Tag Archives: games

Artchitectural Feats with Building Planks from Brain Blox ~ a Crew review

Build something spectacular

Brain Blox has created yet another exciting, challenging product that allows children to tackle architectural feats. Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks have been a joy for our youngest giggly girl. Miss J has tackled all sorts of fun and interesting builds with these lightweight wooden planks. The whole family has enjoyed using these, building together and separately, but Miss J has certainly used them most often.

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We received the kit of 200 planks. Each plank is the same size and thickness. The solid wood, lightweight planks are made of 100% pine from New Zealand. Each piece of wood is chemical-free and safe for children. Since these non-toxic Building Planks are nothing more than wood that is a few inches long, they are safe for children of all ages, from 4 to 104.

planks pile

Needing nothing more than stacking and gravity, these Building Planks allow for hours of imaginative building and creativity. The kit contained the planks, a canvas drawstring bag for storing the blocks, and a booklet of ideas and inspirations. There are many free resources and ideas on the Brain Blox website. The Brain Blox YouTube channel also has some fabulous resources with their building videos and challenges.

Miss J used these Brain Blox often while listening to the read aloud she is working through with her dad. She can listen to the story and build parts of it, such as the train the characters rode on or the chair one of the characters sat in to study.

 

The logic challenges from the YouTube website were lots of fun and really challenged Miss J to think outside of the box. Each one set up a shape and then challenged the student to change just a couple of pieces to for a new shape.

 

Some of the free resources that are available for use have been mentioned already. These include the booklet with image challenges for building. Also included are the logic challenges from the YouTube channel. There is also the Brain Blox University, downloadable curriculum resources for levels 1 through 6.

Here is a slideshow of some of the many different builds that Miss J had tackled.

 

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Many of these builds she has tackled often. She built some of these multiple times. Some she tried to build with more space in between each block or more blocks or closed in some of the spaces to try to make them smaller. This play with spatial thinking is one of the many benefits of an innovative yet simple toy like these Brain Blox Building Planks.

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It is so simple to consider that these are a toy for youngsters. But they aren’t. These Building Planks have longevity. They are fun for everyone in the family to use and can be used to illustrate many concepts in education. Whether providing a hands-on activity or being used in math lessons, there are many ways that these will be used.

plank tower

I am going to leave you with one of the videos that Miss J made after she knocked down her tower that was much taller than she was. It was a time of joy for her and she build and pulled down her tower many times. What a fun thing to encourage and see her attempt many times over.

We highly recommend these Wooden Building Planks from Brain Blox. Hours and hours of enjoyment, stretching the mind and creativity. If you are looking for more fabulous products from Brain Blox, check out our review of Fun Family Chess, a way to learn chess that can be used by young and old alike.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Building Planks review

Please visit the Homeschool Review Crew to see what other families thought of the Brain Blox Wooden Building Blocks by clicking on the image below.

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Learn to Play Chess With Fun Family Chess ~ a Crew review

Fun Family Chess review

Chess is THE game of choice with the youngest giggly girl. She has played for years and loves it. She was excited to participate in the review of Fun Family Chess from Brain Blox. The game of chess is exciting and strategic and challenging. All of this is still found in Fun Family Chess, even though they make it simple to learn.

chess

Fun Family Chess is the brain child of the family owned company Brain Blox. They are a small company that creates and sells ingenious educational toys for families. With the mission of helping families become more intentional and more conscientious, their product bring families together. Meaningful play strengthens family bonds and strengthens children’s brains and thinking processes. A Win-Win mission.

Fun Family Chess is a beautiful chess set for students. It is designed to be played in two different ways. You can use this set to play traditional chess but you can also use it with the Fun Family rules which help teach even very young children how to play chess.

The set includes a beautiful black and white board that folds in half and has claps on the outside to lock it closed for safe and easy storage.

board

When it is opened, the undersides are lined with black velvety cloth and have cavities for storing the other pieces of the game. There are some cards, instructions, a die, and two black, drawstring bags for storing the pieces. The black and white pieces, each in their own bag, are made of painted wood and the bottoms are covered with cloth to keep them from scratching the playing board.

board and pieces

chess card

Fun Family Chess begins with setting up the board. The instruction booklet gets you set up and started. There are two cards printed on thick cardstock that have examples of how each piece can move. There is also a die with shapes on it to indicate each of the pieces. To play Fun Family Chess, you roll the die. You then move whatever chess piece is indicated by the roll, referencing the card as needed. Take a look at this video by Brain Blox to learn more.

This simplified version of chess really helps novice players learn the moves for each of the different chess pieces. As the player learns, they also pick up on strategies for how to move those pieces to their best advantage. Move by move and piece by piece, the game of chess is learned without the stress of having to know it all right now, right away. That is brilliant!

Chess can be very intimidating because the smartest people play the game, right? Fun Family Chess has definitely taken away that intimidation factor and proven that anyone can learn the game.

Chess game

Once a player feels pretty comfortable with playing the game using the die, that can just be set aside and the traditional style of chess playing can commence. There is little difference in the actual use of the pieces for moving from the Fun Family Chess to traditional chess. The main difference is that the players have to now decide which piece to move each time. However, moving into traditional chess means that check and check-mate are now in play for the game. This is where students get excited. After all, they have now learned how to play the game of chess, the game so many people are intimidated by. But the students know how. They are no longer intimidated.

Chess for Everyone review

The YouTube channel for Brain Blox includes several other videos to help you play Fun Family Chess and advance on to standard chess play.

While Miss J knew how to play chess before receiving this game, her skills have greatly increased in the weeks we have used this. She insisted on learning to play using the die and played with it that way quite a bit. She even was able to play herself using the die since she didn’t have to make nearly the number of strategic decisions. It really strengthened her knowledge of each of the pieces and gave her confidence in her move choices. So while she did not need the Fun Family Chess version to start learning with, it has been a great advantage for her to learn and strengthen her knowledge. A definite recommend!

And check out our review of another of this company’s great products – the Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Be sure to visit the Homeschool Review Crew and read about the experiences of other families who have used Fun Family Chess from Brain Blox. Just click on the banner below to read their reviews.

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Matific Galaxy (math practice) ~ a Crew review

Matific Galaxy review

Once in a while, we end up with a program that just captivates one of the girls’ attention. Matific Galaxy has done just that. This online math practice program is such an enjoyable way to practice math that when Miss J asks to play computer games, this is where she goes. She will easily spend as much time as I will let her practicing math on the Matific Galaxy site.

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Even when she gets stumped, she doesn’t mind asking for help since she is having so much fun. We started her off on the 5th grade level since she is a rising 5th grader. I figured it would give her a bit of a challenge but if it was too hard, we could easily go back down a level and truly call it practice. Even the hard stuff she is enjoying. I don’t remember her being frustrated with this once.

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Matific Galaxy is available worldwide in a huge variety of languages. It is not American and thus is not aligned with anything in the US (such as Common Core) YET it does a great job of teaching the math skills the students need. With a research-based spiral curriculum, this is a challenging and encouraging supplement. They list all of the skills taught in each grade level right on the website, with the opportunity to try one of them before purchase.

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Matific Galaxy is an online subscription. It requires internet access and a paid subscription. You can choose a single grade option or a multi grade option. The material goes up to 6th grade. Each student must have a separate account as it tracks individual progress. There is a 25% discount for each additional student according to the website.

There is not a placement test that I could locate.  Since the skills are listed on the website, it was fairly easy to make a determination of where to begin. It is easy enough to move them up or down grade levels if needed.

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The student will login and it is easy to get right to work. The student works through different episodes. Each episode has a cute little pixelated character that shows progress within the episode. Each completed activity earns more pixels to complete the character. You can see the difference here with the completed character and the one being worked on.

 

The activities are fairly straightforward. Miss J’s favorite are the activities that work on geometry. She has really enjoyed those. It will ask her to identify the number of sides or the number of vertices or some other identifying attribute and then click on shapes that match that. Within each skill area, there are just a few question so that it doesn’t wear the student out or frustrate them when working on a challenging skill. I believe they ranged from 3 to 7 questions per skill.

 

If it was a computation skill, there is a calculator that comes up on the screen to help the student figure their answer. This was helpful in some of the multiplication skills. Miss J still needed paper and pencil or whiteboard and marker for many of the skills she was working on. She had not worked on multiplying decimals or adding fractions before so this was one area where she needed help from one of her big sisters or a parent. We had to teach the skill and then she could practice it. While it meant the game took a tad bit longer, it was a great way to keep doing what she was having fun with for math and still get in the teaching of new skills and concepts.

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One of Miss J’s favorite parts was taking care of the characters after she had earned them. Each character continues to want care – cleaning, toys, and food. When you do this for the characters, more coins are earned which allows more clothing or accessories to be bought for the character. While this has nothing to do with math, it is something that Miss J enjoyed about the program. AND, she could replay the math games to earn more also. Miss J did this often as she wanted to earn more coins to buy the characters the things they wanted, like new handkerchiefs or hats or construction equipment.

 

There are reports that allow you to see where your student is excelling or struggling and the reports are simple to read and understand. There is the activity highlights report that tells you how much has been completed and the average of scores for overall categories.

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The Results by Topic report breaks the categories down by skill area and gives the percentage correct. It also gives a comparison of the average for all students using that level of Matific Galaxy.

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There is also a report that breaks the skills down further by the assignment within each episode. Screenshot 2019-06-24 at 10.12.42 AM

You can select to receive a weekly update via email to get reports how the student is progressing, if the weekly time goal was met, and other information.

If the student is struggling, you can access a few worksheets that correspond to some of the skills. They are not simple to get to for the homeschool teacher as they are found on the classroom part of the site but they can be sent via email one by one for the topics where more help is needed. I was looking at what was available for work with decimals and found this one that I had emailed to me. I can then print it out for Miss J when she is working on that skill.

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This has been a wonderful program to have come across. I imagine in just another week or two, Miss J will have completed all of the grade 5 skills. This is because she will spend, easily, 4 hours a week on the program as opposed to the suggested 45 minutes per week. That’s okay with me as she is really increasing her math knowledge at great speed.

I plan to have her go back over the skill areas where she didn’t have above 80% since this is where her greatest challenges are being shown. Most of these are where she had to be taught the skill to complete the game and so she struggled a bit. Not a problem! She can tackle them again in order to earn more for her characters. A Win-Win!

After she gets those averages up, I plan to move her on to the 6th grade skills. Why not? If she loves it and is learning, why hold her back? This program is a huge hit and I feel no hesitation in recommending it.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Please visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read about the other families who have been using Matific Galaxy. Just click on the banner below.

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Wits & Wagers (Family) ~ Blogging Through the Alphabet

W Wits & Wagers

We are all the way down to letter W in Blogging Through the Alphabet!

Recently, the girls’ grandparents were here for a few days and we pulled out some games to play. Wits & Wagers Family was pulled out and, oh, we had so much fun!

W Wits and Wagers

If you like trivia yet don’t ever remember all the specifics, Wits & Wagers is for you!

Each person gets a dry erase board, a marker, and a couple of voting characters. The big meeple is a vote worth 2 points and the small one is worth 1 point, if you place them on the winning guess.

W Wits & Wagers pieces

For each round, a person reads a question off a card. These are random! One of ours was “Are there more cows or more people in America?”W Wits & Wagers Miss L writing guess

Each person then writes down their guess. All guesses are numeric in form. After everyone writes their guess down, they are put in numeric order. Each person then W Wits & Wagers guessingmakes their vote for which guess they think is closest without going over. You can vote both your meeples on one card or on different cards. Then the answer is read and the right guess is determined. Points are awards for correctly voting and for writing the winning guess.

Then on to the next random question.

We had tons of fun with this. Up to six people can play. The more people we had playing, the more laughter we experienced. This is a fun one if you are looking for a new game for the family.

At Home.

Please visit A Net In Time and Hopkins Homeschool and link up your ABC posts.

Quizlet – Blogging Through the Alphabet

Q Quizlet

This week is letter Q for Blogging Through the Alphabet. I had thought and brainstormed and kept coming up with things I could make work but didn’t really spark my own interest. I didn’t want to waste your time. Then, today, while thinking about the work one of the giggly girls still needed to do, I asked “Have you worked on Quizlet today?” And my brain registered the Q and said “That’s it!”

So, Quizlet.

Do you know Quizlet?

This is a free, online quiz system. It is wonderful. We have used it for tons of things. I can create my own set of cards to quiz over or sometimes, I can look up the questions I want that someone else has already done and made public. Now that has been wonderful!

When I go to Quizlet and make my own set, I have a question and answer series that I enter. It is as simple as entering the question and its corresponding answer. Then move on to the next question/answer. On and on until you have entered them all. At that point, it is time for the kiddos to start quizzing.

There are several functions on Quizlet, or ways in which the quizzing can be done: flashcards, learn, spell, test, match, and gravity.

Q Quizlet screenshot

Home Screen in Quizlet for this study set

 

For flashcards: One part is shown. After making your guess, you click the corner and it shows you the other side. You can mark ones that you struggled with and then work on just those. You can do it all again. You can do the question first or you can do the answer first. The flashcards are pretty flexible, which is awesome!

For Learn: It gives you either the question or the answer and you type in the other part.

For Spell: This one works best for vocabulary and spelling words. It tells you the part you are to type in. If you are using it for Bible study with younger ones (as we often do), the spelling will get them and they will end up with a lot marked incorrect. We seldom use this function.

For Test: This gives you a series of questions and you supply the answer. Again you can choose which part you want it to give you. The test generally has 20 questions: 5 type in the right answer, 5 matching, 5 multiple choice, and 5 true/false. This is a feature that Miss E likes to use.

For Match: The questions and answers are put out there and you drag and drop the matches onto each other. Simple and fun. All three of the giggly girls use this one a lot. This is probably the MOST used function for our family.

For Gravity: This is a game where asteroids have to be destroyed. It gives you one part and you have to type in the other part. You can use the term/question, the definition/answer, or select random for it to go back and forth. This is one the girls do like but it is harder for Bible bowl study due to the way the questions are worded.

On the main page, you see a list of the questions in your set. You can arrange them the way you typed them in, alphabetical, or by stats (how many are missed most/least/etc.). This is nice if you have only one person using it and you can quickly see what needs worked on. Even as a family, we are able to see where we need to work on our Bible bowl questions.

This is a fun and easy to use resource that really does a tremendous job of helping the girls study their Bible bowl questions and memory work. We most often access it on the desktop computer or a Kindle. It works well either way. I don’t know that the exact same activities are on both platforms but we use it both ways and the girls can move easily from one to the other.

If you are looking for a free resource to help with memory work, definitions, spelling, or other memory work, check our Quizlet. It was simple to make a free account and I can share my work with others or use quiz sets that someone else has made available publicly. I have a filing cabinet where I can list those for the girls to pick from. Quick and easy.

At Home.

Please visit A Net In Time and Hopkins Homeschool and link up your ABC posts.

String Games

Today the girls have spent lots of time doing string games. If you are like me, you remember these from when you were 12 or 13 and you carried a loop of string with you all the time to make a cat’s cradle or a Jacob’s ladder or cat’s whiskers or any number of other things.

string-games

It started out kind of strange because we have been reading The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards. (Just a book I picked up somewhere but I’ll be sharing more about it because it is so fun!) In the book, there is a creature called the Splintercat who lives in a cat’s cradle made of string. In the story, he pulls out his loop of string and plays the cat’s cradle game but messes it up to the point that someone is stuck in the string.

It made me start thinking of looking up some videos of how to do these string games because it has been so long since I have done them that I don’t really remember.

Fast forward to sign language class this morning. Miss E’s best friend, who she takes sign classes with, had spent the Thanksgiving holidays learning a bundle of string games from her cousins and looking them up on YouTube. We then went to a homeschool lunch, which was also attended by aforementioned best friend, and the girls sat there and played these string games for about an hour.

Then, when we got home, we looked up the suggested YouTube link – Mom’s Minivan. Definitely the place to go for simple, easy-to-follow videos and her website has some printed instructions on how to do many of these string games. It’s a hit. I imagine I will be seeing string games going on here for many days to come.

Simple, fun, inexpensive, and challenging – all that I love in a game.

At Home.

 

Commissioned (Chara Games) ~ a TOS review

We really enjoy games but had never tried a collaborative board game as a family. We were glad to get to review Commissioned by Chara Games because it appealed to us in several ways. First of all, it was a collaborative game and that would be new for us. Second, it is themed on the Apostles of the New Testament with several variations on the spread of the gospel. Third, it looked like a challenge and who doesn’t love a good challenge?

Well, I found out that two of my three giggly girls do not like a good challenge when it comes to board games but my third? She loved it. She is only 7 and pretty far beneath the suggested age for this game (14+). Still, she and I have played it a few times and she enjoys it each time. She does not have the attention span to play all the way through the game but we have done well and gotten pretty far.

Commissioned {Chara Games}

So, what is Commissioned?

Commissioned is a collaborative game, as I stated earlier. That means that all the participants are working towards the same goal and do so by cooperating, choosing plays that benefit everyone. The teams work together to select moves and make choices that guide them all towards fulfilling a scenario. Acting as the twelve Apostles, the players work together to grow the church, overcome persecution/trials, and collect all of the books of the New Testament.

Commissioned is created by Chara Games. Chara Games was founded in 2014 by Patrick & Katherine Lysagh. Their vision is to create games that bring joy and develop a relationship with God. Chara is the Greek word for unshakable joy and that is built right into their vision. This startup company has a unique perspective, in my opinion, and their products are really quite innovative.

commissioned-set-up

So, how do you actually play Commissioned?

That is a bit more difficult to explain. Rather, it is best to see it. That is why Chara Games has created a fantastic set-up video that walks you through how to set up and begin play on Commissioned. You can find that video on YouTube, as well as on their website. This video explains each of the parts of the games, the pieces, and how to set them up. It is definitely the starting point for the first game of Commissioned.

A game runs through several rounds that consist of ARM (getting yourself prepared to live and share God’s word, gaining your talents or strengths), LIVE (growing the church, facing trials, sharing the Word, gathering God’s written word, and more), and MATURE (gaining more faith and talents). The team is attempting to complete the scenario that is chosen. Success of that scenario is defined on the card.

commissioned-collageExample: Acts of the Apostles (suggested starting scenario) states that a victorious end will happen when there is a church in every city on the board and all of the New Testament has been collected. It also tells us that failure occurs when the Roman Empire never adopts Christianity.

While it is extremely difficult to describe each aspect of Commissioned, if you will visit Chara Games’ website, you will find several videos and explanations to help you understand more about the game. And, as with so many of the very best games, start playing and it will make more sense. Playing is hard the first couple of times. But it gets easier with each game you play. And this one? It encourages us to be more like to Apostles and to somewhat visually see the impact that choices make on the kingdom of God and its spread in the world.

Chara Games has created a really fun game here. But they have also created another game very recently. This game is titled 3 Seeds and the first printing just came off the production line. We have been playing 3 Seeds, as well. This one is a card games in which you are trying to sow seeds, grow crops and harvest them, scoring points along the way. This is a strategy game designed for ages 12+. If you would like to view a video on 3 Seeds, please visit Chara Games’ website. I have posted a full review for 3 Seeds that you can click over to read.3-seeds-pieces

Chara Games has created unique and original ideas for games. With their first two games, Commissioned and 3 Seeds, they bring joy to families and bring the families together. The games are fun and different. We will get much use out of these games in the future, I do believe.

At Home.

Read additional reviews from other families on the Homeschool Review Crew to see what they thought of Commissioned.

Commissioned {Chara Games}

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