We have been working on building a toolbox of independent learning activities that Monkey can work on in the afternoons while I work. We were excited to try Timberdoodle’s Mystery Mosaic book 9. The boys both love tiled color by numbers (as opposed to traditional color by numbers) so much that we print excessive amounts from the internet. I figured the Mystery Mosaic books would be a perfect addition to our afternoon choices. However, the squares on the book are very small, as are the numbers. This overwhelmed the boys and they refused to even try. The book is labeled for 6+, so we assumed it would be fine for our 7 and 9 year olds. I definitely feel these books are more suitable for older students and adults. It would also be difficult for someone who struggles with their vision, as the numbers are very small and rather light.
Even though the boys refused to work on this activity, they did enjoy watching Mama complete her mosaic. Mr. Man kept saying, “Wow, that is SO beautiful!” After seeing me finish mine, which one of the children quickly confiscated, I think I would be able to get them to make an attempt with much coaxing. Though I doubt Monkey would have the patience to stick with the process in order to complete the entire picture. They are very detailed.
I used Faber-Castell pencils to complete my mosaic. You can go take a look at my review on those. For the Mystery Mosaics, I would keep in mind that a lot of shades are used, so your typical box of 12 pencils is not going to work. You will need something with a larger spectrum of shades. I saw that Mindware has a set of pencils, created specifically for their Mosaic books, where the pencils are numbered to match the numbers on the designs. I think this would be quite helpful. The picture I did used 21 different numbers. Keeping track of which pencil was used for each number got a bit tricky.
Overall, Mama enjoyed Mystery Mosaics, but they were too overwhelming for my guys. I would definitely reserve these for older children. Other than the age concern, these books are great! High quality and nicely done.
Disclaimer: Timberdoodle provided me with a discounted copy of Mystery Mosaics book 9 in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and received no further compensation.
We recently had the opportunity to review Timberdoodle’s48ct Classic Color Pencil & Sketching Tin. Our boys love their colored pencils. They will choose to use pencils over crayons or markers every time. I keep hearing how great these pencils are, so we had to put them to the test.
*The tin comes with a nice assortment of colors, including several different shades of each.
*The pencils shade nicely for more advanced artists using more complex drawing techniques.
*The eraser that comes with the set works very well. I was quite impressed with its ability to erase the colored pencils (even though it says its specifically for erasing blacklead pencils).
*They don’t constantly break like other brands. Even after sharpening. This was very refreshing!
*I feel that for pencils, the price point ($37, for a tin of 48) is a bit high for our family.
*They seemed to shrink faster than other pencils when sharpened.
Overall, the price point is really hard for me to get past. While these pencils are nice, even better than the top choice in classroom art supplies, would I pay this much for pencils for a 2nd and 4th grader? Not likely. However, if I was someone who sketched more or had an older child who was highly interested in art and learning various techniques, I would probably invest in this set.
Disclaimer: Timberdoodle provided me with a discounted Faber-Castell 48ct Classic Color Pencil & Sketching Tin Set in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and received no further compensation.
Monkey has been a bit pre-occupied with puzzles this year. By pre-occupied, I mean completely obsessed. It’s not uncommon to see several puzzles in various stages of completion throughout our house. So, when we had the opportunity to review Dr. Livingston’s Anatomy Puzzle: The Human Head, we were beyond excited. Even though this 538 piece puzzle has an age recommendation of 14+ and is included as part of Timberdoodle’s 6th Grade Curriculum Kit, we knew it would be perfect for our 7-year-old self-proclaimed human body expert. Knowing your child is an important part of choosing curriculum and activities. While I think the age recommendation is generally fairly accurate, I also knew my son was confident in doing 500 piece puzzles, so this wouldn’t be too far off for him. He loved it! Monkey is still asking when we can get the other 6 puzzles in the set to finish the entire body.
What we loved about it…
*The pieces fit together in an obvious way and there was no confusion ‘Does this fit here, does it not?’ that we have seen in other puzzles.
*The box is great, as well. It is simply beautiful. It is made to look like a book which is gorgeous to display when the puzzle is being stored. It shows wonderful details of the human head and labels each part.
*I love the matte finish of this puzzle. There is zero glare when working on it, which is great!
What wasn’t great…
*Some of the edges were lifting right out of the box and will require a dab of glue to keep from tearing. This is a bit disappointing.
*Due to the nature of the edge shape, not all of the outside edge interlocks immediately. This causes some movement and sliding before these parts are anchored in and this was very frustrating for Monkey. He needed some help keeping everything line up. Once enough of the inside of the puzzle was completed to attach it all, he was fine.
We loved this puzzle and found the benefits far outweighed the few negatives. Especially, the lack of glare. Why aren’t all puzzles like this?! Hearing my 7-year-old tell me all the parts of the eye and point out the cerebellum (He even told us what it controls- no idea were he got that from…and yes, Mama had to look it up!) was priceless. We definitely can’t wait to get the other Dr. Livingston Puzzles.
Disclaimer: Timberdoodle provided me with a free copy of Dr. Livingston’s Anatomy Puzzle in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and received no further compensation.
A big thank you to Timberdoodle for giving us the opportunity to review Clumsy Thief Junior. The fast paced card game perfect for children learning their tens facts. Clumsy Thief Junior is currently a part of Timberdoodle’s Kindergarten Curriculum Kit.
This card game consists of two phases. In the first phase, players match pairs of numbers from their hands to make sets of ten, which they then place face up in their playing field. Cards that make tens (9s and 1s, 8s and 2s, etc.) have matching fruit or vegetable pictures on them. The pictures help children who have not yet mastered the tens family and the repetition of seeing the numbers together will help them memorize these facts. During phase two, the rest of the number cards a player has in his/her hands can be placed on piles in the playing field, continuing to make tens. For example, if a 9 and 1 are played with the 9 on top, you may add a 1 to steal the pile. But watch out! Someone else can then add a 9 to steal the pile again. There are also raccoon cards that can be used to steal any pile and trap cards which can be played on raccoons to freeze the pile and stop any further stealing of that pile. Phase two is fast paced because everyone plays at the same time. You have to be quick. Play rotates between phases one and two several times over the coarse of the game. The player with the most number cards in front of them when the cards run out is the winner.
What the Beans thought:
Both Monkey and Mr. Man know their tens facts well, so we didn’t play the game in an attempt to teach this skill. However, they both still really enjoyed the game. Mr. Man was a pro at being ready to steal back any pile someone tried to take from him. He struggled a bit to remember which phase we were on and required some reminders in that regard. But, the more he played, the easier this became. Due to his processing delays, fast paced games are more challenging for him, but he did very well with this one. Monkey is currently struggling with competitive fast paced games as he’s at an emotional stage where he becomes very upset with any game he doesn’t win. Because brother is able to match wits with him on this game, he currently “hates it”. On the plus side, this creates the perfect scenario to help him work through these emotions, build his coping skills and practice proper social and emotional responses. Clumsy Thief Junior will make a perfect addition to the games we can use during therapy. It has definitely been one of the top choices in the house lately.
Something to note…
*When playing Clumsy Thief Junior, it is important to be mindful of table size. We have a large gaming table and found reaching across the table to steal piles of cards difficult. It would be much better played on a smaller table or closer together.
Disclaimer: Timberdoodle provided me with a free copy of Clumsy Thief Junior in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and received no further compensation.
If you know our family very well, you know we are big board gamers. Board games are an excellent way to learn a variety of skills, both academic and social. Mr. Bean has had his hand in the creation of a couple games and has a sizable collection himself. So, we were very excited when Timberdoodle gave us the opportunity to review Battle Sheep.
Battle Sheep is a fun strategy game found at Timberdoodle and is part of their 3rd Grade Curriculum Kit. My husband and I were immediately struck by the quality of the game components- very important to Mr. Bean (The Eclectic Bean) The board pieces are made of thick, durable cardboard and the sheep discs are a nice quality plastic chip. The idea of the game is to move your sheep across the board to claim pasture space. The player with the most pasture when everyone is out of moves (either because their sheep have been blocked in or because they are out of sheep) is the winner.
It was interesting to see the different responses we got when we played with Mr. Man (9) and Monkey (7). Mr. Man struggled at first to move his sheep in a straight line and needed a little guidance. He is also not a strategy game player. He struggles with processing and executive function, so he’s typically a reactive player. I was surprised to watch his persistence and perseverance shine through when playing Battle Sheep. He really enjoyed it and beat both Mr. Bean and myself! He has asked to play again, several times. Monkey is our thinker and planner. However, the game takes a few plays to figure out a strategy. Monkey did not win his first game (score: 12 to 14) and became upset, refusing to try again. I would have definitely thought this game would be more appealing to Monkey than Mr. Man, so i was surprised to find the opposite to be true. Hopefully, in time, Monkey will give it another try. Mr. Bean and I have also played a few times by ourselves and both found it to be a game we would continue to play.
Overall, 3 out of 4 Beans give Battle Sheep a big thumbs up. Because the board is different every game, Battle Sheep has high replayability. Also, any game that can be played with the kids but also enjoyed by adults alone is a great addition to any game collection. Be sure to check out Battle Sheep. Happy Gaming!
Disclaimer: Timberdoodle provided me with a free copy of Battle Sheep in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and received no further compensation.
We recently had the opportunity to review Timberdoodle’s Dr. Bonyfide presents Bones. This is a set of 4 books that teach your child the names of all the bones in the body. We are about halfway through Book 1: Bones of the Hand, Arm and Shoulder. This book has quickly become Monkey’s favorite science curriculum. He loves it! I never have any push-back when it is time for Dr. Bonyfide… that speaks volumes!
The entire family has shown interest in these books and have sat in for lessons as schedules align. In fact, I will probably go through them with Mr. Man as a summer activity. The books are engaging and fun. After only a few weeks, Monkey can confidently tell you the names of (and how many) phalanges in each hand. He WILL correct anyone who calls them fingers.
Monkey enjoys the idea that we share a special science language. He is now learning the names of the carpals. My 6 year old can independently spell Scaphoid. I love it! The activities in the book are repetitive enough to make the information memorable, but varied so they don’t become boring. Monkey loves the Mr. Bonyfide x-ray glasses and is always eager to use them to read the skeleton jokes.
Overall, these books are nicely put together and I am eager to work our way through the rest of the titles. They are fun and, most of all, he’s actually remembering the names of the bones. This set is definitely a winner in our home. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning about the skeleton and the names of the bones.
Disclaimer: Timberdoodle provided me with a free copy of the Dr. Bonyfide Presents Bones book set in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and received no further compensation.
Mr. Man loves all things history/war related. He also loves his graphic novels. So when I had the opportunity to review Timberdoodle’s True Stories of War Graphic Novels 4-Book Set, I jumped on it. Mr. Man seemed excited when I showed him what I got and he quickly sat down to read. He asked a few questions about the first story and soon lost interest. His lack of interest truly surprised me. I sat down to find out why these were not the success I thought they would be.
The first thing I noticed was how the illustrations were different from other graphic novels that Mr. Man reads. He’s a very visual child, so my instinct says this is a big part of his disinterest. The colors are very dull and uninviting. I understand this was done purposefully to match the time period and mood of the topic, but this does not help draw in his interest. Two of the books (World War I and The Civil War) are done by a different illustrator and are a bit more colorful and interesting to look at than the other two.
The second problem I noticed is that the books give short snapshots of different key figures lives from the time period. This style of writing, while not inherently negative, makes it difficult for younger readers to follow since this is different from the normal flow of stories they are used to seeing. Even reading them as an adult, the tales felt very disjointed. I did like the excerpts given at the beginning of each story to explain who the person was and how they fit in with the events. However, I don’t think it was enough to help Mr. Man understand who the person was or why they were important to the event.
Overall, these books were a no go in our house. If a child isn’t interested in reading a book, it’s a pretty pointless read. That being said, there isn’t anything necessarily bad about them, they are an interesting approach to the various sides of meaningful events in history. It’s important for us to know our readers and Mama missed the mark on this one. For the right reader, these would be wonderful. They just weren’t for my reader. The recommended age range for True Stories of War is 3rd-9th grades. Mr. Man is at the end of 3rd grade. He’s a strong reader but does struggle with comprehension. I would recommend these books for children higher in the recommended age range. I definitely plan to hang on to these books to try again in the future. If nothing else, we can use them to reference some of the figures and events mentioned in them. They may not have worked for Mr. Man, but perhaps in a few years Monkey will find them enjoyable.
Disclaimer: Timberdoodle provided me with a discounted True Stories of War book set in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and received no further compensation.
Monkey and I have been working really hard on learning the difference between a continent, a country and a state. I thought I would take a moment to review one of the products we are using to learn this. The World Scrunch Map, from Timberdoodle.com, is a fun little portable map that is designed to be used anywhere you explore. What is so unique about this map is that you don’t need to worry about little hands folding, creasing or otherwise destroying a beautifully made map. This map is made out of water and tear resistant material and is designed to be scrunched into its very own portable pouch, no need to fold! This beautifully designed political map measures 36 x 24 inches and is a great addition to any classroom.
Pros: There are so many! We really love this map. It’s durable, beautiful and easy to read. The boys love that it looks like an “adult” map and we love that we don’t have to worry about them destroying the “nice” maps. It scrunches so nicely into its cute little carry case, which hangs on a hook from our school cart. I also love how the map wraps around to show how one side connects to the other. This gives the children a better view and understanding of the bearing straight than a typical flat map.
Cons: I really don’t have many cons and even the few I have are minor. First, even though it says tear-proof, given to two boys who are fighting over it, the map can be stretched and distorted if pulled too much. (I’m talking extreme roughness here, not usual movement). So, while it’s tear-proof, it’s not indestructible. This is minor as I would expect most products to have a hard time standing up to our extreme boy behavior. For a typical child handling situation, it is plenty tough. Second, we own both the United States and World Scrunch Maps and I feel like the US Scrunch Map has more vibrant colors. I wish this one was a little more vibrant. Again, minor complaint.
Overall, we love this map. It’s beautiful, durable and stores great! At a price point of $9.99 it’s a great addition to our education! *Sadly, due to demand at the time of this post, this map is only available as part of the 2020 First-Grade Curriculum Kit and 2020 Nonreligious First-Grade Curriculum Kit (which are great kits, check them out!) Hopefully, this product will be available for individual purchase again, soon.
Disclaimer: Timberdoodle provided me with a discounted World Scrunch Map in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and received no further compensation.
I love coffee. I blame my parents….I’ve been drinking it since I was a kid. Terrible, I know, but I LOVE coffee. Partly because of the memories. I had my own special cup and got to sit with the big people. Coffee made me feel special. I LOVE the aroma. When I smell coffee, I feel my body relax. I am a chronic migraine sufferer. I also struggle with chronic fatigue. There have been many days when coffee has been my lifeline… more literally than I care to admit. I remember days when I would make coffee and one of the boys would ask, “Mama, your head hurt?” Such sweet concern. Days when I would be cranky and one of them would say, “Mama, do you need coffee?” I guess I passed the love to the boys. Most kids play with pretend food, my boys had a toy cash register and would play “Making coffee”. You can say I have prepared them for teenage employment.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with one of my college friends and share a cup of coffee. I haven’t had the opportunity to do this for FAR too long. I realized something that day. How many times have I not invited someone over because I’ve been embarrassed about the condition of my house? A LOT. My friend’s kitchen wasn’t clean and I didn’t care. I understood. In reality, we all do. As we talked, her two year old overturned all of the toys in the other room… ALL of them. Insert smile. I remember those days. She knew I understood and we enjoyed our morning.
How many of us can relate? ALL of us! But we still allow these things to keep ourselves separated from others. We don’t connect. How many times have we talked about the crazy loneliness of young motherhood? Yet, we usually do this to ourselves. If you’re one of those people who somehow always has a miraculously clean kitchen, awesome! Don’t judge the rest of us. We judge ourselves enough and we let that fear of judgement keep us from the simple joys of a cup of coffee with a friend, an understanding ear and a few minutes of normal adult conversation. If you are like me (I am just beginning to realize that many more people are than I thought) realize that your friend’s kitchen probably looks just like yours and she doesn’t care. Somewhere along the line authenticity got lost and we feel the need to pretend life is perfect. In case this comes as a shock to anyone, life isn’t perfect. It’s just the opposite and it’s usually messy.
If I’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that we can’t let stupid things like a messy kitchen stop us from spending time with people. Because the chance may not come again. I don’t want to look back and realize I missed the opportunity for friendship because I was preoccupied with a messy house. We all need to do each other a favor, stop pretending and enjoy the coffee.
As we celebrate Read Across America today, I thought it would be fitting to post a review of the Read Across the USA Challenge Bundle that we have been working on over the past week. This reading challenge is put out by Timberdoodle and challenges students to read a book set in (or about a person from) all 50 states. The bundle includes a downloadable file that gives book suggestions from each state, a map to fill in for every state they complete and a list to keep track of what books they read for each state. You also receive a physical copy of a giant poster to color and create. The poster is a map of the United States and shows capitals, landmarks and interesting facts about the states.
What we thought?
Monkey LOVES reading and enjoys his United States puzzle, so this was bound to grab his interest. I used the tracking pages as a way to plan what books we would read and what books I needed to order from the library. Monkey used the small map to fill in each state as we read a book for it. He enjoyed this. He also enjoyed showing off that he already knew where some states were because he paid attention when doing his puzzles. To my surprise he was willing to color the poster page for Arizona (Monkey doesn’t color as a general rule). “I don’t do that!” Needless to say, we haven’t completed the poster because I don’t want to push it, but he did make an effort to color some of it. Hopefully, the interest in putting the giant puzzle together will entice him to complete more of it.
Cons: I wish there were more variety within the book suggestions. I found a lot of the suggestions were either very young or too advanced for Monkey. I also noticed that many of the choices were parts of a series, which feels a bit useless if you haven’t read the earlier books in the series. I ended up having to do a lot of researching myself to find books.
Pros: The giant poster is printed on thicker, quality paper. The perforations are good quality and make taking the pages out to color and assemble quick and easy. The poster also contains a great amount of information and fun facts about the states. Price point is low at $10.
Overall: While I felt the bundle was a bit lacking. It did provide a good ‘jumping off point’ to introduce my young geographer to the 50 States. It’s a nice theme if you are simply trying to get your child to read more. If your child enjoys coloring, the poster is a lot of fun. I, myself, probably wouldn’t use this on its own, but it would compliment a more in depth study on the 50 States very nicely. Even if you decide to just use it as a fun way to encourage extra summer reading, the price point is worth the giant poster coloring book and the amount of fun facts that can be gleaned from it.
Disclaimer: Timberdoodle provided me with a free copy of the Read Across the USA Challenge Bundle in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and received no further compensation.