Tag Archives: creative play

How to Select Age Appropriate Toys

Choosing the right toy is essential in determining if it will become a cherished item or if it will sit on a shelf and gather dust. The last thing you want to do is buy a toy that never gets any play. Age appropriate toys are toys that are specifically geared to the developmental stage of the child, corresponding in age and readiness. Children use their imagination and creativity best when they’re playing with an age appropriate toy, because it stimulates their interest and engages their specific developmental level.

There are many indoor toys available for all different ages. The easiest way to determine a child’s readiness for a toy is to refer to the guidelines on the packaging. You’ll often read, “For children ages 2 and up” or “For Ages 3+” on the toy’s package. There is some leeway here depending on the child’s development, but be careful not to choose toys too far above or below the package guidelines or you could be wasting money.

We’ve put together a few tips to help you determine if a toy is age appropriate for a child:

  • Many toys prohibit use by younger children. This is usually for safety reasons – it’s possible the toy contains small parts children can choke on. Be aware of this when making a purchasing decision.
  • Think about what the child is currently capable of doing – is she a two-year-old who is capable of getting onto a riding toy and scooting around? Is he a six-year-old who would love creative play in outdoor toys like a sandbox, or indoor toys like musical instruments or a pretend kitchen? Sticking to their developmental interests is a sure way to keep them engaged.
  • Always choose toys that encourage children to use their imagination in fun and creative ways. By choosing toys that encourage creativity, you are choosing toys that will hold your child’s interest for a long period of time. For children two and up, consider toys that allow the child to pretend – whether it’s indoor toys like a kitchen or playhouse or an outside toy like a lawnmower or grill. Children love to emulate what they see around them, so let them.
  • Choose toys that encourage activity. Children love to climb, slide and ride. Be sure to check out toys you would normally consider “outdoor toys”, as many are small enough to be suitable as indoor toys.
  • Check out a toy before purchasing and evaluate what you think its durability will be. If a toy won’t hold up to playtime, it’s not worth the money.

Ways to Make Art Physically Active for Kids

Step2 Easel for TwoKeeping kids physically active is important. Instead of sitting around watching television or playing video games, encourage your children to use their imagination to create beautiful works of art using different types of materials. Once you have a designated space for your child’s art desk, tell them to go outside (or sift through the basement or old bins if it’s chilly outside) and gather up materials to begin an art project.

Art does not have to be a sedentary activity. Kids need to be inspired to create art and this can come from all different sources. If you have a large yard with lots of plant and animal life, these can be great materials for art projects. Your children or grandchildren can find leaves, sticks, or even bugs to make unique pictures or sculpture. Depending on the age of the children, you can allow them to paint, cut and glue all of these materials to make all kinds of creative projects.

Another way to encourage children to use their creativity is to provide art easels for kids. If you are planning a birthday party for boys or girls, consider setting up several easels and provide paint, chalk and other art supplies. You could ask the children to create portraits of themselves or each other to give to the birthday girl. Kids love to create and the more encouragement you give them, the more likely they are to seek out creative art projects on their own.

As a grandparent, you may not have a lot of space in your home to keep toys when the grand-kids come for a visit. You do not need a lot of room for art supplies and these activities will keep the kids entertained for hours. You can store a folding art easel in the closet and all of the art supplies in a plastic container. When the grandchildren show up and start complaining they are bored, instead of sending them into the den to watch television, watch their eyes light up when you bring out art easels for kids and all of the supplies they need. Not only will they have a great time creating beautiful pictures, you will have something to put up on the fridge or wall to remind you of the grand-kids once they return home.

If left to their own devices, children are more likely to sit in front of the t.v. or spend much of their time playing video games. It is important to encourage kids to stay physically active and explore the world around them. Not only will the children sleep better if they are able to use up their energy and breathe in the fresh air outside, art projects can be inspired from almost anything. Take a field trip and let your child’s imagination do the rest.

The History of Puppets in Children’s Entertainment

Puppets have been entertaining adults and children alike for centuries. While we’re probably most familiar with popular culture figures like Howdy Doody and Kermit the Frog, puppets have been telling stories to all ages for years. Puppet theater of 1500s and 1600s Europe are probably the most historically famous, including the well-known Marionette puppet theater. While the history of puppets reaches back centuries, the use of puppets for entertainment is still very current.

Step2 Puppet TheaterWhat is a Puppet?

A puppet is a representation of an animal, person or other entity that is manipulated either by hand, string or by stick. There are over thirty types of puppets, the most famous including:

  • Sock
  • Cloth
  • Wooden
  • Finger
  • String (Marionettes)

Ancient History to Modern Popular Culture

Puppet theater traces its history back to the very early origins of civilized man. While puppetry has been used for everything from rituals and ceremonies to creative expression, puppets are often thought of currently as providers of children’s entertainment.

Puppets base their origination in ancient India, where they told beloved stories to the people. They found their way to Asia with the Bunraku puppets of Japan. From there, they made their way to Europe, developing into the well-known puppets on a string – the marionettes. The history of puppetry continued right up to today, where it is still both an esteemed art form and form of children’s entertainment.

And while we love to look back at favorites like the puppets featured in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, or on Jim Henson’s Muppet Show, children are keeping the art of puppetry alive and well in their own homes.

Requiring little more than puppets, a puppet theater and a little imagination, children are keeping the spirit of puppetry alive. Don’t have any puppets on hand? Make some! Allow your child’s creativity and imagination to soar by creating puppets out of paper, fabric and other supplies. The only limitation is their own creativity.

Art Projects using Recycled, Free, and Cheap Materials

You know that look: Glazed eyes, droopy posture. The whine comes next. “Mom, I’m bored.” Or worse, silence – meaning something gets tied to the dog’s tail, again.

Engaging art projects can help foster and guide your child’s natural sense of wonder and creativity, and using recycled, free and cheap materials for kids art desks makes it affordable. Set up art tables kids can use freely; a scold-free zone in case water cups tip or ink blotches appear in all the wrong places. Old flat-panel doors set securely on concrete blocks make great low, expansive kids’ activity art desks that your small Picassos can kneel at, propped up on a cushion, while letting their imaginations run riot.

Make an impromptu easel on the activity table using an old cutting board angled up with a sturdy brick or two, and use tacks to secure brown packing paper that enjoys a second life as canvas for a masterpiece. Sponges, potato halves, leaves cleaned of oils with vinegar and corrugated cardboard all provide great textural stamps that your children can dip in ink and then press onto paper. Spent toothbrushes make effective ink airbrushes for a pointillist effect, and using them is half the fun. Sculptors or future designers crave three-dimensional projects; old plastic milk jugs transform into animal bodies, and old cardboard boxes, perhaps the stage of a soon-to-be-written play.

You Could Win $5,000 by Entering the Big Imaginations are Cooking Contest

Big Imaginations are Cooking Contest

We want to know how your kids use their imaginations! Now through November 20, 2011 we invite you to enter the Step2 Big Imaginations Are Cooking Contest by submitting an essay of 150 words or less that tells a story about your kids playing in an imaginative, unstructured way.

On November 23, ten finalists will be chosen to receive a new Step2 play kitchen and a video camera to create a video of their kid’s imagination running wild with their new kitchen. We’ll then post the videos on our Facebook page. It’ll be up to our Facebook fans to vote for their favorite video between December 12 and January 8 to determine the winner, who will receive the $5,000 grand prize.

Creative boy

To demonstrate and inspire contestants, we partnered with mommy bloggers Anne McGowan of Deal Wise Mommy, Dee Owens of Two Of A Kind, Working On A Full House, Crystal Rapinchuk of Surviving a Teacher’s Salary, and Xenia Sundell of Thanks, Mail Carrier to showcase their belief in the importance of imaginative and creative play for their own children. Check out their favorite Step2 play kitchens at www.bigimaginationscontest.com.

Video Stills


15% Off Art Desks & Easels Through Sunday

Preschool Sale

To prepare for preschool (can you believe it’s already that time!?), take an additional 15% off all art desks and easels now though Sunday, August 21 when you enter S2CP11 at checkout. No art desk or easel is excluded! That means you can take 15% off our two new art desks for fall – the Build & Store Block & Activity Table and the Art Desk Easel.