Category Archives: play

Magic Stix markers ~ a Crew review


We had an opportunity to review Magic Stix Washable Markers from The Pencil Grip, Inc. If you remember back in December, we had a chance to try out their set of 12 markers. This time, we were able to try out their set of 24 markers.

We have enjoyed having these Magic Stix Washable Markers. They are vibrant and bright. They are smooth to write and color with. And they bring artwork to life. Okay – I guess that is a bit boastful but they do really show it off well because of the intensity of color.

Magic Stix 24 set markers

The Pencil Grip, Inc. created these markers with children in mind. There are several features that show that to be true.

  • They are non-toxic. I know, most things for children are these days but it doesn’t go without saying. It needs to be said and the Magic Stix say it right on the front of the colored with Magic Stix
  • They have a cap that is vented. It took me a bit to figure out what this meant. Basically, the cap that cover the marker tip is solid and keeps the air out. But around that, there are open spaces that allow the air to flow. This is important for children because we all know that one child who puts everything in their mouth. Well, if this ends up in their mouth or worse – in their airway – the air can still pass through while medical attention is sought. That is quite a safety feature!
  • There is no odor. I am not one that is bothered by odors but some people, and particularly some children, are. The no odor factor is huge if your child is sensitive.
  • Magic Stix are washable. This is important. When it got on our table cloth, it took a couple of washes to get it out but it did come out. When it got on a melamine table top, it took some scrubbing and it came off. Mostly – I knew where it was but when someone else who didn’t know was asked, they couldn’t find the spot, so that counts as coming off, right?
  • The plastic case is wonderful! It has a handle that is easy to grip and the plastic latches are easy to lock and unlock, even for little hands. The case is rigid and study. It has a slot for each of the markers and they snap into place. I don’t need a case for markers but this is one of those things that is just a step above other companies. It brings just a tad bit of a smile to my face to have everything neat and organized in a solid case.Magic Stix washable markers
  • They don’t dry out. This claim is one that I have mixed feelings about. Our first experience, we felt like the markers dried out so that is one of the big reasons we wanted to try them again. This time, we feel like they have done much better. However, we still have experienced the warm colors (red, orange, yellow) not working as well as when we first received them.  And definitely not as well as the cooler colors – blues and greens. We did not do a cap-off test. (Some other families did so make sure you check out the other Crew reviews.)

When you get this set of Magic Stix Washable Markers, you get 24 vibrant, bright, bold colors. There are multiple shades of blue and green. The red, orange, yellow, pink, purple, and brown each have a couple of shades. There is a gray and a black in this set, also. There are plenty of colors to make every picture you are coloring come to life with bright colors. And, if you are familiar with how to layer light colors on the bottom and darker ones on top, there is a lot you can do with these colors.

Miss J absolutely adores these markers and uses them often. Several times a week, I find her using them to color her geography page or decorate a card for someone. She has used them to color while someone reads to her. They stay out constantly and are definitely a favorite.

coloring geography pictures

Overall, I do like the Magic Stix Washable Markers better than other markers we have had or used. I do wish the warm colors worked better for us but I enjoy having them and using them regardless. They still make bright marks with a bit of effort and the other colors are all working fantastic. Besides, coloring is good for our spirits, so a little extra time with a few of the colors is not a problem.

coloring together

Check out The Pencil Grip, Inc. and their selection of products for creative minds, including the Magic Stix (previous review), Kwik Stix (review of 12 pack, metallic colors), and Thin Stix (creativity pack review, six pack review).

At Home.

Read reviews by other families who used the Magic Stix Washable Markers, some of whom did the 7-day cap off test. Find out how it went!

Magic Stix Washable Markers {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Surprise Learning with legos


I am not a lego person. Never have been. I can build a mean brick wall and that is about it. Even as a kid with tons of bricks blocks around (yea – we had the good stuff, before legos took over the world) I could only build walls and squares. I just have never mastered the visual of using square and rectangular blocks to make anything other than a house.

So, imagine my joy when I saw the giggly girls creating some quite ingenious items with legos. The girls have spent some school time over at grandma’s house lately while I had some other stuff to do and while there, they pulled out the legos. As I walked in the door each time, I was greeted with “Come see what I made!” and “Take a picture!” So, for your viewing pleasure today, I share with you the surprise learning my girls did in creating with legos.


house on stilts with dog house (note the little paper dogs, too)


amusement park, complete with entry way


moving vehicle


house with an elevator and a hover board


restaurant with parking lot and back patio


house with garage and cars

Surprising learning and exploration like this only happens with freedom from binding lesson plans and directions. Lots of people call this “play.” Play is so important, even in the life of a middle schooler. Don’t let them get too old to play because through the experimentation and freedom from rules that happens in play, they grow and learn and understand more of the world around them.

At Home.

Tabletop Marbles

Tabletop Marbles 2The other day, when we had finished up lunch and the dishes, we needed something for the girls to do. It was wet and rainy, as has been the case here for the last two months it seems. So, we opted for tabletop marbles. We used the normal marble rules but we had a tablecloth that formed the shooting ring.

Tabletop Marbles 3

Now, I don’t know all the rules and we only had one shooter marble. It got passed around and each person got a shot. On your shot, any marbles that made it outside of the center ring of the tablecloth (it was a circus themed cloth, after all) you got to keep. If you didn’t connect with any marbles the first time, you got an extra shot. (I’m a softie that way.)

Tabletop Marbles

Tabletop marbles lasted us a long time and we had a lot of fun. Especially since we found a different way to reset the marbles at the beginning of each game. I wish I could claim the whole idea of tabletop marbles but I have to give credit where credit is due. My awesome mother-in-law came up with the idea when the girls were getting restless and it was a hit. I imagine the girls will be asking to play tabletop marbles again next time it rains.

At Home.

Orphs of the Woodlands – a TOS review

Have you ever wished that your child’s favorite thing could be used to teach them their least favorite things? Well, get a taste of it with Orphs of the Woodlands. This is an online education resource and game that combines reading with experiencing hundreds of tidbits of knowledge.
Star Toaster introduced their first book in the Orphs of the Woodlands series not too long ago. It is titled The Treasure of HighTower and our family was thrilled to get the chance to review it.

TOS review

The Treasure of HighTower did not disappoint. Star Toaster has created a story line about a squirrel, whom your child gets to name, that becomes a spy and helps to rescue orphaned forest creatures. The story is so exciting, so full of adventure, that the girls had a hard time not reading all the way through it in pretty quick succession. They wanted to just keep reading. But, if they did that, they were going to miss an important and exciting part of the program.

As the story goes along, Spy (what we’ll call the squirrel for the time being) runs into orphans, or orphs, that need help. If Spy doesn’t learn what is put before him in his day to day life, he won’t have the money to provide the help these orphs need. So, Spy must learn and pay attention and do the jobs in order to earn money and rescue the orphs. The more NID (New Information Daily) that is learned, the better Spy does on his jobs and the more money he has to rescue and provide for the orphs.

experiencing lessons


Now, don’t misunderstand. These are fun jobs! I mean, who wouldn’t want to be in charge of creating the exact color of paint needed for the HighTower Highbrow Museum of Art? Or what about being a number namer for the bank? Letter Linguist? Synonym Specialist? Maybe you want to bake something for the Badger Bakery? Whatever you want to try out, there is a job for you!

How do you get these jobs? Begin reading the book at the beginning. After each chapter is completed, there are new jobs that you can work. Each job completed correctly will pay gold stars, with which you can take care of the orphs. Do a good job and more orphs will come to be taken care of. The girls loved seeing how many orphs appeared at the end of each chapter.

discovering moreI want to share a couple of thoughts about the product. I am impressed with this product. It has done a wonderful job of exposing the girls to about 240 different aspects of learning. (This is how many jobs were completed by E when she had finished the book.) Some of the jobs reappear with a bit more difficult learning tucked in there but I don’t consider the girls to have gotten significant instruction on most of these topics. They were definitely exposed to them and it opened up a world of ideas to the girls, which is fantastic. (We took several “rabbit trails” to explore some of these worlds of ideas based on the information presented.) This does in no way diminish the quality or worth of this program. The more exposure the girls have with more difficult concepts in a familiar context, the easier those concepts are for them to learn.

Reading is the bridge for this program. You definitely need to have a good reader with good comprehension for this program. The range for this program is suggested 4th – 7th grades. I think this is a good range but it could easily stretch younger or older. My 3rd grader was easily able to read it but she loves to read. There are lots of words she didn’t know but there are rollovers embedded in the story that give the part of speech and several synonyms in varying degrees of difficulty for the word. There are also rollovers for quotes and ideas that are shared as part of the story, exposing the reader to thoughts of great thinkers from all walks of life.

quote and vocabulary

Because this is an online program you will need to purchase a subscription for the book and you will need a computer to read and complete the jobs. I hope everyone has easy access to a computer because this was worth the time and effort. The girls learned so much and I have a much better idea about some of the curriculum choices we need to make for them because I saw how much they enjoyed learning that was embedded in reading a story.

As I close this review, I want to share one more thing that we absolutely loved about Orphs. Throughout the book, there are videos. Prof. Forp is the instructor and he is hilarious! He cracks jokes that help them remember information and repeats things in such a way that they are remembered AND make sense. You can see an example of his video on the Star Toaster home page. The girls, E especially, really enjoyed the Professor.  And I loved the jokes. This is one I can wholeheartedly say “Go check out.”

free trial

We are waiting anxiously for the next book to come out in the Orphs of the Woodlands series by Star Toaster. If this sounds interesting to you, they have a free trial that you should check out. (Psst – this would also be a fantastic addition to a summer reading program.)

At Home.


Connect with Star Toaster on Social Media.



Star Toaster ReviewCrew Disclaimer

Felt Board Christmas Tree

Christmas Cub tree 3

Christmas Cub book


One of our Christmas Books this year is called The Christmas Cub. It is written by Justine Korman Fontes. It is a really sweet little book about a bear cub named Pip who learn all about the traditions of Christmas. Evergreen does a wonderful job of teaching Pip and is rewarded with a gift that illuminates Christmas forever more – Pip hangs rainbows on her branches to decorate her and she becomes the first Christmas tree.


I really like this little book and love sharing it with the girls every year. This year, we created a Christmas tree felt board activity to go along with it. We used scraps leftover from creating a felt nativity and their countdown trees, which makes this a perfect Make It Work Monday post. Everyone cut and created shapes and ideas and we put them all together for this fun little activity.

Christmas Cub tree 2

To make the board, I just took a sturdy piece of cardboard and used Elmer’s Tacky Glue to glue a piece of felt to it. Use any color you like but a neutral color will serve as a better background for more activities.

To make the tree, I drew half of a tree for a pattern. We placed it on the fold of some green felt and one of the girls cut it out. Since it was cut on a fold, when you open it up, you should have a symmetrical tree.

To make the decorations, we dug through the pile of felt scraps and chose colors we wanted. Some of the pieces we just free-handed with the scissors. Others, I cut little patterns out of paper for and we used those to cut some of the ornaments.


Christmas Cub rainbow tree


Christmas Cub rainbows

We also made some rainbows to decorate the tree like Pip did in the book. To do this, we just colored rainbows on Sew-In Colorfast Fabric Sheets for Ink Jet Printers by June Tailor, Inc. using Sharpies. Simple. Really! Color and cut.



We actually made two of these. One is for our felt board that we have and all the girls enjoy playing with (even 10 year old E). The other is a present for some sweet little friends of the girls to share the Christmas spirit with them, just like Pip did in the book.

I have included a FREE pattern for you to use to make your own Christmas tree felt board activity. Just click on the link below to open the PDF and print or save. Feel free to share the link back here for the pattern. Christmas Cub tree pattern

Christmas Cub tree pattern

I’d love to hear about it if you make a felt tree activity. Let me know how it works and if you kids enjoy it. Blessings to you all this Christmas season. At Home.

Make It Work Monday Title


Make It Work Monday – horse jumps

Make It Work Monday Title

All three of the giggly girls love to play. One of the favorite forms of play at this time is pretending that at least one of the dolls is an equestrian. The horses come out with the dolls and all sorts of ideas go flying. During one of these intense sessions of equestrian play, L decided that she wanted a series of horse jumps for her 18″ dolls. She is very creative and an out-of-the-box thinker. She began thinking about how to make jumps. What came to mind was her favorite medium – paper.

She brainstormed a number of ideas but realized that while paper would work for the bar of the jumps, she would need something different to hold it up. Toilet paper roll tubes were the final decision and they have worked well.

horse jump 2

What she did:

  1. Take the toilet paper tube and cut a narrow half circle out of one side of one end. Opposite that at the same end, cut another narrow half circle. This is where the bar will sit.
  2. Cover the tube with paper. You could also color it or paint it but L chose to use construction paper.
  3. Make another one for the other side of the jump.
  4. Decide how wide you want your jump to be. L wanted it to be as long as a piece of paper and a half. So she took some of our pile of scrap paper, taped two pieces together, and rolled up it long-ways. She then used colored scotch tape and covered the whole thing.
  5. Place your bar on the two posts that you made.
  6. If desired, cut some fabric or felt to be the ground under the jump. This one has “grass” under it. We also cut some blue for water and some brown for mud or dirt. Options are always good.

Here is the final product, with her little sister using it for the pets.

horse jump horse jump 3

She has made two of these so far and there are plans for more. They have worked great for the horses, even for the Barbie-sized dolls, as well as pets. Recycling fun! At Home.

Pirates, Origami, and Treasure

Pirates Origami and treasure

Ahoy, matey! We’ve been reading about pirates! Our books this month were rather fun and they were some we just happened to stumble across. Or rather, sail upon.

We started our pirate study by visiting YouTube for this video of the book The Night Pirates by Peter Harris, illustrated by Deborah Allwright. I would tell you the girls’ favorite line in the whole thing but it might spoil it, so you’ll just have to watch.

Our picture books this month were Pirate Girl by Cornelia Funke, illustrated by Kerstin Meyer and The Pirate Girl’s Treasure: An Origami Adventure by Petyon Leung, illustrated by Hilary Leung. Both were lots of fun and had unexpected twists and bits.

Pirate Girl

Pirate Girl is the story of a young pirate girl who heads off to visit her grandmother and is captured by pirates. She is eventually rescued but you’ll never guess who her rescuer is!

Pirate Girls Treasure

The Pirate Girl’s Treasure takes you along as the pirate girl heads off to locate the treasure her grandfather left for her. If you follow along and make the origami folds to a page that are indicated, you end up with the same treasure that the pirate girl finds. (Some are a tad bit obscure if you are just reading the text but if you will go through the folds instructions in the back of the book before reading it with the kids, it ought to be much easier.)

pirate shirts

This was a fun activity and the girls enjoyed it so much that they made several different origami shirts, including some for their Barbie-sized dolls and their 18″ dolls. I have even caught them making boats and hats for their Polly-sized dolls.

Pirate origami

One of my goals is to find a chapter book to read on the theme for each month of Poppins Book Nook. This month we found Marooned on the Pirate Coast by Melinda Rice, illustrated by Alan McCuller.


The girls absolutely enjoyed this story about a 10 year old girl who is shipwrecked alone and has to learn to survive. She is captured by Indians and then rescued by pirates (Jean Lafitte!). This turned out to be a wonderful book that captivated the girls so that they begged for more each time we marked the book for the day. Another wonderful bit about this book is that many of the people, occasions, and activities in the story are based on true life. We learned about a real “privateer” (pirate) in Jean Lafitte, hurricanes hitting the Texas coast, Galveston Island (which they have visited), ways that the Karankawa Indians lived and survived in Texas, Jim Bowie (one of the Texas fathers who was a slave trader prior to that, according to this book), and James Long. Texas history in an unexpected find – a win for sure when they beg for more.

A pirate theme is not complete without a treasure hunt. So, we had two!

exploding ice treasure hunt

The first was an exploding ice treasure hunt. Mix colored water with baking soda (1 to 1 ratio), add a few beads or treasures for each ice block, and freeze. We froze them in recycled single-serve applesauce containers. After they are frozen, we put them in a large pan and gave each girl pirate a squirt bottle with vinegar. Squirting the vinegar onto the baking soda ice blocks makes them fizzy and popping. After being squirted for a bit, the treasures started appearing. The girls were excited to see what would show up.

Pirate Map Treasure huntThe other treasure hunt was thought up by the giggly girls. They decided to pick treasures (colored polished rocks and pretend gold coins) to hide. Each giggly girl hid some treasure and then created a pirate’s treasure map for her sisters to follow. We had a quick map review about how to keep the map oriented while you are drawing it and while you are following it and how clues on the map will help the pirates find the treasure. Of course, every map was marked with a big X. They had fun trying to follow each other’s maps and find the treasure. This was so much fun they created multiple maps each and searched for pirate treasure several times.

Poppins Book Nook main image 2014 - 2015
 (clip art used in this design by:

For more pirate activities, visit the other hosts for the Poppins Book Nook.
Enchanted Homeschooling Mom ~ 3 Dinosaurs ~ To the Moon and Back ~ Planet Smarty Pants ~ Farm Fresh Adventures ~ Growing in God’s Grace ~ Chestnut Grove Academy ~ Learning and Growing the Piwi Way ~ The Usual Mayhem~ Preschool Powol Packets ~ Monsters Ed Homeschool Academy ~ Adventures in Mommydom ~ Teach Beside Me ~ Life with Moore Babies ~ Kathy’s Cluttered Mind ~ Are We There Yet? ~ Our Crafts N Things ~ Hopkins Homeschool ~ ABC Creative Learning ~ Joy Focused Learning ~ P is for Preschooler ~ Laugh and Learn ~ A Mommy’s Adventures ~ Inspiring 2 New Hampshire Children ~ World for Learning ~ Ever After in the Woods ~ Golden Grasses ~ A glimpse of our life ~ Journey to Excellence ~ Happy Little Homemaker ~ Little Homeschool Blessings ~ Raventhreads ~ Tots and Me ~ As We Walk Along The Road ~ Stir the Wonder ~ For This Season ~ Where Imagination Grows ~ Lextin Academy ~ The Canadian Homeschooler ~ School Time Snippets ~ Peakle Pie ~ A Moment in our World ~ Every Bed of Roses ~ Finchnwren ~ At Home Where Life Happens ~ The Library Adventure ~ Embracing Destiny ~ Day by Day in our World ~ Our Homeschool Studio ~ A “Peace” of Mind ~ Thou Shall Not Whine ~ SAHM I am ~ eLeMeNo-P Kids ~ Simple Living Mama

Don’t forget to make use of the FREE lapbook available for every monthly theme, provided by Enchanted Homeschooling Mom. Visit her Pirate Theme post to download the lapbook and catch up on any you might have missed.

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I is for In The Rain

I - In The Rain


Our area has been blessed with lots of rain this spring and early summer. Just this evening we had about 4 inches in an hour. This is not unusual for this year. Another day we had 6 inches; one day we had 4 inches. We have had many periods of fairly heavy rain storms. But, something we have not had yet, until Saturday, was a gentle warm rain that was good for playing in.

Yes – I am the mother that lets her kids run barefoot in the water running down the sides of the street, getting wet and having a blast. Saturday, they were finally able to do that. They played outside in the rain for an hour or so, having the best time. The giggly girls love to play in the rain like this.

I - girls playing I - girls in the rain I - girls in rain 2

J, the youngest giggly girl, took some time to study the plants and flowers, noticing how beautiful the raindrops looked on the flowers and leaves. We also noticed a spider web. I don’t know what kind of spider it is but we are calling it a zipper spider because its web looks zipped together.

I - J with flowers I - flowers plants

In The Rain – such a fun place to be. There is so much to feel and see and observe. God’s creation and power is so beautiful and we can see it clearly in the rain. Here’s hoping we’ll have some more times where they can play In The Rain. At Home.


Linking up with Ben and Me, blogging through the alphabet.

Ben and Me

G is for Giraffe

G - giraffe title picture

There is a fascination with giraffes going on in this house. It is held by J, the youngest giggly girl. She has had this interest for almost a year now and every time we go to the zoo, she stands and stares at the giraffes.

So, we did a mini study of giraffes. No major projects; just fun and facts.

One of our favorite books is Giraffe And A Half by Shel Silverstein. We read this multiple times. J is a beginning reader and was able to read quite a bit of the book by herself. This was really exciting for me.

G - J reading book

We checked out some non-fiction giraffe books from the library.

G - giraffe books

J decided she wanted to make a giraffe out of marshmallows so she and her dad tackled that project. I understand that a lot of marshmallows didn’t make it into the final product (J was quite sticky!) and that the project was fun. J chose small marshmallows, large marshmallows, and chocolate chips. Dad pulled out the sucker sticks and toothpicks. After some trial and error, here is their final project.

G - marshmallow giraffe

The other project that J wanted to do was to make a magnet playset to go with the book Giraffe and a Half. So, I tried my hand at drawing and she did all the coloring and decorating. We did these on cardstock and taped old magnets to the back. (We just cut up advertising magnets that we get sent in the mail. I keep them in the back of a drawer for just such a day as this.) She then played with them on a magnetic whiteboard that we have, reading the book as we went along. She even turned it into a memory game, making me guess the next thing that was added to the giraffe. If I missed, we had to start over. This was actually really good because she was reading the book for this activity.

G - giraffe play set

G - play set on board


I have made the drawing into PDFs that you can print for your child to color. Then your child can recreate Giraffe and a Half, too.

Giraffe body

Giraffe accessories page 1

Giraffe accessories page 2


This post is linked up with ABC Blogging over at Ben and Me.

Ben and Me
We were featured!


Ben and Me

Bedtime Fun

Bedtime routines are good. But once in a while, they need thrown out the window. Last night was one of those times! The girls had been awesome and allowed me some (mostly) uninterrupted time to be a part of an online homeschooling convention. I wanted to spend some time with them so we dedicated our bedtime to FUN!

We did our normal stuff – picking up, baths, medicines, teeth, reading. And then – we played!

Out came the tinker toys and we spent some time sitting on the floor making inventions. We took pictures of our inventions and the girls want to share those with you.

J’s Inventions


This is the baby bathtub.


The baby is riding on a tractor with a honey pot on the back.


The baby’s chariot with a wing on the back so it can fly.


The baby’s chariot that doesn’t fly.

L’s Inventions


This is a launcher and a roller toy. You pull the toy up to the top of the launcher and then you let go of it. It rolls down. If you put all of the wheels to the left, then it will go right. If you put all of them to the right, it will go left.


This is the toy and the launcher, getting ready to launch the toy.


This is a baby rattle.


E’s Inventions


A weather vane that has a yellow sign on the front and a vane at the top. You spin it and when it stops, the direction the end with the name “tinker toy” is pointing is the direction the wind is blowing.


This is my trike. And to make it a 3-wheeled scooter, you just pull out the seat.


This is Prince Phillip riding on the trike. (Mom says “sometimes the white horse just isn’t available.”)


We had lots of fun creating and playing and just having fun!

After the younger two giggly girls were tucked into bed with their prayers said, E and I stayed up and played a little more. We pulled out Skip-bo and played a game. It was fun and it had been a while since we had taken time late at night just to play together. It was definitely worth it all!

I encourage you to take some time, soon, to change up your routine for one night and spend some time just playing and having fun. At Home.


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