Fun with Plus Plus Big

With five little ones I feel like I’m non-stop multi-tasking and have to have a million tricks up my sleeves to keep the chaos minimal. Not gone, of course, because Sweet M’s middle name truly is Mayhem, and he was well-named, but minimal.

Often I hear people talk about “educational toys,” and the truth is, I sometimes fall into that pit of forgetting that play is learning for children, in all capacities. Sometimes I feel like if I can’t measure what they’re learning than maybe it isn’t useful or purposeful. But that isn’t true.

Ever.

When I’m trying to do school work with one kiddo, that leaves four other kids who need to entertain themselves. Well, okay, Avellana is pretty much always sleeping or nursing, but that’s still three other kiddos.

One of their absolute favorite activities is playing with Plus Plus Big tiles. They’re fun for all of my kiddos all the way from the 9.5 year old down to the 2 year old. Seriously.

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Sweet M is channeling his future Vogue pose here, complete with goggles and a chupi. We can all only wish to be this cool some day.

We found our love for Plus Plus before we learned of the Plus Plus Big. Those were life changing because they’re not really a choking hazard or susceptible to being vacuumed like their counterparts, which is always a win. Also, as much as we love Legos (and we REALLY love Legos), I love that Plus Plus Big aren’t quite as painful to step on, they’re easier to separate when you want to build new things, and there isn’t a million different shapes that I feel compelled to organize into compartments. I can toss all of the Plus Plus Big pieces into one container and feel like the organization gods will not condemn me.

You can play with Plus Plus Big completely with your own imagination, or use their giant cards to create works of art by following their patterns. Either way, my kids are learning. Er, playing. And that’s a beautiful thing.

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Original creation by Sweet M, age 3.5.

We got our Plus Plus Big tiles from Timberdoodle, and they are included in their complete preschool curriculumBut they can definitely be purchased outside of the curriculum because, as I said, these are well loved by all ages. J and I even enjoy getting in on the action with them, which says a lot because I don’t play as well as he does with the kids. I can read books and play board games and do school lessons and go to museums, but actual playing is more challenging for me. But I enjoy playing Plus Plus Big with them.

So if you’re looking for a new, long-lasting activity for your kiddo of any age, Plus Plus Big has you covered; whether you are wanting to teach colors, patterns, counting, constructing, or simply delve into their imaginative play, you will not be disappointed.

 

 

 

***I received a set of Plus Plus Big in exchange for this review, but all thoughts and opinions are genuine and mine alone.***

Find It

My kids are obsessed with books, and it pretty much starts in the womb. We read every day.

Every.

Single.

Day.

And I will often find my toddlers sitting on the floor, or cozied up on the couch, looking through books on their own.

It’s not uncommon to be in the middle of something and to have a tiny human thrust the edge of a book into my leg or arm, saying, “Momma, read dis.”

And because I’m a sucker for books (it’s the only thing they know they can ask for at any store and I am utterly unable to to tell them, no, they cannot have it. So we have a lot of books), I pretty much always stop what I’m doing and read to them.

I also read to each toddler individually before bed each night, and the big kids together, because we typically spend about an hour reading from a chapter book.

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Bean’s current favorite books are the “Find It” series. She requests to “read” them every night. And they came in handy on a recent cross-country road trip, as well.

The series is comprised of four different toddler-friendly board books: “Animals,” “Farm,” “Things That Go,” and “Bedtime.”

Each book has colorful pages with large pictures of coordinating theme objects or animals on one page, and a vibrant setting on the next page where your kiddo can “find” the object. Think “I Spy” for toddlers. What’s especially nice for those tactile toddlers is that the objects you are finding are outlined, so if you’re touching them you will feel them.

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Bean just turned 2, and she really loves these books that are recommended for ages 0-3, and I suspect will still be entranced with them for the foreseeable future. Sweet M is 3.5 and also enjoyed a few rounds of them, but has mostly outgrown them at this point, which seems appropriate and exactly age-ranged.

We really enjoy these books, and will definitely be a staple in our family library for many years to come between Bean and baby Avellana.

 

 

***I received a set of Find It books from Timberdoodle in exchange for this review, but all thoughts and opinions are genuine and solely mine. ***

Farmland Math

Somehow Sweet M is 3.5. HOW? And as precocious as they come, much like his big sister. I’m always finding ways to keep that little brain of his busy and challenged; not that he can’t do that on his own, but it often leads him  into quite a bit of mischief. Which seems on par for a three-year-old.

He loves “doing school” like Miss H and Mr. B, and I’m constantly on the lookout for more fun ways to incorporate “school” for him that is still primarily play based – because play really is the school of children! I want him to love learning, and I want for it to be as organic as possible.

So when we came across Farmland Math on Timberdoodle as a part of their full preschool curriculum, we knew it was for us!

Farmland Math is a set of fun, brightly colored animals, a waterproof farm mat (that flips to a dinosaur terrain on the opposite side – can’t beat that!), and a small 36-week long teacher’s guide.

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You could 100% ditch the teacher’s guide and simply, talk, and observe, and still get in so much new knowledge and hands on learning if you felt compelled, but I really like having the teacher’s guide because I like having ideas. Also, it allows my nine-year-old to “play” math with him while I’m nursing the baby or Mr. B does is AAR lessons. Although she is stellar at playing with her younger siblings, she also really loves to feel in charge (what oldest child does not?), and this is a great, fun way for her to get her fill of that.

Farmland Math guides kiddos through counting, sorting, recognizing colors and patterns; all those early math skills they need to be successful later on in life. But it does it in such a fun, playful, age-appropriate manner that no one sees it as “school work” (unless that’s what they’re wanting and you so you tell them it is so!).

I particularly love the chunky, colorful farm animals. They’re great for getting the “work” done, but then Sweet M and Bean (2), can also play and entertain themselves for quite a while on their own with them. And because it’s all so durable and easy to clean, I know it will last through Sweet M and Bean, and that even baby Ave will get to enjoy it when she enters her preschool years! And when school should be play, it’s great to see the materials work for both school use and every day play use; it makes you feel confident in your investments.

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I really cannot recommend Farmland Math enough as part of your home school preschool or simply as another fun addition to the playroom.

Cat Crimes

We’ve been super busy with a newborn around here this month (whose birth story I am hoping to get up soon!).

We were fed so well and loved on her first week of life. And the kids are all adjusting so well, as they love her to absolute bits (not surprising, she’s fairly scrumptious). J has been a professional toddler wrangler so I can cozy up with our darling Avellana (her Spanish nickname that J dubbed her – not her legal name) and just drink up all this newborn bliss. Because even after 5 sweet little babes, it just does not get old.

And our big kids? They had the awesome experience of getting to spend this past week with their grandparents up north, but before that they were doing a stellar job of being helpful and self-entertaining.

They’ve been reading lots of new books, and building crazy Lego and Plus Plus contraptions, as well as playing lots of games together. I love that they both enjoy playing board games and the like, because they are getting big enough to play games with each other without the need of adult help – and they can play with J and I! I mean, games that are actually enjoyable for us, too (you can only play Candyland so many times before the colors all start to blur together…)

Their newest favorite game to play comes from Timberdoodle, and is called Cat Crimes. H and B were both super excited when it arrived, and could not wait a second to start playing. Lucky for them, the toddlers had all ready been put to bed, so it was safe to take it out and have a go of it.

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Cat Crimes is a fun “who done it” logic game, with increasingly more difficult challenge cards, so kids (and adults!) can up the complexities and difficult level as desired the more rounds that they play.

It’s rated for ages 8+, and Mr. B is almost 8, but it could most definitely be played by younger kiddos, too. I think they both would have been able to grasp it and enjoy this game as early as 6. And at almost 8 and 9, they are able to play it over and over again without any adult assistance, which has been lovely these past few weeks.

But it’s also such a fun-filled, brain-working game that J and I enjoy popping in for a round when able as well. I definitely see Cat Crimes as a game the whole family can enjoy, and it will be in heavy rotation around here. So if you need a fun game that helps work on their logic skills (but is so fun they have no idea it’s helping their brains expand!), Cat Crimes gets four big thumbs up from Miss H and Mr. B!

Chasing Fireflies

My kids recently had a friend over and stayed up late enough to go outside and catch lightning bugs with J. Sorry, fireflies. Apparently “lightning bugs” is a term of my youth, and not couth with my kids, ha.

Because we are typically pretty big sticklers about bedtime – I prefer happy well-rested kids, because it makes me a happier momma – they rarely get to stay up late enough in the summer for the fireflies to light up the skies (I mean, 10pm is past my bedtime). So when we had the opportunity to check out the super fun game Chasing Fireflies from Timberdoodle, we were all over it!

Although the game says it is for ages 4+, all four of my kiddos – aged 9 years, 7 years, 3.5 years, and 22 months – loved playing this game. It was so much fun to watch them run around, finding the blinking fireflies around the yard (and maybe they had some drippy ice cream to go with it).

They broke off in teams so they had to work together to find their colored fireflies: green or blue. And off they went!

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There are two jars of fireflies that come in the game Chasing Fireflies. A few of the fireflies had to have their batteries re-positioned to get them lighting up, but otherwise, they were flawless and well-loved straight out of the box. Sweet M even wanted to take a jar of blinking fireflies with him to bed! He sure does know how to re-create my childhood.

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It was also really nice to see my boys working together to chase down their fireflies, as opposed to knocking heads: I loved that this game has the ability to be as competitive or collaborative as one may want. And that as few as two people can play (or really, even just one kiddo would still delight in running about, chasing down the fireflies on their own!), or that larger groups of kids could play in teams.

Chasing Fireflies is top notch and I would recommend it over and over again for any preschool or elementary-aged kiddo! And I have four babes who all unanimously agree – which is saying a lot!

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*** I was given the game Chasing Fireflies from Timberdoodle in exchange for this review, but all thoughts and opinions are genuine, and mine alone. 

Light Schooling through the Summer

Do you school year-round, or take the summer off?

I always like the idea of giving my kids long, “school”-free summers, but it’s never the reality.

Mostly because they thrive on some bit of structure (though obviously they spend most of their time in free play because I’m the world’s biggest advocate in that). And also, I want to make sure they retain the information they’re learning, and don’t slide back.

Now that Sweet M has officially joined the school bandwagon – by choice – I didn’t really do anything outside of lots and lots of reading with Miss H and Mr. B in their preschool years, I’ve really had to put some thought into what each one of them is doing because I have to prioritize our time with a family of soon-to-be five kids. But it’s worth it!

So although we don’t do full curriculum schooling over the summer, there is still some structured schooling going on. My kids call it “light schooling.”

So what are they all working on over the summer?

Miss H is officially doing spelling and math. She is such an avid and voracious reader, that I haven’t felt as compelled to do much with her in formal terms after she completed all of the All About Reading program (which seriously, I cannot rave enough about!). Her spelling, however, is just not there. And I know, I know, it takes time, and not everyone is going to win the spelling bee. But at 9, officially a 4th grader, even simple words are very kreatyv. But I will be honest, we’ve tried several different spelling programs and philosphies, and nothing yet has “clicked” for her. So I’m still searching.

For math we have really been enjoying Math Lessons for a Living Education. Again, we’ve tried several over the years, and this is the first that both she and Mr. B have both really enjoyed. We are also working on memorizing her times tables through 12. She isn’t as keen on that, but hey. There are some things you just gotta know.

We’re also doing a bit of geography with everyone, fun cooking from around the world, and lots and lots of reading literature.

Mr. B is working on reading and math primarily. He’s still working through All About Reading Level 1 with the enticing incentive that once he is reading fairly fluently and independently, he can finally download Minecraft. He’s taken a little longer to catch on to reading, and I am okay with that; everyone learns at their own pace. But I do know he’d be so much happier if he could read independently because he wants to, he just also doesn’t like things that are hard work.

He is also buzzing through the same math as Miss H, because math and science are really his strong points, and I want to keep him busy in things he loves, too. Obviously. I don’t want to ever crush his love of learning.

And Sweet M? He’s pretty much got his colors and shapes down like a pro, and he’s super interested in his letters, so I got him the Illustrated Alphabet book and big bananagrams and he’s having a lot of fun learning about recognizing letters and their sounds. I’m thinking may incorporate some number games as well, and maybe even these feelings flashcards, because he’s been having a hard time expressing and identifying his feelings at times. It’s been a pretty big year for him. But he really wants to “do school” like his big brother and sister, so I figure that isn’t in the too far off distance for him!

3rd Grade Language Arts with Mosdos Press

Teaching language arts makes me a bit anxious. Maybe because I love reading, and I really want my kiddos to embrace it as well. I want them to enjoy language arts the way I do, and not create a wedge where they don’t enjoy it any longer.

Outside of simply learning to read, and then reading like crazy, I hadn’t done any formal language arts program with Miss H yet. I knew they existed, and each year I would peek at them, but I just really wanted her to have a solid foundation in reading and a love for it before taking on anything more.

I was super excited when I was asked by Timberdoodle to review Mosdos 3rd grade language arts, as it had been the language arts program I’d had my eye on pretty intently for when we chose to delve in.

Miss H was pretty excited with this venture from the get-go simply because it was so aesthetically pleasing. 8-year-olds can be some of the easiest (and hardest!) to win over sometimes. But colorful books with flowers and butterflies just made her happy, so she was eager to get to work!

The student readers are broken down into two books so that they’re not overwhelmingly large books for the kids’ to work with. They also feel like they’re flying through things at an expedited rate, which for my 3rd grader is always a morale boost. She loves to see how fast she can learn and accomplish things.

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H and I both really enjoyed the stories provided by Mosdos Opal edition. They are diverse and intriguing, which for our family is an absolute must. She could read them all herself, which was great if I was busy helping other kiddos, though we do admittedly love reading them together. The teacher guide provided so many amazing notes and questions to go with each story that I could engage with her either while reading the stories, or after, to ascertain how much she was truly comprehending. But it was nice that during the hectic days, she could do the coordinating workbooks pages even if we didn’t get to have as much discussion about the stories, and I knew she was still getting just as much from the books. I love a solid program that allows for either independent learning, or cooperative learning, and both options are equally rewarding.

I can confidently say that Mosdos Press Literature will be our choice for language arts as we go forward as it is such a diverse, vocabulary-rich, fun program that makes kids want to jump in and learn each day.

 

***This review is sponsored by Timberdoodle in exchange for a Mosdos Press language arts curriculum. As always, I only endorse programs and companies that I genuinely love, and all thoughts and opinions are my own. ***

 

Kumon Science (Pre-K &Up)

When I was asked to review Kumon Science for Timberdoodle, I was pretty excited because we love Kumon books around here. I think Kumon is loved by many families, whether or not they homeschool, since they’re great, engaging, colorful books that can work as a stand alone curriculum, supplement alongside another curriculum, or supplement for kiddos educated outside of the home.

thought I’d be using this book with Mr. B, but he really took to his sister’s Berean Science and didn’t look back. Which turned out to be a great thing, because Sweet M really wanted to “do school” with his sibs. I hadn’t really planned on doing anything even remotely formal with him, as he is not yet even three (but so soon, oh my goodness!). But he is oh-so similiar to his very precocious big sister, and he is so ready, that it was hardly fair to say no based on the “norms.”

So I decided to let him start Kumon Science and he did not disappoint! He was so excited! Since he knows his shapes and colors and can use a writing instrument fairly well, he was definitely ready.

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The lessons are short and simple, so he doesn’t lose interest before he is done. He often asks to keep going and do more than one lesson!

Sweet M loves all the vibrant colors in the book, and the realistic pictures. He, of course, loves that so many of the pages involve stickers.

I love that the lessons are informative, but age appropriate. He’s learning the differences between living and non-living things,  minerals, land forms, mixing colors, and so much more, which allows for a lot of hands-on science to occur as we delve deeper into exploring the lessons.

And one other added bonus: his big sister loves to play “teacher,” and she can help him keep him entertained with his Kumon Science while I help Mr. B with reading. It’s a win-win for everyone!

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***This post is sponsored by Timberdoodle, but as always, the thoughts and opinions are mine, and I only endorse products I genuinely love.

Berean Science: Science in the Scientific Revolution

Science has always been one of those daunting subjects for me. I’ve always felt comfortable teaching my kiddos to read and knowing just how and with which curriculum worked best for us.

Math isn’t my strongest suit, and we’ve definitely hopped around a lot trying to figure out what works best for us, but I’ve never worried that we’d miss something or they’d be insufficient in math at the end of the day.

But science?

Something about it always has me questioning if we’re doing enough. If they’re learning enough. If they’re enjoying it enough. And since H and B really love science, I hate to think I am doing them a disservice.

This year we’ve had the opportunity to try Berean Science from Timberdoodle and it’s relieved so many of my worries

We are using their 3rd grade curriculum “Science in the Scientific Revolution” but Mr. B is listening right along with us (he’s 7, technically an “older” 1st grader) and loving it just as much as Miss H.

It’s particularly fun because although they’ll both cuddle up and listen to me read aloud to them, they will also squirrel away together and Miss H will read to the both of them. Without being prompted. They just genuinely love reading their science book that much. I’m thinking we may go back and read the previous books when we are finished, as they’re zooming through this book so quickly we’ll be through it in no time!

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The kids love the colorful illustrations and the suggested science experiments (really though, who doesn’t love a fun, hands-on experiment?). There is a very concise list at the beginning of the book that tells you what will be needed for each experiment in each section, and it has thus far all been things we have in our home, which is a bonus. Plus, I love that the book always tell them to clean up their mess!

There is a good review section after each lesson to help reinforce that they grasped what they’ve learned. We haven’t felt compelled to always do the review since we’re typically chatting and working together, but if you have your kiddo doing their science independently (which they could definitely do at this age with this curriculum!) then it would be really helpful as the parent/teacher to double check their learning.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect when we received our Berean Science from Timberdoodle. As I said, science is daunting for me and I just hadn’t felt like we’ve really found a curriculum that “clicked” for our family, or even one particular child (we are totally open to different curriculum working best for different kiddos based on learning styles over here). But I would recommend Berean Science over and over again as we have really loved it over here!

 

***This review was done in exchange for the Berean Science from Timberdoodle, but as always, all thoughts and opinions are genuine, and I only endorse products we truly love.***

All About Reading

Miss H wasn’t even quite five years old when she sat me down for a very important discussion.

“Momma,” she said seriously, “I need to read. All by myself.”

One part of me was thrilled. Reading is my favorite hobby and pastime. Anything and everything I could ever possibly want to learn or know I’ve gained through reading. And with her being my first kiddo, I was ecstatic to share this with her.

But the other part of me? I was terrified. How in the world was I to teach this sweet girl to read? It really made me start questioning all of my life choices, and maybe I wasn’t really cut out to be her teacher after all? I mean, what if I screwed this up!?

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But like with all things, I dove head first into research and decided I was going to do this for my girl, even if it caused to gray prematurely (it didn’t!).

I did a lot of research. It’s what I’m good at.

And in the end, I settled on the All About Reading curriculum to help us plunge feet first into the wonderful world of reading.

We haven’t looked back since! She’s on level 4 now (which is her favorite because it is purple, and those things are important when you are 8), and is an incredibly proficient reader. I’m always a little surprised when I hear her read a word I didn’t realize she knew, and it’s pretty amazing to watch her completely engulfed in reading; getting lost in adventures for hours on end.

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As an adult and an avid reader, I have learned so many rules in decoding just by teaching Miss H with this curriculum, which has been a lot of fun for both of us.

All About Reading is such an incredibly comprehensive curriculum that you will never need to supplement with other reading instruction in those early years. Its multi-sensory approach “teaches phonics, decoding, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.”

Every lesson plan is greatly detailed and well laid out for you as the teacher, so all you have to do is open the book and go. With tangible letter tiles, flash cards, word practice sheets, and lots of fun reading games and stories, it’s really hard to not love All About Reading.

 

 

***I was given the ARR Level 4 curriculum from Timberdoodle in exchange for this review. As always, I only support companies and products that I genuinely love, and thoughts and opinions are all my own. ***