5 Tips For Encouraging Learning Through Hands On Play

5 Tips For Encouraging Learning Through Hands On Play

This post is sponsored by Mattel, but all opinions are my own.

A friend and I were recently talking about how much different early childhood is today from when we were growing up in terms of learning. When we were kids, so much of our experience was centered on exploration of life around us, using our imaginations, and hands on play. Today, there is so much emphasis on teaching little ones through early schooling, structured activities, and educational electronics. And while I’m grateful that my children have so many opportunities to start these things early, I feel that giving them free time to use their senses and creativity to learn through play is even more important.

For those you don’t know, my son Emmett had a form of epilepsy as a baby that usually causes cognitive issues and developmental delays. He was extremely fortunate in that he overcame the diagnosis and is right on track for his age, but he continued to see a developmental therapist a few times a year for assessments until a few weeks ago. And she repeatedly stressed that for all children – delayed or typical – there is no better way to learn than through hands on play. She told us that of all the senses, touch is one of the most crucial for young development because it allows children to begin to understand the three dimensional world.

Emmett is in preschool two mornings a weeks, but is not yet in any structured activities, which gives him lots of time for hands on play. I can confidently say that I am able to witness the process of him learning when he is down on the ground with toys and objects, using his hands to build and explore. It’s really cool to watch, and also fun to get involved and play alongside him. (It’s a wonderful way to bond too!)

Today I thought I’d share some tips for encouraging learning through hands on play. I’m certainly not a professional when it comes to children’s learning, but I have discovered quite a bit about what works for my little ones, and I’m happy to share!

1. Take a step back. I’m putting this first because it’s important! This is something I actually had to work on myself,  because I have Type A personality tendencies and find myself wanting to control situations with my little ones. When we as parents take a step back, however, and just allow kids to do their thing when it comes to playing, hands on play comes naturally. I love playing with my kids, but I also make sure they have plenty of time for playing on their own. It’s amazing how much they can learn just through free play and using their imaginations without any parent intervention.

2. Make slime or play dough. This is a wonderful learning activity because the child is first working with the parent to create something (the slime or dough), and then venturing off on his/her own to play with it. Both slime and play dough are great hands on, sensory based activities that involve texture, color, and the creative process of building.

3. Play with Building Blocks. Emmett’s current favorite toys, Mattel Mega Bloks, are also some of the best for hands on play. His development therapist actually told us that building blocks like these are some of the best tools for developing minds, fine motor skills, and more. And they’re so fun! Our go-tos are Mega Bloks Building Basics Take-along Builder, Mega Bloks First Builders Block Scooping Wagon, and Mega Bloks Sesame Street Let’s Build Sesame Street.

Emmett calls the Building Basics Take-along Builder his “suitcase,” which is actually pretty accurate. The wheeled carrying case holds a set of building blocks and has a removable building plate inside for mess-free stacking. I love the fun travel themed stickers on the outside too! It’s so fun to watch Emmett pretend he’s going on a trip with his suitcase, and then building (and unbuilding, and rebuilding) towers when he gets to his imaginary destination.

The Mega Bloks First Builders Block Scooping Wagon is another favorite with both my kids. The pull wagon picks up blocks when the kids push it (Emmett’s big sister Essley calls it their Mega Block vacuum), which is wonderful for creative play. Emmett loves to mix and match the 20 First Builders blocks that came with the wagon (and combine with Building Blocks from his other sets) to create buildings, cars, castles, and his own works of art.

Of all the Mega Bloks sets, the Sesame Street Let’s Build Sesame Street wins for Emmett’s favorite. Not only is he able to use his hands to build all kinds of masterpieces with the 70 colorful blocks (some with the cutest character-themed decorations), he is also able to practice his ABCs. In fact, he used these Building Blocks to learn how to spell his name, and to spell his favorite character’s name (Elmo!). Talk about a multi-learning toy! Next up, using his Let’s Build Sesame Street Building Blocks to learn how to spell the names of his other faves: Big Bird, Cookie Monster, and Abby.

4. Create a beans and scoops bin. It is truly amazing to watch a small child with a bin, bowl, or bucket full of dried beans and a couple of objects with which they can scoop them. One day I decided to fill a shoebox with some dried pintos and gave Emmett a couple of measuring cups with handles, and the kid was thrilled. This is a surprisingly versatile hands on activity as well; children can learn to count with the beans, they can learn about size (bigger scoop full of beans vs smaller), and they can explore the way the beans feel in their hands which is a great sensory tool.

5. Have a crafts day. While I wish it could be even more frequent, I look so forward to the one or two days a month when we have crafts day in our house. I either put together a specific craft the kids can create (a gingerbread house is one of our favorites for this time of year), or I spread dozens of different arts and crafts supplies in various textures, colors, and material types on the kitchen table and let them go to town. Crafting is an incredible way for small children to utilize their imaginations, practice fine motor skills, and truly learn with their hands.

I hope these ideas are helpful to those of you with little ones looking for ways to encourage hands on play!

Before I go, let me quickly go back to tip #3 for a second. I know I’m gushing, but I can’t recommend Mattel Mega Bloks enough for hands on learning that kids absolutely love. If you’re looking for a holiday gift your little ones will truly enjoy that will also encourage hands on play, head over to the toy and collectibles aisle at your local Walmart and grab a set or two. Then let me know how your kids like them. (Because they will!)

Do you have any tips for encouraging hands on play I might have missed? I’d love to hear them!

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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WHOLE Meat or “Meat Meal” in Pet Food?

Check the Label

As a pet parent, we all want to feed our furry family members with good, wholesome food. That’s easy to do isn’t it? I mean, almost all of the major premium “natural” brands tout meat as their first ingredient. We do. However, if you look closely at these other premium “natural” brands, you’ll notice the second, and many times third, fourth and fifth ingredients are various types of “meat meal,” like “chicken meal,” and “fish meal”. At Halo we use real WHOLE meat, poultry, or fish, and NO “meat meal” of any kind.

Other companies compare dry, rendered “meat meal” to WHOLE meat, arguing that “meat meal” is higher in protein and therefore better. Well, they have one thing right. “Meat meal” is higher in protein. It’s 65% protein and 10% water, while WHOLE meat is 18% protein and 70% water. The problem is, they’re using this fact to tell a false story.

What is “meat meal” in pet food?
We can debunk it by answering one question: What is “meat meal”? Don’t be fooled by notions of hearty stews or tasty trimmings that are gently cooked and dried. “Meat meal” starts as a slurry of parts. It is then rendered, which is a high-heat process that creates product as fast as it can to reduce costs. Then it’s pressed, ground, and again baked to remove excess moisture. In the process, proteins and fats are often damaged, and that affects both digestibility and nutritional value. So, while these companies and their packaging may shout how much protein is in their food, their ingredients quietly tell another story.

With “meat meal,” you get what you pay for
Economics is the whole reason companies use “meat meal”—it’s cheap protein that runs fast through the manufacturing equipment. As the economics of pet food become more and more difficult, the pressure is to get more yield out of less material. More and more bone (and who knows what else) is making its way into “meat meal”. The WHOLE meat Halo uses is sourced from the same food a consumer would purchase, which makes it much more expensive than “meat meal”.

Economics is driving another trend in premium “natural” pet foods. “Chicken by-product meal” is beginning to show up in their ingredients with the statement that it is a source of glucosamine and chondroitin. Another true statement used to mislead pet parents. Yes, “chicken by-product meal” is a source of glucosamine and chondroitin, but that is not why it’s used. It’s an even cheaper form of “meal” that provides protein. While “meat meals” are no replacement for WHOLE meat, “by-product meals” are the bottom of the barrel. “By-product meal” contains heads, entrails, feet and feathers, (there’s a lot of protein in those feathers). It contains glucosamine and chondroitin by accident.

Quality protein, quality process, quality pet food
Kibble made with “meat meals” can be made more quickly than kibble with high percentages of WHOLE meat (because WHOLE meat has more moisture)—another reason companies use “meat meals”. Their equipment can run faster so they have more capacity, which makes it cheaper to manufacture.

At Halo, our kibble manufacture almost never exceeds 210 degrees F. It is not a high-temperature or high-pressure rendering process. Heating kibble too high would cause the starches in it to burn and make it unpalatable. It has to be cooked and dried lower and slower. Like our ingredients, our process at Halo is more expensive, it takes longer, and it’s worth it to have a great-tasting food made with WHOLE meat that is super digestible.

We stand behind the cost of our cat food and dog food because we stand behind the quality of it. Talk to anyone who has switched to Halo and they will tell you about the transformation their pet has gone through, becoming noticeably healthier after the change. That’s why we’re proud to be the Most Loved Natural Pet Food. Pet parents can see the difference.

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Our 2018 Family Holiday Cards

Those of you who have been following me for a while know that I hold a special place in my heart for greeting cards – especially holiday cards. Exchanging cards is such an endearing holiday tradition for me, and in my mind, genuinely represents the spirit of the season. And while I don’t share a lot of truly personal pieces of my family’s life here on the blog or in social media, our annual holiday card is one thing I am happy to share. I get so excited to send them to friends and family, but also feel like I’m sending them to each of you when I write this post each year. (This year is year four!)

Years ago, I only sent cards that I designed myself for the Bubby and Bean Art shop, but when Essley was a toddler, decided that I wanted to find a place where I could order them that (1) was separate from my job and (2) could include a photo of her on the card. I was also at the end of my pregnancy with Emmett, was in the midst of my busiest season for work, and my husband was getting ready to leave the country for his job. So the the task of stuffing, sealing, addressing, stamping, and sending holiday cards sounded really freaking overwhelming. I did all sorts of research into various card companies that offered customization, and when I came across one that had what I considered to be the hippest, more stylish cards around, was blown away to discover that they also offered a service that would do all of the addressing and sending work for me. Four years later, here I am, once again using my forever crush for everything holiday cards, Postable.

If you’re not already convinced of Postable‘s awesomeness just by the gushing I’ve already done, let me go on. (Side note: I was not paid to say any of this or to review them. True story. I just love their stuff, man!) First, they have a massive selection of truly gorgeous (and funny, and whimsical, and pretty much any other style you want) designs to personalize. Second, they use 100% post-consumer recycled or tree-free 100% cotton in all their cards and envelopes. That’s huge. Third, the process is so quick and easy, you won’t even know what just happened. It took less than ten minutes for me to upload the photos, greetings, names, and fonts for the writing on the envelopes (the smart font we always choose looks identical to Robbie’s handwriting which is a great way to trick their recipients into thinking we wrote them all my hand, mwahahaha), choose addresses from my address book (which is super easy to fill; when I first started using Postable I uploaded a spreadsheet and voila), and check out. And finally, they print, stuff, stamp, address, and mail all of your cards directly to everyone in your address book – which, in their words, saves you thousands of hours of agony and a life of carpel tunnel. I can personally attest to this, friends. The quality of their cards is also top notch. No flimsy, poorly printed cards here guys. Postable’s cards are framable. For real.

The style we chose this year is a different than what I’ve opted for in the past. I usually go for designs that are a little bolder and more in your face, but something about the understated, clean, elegant look of the design we ultimately chose really spoke to me. I love it so much. (That doesn’t mean it didn’t take me ordering 6 different samples before making a decision though, as seen in the image above. Indecisive and proud, man.) For the back, we went with the only real family photo we got this year, which was from Halloween, was snapped with a cell phone, and is so us. (Wish we could just dress in those costumes everyday, tbh.)

Using Postable for our holiday cards takes a huge weight off my shoulders each holiday season. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: they seem to be really nice people who make dope cards and have a very innovative service. And while I do partner with them for these projects, they don’t pay me to review their cards. I just genuinely love them and want to share. Oh, and here’s something else great about them: they’re giving you a whopping 20% off your entire order with code BEAN18. Spreading holiday joy, they are! Told you they’re the best.

Who else finds immense pleasure in the act of sending and receiving holiday cards? (Come on. I know I’m not the only one.) Any other mega Postable fans?

This post is in collaboration with Postable.

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Ohio Puppy Mill Reforms

I’m proud that my home state of Ohio has put into effect a new law upgrading standards of care for dogs kept in puppy mills. Our history in this area has not been great, with many commercial breeders keeping their dogs in filthy, horrible conditions. Ohio was ranked second in the nation as having the […]


Doggies.com Dog Blog

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Keep Your Cat Healthy over the Holidays

While scientific studies show that pets who are even slightly overweight have decreased vitality and are at risk for complications that shorten their lifespans, still 56% of cats and 60% of dogs in the U.S. qualify as overweight or obese.

So while we love to give cats the food and treats they love, it’s important to make sure we’re helping keep them maintain a weight that lets them live their best lives—especially during the holidays when our schedules and habits tend to shift for a few weeks.

  • Keep up the exercise. You don’t need a treadmill to keep your cat active. A little bit of time each day with a favorite ribbon or string will keep your cat moving.
  • Ingredients tell an important story. Read the label of your cat’s food and treats to make sure it’s loaded with real, WHOLE meat, vegetables, and other quality ingredients you’d find in your own kitchen.
  • Measure your love. Check with your vet to make sure you know how many calories your cat should get each day and then measure the exact amount into the bowl.
  • Choose healthy treats. With clever names and playful shapes, it’s easy to lighten up our diligence with treats, but don’t slip. Read the ingredients label and make sure it’s made with real food that’s good for your cat.
  • Filling up without filling out. Diets aren’t fun, but with healthy weight cat food, you can help your cat reduce his or her calorie intake and still feel satisfied.

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Down in the leaves

Anka doing the “down” command in the silver maple leaves.

anka down in the leaves

Natural History

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Bonus Friday Funny: Costume Winner

Although there was no official contest on this blog, this Beagle with Cream Cheese costume won. Enjoy your weekend! Until next time, Good day, and good dog!


Doggies.com Dog Blog

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Actor Jon Bernthal Joins Show Your Soft Side Campaign

He portrayed a zombie slayer in the AMC series The Walking Dead and currently stars as a vigilante battling bad guys in the web series The Punisher. Off-screen, actor Jon Bernthal fights for all…



[[ This is a summary only. Click the title for the full post, photos, videos, giveaways, and more! ]]


DogTipper

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Is Your Pet Ready for Halloween?

Manny the Frenchie - Happy HALO-Ween

With more than 31 million people planning to dress their pet in costumes for Halloween this year, according to the National Retail Federation, it seems that Beggar’s Night is attracting a whole new breed of treat-seekers. It’s a terrific opportunity to bring your pet in on the fun. Here are a few tips to make the night a howling success.

Suit up with care
From bumblebees and hot dogs to witches, pirates, and pumpkins, cute is easy, but make sure your pet is comfortable, too. Check the costume for pieces that could get chewed off or get in the way of normal movement, breathing, vision, and hearing.

Get tricked out with pet treats
All the extra candy and chocolate bars sitting around may send their sniffers into overdrive, so keep sweets safely out of pets’ reach. And be sure to have plenty of pet treats close by—not just for your little beggars, but all the adorable ones who ring your doorbell.

Don’t forget their ID
Before you head out on the town, double-check that your pet has proper ID—like a microchip or a collar and identification tag. Such a busy night may bring lots more leashes than normal, plus all the excitement and children running about could cause confusion or an escape.

Enjoy the holiday together
Between unattended bowls of candy, the novelty of their costume, an increased number of strangers, and lots of fall decor (including jack-o-lanterns that may have lit candles in them), the evening holds a number of fun things that have the potential to stress out or even harm your pet. Stay close and keep your eye—and maybe your reassuring hand—on them all night.

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Barktoberfest in Durham

A few pictures from an old high school friend of mine, Annette Smith, who attended Barktoberfest last weekend at Durham Central Park. The event featured a costume contest, photo booth, canine food drive, an interactive trick dog show presented by Dare Devil Dogs, fun walk, pet market, adoptable animals from local shelters and rescues, and […]


Doggies.com Dog Blog

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