Garanimals Blog

Archive for the ‘education’ tag

June 30th, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Teaching Kids About Recycling


We all think about the future and what will be left for our children or grandchildren to deal with. According to the EPA, Americans produce about 4.3 pounds of waste per person, per day. For a family of four, that is over 6,000 pounds of waste each year! About one third of this can be recycled or composted. Are you throwing paper, glass, plastic and metal into the trash? Think about and teach your kids to recycle these items!

An easy way to teach kids to recycle is to create an area in your home with different colored bins. Place tags or identifying pictures on the containers so your children can recognize them and what materials should go in each one. Encourage them to recycle cans and make a plan for how to use the money you’ll get when turning these items in! Consider creating a recycling savings jar to save up for a special family treat.

Take a field trip to your local recycling center. Show your child how the different materials are collected and recycled. Take about how not recycling items can impact the environment, and what items need to be recycled separately, like computers, batteries, lightbulbs, and old medicines.

The more your children understand about recycling, the more likely they are to make it a habit.  Check out some of the online recycling games below:

Ollie’s World

Meet the Greens

My Garbology


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June 2nd, 2014 at 11:56 am

Summer Reading Choices


We love to sit under a tree, on the patio, or lay on the grass and read a book in the summertime. The kids love logging their reading time  for summer reading programs too. Check out your local public library to see what kind of a reading programs they offer for both children and adults. You can learn all kinds of neat things just by reading and talking about what you read in books.

The Barnes and Noble Summer Reading program allows you to easily track your reading, and in the end you receive a free book! They also have a great collection of books lists for all ages. I like to check out the Amazon Summer Reading List for some fresh reading suggestions as well. More ideas can be found on Pinterest in this fantastic collection of kids books or this summer reading list for all ages.

When your child is young, reading to them promotes imagination and will help develop their own reading and listening skills. Carry eBooks on your tablet for easy summertime reading without having to bring along a pile of books. Also, find books that have to do with activities that you have going on. Going to the Zoo? Check out animal books. Traveling to another state or country? Check out some books that provide information about the place you are going.

What was a great book you recently read?

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May 30th, 2014 at 4:47 pm

Encouraging Learning During Summer Vacation


Just because school has ended doesn’t mean that kids should stop  learning. Summer is a great time to incorporate learning into your everyday plans, and work on skills for the next year.

Use Your Imagination
Summer is a great time for your kids to use their imagination. Play with Legos, dolls, or even stare at the clouds outside. If your children are at an age when they can write, have them keep a journal (it makes a nice keepsake for them to look back on as well).  Make  time to do some of these things with them.

Visit The Library
The library is a great place to explore regularly during the summer. While this is a great place to get reading materials, you can also investigate and learn about things you may encounter. If you are going on a walk in the woods, you may want to pick up a book about wild flowers or insects. There are children’s book clubs or story time events you can join as well.

Take Field Trips
One of my families favorite summer activities is exploring places during our lazy summer days. Take some time to check out nearby parks, wildlife centers, museums and more. There is so much you can learn plus it is a great way to learn about the area you live in.

Worksheets/Coloring Pages Are Fun and Educational
There are some great workbooks available to help your child. Something as simple as a journal or some coloring pages can help them too.

Study Nature And Science
Summer is a great time to learn about science and nature. How do bubbles work? Can the hot sun fry an egg? How do caterpillars turn into butterflies? The list is endless. Use this time to help your children what’s going on in the world around them. If you have a telescope, you can help your child identify constellations and such.

Sing Songs
My boys love music. Even if we are just outside hanging out, we love to listen and sing to music. Sometimes we even dance around. Look for outdoor concerts to enjoy. There is a summertime lunch concert each week in our town that we like to attend and bring a picnic lunch to. It’s nice to get outside and enjoy some culture!

Play Games
We love play card and board games together! Whether it be puzzles, strategy games, or just games of concentration, they are all fun tools for keeping brains sharp and focused.

How do you incorporate learning into your summer days?

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April 14th, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Celebrating Library Week



Did you know that April 13 through 19 is National Library Week? Books are so important to a  child’s development. Besides teaching them how to read, they also foster bonding, creativity, and imagination. Libraries have a lot to offer their communities, and they are a great learning resource for families. Check out your local library this week and see what kind of events and classes they offer for your little ones. In honor of National Library Week, here are some of the most popular kids books of all time that you can check out at your local library or bookstore!

  • Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak
  • The Giving Tree – Shel Silverstein
  • Goodnight Moon – Margaret Wise Brown
  • Green Eggs and Ham – Dr. Seuss
  • Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs – Judy and Ron Barrett
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day – Judith Viorst
  • Guess How Much I Love You – Sam McBratney
  • Pat the Bunny – Dorothy Kunhardt
  • Love You Forever – Robert Munsch
  • The Lorax – Dr. Seuss
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? – Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon – Crockett Johnson
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom – Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault
  • Corduroy – Don Freeman
  • Stellaluna – Janell Cannon
  • Oh, The Places You’ll Go – Dr. Seuss
  • Strega Nona – Tomie dePaola
  • Curious George – H.A. Rey
  • Jumanji – Chris Van Allsburg
  • The Little Engine That Could – Loren Long and Watty Piper
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit – Beatrix Potter
  • If You Give A Mouse A Cookie – Laura Joffe Numeroff and Felicia Bond
  • The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales – Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith
  • The Runaway Bunny – Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd
  • The Rainbow Fish – Marcus Pfister and J. Alison James
  • The Snowy Day – Ezra Jack Keats
  • Madeline – Ludwig Bemelmans
  • The Napping House – Audrey Wood and Don Wood
  • The Cat and the Hat – Dr. Seuss
  • The Polar Express – Chris Van Allsburg
  • Hop on Pop - Dr. Seuss

There are so many other great books, both classics and new, that kids around the world enjoy every day. Which is YOUR favorite?

Photo Credit: American Library Association,

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March 28th, 2014 at 8:23 am

Multi-Use Foam Bath Letters


When they were younger, my boys loved playing with foam bath letters during bath time. They helped them learn to spell and read simple words, as well as recognize letters. Now that they take showers, we don’t play in the bath tub much, but we still love to play with the letters. I want to share with you some ideas for using this great learning aid outside of the bath!

  • A great way to repurpose foam letters is to glue magnets on the back. Use them with a magnet board to make word play fun!


  • You can also use them to practice words on the kitchen table, floor, or other flat surfaces.
  • Sensory bins are a great way for children to explore shapes and other items. Ever think of using the letters inside of a sensory bin?
  • Make baby photos cuter by using the foam letters to spell out their name or current age in months.
  • Decorate your child’s room by mounting words like FUN, PLAY, or even SLEEP in shadow boxes to make word art.
  • Let your kids use them in art projects by gluing them to their pictures.
  • Make letter flash cards by gluing the letters to one side, along with a picture of a recognizable item that starts with that letter.

Our foam letters are well used and loved at our house…how do you use yours?

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November 11th, 2013 at 9:04 am

Everyday Ideas for Baby Play

9-2-05 LaundryWe all know that one of the most important jobs of a baby is to PLAY! It helps them to learn about their world and is crucial for their social, emotional, physical, and cognitive growth. I know that I overthought play as a young mother. I would feel overwhelmed by all the toys sold for young children, spending time trying to play with them while doing “learning activities” and never wanted them to do anything messy.

But, that is what play is all about. The child exploring and touching things, especially messy ones.

Here are some great activities to build play into your day…

In the kitchen: Use wooden spoons, bowls, and other items to play with. These are great to bang together, stack, and show off shapes and colors.

In the bathtub or even a sink: Bring the bubbles inside. Not only do babies love to interact with bubbles, it helps them to develop good visual skills. In the winter, bring some snow in the tub. This is a safe and warmer way to play with snow without having to bundle them up so much they can’t move. Turn your hair dryer on them for a quick second while you are drying your hair.

In the basement: Get out those boxes you are saving. The imagination runs wild when a simple box is produced. This is a great toy for babies, toddlers, and older kids alike.

While your cleaning: When my oldest was little he loved the vacuum cleaner. Bring it out to vacuum and have your little one watch. Press one of the hoses near them to show them what it does. Put your child in the laundry basket while your folding or putting away the laundry. Wouldn’t you love to lay in a warm pile of clean clothes?

In the bedroom: Do some tummy time or fun stories or songs while laying or bouncing gently on the bed.

All over the house: I know I am always thinking about stuff, so when my kids were little I just thought out loud. The best part about babies is that they always agree and interrupt. A conversation can go a long way!

Incorporate play and communication into your day and your baby will have a grand old time!

Kim Ross also writes at  A Little Bit of This and That ~ The Adventures of a Stay at Home Mom.

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June 3rd, 2013 at 10:09 am

Free Worksheets and Coloring Sheets

It’s great to get outside and play during the summer, but sometimes you want your child to have some down time. Plus, there is never enough to do on a rainy day. It is great to be able to print some educational worksheets or coloring sheets for you child to do. Instead of coloring books and workbooks, I want to share some of my favorite links for these.

The first obvious place to check out for activities is the Garanimals Fun Zone. Filled with coloring sheets, craft ideas, and online games this is a great place for kids to explore.

More Coloring Sheets  – Choose pages by theme

PBS Kids

Disney Jr


Scissor Skills

Kindergarten Worksheets

Learning to Write

Preschool Worksheets

More Preschool Worksheets

Kids Learning Station

During the summer, the boys do a worksheet each day just to stay in the school mode so it isn’t such a shock when we go back in August. The boys love doing it. In our house, when we finish ten of them we go out for lunch or an ice cream treat. It’s a great way to keep your kids brain active during the summer and keep their skills fresh!


Kim Ross also writes at  A Little Bit of This and That ~ The Adventures of a Stay at Home Mom.

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March 12th, 2013 at 9:06 am

Can Math Be Fun?

Do you read bedtime stories to your kids? How about adding another piece to the routine that might just help them learn to love, or at least not fear math? What, you say?

There’s an excellent website called that provides daily age appropriate math problems that are perfect for that special time at the end of the day when you’ve got your child’s undivided attention, when they’re usually trying to prolong the time before they have to go to sleep. Why not spice it up with a daily mental math question?

We’re not talking get out the calculator and the graph paper. These are just questions that incorporate a little bit of math in the finding the answer. Even if you’re not good at math yourself, not to worry. This site provides the problem and the solution. The questions are related to everyday life situations, so you don’t have to know how to solve for x in order to encourage them to use their noggins on some math that makes perfect sense.

The website provides the tools for success. You can visit the site or sign up for a daily newsletter with the day’s problem. There are charts for plotting progress. And if you’re a teacher, you can access a guide for helping parents. There’s a facebook page and a twitter feed that provides the daily problem so it’s really easy to get the latest. Each problem has a “wee ones”, a “little kids” and a “big kids” version, so you can choose the complexity that is best for your child’s age.

I was good at math, although I don’t know if there was any specific trigger that got me to like it. My kids didn’t get the math gene and I always wished I could somehow flip that switch. While it might be a little bit late for my two, might just be the way to get your young ones interested in a fun and friendly way.

Leave it to an enterprising mom, Laura Overdeck, to find a way to help us harried parents introduce math in an engaging and user friendly way. We need to encourage more of the coming generations to embrace science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Bedtime Math makes it easy to get started.

You can also find Paula on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter @techsmart319. Feel free to reach out if you have questions.


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March 7th, 2013 at 5:00 am

Getting Your Kids to Read


With parenting comes the desire to provide a solid education for our kids; but many parents do not know how to get their kids started.  The answer lies in books. Your child’s learning potential will increase by leaps and bounds if you make reading an integral part of their lives.  Here are a few ideas to start this process:

  • The easiest way to introduce your child to reading is by reading TO them often. I credit my love for books to my parents, who regularly read to me when I was little.  I still remember them asking me to choose a book from my shelf and then trying to hide a grimace when I picked the same book for the third night in a row!  But it was through this repetition that I was able to follow along with the words as they read them out loud… and eventually read them by myself.
  • Bring your kids to the library and have them pick out their own books for you to read to them or, for a twist, to have them read to YOU!  Maybe find some craft or cookbook and have them read the directions to you at home while you work on a project together.
  • If you have a school-age child, set aside a small block of time each day for reading. During this time, encourage your child to read something that he or she will enjoy.  Even if it’s a comic book or a book of sports statistics, it doesn’t matter as long as they are reading.  This should be a fun time for them, as it will only reinforce an appreciation for reading.
  • Kids love to imitate adults, so if you want your child to read, it’s also very important that they see you reading, too.  Again, it doesn’t matter if it’s a book, a newspaper, or the Garanimals blog, as long as you are reading.  And treat your reading materials with respect so that your child also respects his books.

Your child may not immediately take to reading, but it’s important to keep encouraging them.  Just as Dr. Seuss quips in I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!, “The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

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January 14th, 2013 at 10:09 am

Choosing the Right Preschool for Your Child

The start of a new school year is nine months away, but did you know that already in January and February is when preschool hunting really needs to happen?

There is so much to think about when choosing the the right preschool for you and your child – schedules, philosophies, costs, and practices. There are many different styles of preschool today. It is important to choose one where you feel your child will thrive.

The second time around I feel much more prepared, and the task does not feel as daunting. I wanted to share some points for you to think about and questions to ask when you are visiting preschools for your son or daughter.

Here is a checklist of questions that I have compiled:

  • How close is the preschool?
  • What is the child to teacher ratio?
  • Is the school accredited  and licensed with the state?
  • Are the teachers certified?
  • What are the drop off and pick up rules? (Some schools let you walk children in, others don’t. If this is important to you, make sure you understand their policies.)
  • Are play and learning connected?
  • Is the setting more like home or more like school?
  • What days of the week does the program run?
  • Are you looking for specific learning goals or do you want more religious needs from the program?
  • What kinds of active play and rest periods are available?
  • Does your child need to be fully potty trained?
  • How often are the toys and rooms cleaned and how?
  • Is an arts and music program included?
  • Are snacks served? Who provides these?
  • Will the preschoolers be using computers?
  • Does your child need a more structured environment?
  • How does the school handle discipline?
  • What are the school policies to handle safety?
Once you decide what questions are important to you, call to schedule an appointment at your preschool(s) of choice. Be sure to ask if your child can come along. It is important that you feel comfortable with the environment your child will be in. This will all lead to your child being happier, which leads to them learning and exploring as they grow up!
Can you think of other important questions that I missed?

Kim Ross also writes at  A Little Bit of This and That ~ The Adventures of a Stay at Home Mom.




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