interact with real life hardware using visual programming and coding. This kit allows the child to program their own musical light show and design sound sequences that they can play.

To Play

This kit comes with ten full-color LEDs, musical buzzers, and light sensors. Your child can start programming in just seconds with the help of the visual programming aid, and they will learn to write basic code.

Skills the Child Can Learn
  • Basic programming skills
  • Following directions
  • Visual programming
  • Coding skills
  • Building skills
  • Fundamental concepts of science and engineering

Price

$$

Recommended Age Group

Eight years old and up

Key Features                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Lights, sounds, motors, sensors, buzzers, LCD screen, buttons, knobs                                                                                         


LittleBits Electronics Arduino Coding Kit

The LittleBits Electronics kit has everything that your child will need to get started. The electronic modules connect with magnets, and the modules are marked with colors, so the child knows what they are for. For example, blue is for power, pink is for inputs, orange is for wire, and green is for outputs. The kit includes the Arduino module plus other prototyping modules: servo, button, two dimmers, fork, power, and mounting boards to keep all the circuits in place.

To Play

Your child has the option of creating an etch-a-sketch or even their own analog pong game. They walk your child through the basics of programming. The kit communicates with the software and the modules easily snap to three inputs and three outputs on the Arduino module. Just plug in your computer, snap the modules together and program all you want.

Skills the Child Can Learn
  • Basic programming skills
  • Basic electronic skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem-solving
  • Following directions

Price

$

Recommended Age Group

Fourteen years and up

Key Features                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Eight getting started sketches, software communication, easy to use, advanced hardware interaction, access to community forums, limitless possibilities                                                                                                                                


Bonus

There are many different toys and kits available for children to learn hands-on about different aspects of technology, science, and engineering. All the reviewed toys focus on fundamental learning concepts including critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, and basic coding and electronics skills. As the child grows and learns, they can move up in challenges and gain tons of real world experience.

The Raspberry Pi is also a great tool, but it does require a bit more knowledge and skill to master compared to the last kits. Some of the kits included Raspberry Pi, but it was already built. The following kit has everything your child will need to start and graduate to the next level of coding and electronics.

Vilros Raspberry Pi 3 Basic Starter Kit

The Vilros Raspberry Pi 3 Starter Kit includes the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, the enclosure case with mounting slot and screws, a 2500 mA Micro USB power supply that is five feet long, and a set of two heatsinks. This model is up to ten times faster than the previous model. It is the perfect starter kit for beginners and even professionals that are interested in the field of electronics. It allows you to build projects with programming such as Scratch, XMBC media center, Minecraft, retro gaming console, and more.

Price

$

Recommended Age Group

Not suitable for younger children

Key Features                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Kit includes everything you need to start, quad-core processor, high-quality clear case, genuine parts                                                                                                                              

The 20 Best Poetry Books for Kids

By sara / January 22, 2017

The importance of reading to our children is a truth that we are all deeply aware of. The benefits are researched, proven and documented in abundance. Integrating books of poetry books for children into the lineup can be not just beneficial, but greatly enjoyable.

There is no shortage of research boasting claims of the power of poetry to work inside the minds of our children. Even the smallest of babies can benefit from poetry, defined as a work of literature which focuses on expressions of feelings or ideas, often using metaphors, by using distinctive rhythms and styles. The use of expressive poetry is extremely beneficial to the emotional development of children. When children are taught to empathize and visualize the emotions of others, they are better able to recognize and work through their own emotions. Poetry can also help shape a creative mind, due to the use of metaphors instead of a more literal description of ideas or feelings.

The importance of reading to our children cannot be under emphasized. So, if you are going to be reading to your children anyways, why not be sure to include poetry, which encourages a completely different kind of thinking and growth? If you are unsure where, to begin with adding poetry in your home, here is a list of some of the best poetry books for kids that are currently available.​

For my ranking purposes, I leaned on the compilations of others as well as ratings and descriptions of owners of the suggested books. I also looked for bright and engaging illustrations, and books that are easily, and affordably available for purchase.​

This book is a collection of the funniest poems for children. The pictures are often just as funny as the poems! What better way to encourage your children to read or be read to than to engage their sense of humor. This book by Bruce Lansky is designed to engage readers in grades 2 through 5.

A Poke in the I is a collection of concrete poetry, also known as visual poetry. In concrete poetry, more emphasis is placed on the visual effect of words. See how the placement and size of letters and text convey meaning, sometimes better than written word can. Kids love visual poetry, not only because of the plethora of pictures but because of the surprising ways we can use words to convey meaning. This book encourages children to stretch their minds past more typical poem structure and translation. Older toddlers and elementary children will delight in this playful book by author Paul B. Janeczko and illustrator Chris Raschka.

Another collection, this book has a wide variety of poems. Some are serious, some are silly, all are loved by children. Another thing that makes this book fun to read is that the illustrations have been done by several different artists. Every one of the almost 200 poems are a delight to read and look at. This book is a must for those who want to integrate not only classical children's poetry, but also want to introduce the works of newer poets into their children's library. Perfect for children in 2nd through 5th grade.

If you are looking for a poetry book that will not only make your child giggle but also introduce "big" words creatively placed to help encourage vocabulary growth, this witty book by Jack Prelutsky is the perfect match. This book contains 100 poems about animals. Some are real, some a work of intensely creative imagination. The illustrations are marvelous, and perfectly capture some of the most zany creatures. Included in the book is a pronunciation guide, so no need to fear that you aren't pronouncing “The Pelicantaloupes” correctly. While the age range is intended for older elementary children, parents who reviewed the book expressed delight that their children of varying age range equally enjoyed this book.

It is often hard for children to understand why they are sometimes separated from loved ones, especially grandparents. This heartwarming poem follows the story of a young child living in Africa, who is separated from his Grandmother by a great distance. Instead of letting cultural and day to day differences push them apart, they search for things that are the same in each of their worlds. An exercise that brings them together until the end of the story, when they are reunited by a visit from Grandmother. Beautiful illustrations depict the cultural differences in the lives of the characters. So in addition to being a great book, it also encourages the learning of cultural diversity. Recommended for ages preschool to grade 3.

Delightfully funny poems that appeal to children while also entertaining parents! Not your typical one-page poems, these creative stories last several pages, with words so vibrant that you have no trouble imagining what it would look like to have your socks running down the road, or dancing around your home. While funny, they also help teach life lessons, like why we don't snack at midnight, and how it's helpful to pick up after ourselves. If you have a reluctant reader, this book will help encourage your child to give reading, and poetry, a chance. At only 26 pages, it won't intimidate, while bright and funny pictures will help to draw them in. Intended for children in second to 5th grade.

Do you have a child who loves sports? Then they will love these riddle poems. Sports equipment come alive to provide your child with clues about who he is. Children 4 years and older will love the challenge of determining which character is being represented after the mystery character finishes talking.

A master of puns and wordplay, this zany story by Jack Prelutsky is sure to bring smiles, and requests to read it again! Nonsense rhymes, paired with clever illustrations by James Stevenson are sure to delight, tickle, and sometimes even gross out little readers. Children ages Kindergarten to Grade 5 are sure to find this book right up their alley.

Anthologist Wendy Cooling has compiled this collection of poems from poems by poets around the world. Designed to encourage children to think critically about issues facing the environment, and our role as caretakers of the earth. Encouraging kids to address these big issues from an early age can help us to raise a generation that is ready to make a difference in how we deal with issues like trash disposal, deforestation, and creating a brighter tomorrow. Folk art style illustrations will grab your child's attention and give a deeper meaning to the messages contained in the poetry.

A fresh, and silly twist to the classic story of Rapunzel, this version is sure to have fans of the story cackling with laughter. When the price finds Rapunzel and interprets her tears as distress, he knows he would do anything to save her. He repeatedly tries to have her throw something out of the tower that will help him rescue her, but she is too high up to understand him and keeps making silly mistakes. Such as, when asked for her hair, she sends her underwear! Eventually, the mistakenly thrown object is Rapunzel's maid. This turns out to be a pleasant mistake, however, as the prince and the maid fall deeply in love and ride off into the sunset together. Illustrations add to the silliness with over exaggerated expressions, sure to delight children kindergarten to grade 5.

It is hard to go wrong with a book by Shel Silverstein, and his poem entitled "The Giving Tree" is no exception. A sometimes sad, always touching story of a tree who loved a boy. So much, that she gave the boy all she had, even when he was unable to offer anything in return. A tale of selfless love and giving, it is a parable of how important it is to love others with all we have, not taking into consideration their ability to return or acknowledge it. This book is intended for children aged 1 to 8.

How do dinosaurs say goodnight? Are they ornery and bad? Or do they quietly listen to their mommy and daddy. Take a peek into ten dinosaur families and their bedtime routines. Kids will recognize commonly used antics to postpone bedtimes and get a chuckle out of seeing huge dinosaurs trying to fit into small beds. Proper dinosaur names are used, which helps children learn while being entertained. While bed time antics such as asking for "just one more book" are meant to be discouraged, your children preschool to 3rd grade are going to request this story over and over.

In 1957, Dr. Suess decided to write The Cat In The Hat as a solution to the assertion that common literacy stories of the day were too boring, and did not encourage literacy. What if there was an early reader that children enjoyed, one that made them want to read more? Dr. Suess achieved this book with this story about two bored children, and the cat who disrupts their life, almost landing them in huge trouble with their mother! Feel the frustration and panic of the children as the cat plays dangerous games with their household belongings, and then in an attempt to help makes things even worse by unleashing his wild friends. Never fear, however, just in the nick of time the cat is able to rectify his naughty behavior and get the house back in order before mother arrives back home from her errands. A classic book that is sure to continue to inspire the youngest of children through those in second grade to develop a love for reading.

This classic collection of poems and illustrations by Shel Silverstein has been a family favorite for over 40 years, a trend that will likely continue for another 40. Sometimes laugh out loud funny, sometimes contemplative, the outstanding rhythm of Shel's poetry makes this collection a treasure to read aloud. Read about a sister, who would love nothing more than to auction off her sister. Discover why unicorns didn't make it onto Noah's Ark. Take a ride in a flying shoe with a trio of brothers. Most importantly, introduce your 1st through 3rd graders to a book that they will someday read to their children.

Children 4 years of age and older are sure to turn to this fantastically illustrated collection of poems on rainy days and even sunny ones. The illustrations are exceptionally well done, and help young readers understand the emotions being conveyed in the stories. The poems cover a broad range of emotions, some are funny, some make you think, and others teach life lessons. James McDonald is both author and artist, and with this work, he is sure to win life long lovers of his work.

Another collection that has passed the test of generational reading, A.A. Milne's two poetry collections "When We Were Very Young," and, "Now We Are Six" are paired together in this edition. Children as young as 3 and as old as 8 will be delighted to be introduced to everyone's favorite bear and his friend Christopher Robin. Reviewers of this book often state their surprise at how many of the poems contained in this work were already familiar to them; they had previously not realized how profound of an impact these poems have had on their life. Surely a collection that will not be hard to read again and again.

This 100 poem collection of poems by Mary Ann Hoberman covers a multitude of subjects, all sure to be loved by your kindergarten through 4th grader. Subjects range from all kinds of animals, family life, and subjects that will make your child think. This book will satisfy poetry readers of all skill levels, from those who are just beginning to those who are well versed.

Come along with Gerald, the giraffe. A giraffe who just wants to dance! Feeling discouraged when he is unable to dance like the other animals and ready to give up on his dreams, he makes an unlikely friend who teaches him to embrace his differences and find the tune that is his. A heartwarming tale that is encouraging positive self-esteem. A great, rhyming story that encourages preschoolers to 3rd graders to never give up on their dreams.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is a fast paced, rollicking poem that makes learning the alphabet fun! Follow the alphabet as the letters try to answer the question, will there be enough room at the top of the coconut tree? Each letter takes it's turn climbing the ever burdened coconut tree until eventually they have an answer. Yes, there is enough room, but the coconut tree cannot handle their weight and boom boom, they all fall out of the coconut tree. Children aged preschool and up will enjoy this bright and cheerful poem.

If the illustrations alone aren't enough to win you over, the whimsical poem will endear this book to you for all time. Gorgeous illustrations follow the story of the news of a brand new baby travels across the world. Stars sing, and polar bears dance to express their joy because never before has a baby been born quite like this one. While it is the parents and the grandparents, who will most appreciate the sentiment, children from 1 to 4 years old will surely appreciate the beauty found in this book.

The 15 Best Online Preschool Games

By sara / January 17, 2017

Looking to add some excitement into your learning routine for your kids? Ever considered online games? Filled with fun characters and animation, these games can not only keep your young one busy, they can teach them in fun and interactive ways to make learning an enjoyable experience. This in a great way to introduce your preschooler to the computer. They can obtain skills for reading, math, languages, and even social sciences and music. From making friends to learning how to button a shirt, these interactive games can help your young one become a well-rounded individual. Teach them how to paint like Picasso, travel the world like Fernando, or become a future philanthropist. Let their imaginations soar with the help of online games.​

Offers games for babies, toddlers and preschool children. They have interactive books that parents can read while the kids can turn the pages. With colorful, fun animation and cute stories, kids will be amazed. There are games for building, and that are ideal for hand- eye coordination. Lastly, there are videos of their animated stories.

For very early starters that might not be quite acclimated to the computer, Aven’s corner offers simple, fun games that are easy to understand and catch on to. Games such as popping balloons and counting are just enough to teach kids how to use the computer while learning a new skill.

Poisson Rouge is a website that teaches kids how to learn intuitively. The games have no instructions, but forces kids to learn by clicking the mouse. There are a few instructions in English and French on the website. You can register for free and all content is available free of charge. This website also accepts donations.

Playhouse Disney is an interactive website with games that feature Mickey and many more from the Playhouse Disney gang. There are games and a plethora of activities from making place mats, creative crafts that spark creativity and imagination, coloring pages, pages with marbles, and the list goes on. There is a video section with real life morals in their endings to teach kids about human emotion and empathy. For adults, there is a section with blogs, apps, recipes, and printables.

Treehouse TV ias a  site has both fun and educational games for preschoolers. The kids can click on their favorite characters and choose a game or printable worksheet. Games are categorized by level, ranging from easy to medium to hard. There is also a section for videos with their favorite characters.

National Geographic for kids - is full of puzzles and brain games that help give your kids an educational advantage. During their down time, you can play a brain game with bugs and animals and create lessons around these themes. There are also memory games, videos, pages for writing letters and creating persuasion. Even for pre-k, this is an excellent way to enter into the real world with the help of parents.

is a great program for both students and parents. It is full of games with characters from Sesame Street and Barney and Friends. There are arts and crafts for parents and kids to do together and a community section for parents who want to share ideas. There are videos and games that are categorized by TV shows. This is also a great place to find television programs that will aid in your child’s educational development.

ABCMouse offers kids the autonomy of learning without the perpetual supervision of their parents. Ranging from ages two through eight, students can enjoy lessons in reading, science, math arts and crafts. There are ten levels filled with incentives and rewards, and after signing up, the students are guided through the levels. After completing a level, they are automatically guided to the next level. Parents love that their kids can get additional learning at home that is delivered in a sequence.

7. IXL.com

IXL is an online game website that is aligned with the common core state standards. Teachers and parents use this site to tutor students on subjects that they can’t quite grasp while in the classroom. These supplemental games offer prizes at the end of each section, with the incentive of earning even bigger and better ones! There are games ranging from pre-k level to grade 12, with subjects including Social Studies, Math, Science and Language Arts. Parents laud the fact that their kid's learning was extended and improved by these games.

is the perfect place for preschoolers to get a jump start on life. The main area of the site is an online virtual world called Story Land. This land is filled with pre-reading, early math, social science and music skills. Available on android and ios, these games introduce kids to real life activities such as grocery shopping and adopting and caring for a pet. Parents can teach kids how to be responsible for making the commitment of adding a pet to the family.

Education.com is a great place to start at home. It is good for teaching kids how to use technology while they learn the basics of math and science. For those with the extra time, there is a place to create lesson plans, with supplemental worksheets, stories, games, activities, and songs. New games are added periodically, and when students master the pre-k levels, they can advance to the kindergarten level games. There are even teaching tools and guided lesson plans. Parents can access these materials for free or join a premium membership.

NickJR. com is a fun-filled site that can transport your child into the world of their favorite cartoon characters. While not outlined with themes for learning, these games are loaded with educational objectives that will keep your kids busy and entertained. There are games and videos and also a section for parents with ideas for trips, recipes and activities. There are even health tips and how to videos.

Funbrain games is another tool that is lauded by teachers everywhere. Students love this site so much that teachers often use it as an incentive for getting their work done correctly and on time. This site is a gem that is filled with math and reading games ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade. Although there is not a tab for pre-k, the games listed under kindergarten are for pre-k students too. There are also games for learning colors and some just for having fun.

Where else should you look to educate kids other than the home of Sesame Street. PBS Kids online games provide games that star the characters of your kid's favorite program. There are games for Dragon Tales and Sid the Science Kid, along with several other shows. One of the best parts of using PBSKids..org is the incentive program. After they finish a round of their game, they can earn a picture to show their accomplishment to their friends and families. Parents and teachers can even use these as an incentive to get even greater prizes!

Starfall.com is a reading program that is available for free online. It has been honored by teachers and homeschoolers all around the globe. It has four levels ranging from, ABC’s, Learn to Read, It’s fun to Read and I’m Reading. There is a sequence of games and activities ranging from small tales to plays and comics. Students learn letter sounds, blended sounds, vowels and consonants. The materials list learning objectives next to the book of each lesson, so, you can accentuate the skill or complement it with another skill for comprehensive learning. Starfall also has an online store where you can purchase paraphernalia and supplemental materials. Parents say that they enjoy the balance of learning and incentives.

The 20 Best Phonetic Alphabet Programs for Kids

By sara / January 16, 2017

Learning to read by phonics helps children learn to read better and faster. Since there are only 43 English letter combinations, most children can sound out words quickly and easily. Students who learn to read phonetically are better spellers. There is no need to memorize hundreds of words because most words can simply be sounded out. Since diagnostic tests can easily be administered, children can be taught those skills that they have missed along the way without any need to start over. Children can easily be tested on their knowledge and see how much they are learning helping to promote a love of learning and helping to build self-esteem, according to research performed by Gwen Fulwiler and Professor Patrick Groff from San Diego University.

Not all phonics programs are created equally. According to National Reading Panel under the auspices of the National Institute of Health good phonics programs not only teach the individual sounds but also teach children how to put those sounds together to form words.

Instruction is explicit as children often do not learn from embedded instruction. A great phonics program gives students plenty of practice breaking complex ideas down into smaller pieces. The program should teach phonemic awareness, knowledge of the complete phonetic code, directional teaching, blending and attention to detail.

If you are an early childhood teacher or a parent, you can help young children learn to read. You will need to choose the right resource for your situation. Here are 20 choices that you will want to consider.

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons uses special marks for 44 different phonetic sounds. For example, blended letters are joined while long vowels have a line above them. This program is best for children who have never been introduced to reading as other children may become confused. The book contains reading stories and word lists allowing children to practice. After about 80 lessons, the book then begins to withdraw the special marks. Teachers and parents need to follow a careful script. The last few pages of the book contain lists of books that children might enjoy reading along with additional teaching ideas for teachers and parents.

Parents and teachers who are working with children functioning on many different levels may find The Writing Road to Reading a great program as it contains instructions from beginning reading to sixth grade. There are no student books and only one teacher manual. Students are taught many more rules than with most systems. They then write each rule down in a spiral notebook. Phonograms are learned through saying, writing and reading in their notebooks. This program requires a lot of work on the leader’s part. The program seems to work well for students who have had problems with other methods that present more generalized rules.

Parents and teachers can easily build their own curriculum by using the ideas in Teach a Child to Read with Children’s Books. This book shows parents and teachers how to take the child’s natural curiosity and use it to teach a child to read. The program recommends that teachers and parents regularly read great children’s books to kids. The authors suggest magnetic alphabets to teach children to spell phonetically. As children begin to read basic words, then their vocabulary is slowly built up. Many experts find that this is the most natural way for children to learn to read.

The program At Last! A Reading Method for Every Child uses a combination of phonics and sight words. It teaches a decoding program teaching children to deal with exceptions in the most simple phonic rules. The program first introduces children to consonants that say their names which the program calls the good guys. It then introduces children to silent consonants that they call tough guys. Children are then taught short and long vowels before they are introduced to 25 sight phonograms. Many of the activities in this program must be created by the parent or teacher. Many are not suitable for the student learning alone.

Parents and teachers who are looking for a system that is almost totally independent may want to Action Reading Fundamentals. This program uses eight CDs and a workbook to teach the student. The only instructions that the teacher gets is a DVD that is about three minutes long. The system uses flashcards and games to keep the child enthused about learning. Some children may become bored with the program because it is very straightforward without gimmicks or animations. Most students find plenty of room in the workbook to complete the exercises which use the precursive style.

The Adventures in Phonics program is very intense. Not all children will be prepared for the rapid pace at which this program moves. Children will do better if they already have a basic idea of letter and sound combinations. This curriculum is not appropriate for all settings because it incorporates Christian values and words which may be offensive to some users. Some children will find that the provided space in the workbook is too small for their big writing. Most activities in the workbook are fill-in-the-blank or connect the dots which may bore some children. Little attention is given to blending words.

Color Phonics CD program probably works better as a supplement to another phonics program. Children are introduced to basic phonics concepts while watching five CDs. Each concept is carefully introduced. Then, practice occurs with the child being shown a cloudy picture. With every answer that the child gets correct, the picture becomes clearer. When all answers are correct, the child is rewarded with an animation. The program teaches consonants before vowels which are introduced in family groups. Children are encouraged to mark in their own books to practice the skills that they are learning.

 Explode the Code teaches some phonics while it also uses techniques to introduce students to letters. The program starts with an initial assessment so that parents or teachers are not wasting time teaching children what they already know. Different learning activities are included to help children with different learning styles including visual, auditory and kinesthetic. There is an online version that many find easier to use because it is less adult intensive. Some adults find the assessments difficult to interpret, and the computer program does this automatically.

There are two programs called Alpha-Phonics. Teachers and parents should look for the one from Chalcedon, as it is an updated version of the original by The Paradigm Company. This program is contained in a single manual that lies flat. It contains both teacher and student instructions. The program does a great job of teaching basic phonics rules. There is not much practice for students, so parents and teachers will need to supplement this manual. Sounds and words are introduced without accompanying pictures, so this may be a problem for some students. Others will benefit from the straight-forward presentation. 

Parents and teachers find Foundations one of the simplest courses to use. Reading, writing, handwriting, and spelling are all combined with the believe that students learn better when these language art skills reinforce each other. Unlike most programs, a letter is introduced to a student and then its most common sounds are taught together. For example, the student is introduced to the letter a by learning all three of its normal sounds. Great emphasis is placed on saying the sounds properly with the mouth and tongue. Parents and teachers can choose rather they want the child to write in manuscript or cursive with places in the workbook for both.

First Start Reading starts with the introduction of holding a pencil properly before children can develop poor writing skills. Then, it introduces children to a few consonants and then teaches them to blend them before vowels are introduced. This series has three books that children move through rather rapidly. Parents and teachers find all three books covered in one teaching manual. Essential sight words are introduced along the way so that children can read simple sentences quickly. Teacher instructions are brief but comprehensive. Assessments are included in the course, but they are optional. All necessary activities are in the five books, so parents and teachers do not have to worry about having other supplies on hand.

 Lifepac Gold Language Arts curriculum uses Christian words and concepts throughout, so it may not be appropriate in all settings. This program combines all elements of language arts into its curriculum including literature, speech, grammar, penmanship, composition, and spelling. Therefore, parents and teachers who are looking for a well-rounded curriculum may want to consider this one. This program starts with short-vowel sounds assuming that children already know letter and sound combinations. The student workbooks are full color and have plenty of room for students to work. This course is very teacher intensive, so the teacher’s manual s mandatory.

Teachers and parents who find it frustrating to teach multiple rules may find this program more to their liking. Instead of concentrating on teaching students rules, this program teaches through practice and familiarity practiced in workbooks. Levels A and B are designed for beginner readers. Carefully scripted lessons makes the lessons easy to teach. Some find the small print in the teacher’s manual difficult to see. Sounds are taught before letters encouraging students to sound out the word. The teacher or parent creates their own word cards and letter tiles with this system using supplies that they furnish. The program also has shorter versions for students needing remedial help.

Beginnings K5 is a comprehensive system covering handwriting, comprehension, composition, science, social studies, music, motor development and art. Most students do better when the entire system is used together rather than when individual components are used separately. In the phonics program, students are first introduced to vowel-consonant patterns before being introduced to beginning consonants. Parents and teachers definitely need the teacher’s manual for effective instruction. The complete phonics part of the program includes a practice book, reading books, review cards, workbook, a learner’s packet and a cute phonics’ CD. This program is aimed at homeschoolers Although classroom teachers may find it useful.

Children are invited to visit Alphabet Island where they are introduced to letters and their sounds through songs, poems, and songs. Some students may find the characterizations distracting while others will look forward to the next installment. While the program suggests that the video be watched during each lesson, if the student finds it distracting, then it can be omitted after seeing it once. Students are introduced to phonics rules that are repeatedly practiced. While the program can be used independently, many parents and teachers find it best to combine it with the company’s spelling program creating a total system. A complimentary math program is included with purchase.

Children who have to many wiggles to sit still and learn may do very well with the Sing Spell Read and Write Kit. This comprehensive system teaches through a CD presentation with catchy songs that introduce the concepts. Then, the student can read from 23 phonetic storybooks. Workbooks further reinforce the concepts. Also, included are fun phonic games and a treasure chest filled with small prizes. A wall chart allows students to easily see their progress. Teachers are introduced to the course on a video. The teacher’s manual makes it easy to stay organized. Assessments are included for those who would like to use them.

Teachers who want one book that serves as both the teacher’s manual and student book will want to consider Phonics Pathways. This program starts by introducing short vowel words and almost immediately starts to teach students to blend them to read simple words. Upper and lower case letters are introduced at the same time. Each sound is introduced in multiple ways including hearing, saying, tracing and writing. The material is specially designed to encourage proper tracking. Students are introduced to positive-thinking proverbs and fun characters throughout the book. Students are often introduced to a single word. Then, that word is introduced in a sentence. The sentence is then expanded in a pyramid formation.

The McRufy phonics program is a comprehensive program incorporating multi-sensory learning techniques. The laminated covers and sturdy pages in the student workbooks make it easy for students to learn as they will not tear easily. Unlike many programs relying on question-correct response questions, this program relies on open-ended questions frequently. Students should have some introduction to letters before beginning this program which moves rather quickly. For example, lesson three already has students blending b and a. By the end of the kindergarten year, students should know all letters including both long and short vowels, some digraphs, a few sight words including the names of colors.

All About Reading is an intensive phonics system that breaks each sound down into separate lessons. Open-and-go lessons allow teachers or parents to teach these lessons without any preparation work. The program features many hands-on activities. Each lesson focuses on spelling abilities: print awareness, phonological awareness, letter knowledge, listening comprehension, motivation to read or a combination of these skills. The program includes two reading books that students will work their way through during the first level. A zebra hand puppet is used to teach many of the lessons. The program also uses an app to introduce children to the various sounds. The program also reinforces other early childhood skills such as following directions, coloring, cutting, listening, identifying syllables audibly, making inferences and developing vocabulary.

Saxton Phonics 1 is the top pick in phonics curriculum because of its completeness. The company recommends that the student is introduced to one new sound each week although the program can be completed faster if desired. Each lesson takes about 30 minutes to complete with students kept enthused through the use of a variety of activities. Constant review and assessment help ensure that students are learning. Parents or teachers who are unfamiliar with teaching phonics find this an easy program to use because the 500-page teacher’s manual tells the adult exactly what to say. The complete system includes two student workbooks, an alphabet strip, letter cards, spelling cards, key word cards, letter tiles, audio pronunciation tape and other components.

The Best Science Toys for Kids

By Rebecca / January 16, 2017
Best Science Toys for Kids

Science and other educational toys allow children to expand their minds and discover their imaginations. Children usually learn better when they can have hands-on experience, their attention is retained and they are engaged when they find their educational experiences to be interesting and enjoyable.

Science toys for kids foster an appreciation and love for the concepts of STEM. (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) These educational toys, when used from a young age, can harbor a passion for careers in these scientific fields for when they are older. Currently, there are said to be more men in these fields of work than women. All of these toys are suitable for boys and girls of all ages to enjoy. I have compiled a list of the top Science educational toys for boys and girls from toddler age to preschool, and finally up to grade school level.


Best Science Toys for Toddlers

Boon Pipes Water Pipes Bath Toy

The Water Pipes Bath Toy can be used individually or together to create a chain for water to pour through. It includes suction cups so it can be attached to the wall and has five different pipes with unique shapes and functions. All pieces are BPA-free and safe for children.

  • To Play:

The child can place the pipes on the wall while taking a bath and they can pour water through the pipes to watch what happens. The pipes can be fitted together so that the water can flow through all of them. The best part for parents is that the water all stays in the bathtub and does not end up all over the floor.

Recommended Age Group                                                                 

12 months and up

Skills

Teaches the basics of fluids, vacuums, and propellers


Animal Planet Grow Eggs-Hatch and Grow Dinosaurs

The Animal Planet Grow Eggs toy contains three different eggs that hatch and grow dinosaurs right out of their shells. Your child will think it is like magic when they sit and watch their eggs hatch and see what comes out. Three different eggs hatch and grow into three different animals. They will reveal a Stegosaurus, Apatosaurus, or Spinosaurus.

  • To Play:

Place the eggs in water and they will begin to crack within 24 hours and will finally start to hatch within the next 36 to 48 hours. Once hatched, the children can take the dinosaurs out to play, or they can place them back into the water to continue to watch them grow. Make sure you replace the water each day before they hatch. The animals can grow five to ten times their original size. Each egg includes an educational fact card about each different dinosaur.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                                                                                                                          

3+ years

Skills

Teaches them patience and responsibility and educates them on the process of hatching an egg and educational facts about dinosaurs


Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope

The GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope can view anything up to eight times magnification. It has two extra-large eyepieces that are suitable for your toddler, and they are not required to close one eye to be able to see anything. It is a fully-functional microscope that they can use to examine all sorts of different objects without the use of slides. It also has a big knob that makes it easy for little hands to adjust the focus.

  • To Play:

Gather small objects that you think your toddler may be interested in examining more closely such as leaves or rocks. Place the object under the microscope and have your child view it and adjust the focus knob as needed to get a better focus and a clear image. Adult supervision is required, especially when examining smaller objects that may prove to be a choking hazard for smaller children. This microscope also includes a LED light that enhances the viewing, a non-skid feed, and even a sample tray.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                                                                 

3 years and up

Skills

Encourages exploration and discovery, helps acquire core competencies that are important in a young child’s development


SainSmart Jr. Kids Bug Catchers Nature Exploration Tool

This Bug Catchers Nature Exploration Tool allows your toddler to catch bugs by pressing a button and then they can view the captive bug with the included microscope. It has a convenient carrying handle that makes it easier for the child to tote it around outside and to the park and this tool does not harm the bugs at all.

  • To Play:

Let your child run around the yard to catch bugs such as butterflies and moths. They simply press the button to open the lid to catch the bug and press the button again once the bug is caught. They can then view the bug and release it unharmed when they are done observing and then move on to the next.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                          

3 years and up

Skills

Encourages exploration, observation, and discovery                        


Best Pre-K Science Toys

Learning Resources Primary Science Lab Set

The Learning Resources Primary Science Lab Set includes perfectly sized tools that support little hands and small scientific investigations. It features durable pieces that have measurement markings, as well as activity cards that introduce processing skills, living and nonliving things, physical science, senses, and a lot more. The packaging the set comes in is environmentally friendly and easy to recycle.

  • To Play:

The set includes a beaker, magnifying glass, funnel, eyedropper, flask, tweezers, goggles, a 6” test tube and stands, two smaller test tubes and stands, an activity guide, and ten double-sided activity cards. There are instructions for the various easy-to-do scientific experiments and introduces your child to the wonderful elements of science while keeping them engaged and having fun.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

4 years and up

Skills

Gain an understanding of basic science safety practices, learn how to use their five senses, build a common vocabulary, and observe, test, and discover science


Roylco R5910 Animal X-Ray Set

The Animal X-Ray set features real x-rays that are printed onto a durable and long-lasting plastic. You can see the x-rays with the use of an overhead, window, or light table and they feature 13 different species and an activity guide that educates your child on the skeletal system.

  • To Play:

Each x-ray measures 8x10 inches, and the images are printed onto a clear and heavy duty plastic. Simply hold the x-ray up to light so that you can see the printed skeletal image on the card. The set also comes with an idea and activity guide that helps walk your child through the skeletal system of each species. It is perfect to spark your child’s interest in science and even medicine and educates them while they have fun looking at all of the different x-rays that are included. They can even teach their parents as they go!

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

4 years and up

Skills

Encourages scientific exploration and discovery and educates a child on the skeletal system                                                                                               


Scientific Explorer Mind Blowing Science Kit

The Mind Blowing Science Kit is a number one best seller kit on Amazon and is based on nationally-recognized great explorations in the Math and Science program at UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science. It is an introduction to the scientific exploration of chemistry and allows your child to conduct experiments while learning interesting facts.

  • To Play:

This kit includes everything your child will need to conduct their interesting experiments. The kit includes red cabbage juice powder, citric acid, color tablets, polyacrylamide crystals, a pipette, small and medium scoops, and three plastic cups. Each experiment should be done on a flat surface that can be easily cleaned in case there are any spills.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                                                                                                                

4 years and up (with adult supervision)

Skills

Learn the basics about basic and acidic solution, learn how to follow basic instructions, and learn the basics of chemical reactions


Learning Resources Build and Bloom Flower Garden Building Kit

The Build and Bloom Flower Garden Building Kit allows your child to mix and match gears to create their spinning flower garden. All of the parts are interchangeable which gives the child endless combinations and designs for their gardens.

  • To Play:

This set comes with 116 pieces and includes colorful gears, flowers, butterflies, bees, ladybugs, wiggly stems, bases and so much more. They can put the pieces together; however, they can create and build as many combinations as their imaginations allow.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                                                                                                              

4 years and up

Skills

Effective problem solving, cause and effect action, building and construction basics, builds self-confidence and fine motor skills


Best Science Toys for Grade School Kids

Thames and Kosmos Magnetic Science

The Magnetic Science Kit lets your child experiment with magnets of all shapes and sizes and even allows them to build their electromagnet. This kit teaches your child about magnetic poles and magnetic fields and how magnets react under different conditions and circumstances.

  • To Play:

The Magnetic Science Kit allows your child to perform 33 different games and experiments and it comes with a 60-page full-color manual to walk them through all of the different things they can do and build. They are also able to explore the invisible force of magnetism and learn about floating rings and electromagnetic fields.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                                  

8 to 15 years

Skills

Learn how magnets behave and react, learn how to follow instructions, and learn about compasses


Thames and Kosmos Kids First Chemistry Set Science Kit

The First Chemistry Science Kit allows your child to conduct 25 different hands-on experiments safely using simple chemistry. They will learn how to identify different chemicals and discover the invisible gas carbon dioxide and see what its visible effects are.

  • To Play:

This kit includes a 48-page full-color instruction manual and experiment guide, and all of the experiments are specifically designed for younger elementary school-aged children. It uses various common kitchen, bathroom, and laundry substances to discover different reactions, and learn about heat, evaporation, and crystallization.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                                      

8 to 15 years

Skills

Develop critical thinking skills, cause and effect, and learn about different chemicals and reactions


Snap Circuits Lights Electronics Discovery Kit

The Lights Electronics Discovery Kit is a great hands-on introduction to the world of electronics by allowing your child to create real working circuits and devices. There is even the option to plug in your iPhone or Android phone to test and see how your circuits react. Snap Circuits has received many awards and boasts off carrying some of the best STEM toys for children that are available.

  • To Play:

This kit lets your child make over 175 different projects and has over 55 color-coded circuit components. All of the pieces easily snap together, and the instructions are easy to follow due to the conveniently color-coded circuit components. The pieces are also numbered for another level of easy identification. This kit does not require the use of any tools or soldering. It also features an infrared detector, strobe light, color changing LED, glow in the dark fans, a strobe integrated circuit, and fiber optic communication.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                                                                                

8 years and up

Skills

Build on skills and complexity, learn how to follow step-by-step instructions, learn the basics of how electronics work


Be Amazing Toys Big Bag of Science

The Big Bag of Science is an excellent STEM toy that teaches your children while keeping them engaged and entertained at the same time. This kit integrates concepts that are taught as separate subjects to help you apply them to real life situations.

  • To Play:

This kit includes a step-by-step instruction guide for each experiment and includes over 70 different activities that your child can enjoy. Along with the instruction guide, there is a lab booklet, test tubes, geyser tube, magnifying glass, papers, different types of powder and goo, insta-snow powder, and much more to explore and discover.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                                                      

8 to 14 years

Skills

Learn about different scientific processes, learn how to follow instructions, learn the basics of physics, chemistry, geology, and biology


STEM toys are the perfect addition to any household or classroom and are always fun and educational. They are useful learning aids that are sure to keep the focus and attention of the child while helping them retain information that they find to be fun and interesting. Next time you have to make a decision between that new video game or new robotics set, think twice before you walk past an educational toy wrapped in the idea of fun. Happy Learning!

The Best Engineering Toys for Kids

By Rebecca / January 16, 2017
Best Engineering Toys for Kids

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. These particular toys are good to help build an engineering skill set for children so that they can learn relevant subject matter for future careers in these types of fields. Engineering toys for children provide them with a fun and educational experience that encourages them to learn beneficial skills while developing their minds.

Educational toys benefit children of all ages in their developmental process by doing the following:

  • Develop a child’s senses
  • Teach lessons concerning cause and effect
  • Increase their IQ
  • Retain their interest in learning
  • Increase a child’s social and emotional development
  • Encourage socialization as children can learn and play together

I have compiled a list of some of the best engineering toys available for three different age groups including toddlers, pre-k, and grade school children. I will list the benefits of each toy and include the links to make finding these great educational toys as easy as one simple click.


Best Toddler Engineering Toys

ETI Toys 92 Piece Educational Construction Engineering Building Blocks Set

The Construction Engineering Building Blocks Set comes with 92 pieces and is engaging fun for both girls and boys. These blocks are certified to be safe for children, and each piece is washable and easy to clean. The set comes with a storage tub for convenience. All of the pieces are made from non-toxic and high-quality materials.

  • To Play:

The children can take the pieces out and build their toys. The set comes with blocks of various shapes and sizes, screws and nuts, plates, wheels, connectors, wrench, and an idea sheet for lots of imaginative playtime fun. There is a potential choking hazard, so this toy is not recommended for children under three years of age.

Recommended Age Group                                                                 

3 to 6 years

Skills

Teaches social development, teamwork, and collaboration


Guidecraft Better Builders Grippies Building Set

The Grippies Building Set is an open-ended magnetic STEM building toy for toddlers that combines exploration with magnetic play to introduce your child to the wonderful world of engineering at a very young age. The thirty piece set features four soft matte textures in bright colors.

  • To Play:

The magnetic pieces make it easy for your child to put all of the pieces together without becoming frustrated. Your child will discover how much fun it is to build and take things apart.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                         

18+ months and up

Skills

Tactile exploration, introduction to the basic principles of engineering and geometry


Fat Brain Toys Spin Again Toy

The Spin Again Toy was one of the first stacking and twirling toys that became available. The toy is made from sturdy and coated ABS plastic and is completely BPA free and safe for children. The discs are dual colored and stack from largest to the smallest. It is an incredibly visually enticing toy that will keep your child interested and engaged.

  • To Play:

To play, the child drops the discs onto the pole and watch as they spin around on the reversible base. There is a wobble base, or it can be turned over to become more stable. This toy stacks and spins and twirls and exposes your child to several different colors including magenta, lime, teal, and shades of lemon, red, and sky blue.

Recommended Age Group                                       

12 months to 5 years

Skills

Hand-eye coordination, baby engineering skills


Fat Brain Toys Squigz Starter Set Building Kit

The Squigz Starter Set includes 24 pieces and can be used in the bathtub, on the walls, windows, tabletops, and desktops. The pieces are made from a high quality 100% silicone rubber that is BPA and latex free. The pieces are all flexible, and, when assembled, can be transformed into rockets, vehicles, or even jewelry among other different fun things.

  • To Play:

Apply pressure to two of the pieces and the air will rush out. Your child can stick them to any non-porous and solid surface. Apply more pressure to pull them apart again. They will not damage any of your surfaces and can be removed and reapplied again and again.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                          

3 to 15 years

Skills

Encourages creativity, fine motor skills, interaction, and experimentation


Best Pre-K Engineering Toys

Blagoo Building Blocks-Car Toy Set

The Blagoo Car Toy Set is an educational building block toy with easy-to-build shapes and figures, animals, vehicles, buildings, and robots. The kit comes with 104 colored pieces that are made out of a durable plastic and non-toxic materials that are safe for children. The pieces include seven different colors and they all come in a convenient car-shaped carrying case, so the parts aren’t left strewn around the house.

  • To Play:

The case is on wheels and includes a rope and can be pulled around the house and be considered a second toy. There are build patterns included in the instruction booklet, but the possibilities are endless and are all up to the child’s imagination.

Recommended Age Group                                                                      

3 years and up

Skills

Building, mathematics, sense building through seeing and hearing


Tinkertoy Model Super Building Set

The Tinkertoy Super Building Set is a fun and colorful interactive building set with 200 brightly colored parts and includes spools, flags, washers, rods, and end caps. There are over 30 different building possibilities, and th