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The Simplicity of Play

Younger children learn best through play! It’s easy to forget that although it may seem simplistic and unchallenging, the benefits received are unbelievable. Play relieves stress, improves brain function, increases creativity, boosts cooperation and social skills, and more! 

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Creating Magic through STEAM

This month we have been celebrating STEM and STEAM Education. What’s the difference? STEAM is simply an approach to learning that not only incorporates Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, but also the Arts!

 

Elizabeth McBee shares how she has turned this crazy COVID year into a year of homeschooling and creativity using simple, open-ended toys that allow her children to discover in a way that is comfortable to them. When children feel comfortable, they will learn new skills! Not only are her children learning new skills, but they are also incorporating all different learning styles and techniques encouraging inquiry, dialogue and critical thinking (yay STEAM!). The best part is, much of this is led by her children as they are developmentally ready to move through to the next level of discovery.



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With the one-year anniversary of COVID having passed, so many of us are reflecting on this past year. There is something unique about facing a challenge as a collective group. Somehow as we all faced isolation like never before, we became connected on a deeper level. We have shared struggles and insights, humor and life hacks. We have risen to the occasion and had each other’s backs. Now it is spring again, and we are slowly getting back to life outside our homes. One thing that I sincerely hope remains, is how we share with each other. 



For me, this past year brought the opportunity to homeschool my children. While the freedom and flexibility provided a much-needed reprieve, it also brought very real challenges. With kids ranging from Pre-K to 3rd grade, it was no joke trying to accommodate everyone. 



As a former preschool teacher, I did have a few tricks up my sleeve. My favorite secret weapon is open-ended materials. Not only are they versatile, but they also inspire the learner and allow them to discover at their own pace. Take, for instance, this Stuff N’ Pull Scarf Tote. It could be labeled as a toddler toy, but we have found endless uses for it! The scarves have been volcanoes for geology. They’ve been capes in plays the girls have written. The container was transformed into a mystery box to study material properties and understand the concept of deduction. All the while, my 4-year-old was using the same materials to play alongside the big kids! It allowed her to participate in a way that was fun at her level. The best part is, I don’t have to do all the thinking! By providing these materials, the children naturally get inspired and take initiative to construct their own knowledge. 



It turns out, we are all made for creative connection. We take what we are given and make magic out of it. To absolutely everyone: congratulations not just on making it through a year, but for all the little ways you did the unexpected and transformed the world.  







 Stuff N’ Pull Scarf Tote

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Discovery Windows - KRP-8



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Translucent Wedgits - IMA-02



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Earth, Wind, and Water Blocks - MTC-628



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Toddler Fruit Abacus - KRP-001



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Have a moment to share with us? Be sure to tag us and use the hashtag #constructiveinsights in your post. We’d love to potentially feature you on our social feeds and/or in an upcoming email!

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An Early Literacy Superpower: Phonological Awareness

We’ve been celebrating early literacy all month long! The best part is seeing all the creative resources and ideas you use with your kids at home and in the classroom to develop these important early literacy skills. 


Candice Williams, Founder and CEO of Urby Education, discusses the importance of Phonological Awareness and shows off how she works in two of our favorite literacy products, Vowel Owls and one of our Exclusive Products, the Alphabet Bricks and Base Plates set. Be sure to watch her video at the end to see it up close!


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March Blog



It’s National Reading Month, but sadly half of children in the United States struggle with reading. Children can begin to read independently before they enter kindergarten and the early literacy skill that they will need in order to reach this level: phonological awareness.



Wait, did I lose you already? I know that this term can be confusing to both parents and educators. In short, phonological awareness is the ability to hear and orally manipulate sounds in spoken language. Our words are made up of individual units of sounds called "phonemes". Phonological Awareness is an umbrella term, as this skill includes word recognition within sentences, rhyming, sound segmentation, syllables, and phonemic awareness (the ability to hear and manipulate sounds/phonemes). 



Did you know that Phonological Awareness should be taught everyday in grades K-2? Most schools don’t spend enough time on teaching these skills explicitly. A great reader is like a builder who is able to reach into their toolbox to use any tool when needed, and Phonological Awareness is the actual tool belt; it’s their literacy foundation! 



Don’t underestimate the simple power of understanding letter(s) and sounds, which is phonemic awareness. If a child knows 10 sounds, then they can read 350 three-sound words, 4,320 four-sound words, and 21,650 five-sound words. A preschooler can learn 10 letters and sounds easily, which means that they can also read up to 26,000 words! 



This is exactly why I tell parents that it’s never too early to start practicing early literacy skills.There are only 26 letters in the alphabet, but there are 44 sounds in the English language. How is this possible you ask? I’ll have to write another blog about that. But, just imagine how confused our kiddos become during their reading journey! 



Constructive Playthings makes teaching phonological awareness and phonemic awareness fun and effective! Get rid of those boring flashcards and check out some Alphabet Brick & Base Plates to build on their phonemic awareness skills. Have your kiddos practice phonemic awareness and phonological awareness with Vowel Owls. Doesn’t this sound way more fun?!



Come and visit me on social media, and I’ll show you how I use these resources, as well as others in my teaching everyday! Using a multi-sensory approach to learning is a research-based strategy, and colorful manipulatives are tools that I use to make reading fun.





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Alphabet Bricks & Base Plates - BLC-208



1Artboard_1_2-100Vowel Owls Sorting Set - LER-5460



1Artboard_1_3-100Double-Sided Photo Magnetic Cards - LRI-445



1Artboard_1_4-100Alphabet Alligator  - DL-32



1Artboard_1_5-100Wooden Alphabet Floor Puzzle  - MYK-771

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Have a moment to share with us? Be sure to tag us and use the hashtag #constructiveinsights in your post. We’d love to potentially feature you on our social feeds and/or in an upcoming email!

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Sensing Simple Play Opportunities

Through all stages of early childhood development, children naturally use their five senses to discover the world around them and it is our job to give them plenty of space and opportunities to do just that. In fact, did you know that sensory play is crucial to brain development? It’s true! Sensory play also encourages language development, aids in the development of motor skills, and promotes problem-solving. One of our favorite benefits of sensory play is that it also allows time for mindfulness, which is something we can all benefit from!


Although there are lots of fantastic resources and tools available, some of the best sensory play activities are simple: listening to different sounds of everyday life, playing in water, feeling different loose-part materials (even food, like rice) or tasting the different options on our plate at dinner! Even getting children outside creates a whole new world of sensory play right there at your fingertips--what can you see, hear, smell, taste and touch in nature? 


See how one of our customers took one of our favorite sensory play products and incorporated it further into sensory play, as well as creating opportunities for interactive play, open-ended play and imaginative play all at the same time! She let her daughter lead the way and we certainly enjoyed watching along: 





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Tyler Johnson

Sensorial activities are used in Montessori learning to help children in discrimination and order. They also help broaden and refine a child’s senses.



I am always looking for materials and activities that will help develop my 26-month old daughter Keira’s five senses: hearing, touch, sight, taste, and smell. This wooden Guidecraft Tactile Search & Match puzzle from Constructive Playthings is perfect. Each puzzle piece disc has a different texture on it and will align to a spot on the puzzle board. I love wood toys and sensory play so I knew this material would be an awesome addition to our playroom!



In a traditional Montessori environment, teachers try to isolate just one of the five senses at a time for the child to work with. The Tactile Search & Match puzzle pieces can be aligned by texture by touch, by color or sight. So to fully isolate just the one sense of touch your child, you could close their eyes and feel the textures on the discs. However, Keira is not ready for that level of challenge, so I let her explore this new material using both her sense of touch and sight!



To add an additional sensory element I presented the sensory puzzles discs to her on a bed of rainbow rice. I find it fascinating to see how children decide to play with a toy or a new learning material. After she was done exploring the textured disk and matching them, she then used them as plates and started putting rice on them! I love her imagination.



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Curved Sensory Balance Boards - KPI-50



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Sensory Balls - RBB-20192p



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Sensory Observation Set - CHG-86



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Sensory Reflective Balls - CHG-201



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Have a moment to share with us? Be sure to tag us and use the hashtag #constructiveinsights in your post. We’d love to potentially feature you on our social feeds and/or in an upcoming email!



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2021: A Fresh Outlook

Although 2020 was difficult in many ways, it’s refreshing to see positive revelations come from it. One thing is for sure: we depend on each other to get through life’s toughest moments. 

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