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New Year’s Eve is a fun-filled evening of celebrating with family and friends, but for those of who have children, it can be a little stressful trying to find way to entertain the little ones throughout the night’s celebrations. Whether you’re staying in as a family or hosting an event that will include children, here are a list of fun, child-friendly activities for the evening to help everyone ring in the new year.

  1. Set up a station with arts and crafts supplies and let the kids create fun art projects. You can just provide simple supplies like paper, paints, and crayons or let them work on fun projects. They can create fun hats for everyone to wear for the big night. You can cut out hats or buy inexpensive plain white hats and let the children draw and decorate them however they want.
  2. Bake cookies and cupcakes (or buy plain ones!) and let the children decorate them and enjoy them later on in the evening. This is a fun – and delicious – activity the kids will love!
  3. Play fun games. Break out the board and card games or create your very own. If your children are on the older side, have them create their own Bingo cards by giving them a list of pictures they can draw in each box and then play!
  4. For the younger children, create a fun sensory experience with lots of bright colors.
  5. Have some glow in the dark fun! Place small glow sticks into bottled water with a little bit of water and play glowstick bowling or play ring toss with glowstick necklaces!
  6. If your family likes to celebrate most of the day, blow up a balloon and write a number on it that corresponds with the time. Write a fun activity on the card such as, cooking dinner, decorating cookies, watching a movie, dance party, and each hour do whatever the card says!
  7. With a mason jar or a container similar, have everyone draw small pictures or write down a goal they would like to accomplish in the new year. Each New Year’s Eve, take out the goals you made for the year and talk about them. You can even add them to a scrapbook, so that your family can go back and see how each family members goals evolved throughout the years.
  8. If you have the space, set up a special place for the children to hang out and unwind as the evening gets later. Let them create their own fort or set up blankets and pillows and hang out together to watch movies, have a dance party or just have a fun sleepover.

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The post New Year’s Eve Activities for Families appeared first on Educational Playcare.

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Play dates are a great way for children to spend time with their friends or have the opportunity to socialize and make new friends. During the cold weather months, it is especially helpful for families, so their children can still take advantage of the benefits of play and can burn off a bit of energy or fight off winter boredom! And did we mention how much fun they can be for adults, too? Play dates with other families are a great opportunity to get out of the house or host a get together and enjoy some time with other adults. Hosting group playdates can also be beneficial to allow neighbors to get to know one another. Whether you play outside or inside, there are plenty of great activities for the children to enjoy!

Outside Activities

If the season has been mild, or the weather isn’t too cold, get outdoors and enjoy! Even the snow can provide a ton of fun activities!

  • Snowman building and decorating contest
  • Paint pictures in the snow using paint in spray bottles
  • Build a snow fort
  • Go sledding
  • Make a snow maze (perfect way to turn shoveling the driveway and sidewalks in to a fun game!)
  • Use the snow in a sensory table
  • Go on a hike
  • Play “I Spy”, looking for different leaves, rocks, or animal prints if it recently snowed
  • Go ice skating

Indoor Activities (at home or local businesses)

If the weather doesn’t allow you to enjoy some fun outside, there are plenty of activities to keep the fun going!

  • Break out the arts and crafts and let the kids create
  • Have a dance party
  • Build a fort
  • Go to the movies
  • Play at an indoor gym for kids
  • Visit a museum
  • Go to the library and discover new books
  • Cook a special meal together or go out to a fun restaurant
  • Play cards or board games together

Don’t let the cold weather keep your family from having a good time and interacting with other families! For more great play date ideas, follow us on Pinterest!

The post Fun Play Date Activities to Beat the Winter Blues appeared first on Educational Playcare.

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The magical process of reading involves teaching children to turn letter symbols into meaningful language. Research shows that parents, caregivers, and family members can begin fostering an interest in reading, writing, and language as early as birth. It’s acquired through time spent talking, telling stories, and singing. Surrounding a child in a language rich environment with lots of attention, interaction and lots of things to see and do in their space also is essential to literacy development. This is an important part of fostering a love for reading at an early age and should be done both at home and at school.

At home, families are creating the base on which a child’s understanding of language grows through causal, every day interactions. Reading to a child is perhaps the greatest gift that parents, and family members can give. Allowing the child to see, touch, and play with the book while you are reading creates interest and a true emotional connection between language and the feelings of being comforted and supported. Children should be encouraged to try to read along, to say the memorized parts of their favorite books, to point to the pictures and to ask questions. As children get older, discussions and “what if” questions about the pictures and the story will springboard into creative thinking activities.

With many different learning experiences families try to teach their children, being a good role model is at the top of the list. It is important for children to see that their family members choose to spend some of their time reading. As children get older and their attention span lengthens, the entire family might decide to have some quiet reading time together. It is important for parents to set aside their distractions during this time to model reading by focusing on their book. Setting a “reading break” occasionally will allow family members to discuss the books they are reading with each other.

At school, teachers will introduce reading to children in a variety of ways, using interactive activities, learning games, reading activities, and reinforcement activities. Preschool reading programs also include vocabulary development, reading comprehension, and writing applications. Preschool teachers also conduct guided reading with children, helping them with any words they may not understand.

A strong preschool reading program will include components such as:

  • Foundational Literacy, which are activities that promote early literacy skills. These include interactive storybook reading, games that help children identify the letters of the alphabet, and interactive experiences with language and print through poems and nursery rhymes.
  • Read-Alouds – a systematic method of reading aloud helps children understand the book being read and teaches vocabulary and concepts.
  • Repetition – A story book is read several times in slightly different ways to increase children’s analytical skills as they answer carefully crafted questions about the book.
  • Alphabet Knowledge – children are taught how to recognize upper and lower-case letters and associate them with the sounds they make.
  • Phonetic Awareness – children learn to manipulate the sounds that make up language, including recognizing sounds in words and matching those sounds to letters.
  • Print Awareness – children are taught to understand the features of books and print, including how printed words run from left to right and top to bottom and the parts of a book.

In this day and age, children are surrounded by electronic means of stimulation and the magic of reading is sometimes left undiscovered. Becoming a great reader happens one book at a time and developing a life-long love for reading starts in childhood.

The post Fostering a Love for Reading at a Young Age appeared first on Educational Playcare.

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Balancing a career and family can be a challenge and parents often feel that they are not spending the time they want with their children due to being pulled in so many different directions. It’s important for families to ensure that they are spending quality time together. Not only will your children love to do activities with you and the rest of the family, there are many benefits to family time. Spending time together as a family helps form bonds and connections that will be with them throughout life. Research also shows that children who spend quality time with their families usually achieve better grades in school and behavioral issues decrease.

Spending time together doesn’t always have to be grand, over the top activities. What’s most important is that your spending time together and enjoying the moment. Every day activities can be made into a fun, family bonding time. Parents can involve children in bedtime routines more, or even make doing chores more enjoyable by turning them into a game. Parents can give awards out to whoever completed their chores the fastest and accurately or create silly categories such as “Best Dance Moves While Vacuuming”. Another example would be cooking dinner. Instead of only the parents getting everything together, include the entire family. Find age appropriate activities for your children – whether it is setting the table, helping mix a dish or helping cook, preparing your meal together is a great activity for families to do together. You could also be introducing your child to hobbies they love and continue to enjoy throughout their lives.

Families also like to make their family time extra special by celebrating together. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small victory, such as the kids picking up their toys without being reminded, or a big one, such as winning the spelling bee, celebrate each other’s achievements as a family and try to celebrate in a way that doesn’t happen in your daily routine. Not only will this create memories as a family, but your children will also recognize they are being rewarded for good behaviors and it will encourage them to keep reaching for goals.

Whether you are looking for fun celebration ideas or just something new to do as a family during the weekend, if you’re in search of activities that take you outside of your everyday happenings, here are some fun ideas:

  • Visit the beach
  • Go to the movies
  • Eat dinner at a favorite or new restaurant
  • Visit a museum
  • Go on a road trip to a family favorite spot
  • Build a fort – indoors or outdoors
  • Write a play and act it out together
  • Go to a sporting event
  • Write and illustrate a book together
  • Ride bikes together
  • Go on a hike
  • Draw pretty pictures throughout the neighborhood with chalk
  • Play board games together
  • Have a picnic – indoors or outdoors
  • Visit an amusement park or indoor play gym

If your family is having a tough time agreeing on what to do, we suggest taking the time to create an “Activity Jar”. On popsicle sticks, write down activities that you can do with your children and put them in a mason jar. When your family can’t decide on what to do, choose someone to pick out a popsicle stick, and the activity written will be what you do!

What are some of your favorite activities to do as a family?

The post Fun Activities for the Whole Family appeared first on Educational Playcare.

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Research shows that learning through play is an important part of a child’s development. Though ensuring your child has enough play time is a great benefit to families to allow their children to release some extra energy, a child begins to find out who they are through play, even during infancy. Even early in development, a child’s mind is expanding just by looking at their environment and taking in their surroundings.

The use of educational toys can help children learn many different skills they will need in their life. Educational toys can help develop problem solving skills, teach about conflict resolution and how cause and effect work. It also teaches children about sharing, helps develop their fine and gross motor skills and nurtures their creativity and imagination.

Children can start benefiting from educational toys as early as one month old. Here are some great ideas for educational toys based on age range and an explanation of their benefits.

1-12 months old: At an early age, sensory play helps stimulate your child’s senses. As your child continues to grow and develops hand-eye coordination, families can begin introducing toys that encourage more interaction. As your child becomes more active, we suggest introducing problem solving toys. These toys will help children work through conflicts and become familiar with cause and effect such as “If I do this than that will happen”. They will also build up their confidence once they’ve been able to figure out how a toy works after trial and error and guidance. Other great toys to introduce would be ones that promote movement.

Some examples of great toys for your baby’s first year include:

  • Mobiles
  • Soothers
  • Infant play
  • Small portable toys with lights and sounds
  • Stackers or blocks
  • Crawl around learning centers
  • Light up dance mats with sound

12-24 months old: As your child reaches the one-year mark or older, they will soon become very mobile. Introducing the right toys to them will help to teach balance and coordination and will increase your child’s curiosity with their new-found mobility. As your child begins to learn to walk, you can also incorporate learning numbers by counting their steps which will help them become more familiar with the terms and meaning even if they do not quite understand at this age.

Themed playsets are great educational toys to introduce between the ages of 12-18 months because they will help develop your child’s recognition skills. For example, if you have a theme playset that involves animals, practice what sound each animal makes. This will also help with language development by reinforcing the names of colors and shapes.

Examples of toys that will help your child reach new milestones between 1 and 2 years old include:

  • Push cars
  • Stride and ride toys
  • Walkers
  • Themed toys
  • Themed books

2+ years: As your children become a bit older and more active, you can also introduce toys that promote more physical play. When showing them how to use certain toys, such as a tricycle, always make sure they are aware of safety concerns such as wearing a helmet and incorporate in the process of using the toy, so they know that if they ride their tricycle, they must have their helmet on as well.

This is also a great age to introduce toys that incorporate cognitive skill building. There are many different toys that can help children practice writing – whether they are drawing or writing their names – and their small motor skills. Games and books can also help your child develop name recognition and emergent literacy skills. These types of toys will show your child a visual version of what they are hearing and vice versa. For example, the repetition of reading a book about a dog and seeing a picture of a dog will allow your child to begin to associate a picture of a dog with the sound a dog makes. Reading books that have color pictures and a few words on each page with your child will begin to familiarize them with how words they hear look on the pages.

Examples of toys that will help promote physical play and cognitive skill building include:

  • Tricycles
  • Basketball hoops
  • T-ball stands
  • Bowling sets
  • Kinetic sand
  • Drawing easel
  • “See and Say” games or books
  • Magnetic building blocks
  • Counting toys

Incorporating play in your child’s day can be both fun and beneficial to their growth. What toys do your children love that help promote learning and growth?

The post Why Educational Toys Are Important to a Child’s Development appeared first on Educational Playcare.

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As the temperature begins to dip and winter weather begins to creep into the forecast, it is essential that families understand the importance of preparing for the season and ensuring that their children are properly dressed and prepared for the conditions.

Research shows that children are far less capable of regulating their body temperatures in comparison to adults. Even a one degree drop in bodily temperature weakens a child’s defenses against illnesses and viruses. Since small children lose heat faster than adults and are much more likely to not realize that they are cold or that they need to add additional layers, it is up to their families to be aware and defend them against the conditions.

Here are some tips on how to prepare for a cold winter’s day:

  1. Be aware of the weather forecast. It’s important to know how the day is going to progress so that families can prepare a child with what they will need for the day. Does the day start off cool and then warm up by the afternoon? Will there be evening rain showers? Will that blizzard hit by noon? Knowing what the forecast looks like allows families to properly dress their child for the day or provide them with additional clothing and accessories they may need to protect them against the elements and changing weather.
  2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Staying hydrated is crucial, especially in winter when the air is more dry. Because of the drier air, a child will lose water through their breath. While they are outside playing, make sure that they are often drinking water or a warm drink. After a bit a play, families might also give them some soup which helps them warm up and fills up their tummies.
  3. When in doubt: layer! Throughout the day, you never know how the weather may change or if your child’s schedule will change. Layering allows flexibility to adjust to changing weather conditions or activities. When it comes to layering, it is essential to remember that it is not only important to stay warm but to stay dry as well. When it comes to babies and young children, it is suggested to dress them in one more layer than an adult would wear.

When thinking of layers, think of each one as having a specific purpose in keeping the child warm and protecting them from the elements.

  • Layer one: This layer is meant to keep the skin dry. The fabric of these pieces should be thin, breathable and should be able to absorb sweat if needed.
  • Layer two: This layer is meant to keep the child warm but still have fabric that is breathable. When thinking of this layer, think of lightweight fleece pullovers or pants.
  • Layer three: This layer is meant to protect the skin from the rain, wind or snow. For this layer, outwear such as a winter jacket or snow pants are perfect. They allow for layers to fit underneath but they also do not stop the child from being active.

It is important to remember that layering also includes keeping hands, face, neck, and feet protected and warm. Gloves, hats, scarves, warm socks, and winter boots are just as vital for the extremities as the three layers are for the core.

What other tips do you have to fight back against the cold weather?

The post 3 Tips for Families to Prepare for Winter appeared first on Educational Playcare.

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Holidays and special events are a great time for family and friends to spend time and celebrate together. Whether you are planning to host Thanksgiving this year or are going out to a family or friend’s house (or two) to enjoy the day, it can be stressful trying to get through the day with young children around. Here are some tips to make the day run smoothly and be fun for guests of all ages.

When You’re the Host

If there are enough children attending, provide a space such as a “Kid’s Table” for the children to eat at. This will allow the adults to be near, provide assistance, and keep a watchful eye over everyone, while still being able to enjoy the company of the other adults. Create a fun atmosphere for the children by using themed plates and utensils for them. To keep them entertained while you wait for meals to be ready, use construction paper instead of placemats or a table cloth and let the children draw fun pictures. Depending on the age of the children, you can task them with fun activities such as drawing pictures of what they are thankful for this year.

Feed the children first. Suggest that families begin making their children’s dishes first before the adults begin to dive into the delicious meal. Ensuring that the children are seated and enjoying their meal allows the adults to enjoy their meals and will help prevent grumpiness from hungry children. If you are going to be providing a meal later in the evening, be sure to have kid-friendly snacks to hold the children over until the main course is ready. If your family celebrates Thanksgiving all day and night, be sure to have snacks on hand to serve later in the day or evening when hunger may strike again!

Plan fun activities. Whether it’s for just the children or everyone, ensure that you have activities planned to keep your guest entertained, especially the younger ones! Set up a play area for children that include crafts and fun games or plan to watch a movie with yummy snacks such as popcorn and let everyone enjoy.

If you have the space, set up a “kid friendly zone” for the children to play and participate in fun activities. This will allow children to have fun and let out their energy without having to worry about them running around in areas where they could break things or injure themselves or others. In addition, families can also make it known that the kitchen is a “kid free zone”, especially while cooking. Depending on the ages of the children, it may be easier to keep the kids away from the kitchen so the adults can prepare the meals and snacks without worrying about little hands getting into things they shouldn’t.

When You’re Attending

If your children are old enough, be sure they understand the expectations you have for them regarding having good manners while attending your Thanksgiving celebrations. Families can also practice this during family meal times at home or when going out to dinner at a restaurant.

If the person hosting doesn’t normally have children in their home, or your children are the only children who are likely to be there, plan to bring some essentials such as toys and activities to help keep your children entertained. Even though the host may have activities planned, it may be helpful to have your child’s favorite toy or game handy in the event they aren’t as interested in the activities as you would hope.

What are some of your favorite tips for hosting a successful kid-friendly event that you would share with other families?

The post Celebrating Thanksgiving with Young Children appeared first on Educational Playcare.

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Today, many parents have become familiar with the term “parent guilt”. Balancing a career and family can be a challenge and parents often feel that they are not spending the time they want with their children due to being pulled in so many different directions. So how do parents stay more present and balance their careers, household responsibilities, and children?

  1. Stay OrganizedStaying organized throughout your day can be one of the most helpful ways to stay present. For one, it helps improve efficiency and it also makes more time for other activities and tasks in your day – like spending time with your partner and children. Planning meals ahead can be a huge time saver. How many times have you or your partner come home from work and spent far too much time trying to figure out what to make for dinner? By creating a weekly menu, you are eliminating the guess work out of what to make and it also allows you to properly prepare for the week as well. Since you will know what you will be making each day, you can make one trip to the grocery store for the entire week instead of having to go multiple times when you realize you are missing one ingredient for your meal. Knowing what you are making ahead of time also gives you the opportunity to prepare the night before if the family has a hectic day coming up.

    Families can minimize on clean up time by creating a home for everything and ensure the family knows where things belong. In your children’s rooms or playroom, create organized areas for them with bins or cubbies to ensure toys are put back where they belong. On the outside of the bins or cubbies, place photos of the types of items that belong there to help younger children remember where to put things.

    A family calendar is also a great way to start creating organization for yourself and your family. Set aside 20 minutes or so every Sunday to go through your family calendar to ensure it is updated and includes all appointments and family activities. Depending on the type of family calendar you purchase or create, it can also include birthdays, bill due dates, and chore charts for your children. Having a family calendar is a great way to help reduce scheduling conflicts and ensure that there is time for fun, too.

  1. Involve Your Children – If your children are old enough, involve them in the daily activities that you may not usually include them in and that keep you from spending time with them. Dinner can take a good amount of time out of your evening between preparation and clean up, so why not have your child help you out? Even if the actual dinner preparation is something they can’t help with, perhaps they can help with setting the table, cleaning up or working on chores focused in the kitchen. This gives you the opportunity to spend time with them and encourages children to follow directions.

    Families can also find age appropriate chores for their children to help lessen the amount of housework yourself and your partner have to do that take away time from taking part in fun family activities. Families can also set aside a time each week where the whole family does there assigned chores at the same time. Play fun music or make a game of doing the housework to make it more fun for everyone.

  1. Celebrate Achievements – Whenever your child reaches a goal such as completing all of their chores without being reminded, or receiving good grades at school, celebrate! Take the time to do something that doesn’t happen in their daily routines. This could include having a special treat or going out to dinner. These special rewards can be done as a family, or even as one-on-one with parents and child. Not only will this be a fun celebration with their parents and family, but your children will recognize that they are being rewarded for these good behaviors and it will encourage them to keep reaching for goals that can be celebrated.

    Having a tough time thinking of ways to reward your children when you have a million other things on your mind? Take some time to create an “Activity Jar”. On popsicle sticks, write down activities that you can do with your children and put them in a mason jar. When your child reaches a goal, have them pick out a popsicle stick, and the activity written will be how you celebrate!

In what ways do you balance work and family?

The post Tips on How to Create More Family Time Throughout the Week appeared first on Educational Playcare.

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Daylight Savings Time can be tough on anyone, and adults know how it feels to try and get out of bed after we’ve switched the clocks. Whether or not we are “springing forwarded” or “falling back”, the effects of Daylight Savings can last for days or even weeks before you begin to adjust properly. Though it is tough on everyone, families truly feel the effects of the time change, especially if they have young children who are on a daily schedule.

Sleep is a very important part of a child’s development. Research shows that children need more sleep than adults and do not adjust to a lack of sleep the way adults can. A loss of sleep can cause mental and negative effects on young children. Children who do not get enough sleep may have a more difficult time focusing or managing their moods. Sleep also is primarily when the growth hormone is produced. If a child lacks sleep, it could affect their weight.

Thankfully, each year we know when Daylight Savings is coming so families can put into place a plan to help their children adjust better.

  1. Prepare Early – Families shouldn’t shift their children’s day by an hour one day and except their children to adjust right away. One of the best defenses against Daylight Savings Time is to start preparing your family early on. A few days to a week before Daylight Savings starts, start adjusting their bedtime to match the new time change. For example, if we are “falling back” an hour, adjust your child’s bedtime to 15 minutes earlier each day, so that come time for the time change, your child will hopefully have adjusted a bit and goes to sleep at or close to their normal bedtime. You can do the same with their naps.
  2. Stick to a Routine – Do your best to stick to your child’s routine throughout the day at the normal times they are used to. This, plus the modifications done in advance, can really help your child. Even if the timing of your schedule is a little off, continue to do what you typically would do throughout the day, especially during bedtime. If your child typically takes a bath, enjoys a little snack, and/or reads a book before bed, try to move your timing up with the earlier bedtime as you prepare.
  3. Let There Be Light – Many families are familiar with how light and dark play a part in how a child sleeps, especially a newborn. Use this same method when adjusting to Daylight Savings. When waking your child up, be sure to expose them to the daylight. Open up the shades and let the light in so their internal clocks can begin to adjust. At night, be sure to close the blinds or use room darkening shades to ensure the environment in their room signifies it is time to sleep.
  4. Be Patient – The best defense against any challenges you may face when adjusting your family to Daylight Savings Time is to be remain patient. It is easy to become frustrated when you are tired yourself, but remember that in time your children will adjust to the new change and your family should be back on schedule before you know it!

What ways does your family prepare for Daylight Savings?

The post 4 Daylight Savings Time Tips appeared first on Educational Playcare.

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Halloween time can be one of the most exciting and fun times of year for children. Between decorating, making and eating treats, and of course dressing up and going trick or treating, children can’t wait to begin partaking in the festivities. Whether you’re going out to go trick-or-treating, or just passing out candy, Halloween can be one of the most fun nights of the year.

Even though the big night isn’t until the last day of the month, that doesn’t mean families can’t start celebrating sooner. If you haven’t already, start decorating for the big day. Children love to help out, so where possible, let them! Whether it’s hanging decorations or even busting out the craft box to make your own homemade décor, let the kids join in on the fun.

Another fun activity parents can do before Halloween comes is to carve or decorate pumpkins. There are so many different ways to decorate your pumpkins. You can carve funny faces, your child’s favorite character, or you can let them paint/color the pumpkin any way they want! We understand children love to get hands on and help their parents. Be sure children are only given tasks that are age appropriate. For example, do not let small children carve their own pumpkins. Instead, allow your child to draw the stencil of the face for the adult to carve and allow them to decorate the pumpkin with markers or paint afterwards. When it comes to lighting up those awesome pumpkins, instead of using a candle, use a flashlight or glow stick!

When the big day finally comes around, fun can be had whether you are staying in or going out! If you are going out to go trick or treating, whether it’s in a small group or a large group, families should talk with their children regarding their expectation of the evening. Ensure your children understand the ground rules and what your family’s game plan would be in case of an emergency. Remind your children to use crosswalks when crossing the street and to stay on sidewalks or on the side of the road if there isn’t a sidewalk. Young children should always be accompanied by an adult. The adults can also hang on to any electronic devices, so that children are not distracting when traveling from house to house.

If you’re staying in and hosting a Halloween party, there are a ton of fun activities you can do to keep young children entertained and safe. Young children who may not be quite up for strolling around the neighborhood, can still dress up and show off their costumes by helping the adults pass out candy. Families can also set up fun stations for children such as a Halloween theme slime station, a Halloween themed sensory table, or an arts and crafts station where children can make spooky decorations to hang up in their home for years to come! Be sure to check out our Pinterest page for more fun Halloween station ideas!

What fun and safe activities do you do with your family on Halloween?

The post Safe Halloween Fun appeared first on Educational Playcare.

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