Monday, September 28, 2015

Review: Wonky and Tapple Games from USAopoly

We love to play games in our family. We play card games about once a week as part of our school day. Aside from that, the boys pull out games almost every day and play them on their own. Game pieces are scattered across my floor more often that I like to pick them up! Almost every Sunday finds us at Grandma and Grandpa's house, playing board games.

The boys were very excited to receive a box from USAopoly last month with two games in it: Wonky: The Crazy Cubes Card Game and Tapple: Fast Word Fun for Everyone. The box was ripped open immediately. Since Papa was home from work that week, he played both games with them right away. Since that day, both games have gotten lots of use. Tapple even got taken along in the van on errand day to keep the big boys content while I took care of baby AJ's needs.

Wonky: The Crazy Cubes Card Game 

USAopoly Review

Wonky is played with cards and nine slightly oddly-shaped wooden blocks in three different sizes and colours.

Players each receive a hand of cards, and the tallest player begins the game by playing a card and placing its corresponding block on the table.

Play proceeds until *CRASH!* the tower falls. The player responsible for the crash must pick up more cards (This is not good, since the object of the game is to get rid of all your cards!).

It can be a challenge to stack the blocks, especially if your hand of cards only has large blocks after smaller blocks have already been played. Thankfully, there are some special action cards that allow you to skip your turn, change the direction of play, or get your opponents to pick up extra cards.

To win, you must either play all your cards, or successfully place the ninth block on the tower. We have not managed a nine-block tower yet.

This game is recommended for ages eight and up, but both my seven-year-old and five-year-old had no problems playing. SA(7) really enjoyed this game, and I know it will continue to be a favourite with him. JJ(5) enjoyed it as well, but lost interest if a round lasted longer than ten minutes.

One thing we noticed is that playing Wonky on the floor worked better than playing it on the table. Anyone jiggling the table could cause the whole tower to come crashing down. The floor allowed for more stable towers (as long as the baby wasn't around!).

Tapple: Fast Word Fun for Everyone

 USAopoly Review

Tapple is a fast-paced, addicting word game. It is played with category cards and a "Tapple Wheel" containing twenty letters and a ten-second timer.

The beginning player chooses the category "In This Room," and we're off!

Player 1: (tap C) Chairs! (hit timer)

Player 2: (tap P) Piano! (hit timer)

Player 3: (tap B) Books! (hit timer)

Player 1: (mind blank.) ... (timer dings!) Player is out!

Player 2: (tap D) Drum! (hit timer)

Play goes on until there is only one person left. That person gets the category card and a new round is begun. The first person to collect three category cards wins the game.

Tapple was my favourite of the two games, though my mind went blank at the crucial moment far too often! It was especially fun to play with a slightly larger group when we took it along to Grandma and Grandpa's for our weekly game time. It was also great as a fast two-player game.

This game is also recommended for ages eight and up, but SA(7) had no problem with it. We modified the rules a bit when playing with JJ(5). We allowed him to choose any word beginning with the correct letter, rather than having him stick to the category. I found this game lent itself well to modification depending on the needs of the players, whether for more challenge or for less. We even allowed MM(3) to play, just allowing him to tap a letter and hit the timer on his turn without saying a word. This left fewer options for the remaining players, but it was hard to play this game at our house without including him. The ticking and dinging timer is like a magnet for three-year-old boys!

Overall, we had a lot of fun with these two games from USAopoly. We will continue to play them often, and that's a high recommendation coming from me!

For more reviews, check out the link below:

 USAopoly Review

Crew Disclaimer

Supermoon Eclipse

The Supermoon Eclipse last night as seen from PEI, Canada. Picture by my husband Stephen, who really, really wished he had a better camera in that moment. I think he did great with what he had!

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
 what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Three Bean Salad, a Math Activity

We've been having fun with a math activity from Family Math called Three Bean Salad. It has been a fun way to work with ratios and proportions, and figure out how to solve for 'x'.

You give your child three kinds of beans and a recipe. Each salad contains all three kinds of beans.

A simple recipe might be:
2 white beans
Twice as many red beans as white beans
10 beans in all

A more difficult recipe is:
The same number of red beans as white beans
3 more black beans than red beans
A total of 18 beans

It took SA(7) a little while to figure out that last one, but he did.

JJ(5) and MM(3) also wanted to get in on the action. I made up some simpler recipes for JJ (for example, 4 red beans, 3 white beans, 10 beans in all) and let MM make up his own culinary creations.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

In Our Book Basket: Rembrandt Resources

Picture study is very simple in our home. I choose an artist for each twelve-week term, and we study six of his paintings. At the moment we don't do a lot of learning about the artist, the focus is just on looking at the picture, becoming familiar with it, and storing it up in our "mind's eye." 
Since we do picture study once a week, this allows two weeks per painting chosen. The first week, we take five or ten minutes and just look at and talk about the picture. Then I put the picture on the wall or on a stand where it can be seen whenever anyone wants to look at it. The second week, we do a proper picture study and look at the painting until we can see it in our minds with our eyes closed. Then SA(7) and I describe it in detail, with occasional input from JJ(5). That's all there is to it right now.

This term, just on a whim, I decided to check if my library had any resources on the artist I chose: Rembrandt van Rijn. When the books came in I popped them into my library basket, intending to look at them more closely later. Later never fully came for me. What can I say? I'm a busy mom. But having them in the basket proved to be rewarding anyway.
JJ(5) discovered one of them, The World of Rembrandt, and pored over it for at least two days. Later, when I pulled out a print of "The Night Watch" for our picture study time, he jumped up with excitement, ran and got the book, and opened it to the same picture. But what surprised me the most was the morning two weeks later. I was reading the Acts 7 story of Stephen to the boys. JJ asked, "Excuse me, may I go get the book with that picture in it?" I gave my permission, expecting him to come back with an illustrated children's Bible or something similar. Instead, he came back with this book, opened to a black and white copy of Rembrandt's 1625 "Stoning of St. Stephen." I was amazed...this book is full of Rembrandt's paintings, most in full colour. Yet JJ recognized the story I was reading instantly and related it to one picture he had looked at long before.

Another worthy resource was Rembrandt: A Biography by Elizabeth Ripley. This was a lovely living book, well-written and engaging. It was completely illustrated with copies of Rembrandt's own paintings, though unfortunately these were all in black and white. (At least my library copy was...) I recommend this book for about age seven and up.

I also stumbled across Hana in the Time of Tulips, a lovely picture book about the tulip craze in Holland during the time of Rembrandt. It only had a brief reference to Rembrandt, but the boys were very excited to recognize his name in the book.

The last book I checked out was for me, not the children. Henri Nouwen's The Return of the Prodigal Son is a book about the spiritual impact Rembrandt's "The Return of the Prodigal Son" had on Nouwen's life. This type of meditation and seeing deep meaning in a painting was completely foreign to my own experience, yet I was moved and instructed by it. Being Protestant myself, I felt uncomfortable with some of his ideas (he is a Catholic priest), but it was well worth reading all the same.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Somebody's About to Learn to Crawl...

But push-ups must come first!

(AJ, 7 months)

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Nature Journaling for the Intimidated: The Simple List

Here's an idea.

Get your children's shoes on and take them all into the back yard. Grab a notebook and pen on the way out. Then, start making a list of the things you see. Are there trees? Birds? Flowers? Clouds? Bugs? In a minute, your children will be running around, calling you to see the Queen Anne's Lace all closed up and gone to seed, bringing you yarrow and hawkweed, finding a deserted funnel web in the grass. Write it all down in a list. Add date, time, and weather. Decorate if you want.

A nature journal does not have to be complicated. It does not have to be perfect. In fact, as I've begun to do it more and more, I've found that the process is more important than the product. It's in the process that you realize how little you know, that you begin to notice and compare details, that you begin to gain skill in capturing what you see, hear, touch, and smell. A nature journal is a record of a learning process.

Anyone can make a list. One list every month can be a valuable record as you notice the changes from month to month. (So many flowers have gone to seed since last month!) A list could be a first step to recognizing what you want to learn more about. (What is that small aster-like flower with white petals and tiny purple flowers in the center?) A list requires no artistic skills. If you keep making lists like this, though, you may find yourself recording --and illustrating-- details of things you want to find out more about.

Keeping a nature journal does not have to be any more complicated than this. If it grows into more, well, you can take that as it comes! You do not have to start out knowing how to draw, or paint with watercolours, or knowing the names of everything you see. Start where you are. Make a list. Discover things to wonder at, things to find out more about. That's all you need to get started.

The joy you find as a parent in nature study and nature journalling will be naturally contagious to your children. I'll be honest, SA(7) still does not enjoy writing or drawing, as that's a natural weak area for him. But I've noticed that when he has gotten out his nature journal, it has been because I was making an entry in my own. All the children enjoyed helping me make this entry in my nature journal. They not only found things for me to add to my list, but they described some of them in great detail. This makes me happy, and I know it has great benefits for them, too.

Don't be intimidated by nature journaling. Make a list!