Come the weekend, my daughters love to fight over who gets to use my husband’s iPad (you know, your average Saturday struggle). So like most families with different aged kids, we’re always on the lookout for apps that will suit everyone’s interests–easier said than done. Fortunately, my 8-year-old loves playing school and you can only guess who has been recruited as her one-and only student. When my girls got their hands on Educational Insights’ Hot Dots Jr. app, it was all they could do not to contain their excitement. The game play is relatively straightforward: four categories (ABCs, numbers, colors and shapes) with 12 questions in each. A friendly girl prompts young players to answer questions and with each correct answer, a talking dog rewards them with a job well done. My 8-year-old helped walk my 4-year-old through the first sets of questions, but once she got the hang of it, this preschooler was off and running, virtually speaking. Typical questions range from basic letter recognition, to more complex challenges like identifying the word “four” along with the numeric figure 4. Both my girls enjoyed the shapes category best, as they raced each other to see who could complete a pattern first: “diamond, square, triangle; diamond, square…what comes next?” For my younger daughter, this app kept her attention and taught her some new concepts that she’ll surely pick up on in the classroom this fall. And for my older kid, it was a way to reinforce what she has already mastered, while enabling her to demonstrate her own teaching skills. Who knows? We have just have a future educator on our hands…
In a Nutshell: Keep the summer slump at bay with an educational app for the iPhone/iPad that puts budding teachers in the driver’s seat. Ideal backseat companion for road trip/vacation time.
TGIF! In honor of the upcoming weekend, we’re helping host a special promotion with toy maker Educational Insights. The company is giving away a gift card valued at $50 good towards the purchase of any Educational Insights products. All you need to do is “Like” Educational Insights on Facebook between now and Sunday, October 16 at 12 a.m. PST, and then contact The Talking Walnut. We’ll select one lucky person randomly. Good luck!
Wild Walnut Special: Start your holiday shopping now by entering to win a $50 gift card from Educational Insights.
Congratulations to Olivia L.!
I don’t which subject my daughter loves more these days: reading or math. She devours books just as veraciously as she does numbers, so I’d have to say it’s a toss-up. (Wish I could credit my genes for the math, but I’ll have to settle for helping shape her into a wordsmith…). In the meantime, trying to keep up with her fascination with all things binary is not as easy as introducing her to a new author or making frequent jaunts to the library. What’s a a numbers-challenged mom to do? For kids who love a good math fix, especially during these last few weeks of summer vacation, Math Slam will motivate them to test their skill set. At first glance, it’s an electronic handheld game. But before you shout cries of, “Oh no, not another one of those!,” take a closer look. This is not a character-driven, mind-numbing flurry of lights and noise, but rather a well-paced, question-after-question game that quizzes kids on everything from simple subtraction, to more complex equations (algebra, anyone?). Players are posed with a question, and they must hit one of the corresponding buttons with the right answer…before time runs out. My 7-year-old is delighted to be able to impress us with her rapid-fire right answers, and aspires to make it through all three levels. I hope I can keep up with her; I may have to hide out with my Tina Fey book.
In a Nutshell: If the extent of your kiddie math days only date back to the “Numbers Rhumba,” help your child challenge herself with a mind-blowing math game.
How good are you at Scrabble? Can you polish off the Sunday Times crossword puzzle in an afternoon? If so, maybe KaBAM wouldn’t faze you. But if you relish a good challenge and want to test your spelling smarts with your kids, I invite you to get a copy of this word-building game and see just how vast your vocabulary is. My daughter and I have been playing KaBAM for the last few weeks and I must admit to being stumped on more than occasion. The concept is simple, but trying to win is anything but. Players draw cards, each containing one or more letters, and then must add a minimum of one letter to create a new word. Once you know a word, shout it out and collect both cards. Whoever accrues the most cards by the time you’ve gone through the entire deck wins! Sounds easier than it looks, I assure you. Assuming I have more than 30 years reading experience over my 7-year-old, I figured I could sit back and politely “let” her win a few rounds. But the truth of the matter is I was scratching my head over words I could make using odd letter combinations. Sure there are plenty of no-brainer answers when slamming down cards containing an A and PR (“pray,” for one, as in who knew I’d need to call upon a higher power to bring me luck during this game). But how about when you draw cards like TI and OU? The rules say you can’t change the order of a letter combination to come up with an answer. Let’s just say my daughter racked up quite a few points in this game. KaBAM is a great way to keep kids’ minds active during those lazy summer months when reading falls by the wayside. It’s one that we’ll definitely be taking with us on vacation. Now excuse me while I go catch up on my reading…the dictionary, that is.
In a Nutshell: Scrabble buffs meet their match with this engrossing word-building game that truly puts your working vocabulary to the test.
I must confess: In my younger days, I was a closet geologist. One summer on break from middle school, I became infatuated–no, make that obsessed–with all kinds of rocks and minerals. After a stint as a nature camp counselor, I could proudly rattle off the difference between sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic. I knew my quartz from my graphite, and eventually became a collector of many treasured finds. And no, it wasn’t because I was hoping to score a big, fat diamond someday. Now, I get to impart my learned wisdom (or whatever is left of it) to my daughters. Since studying rocks is hardly considered “sexy,” I love when I can stumble upon a educational product that can get my own juices flowing and, in turn, get my 7-year-old excited about science. The Everyday Uses Rock & Card Set is a wonderfully packaged, all-in-one-kit designed to teach your budding geologist about how certain substances play an important role in our lives. It comes with 12 rocks and minerals, along with 12 double-sided cards that feature kid-friendly facts. In our house, a lump of coal may have been designated for those on Santa’s naughty list, but did you know that it’s used mainly in making electricity? Those who really want to flex their muscles can study substances like malachite, bauxite and dolomite..feeling like a genius yet? I know I’m enjoying revisiting my youth…rock on!
In a Nutshell: Rock nerds unite: here’s a great reason to dust off your old shoebox of backyard finds, and share your knowledge.
Getting my daughter to write thank you notes isn’t an easy feat and from what I hear, it only gets more challenging with age. But short of bribing her–hey, I had to write my fair share of thank yous when I was a kid, and we just did what we were told–I wondered if there wasn’t a way to make this chore a little less arduous. Well, score one for Smens scented pens. These are the grown-up cousin of Smencils, an equally refreshing line of colored pencils that make practicing ABCs a treat for little noses. Each pack contains 10 uniquely named pens with cool monikers like Aloha and Banana Fo Fana. We can’t decide what we like best about Smens: the fact that they are made from recycled newspaper, or that they are individually wrapped in their own biodegradable plastic tube. Eco-friendliness aside, when it come to expressing thanks for that bathrobe from Grandma, the nose knows…
In a Nutshell: Say “Aloha” to a writing instrument that’s a real treat for the senses. We smell a hit with Smens.
My 7-year-old has her own tape measure; I kid you not. Maybe it’s because she expressed an early interest in home improvement, thanks to her handy father, and wanted to covet her own tool. When she’s not assisting her dad around the house, this tape measure has become a useful tool for her math homework when she can’t seem to locate her MIA ruler. This ingenuity got me to thinking about inventive ways to make math fun, and so I stumbled upon Inching Along. This clever board game makes the chore of using a ruler repeatedly a little less tedious. Set against a camping-themed backdrop (just in time for summer), Inching Around has its players move around the board as they draw cards and solve coded math problems, ranging from simple addition/subtraction, to more complex equations. The universal tool? A yellow ruler with which to determine the number of spaces they are permitted to move. Once someone reaches the finish line (at 75 inches), they win. Inching Along is designed for 2-4 players, ages 5 and up.
In a Nutshell: When it comes to engaging board games disguised as teaching tools, Inching Along truly measures up.
When my almost 7-year-old was in preschool, she brought home a plastic jar filled with pom poms and declared that she needed to count each and every one of them. “Huh?,” I thought. “I’m not exactly sure that’s what your teachers had in mind,” I gently replied. We all remember the “guess how many jellybeans are in the jar, and win a prize!”-type contests. For some it was pure delight–can I count to one gazillion?–and for other kids, a source of frustration. “How can I know for sure if I don’t count them one by one?,” rationalized my daughter, teetering on the brink of a fit. Taking an educated guess is a great life-long skill that can be refined over time, so it certainly helps to make a game of it. The Estimation Station is the perfect anecdote to makeshift guessing jars that don’t quite make the grade. It comes with a handy scooper that lets kids portion out some of the jar’s contents, enabling them to make a more calculated guess. To further pique the interest of your mathematician-in-the-making, an activity guide offers up more ways to dabble in statistics, graphing and reasoning. A great tool for in and out of the classroom, the Estimation Station is worth a visit.
In a Nutshell: Counting isn’t always as simple 1-2-3. Your kid will become a master of “guesstimation” with this easy-to-use learning toy in disguise.
How is it that even if I take one day off from doing laundry, the amount of clothes in our bathroom hamper appears to triple–no, make that quadruple– overnight? It’s one household task that no matter how frequently you check it off your to-do list, bang! there it is, waiting for you the very next day. To make the chore a little less tedious, I’ve tried to inject some fun into it lately by making it into a game for my preschooler. We sort by color, talk about opposites (“wet” vs. “dry”) and, of course, I let her pitch some socks into the dryer every now and then. But once the machines start their whirling and spinning, she freaks out and our game is over. (Hey, this is the same kid who can’t stand the sound of a blender, so what should I expect?). Luckily, we’ve been able to transfer this learning experience over to a board game that puts laundry at her level. Laundry Jumble hinges on another favorite preschool task–getting dressed–and players take turn selecting a piece of clothing from a pint-sized fabric dryer. The idea is to reach and feel for the item that matches the one featured on your playing card. While my little one was not exactly adept at guessing which item was in the dryer by touch, she did have a blast exploring the different clothes and seeing what garment coordinated with a particular character. Let’s hope she can someday partake in clothes folding with the same enthusiasm!
In a Nutshell: Finally, a place where colors and whites can co-exist–and I don’t have to feel like an idiot when I mix my darks and lights.
After three days at home with a sick kid, we’ve been going a little nutty over here. Once TV has run its course and activity books have lost their allure, you know it’s time to break out a board game. Well, even if my daughter isn’t yet cured of her virus, she’s been having a blast playing The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game. The concept is simple (perfect for foggy, cold-infected little minds): Each player gets a mini log and uses a spinner to land on a color. Once they have collected one acorn for each of the corresponding colors, they win! The trick is to demonstrate your dexterity with the Squirrel Squeezer (don’t worry–no animals are harmed in the playing of this game), tongs in the likeness of the backyard critter that allow you to grasp acorns off the tree-shaped board. And beware of the masked squirrel who just might steal your acorns, or the blowing wind that threatens to overturn your log. We were able to play several rounds of this game without losing our momentum–and without me checking my watch every 10 minutes. I am human, after all.
In a Nutshell: Yes, sick days can definitely make a kid (and her mom) a bit nutty, but a good game can help pass the time and cure the boredom blues.