Friday, June 29, 2012

Games with Kids Fridays: Carcassone

One of my goals for the coming school year is to play games on Fridays, and only games.  To achieve that I’m working on collecting some good learning games I can use.

I mentioned buying Math Gym a month or so ago, and how much we enjoy that, so I’ve got math covered, and actually almost any game could be called using math.  Now this one is a higher order thinking game, it employs strategy, but it’s low level enough that with some modifications kids can play it.

Carcassone is a tile laying game that has a little luck built into it based on what you draw, but it’s more controlled randomness than say Monopoly.

You take turns going around building cities, roads, and farms and get points for completing them based on how big it is.  There are several expansions that change the game play, but for ease of play with the kids we don’t really use those.

Here’s our modifications:
1.  No farmers.  Farmers to me is the hardest part of play and the most chancy.  They aren’t scored until the end of the game where they get points for each city they feed.  For little kids this is too long to wait to get their points.  Finishing a town or a monastery is hard enough for them.

2.  Draw two tiles and choose one to play.  This gives them a bit more control of what they’re doing and also forces them to think what is their best play.  Do they want to build a road which gets them 1 point per tile or work on a city which is 2 points a tile?

3.  Limit the number of turns.  This is more of an attention span thing.  We set it up so everyone gets 10 turns, and they know how many turns are left.  This helps keep the game shorter.

4.  Help each other plan and place your tiles.  It’s still competitive and there’s still only one winner, but this way less experienced players get help.

Sharing over at Learning All The Time and Mama Smiles.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Organizing All About Reading

Organizing All About Reading Lessons

I struggled for a while with All About Reading Level 1 trying to figure out how to organize all of it.  I’d seen different posts with how people were doing it and that got me thinking.


At first, I hole-punched the word cards and had them on a ring.  But, if I was looking for a specific lesson, then I had to flip through all of the words.  Time lost, okay only a minute or so, but in 7 year old time that is IMMENSE.


Enter my plan, and this will work smoother next year because I will know ahead of time how I want to do this.


manila envelope with lesson

This is a mini-manila envelope.  It’s about half the size of a normal one.  I suppose I could put them in full size ones, but this works perfectly once game pieces are cut out, and if it’s a lesson with only word cards.


I send the kids off to cut things out for me, and then I staple or glue it together.


monster game for lesson 3

If it’s a game that has a sorting element or something that “eats the word,” I glue it to the front.  The eat the word games then have a slit cut into them so the game piece goes directly back into the envelope.  This lets me revisit favorite games easily.


All About Reading 1 game

Which as you can see is wildly popular.


Behind the individual lessons are our spelling boards that I created several months ago.  The letter tiles are attached with velcro to a laminated file folder.


I’m going to link over at Learning All the Time to share this Smile

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

How to encourage free play while waiting at the doctor

Princess has started speech therapy.  She mispronounces her C’s and G’s, and while I think it’s adorable she’s starting to get frustrated with people not understanding her.


So, every week she goes and “plays with Aunt Tara” for 30 minutes while the boys and I sit and wait.


small toys for the doctor's office

Every week I remind the boys before we head out to pick up something to play with.  They’ll pack a small “suitcase” full of Legos, or mini-figures.  The picture up above is their colonial action figures and some of our gaming figures.


playing at the doctor's office

Then you train them.  If they’re not used to playing on their own while waiting, then set timers.  Have them play on their own for a few minutes, and then do something with them.


playing on their own

I’m proud to say that I can now take my kids with me into the church office and work on making copies for something for 20 minutes and not worry about them playing with things on people’s desks, or interrupting them.


reading on their own

This wasn’t an immediate result.  It took time, and patience, and a lot of reminders.  But, I have high expectations for my kids.


I expect them to be able to interact with adults and answer their questions intelligently (and there are times we’re still working on that one).


I expect them to be able to sit at a dinner table with adults and be able to participate or wait patiently.  That may mean they need to figure out how to entertain themselves quietly.


I expect them to wait or play in a way that’s appropriate for where they are.  If we’re at an office or the library, they are quiet (usually).  If we’re at a playscape or playground they can be as loud as the next child.


growing happy kids

They are high expectations, but you know what?  My kids are happy, and they are loved and they know they are loved.  So, I think they’re good expectations.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Favorite recipes: I couldn’t pick one

Over at This Simple Home, Annette is hosting a summer linky, I missed last week because of being thrown off only having two kids for the week………  It’s amazing how you get used to your family dynamics.


Since, I couldn’t choose just one, I thought I would share what my IDEAL menu plan would be if I could design the perfect day.



Non-messy French Toast

My Non-Messy French Toast post is probably one of my most pinned posts.  These are delicious, and they have the advantage of not being sticky.  The syrup and sweetness is already built in.  And, if there are left-overs they reheat well.


Muppet Sandwich

I have to admit it was a toss-up between this and a tea party, but over the span of my life I have eaten a lot of Muppet Sandwiches.  I LOVE them.


homemade spaghetti sauce

Hands down my absolute favorite thing for dinner is spaghetti.  My Mom taught me how to make my own spaghetti sauce way back in junior high, and I’ve been making my own ever since.  I make insanely large amounts and then freeze the left-overs.  I’ve used this sauce for lasagna, for pizza, and whatever else would use a marinara sauce.


best sugar cookie recipe ever

My favorite desert is Santa Cookies (are you noticing a coconut theme?).  I love them.  This recipe was passed down from my Great-grandma, and I eagerly look forward to Christmas each year to eat these while dipping them in milk.


Okay, that’s my favorite recipes.  Now I’m hungry, but as I’m writing this it is almost dinner time, so maybe I should start thinking about that.  Princess has requested pancakes for dinner.  I don’t know if we have the materials, it being almost time to go to the grocery store……


Monday, June 25, 2012

Michigan: Clever Beatrice


Clever Beatrice, tall tale for Michigan

When researching books for Michigan, I discovered this gem of a tall tale called “Clever Beatrice”.  It’s about the cutest books I’ve seen, and one of the few tall tales that’s about a girl.  To make matters even better she win the day by outwitting her foes, not by being the prettiest or anything like that.  She rather reminded me of Jack from the many and varied Jack tales (Jack the Giant Killer, Jack and the Bean Stalk, the trickster archetype).


After reading the book I thought about some fun ideas for outsmarting or out-tricking someone, but none of them seemed age appropriate, and I also didn’t want to encourage my children to start acting like her about certain things…….


Clever Beatrice activity


Instead, I googled visual puzzles, and came up with many to solve online, and a few that were find the hidden picture puzzle, but nothing too clever.


Then I found a heart tangram.  This seemed like a nice little math puzzle and some fun for the kids all at the same time.


Clever Beatrice heart

I printed it out and set them to cutting and coloring.


They happily spent several minutes attempt to put the hearts back together.  A quest, that I admit stumped me at first, until I figured out the trick.  Which sadly I still haven’t figured out for the square tangram.  Isn’t that sad?


I’m going to pop over to All Things Beautiful and share this on her Summer Learning Fun.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Science Sunday: For real Water and Air Pressure



So, obviously I never got that post fixed last week.  First I was wrongly reported as having malware, so I had to work on that.  Then I had two very hyper little girls who wanted lots of attention.  LOTS of it.


THE QUESTION: Why does the water stay in the straw when you put your finger on it?


THEORIES: There’s something stopping it from getting out.  We don’t know what.


First I had them figure out what I was doing differently than them that kept the water in the straw.  They tried several different ways of holding the straw to duplicate my keeping the water in, but didn’t figure it out until I showed them what I did very slowly.  Then I heard:


“OH!  It’s just like the Thumb pot at Williamsburg!”

Talk about making a Mom proud.  They’d drawn the connection between this and the gardening tool they’d seen one time.  It also work based on air pressure holding in the water until you take your thumb off the top.


This one is from Farm to Market.



But, they still hadn’t completely figured out what was keeping the water in while my thumb was on the straw, so on to the next part.



Next we did the water and air pressure holding the index card on even though the cup is upside down.  A similar principle holds the paper up as holds the water in.  I asked leading questions:

What’s under the cup.

If there is no liquid in the cup, what is still in the cup?

After a while they realized there was air in the cup, and there was air pushing on the paper and air pushing on the water in the straw.


See, if I put my thumb on top of the straw, there is no place for the air to move into where the water is, it creates a vacuum, and the water cannot move out.  The same theory works with the cup and the water.  If the water is to the top of the cup, there is nowhere for the paper to go because the air pushes it up while the water is pushing it down.  Of course eventually the water soaks through and the paper falls, but for a short time it’s “Amazing Mommy!”


So, that was my quick science experiment we had because I was trying to cool down my son’s tea.


Let’s see what others did this week:

No Doubt Learning shared about their solar week.  I’m wondering what the results of her evaporation experiment would be here in Texas during the summer.


I don’t think I’m brave enough to try the light bulb experiment All Things Beautiful did in her microwave.  I have a bad track record with fires……..


The Usual Mayhem shared the science behind a brain freeze and some suggested cures they tried.  I figured at least one of us is going to get one this summer, I also found out I’m 90% more likely to get one because I get migraines, well BOO.

Science Sunday button

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fun Read Aloud for Girls

This is actually the exact version I have, so that amuses me.  Back when I was in college I read this book and thought it was absolutely charming, especially since the illustrations are in the style of the Color Fairy Books, which I loved.


Now this past week I have had Princess all by herself with another little girl.  This seemed like the perfect time to read the book to her without accompanying complaints from the boys.


The Ordinary Princess is the seventh princess born in a magical kingdom.  Everyone is sure she will be the most beautiful little princess ever and the biggest party is planned for her christening.  Every fairy in the kingdom is invited, and they give her all manner of gifts, charm, grace, ability to dance, and then the last fairy comes.  She’s been listening to all of the other gifts and thinks they’re quite silly, and she says “I give you the gift of ordinariness.”  Immediately her hair loses her curl, freckles sprout and her eyes change to a muddy color that’s not brown and not blue.


She grows up and isn’t the perfect princess every expects and there lies the problem, so she decides to solve the problem and runs away.  And that’s when the fun begins!


Last night as we were reading it, I got begged to read more, so we read about 30 pages in one night.  I actually think I’ll stop writing now and see if I can convince the girls to listen to some more, we’re probably not going to finish it before the boys come back, which is a shame.


I’m gonna send you over to Natalie at Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns to learn about what other kids are reading this week!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Games with Kids Fridays:Adventures in Reading with ZigZag Zebra

All About Reading

One of my goals for the upcoming school year is to convert Fridays to a game day.  We’ll still be playing learning, but it won’t seem like it because we’re playing games.


When I was given the opportunity to review Adventures in Reading with ZigZag Zebra for All About Learning Press, I jumped at it.


If you’re familiar with file folder games or  Take It To Your Seat Games from Evan-Moor, you’re familiar with this concept.


004The games come bound in a book, the pages are perforated so you can tear them out and glue them into a file folder if you choose to (I’m storing it differently, you’ll see below).


Now, I hate cutting things out, my wrists hurt after a while of cutting, so I set my kids loose on it.  This does mean they’re not cut out perfectly.



We’ve only played the first half or so of them, but I think these will easily be added into our rotation of games, and extra bonus, they’re not just limited to reading.


{I have to admit, I don’t think this was in the creator’s minds when they did it, but I looked at it and saw easy adaption to other topics}




Apples for Ziggy- Super simple and easy to play, you pick 5 apples off the tree and if they’re vowels you keep them.


My kids loved this because it’s a no brainer for them.  No thinking involved because they’ve got it down flat.  Many requests to play again.




Ziggy at the Market- Ziggy is going shopping and he can only buy things if he answers questions correctly.  My kids loved the variety of things to buy.  Princess bought all the shoes and the boys bought a little of everything.  Including the top hat Superman tried to wear.


In case you’re wondering it didn’t fit.



Now in the instructions you’re supposed to review phonograms, but my kids need more review of word cards.  I’ve noticed they’re starting to slack on words they knew before, so I switched it to word cards.


And that worked just fine.



Treasure Hunt with Ziggy- You pull 3 tiles and see if it’s possible to make a word with that combination of color tiles.  Remember with All About Learning Tiles vowels are red and consonants are blue.


It was a great review for my kids and got them thinking of examples of words with two vowels in a 3 letter word.


Eventually I started challenging them to think up words to go with the tiles they pulled.  They LOVED that.


I’m sure I will have many more posts about these games as we work our way through them.  Especially if I keep to my plan of only games on Friday.


And, if you’re wondering how I store my games, here you go.  The board is folded in half and put in the mini-manilla envelope along with the pieces.  They all store very nicely in my box for All About Reading Level 1 (post coming up with how I organize it to work for me).



Disclosure: I was given a copy of the games to review, but it was on my to buy list anyways.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Arkansas: Rosie’s Fiddle

Sooooo……  I said there are no real books on Arkansas at my library.  I cheated and said this one way, because the state instrument (that’s right they have one) is a fiddle.

I thought about going back and remaking our Fiddle craft from Banjo Granny.  But, that would be derivative…….  Okay not really, I just didn’t want to do the same thing.

So,  Rosie's Fiddleis about a woman who is the best fiddler in the area.  It’s rumored she’s so good that she could outwit the Devil.  Of course he can’t have that, so he comes and tries to trick her.  She has to outwit and outplay him.

This of course led me to decide to have my kids think about how they would outwit the Devil.

First though, we had a very long talk about how we should never try to outwit the Devil and what to do when faced with temptation, how to handle that.

Not too surprisingly Batman decided he was going to out fight the Devil.  Superman decided to build a machine.  He was on a real machine kick that day……..


Princess was still thinking about designing jewelry earlier, so she decided to make a necklace to trap him with.

I kid you not.

My kids amuse me, frequently.  I’d even say it happens several times a day…….
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