Geoboards: A Timberdoodle Review

Mr. Man uses Geoboards as part of his Occupational Therapy. Every time they come out, Monkey wants to be part of the activity. So, we decided to get a set of our own geoboards from Timberdoodle and post a review on them.

The Timberdoodle geoboards come with 4 boards, 20 activity cards, and 96 rubber bands. The boards themselves are of good, sturdy quality. They are smaller than I have seen with other boards, at 7.5 inches square. However, I found that I actually preferred this compact size. The cards are brightly colored and fit onto the frames well. There was one card that was not usable because the holes were not punched correctly. I really liked that the rubber bands were colored and could coordinate with the patterns. In comparison with other geoboards I have seen, I definitely prefer the boards that include patterns. One problem I had with this particular set of geoboards was many of the rubber bands snapped the first use out of the box. I don’t know if this is typical or if we simply got a bad set of bands, but it was very disappointing. After one use, we already need to replace the bands and this was not due to excessive roughness on the boys part (for once!)

This kit was a bit of a flop for us. Mr. Man sees them as a chore, so he wasn’t overly excited about this set. Monkey played with them but tired quickly. So overall, they serve their purpose but were not a huge success. My biggest pro was the quality of the boards themselves and my biggest con was the low-quality rubber bands. My overall feeling towards them was that they are typical geoboards, nothing overly exciting. They do their job. If you are looking specifically for geoboards this is a good sturdy set that looks like it will take some wear and tear (with back up rubber bands), but in the end, they are simply geoboards.

Disclaimer: Timberdoodle provided me with a discounted set of geoboards in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and received no further compensation.

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Artistic Patch Cosmos Foil: A Timberdoodle Review

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We recently reviewed Artistic Patch Cosmos Foil by Djeco. This craft kit, for ages 6-10, is sold by Timberdoodle and is included in their 2020 First-Grade Curriculum Kit. This Kit would be an excellent addition to your Space themed units. The kit includes 8 sheets of glue patches, 10 foil transfer sheets, and 12 background pages.  I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of pages that were included with this kit. There are enough to allow several for several crafting sessions.

 

The boys enjoyed the effect created by the metallic foil. They loved picking out their glue patches and watching the foil bring the design to life. A somewhat softer touch is required to rub and transfer the foil onto the glue patch. This was hard for the boys, who have no idea how to use soft hands. When they went to rub the foil, they often ended up crumpling it. I also noticed they had a hard time placing the foil in a way that would allow them to get the most uses from the pages. This required spatial planning they have yet to master.

Overall, this was a fun project which allowed the boys to practice a variety of skills in a fun and creative way. We would love to get some of the other Artistic Patch Kits by Djeco, as well. Hopefully, Timberdoodle will start carrying a variety of these kits, because they are so much fun!

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Smart Cookies: A Timberdoodle Review

265-750-3_800x800Bored? Like puzzles? Love cookies? Look no further… I am always on the lookout for activities that my boys will like but also get them to think. Smart Cookies is a single-player puzzle game that helps children learn to follow step by step clues to solve puzzles and build deductive reasoning and logic skills. The game contains 9 quality made cookies in 3 colors and 3 patterns. The players use a clue book to follow the clues and figure out where all the cookies are placed on a 3 by 3 grid. The suggested age for Smart Cookies is 6+ and is part of Timberdoodle’s First Grade Curriculum Kit.

I must admit, the first time we tried this game I thought I knew what I was doing and didn’t read the directions. Wrong! I thought the game was a Sudoku style game in which no row or column could share a similar attribute with another cookie. This is how I originally taught the boys to play and I was pleasantly surprised by how well they did. Mr. Man struggled some with his attention to the attributes, but after several attempts, he really started to get it. Monkey had no issues and was placing cookies at speeds that (pleasantly) concerned me… I definitely need to get him some Sudoku puzzles!

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THEN, I realized we were playing the game incorrectly… oops! I thought each clue was an individual puzzle. However, the book gives step by step clues that you must follow to solve the entire puzzle. As long as you do not violate one of the clues, colors and shapes may share the same rows and columns, unlike Sudoku. This need to follow the clues step by step was great practice for Mr. Man, who often reminds me of a ping pong ball. However, it was very difficult and tiring for him. Monkey was still able to solve the puzzles easily, but they didn’t hold his attention as long as our first attempt. The puzzles get harder as the children move further along in the book and new rules/clues are added.

Everyone really enjoyed Smart Cookies and it definitely exercised their minds and made them think. Anything that I can find that helps Mr. Man reign in some of his impulsivity and force him to follow step by step direction is a win as far as this Mama is concerned. These are the skills we need to work on daily in our home and Smart Cookies is definitely a fun way to do that. It is also a great activity to help recognize attributes and build spatial awareness.

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Disclaimer: Timberdoodle provided me with a discounted copy of Smart Cookies in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and received no further compensation.

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Deep in the Jungle Sticker Mosaic Kit: A Timberdoodle Review

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We had the opportunity to review Timberdoodle’s new product Deep in the Jungle Sticker Mosaic Kit by Djeco. This kit was a lot of fun. The kit comes with 4 Jungle pictures and metallic foam stickers which are added to the pictures to create a sticker by number style work of art. Each boy picked a picture and set to work. The instruction booklet was easy to follow and showed which numbers/colors should be completed first. My only complaint with the kit is that the sticker sheets are not labeled in any way, so you have to guess which sheet is which color/number. Some of the colors are very similar and it was quite tricky. I was concerned that if we used the wrong sheet we would run out of stickers for the other two pictures.

IMG_2223I was pleasantly surprised that this activity caught Mr. Man’s attention ard REALLY kept his focus. He was persistent, despite the fact that this activity is challenging for him due to fine motor weakness. This ended up being a great activity for him! It really had him working on many of the skills he focuses on in OT. He was able to work on fine motor skills, processing/planning skills, and it slowed him down enough to help him work on his difficulties with impulsivity. I would definitely purchase more of these for Mr. Man.

IMG_2222Monkey, on the other hand, surprised me for a different reason. Monkey loves art, but he showed little interest in this activity. In fact, he did one color (with much encouragement) before walking away completely. Monkey usually loves art, but I think this project was a little too structured for him. He enjoys a more free and messy approach when it comes to his creativity. Monkey is also a bit on the outside of the 7-13 recommended age range for this activity, so that may have been part of his disinterest, too. Although, Mama is definitely beyond the age range and I wanted to do my own design!

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Overall, the Beans were very impressed with the quality of the Deep in the Jungle Mosaic Kit and would love to see more kits similar to this with a variety of designs. Like I mentioned, my only improvement would be for the sticker sheets to be labeled with their matching number. Other than that, we thoroughly enjoyed this activity and will be proudly displaying Mr. Man’s final product.

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My Epic Life Word Book: A Timberdoodle Review

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We recently had the opportunity to explore and review Timberdoodle’s new My Epic Life Word Book. Mr. Man has always had a difficult time with vocabulary, he struggles to use a variety of words when speaking. The My Epic Life Word Book is a 235 page 2019 National Parenting Product Award winner and a 2019 Tillywig Award winner. It is a IMG_2208colorful and simplistic way to introduce children to a variety of new words. Each page is illustrated with engaging and fun cartoons that easily capture the children’s eye. The vocabulary words are clearly visible and the definitions are simple and straight forward. I really liked the use of the appropriate amount of empty space on the pages so the words do not get lost in the illustrations. The book is divided into eight different sections by topics such as Words for Time, Words for My epic everyday life and Words for My epic outdoor adventures. I will likely add using this book into our school day by using it to illustrate a “Word of the Day”.

Monkey thoroughly enjoyed looking at the illustrations and loved the humor in them. IMG_2205Both boys loved the word cartoons section located in the back of the book. In this section, you are able to scan a QR code and watch a short cartoon video that shows the meaning of the words. This was very engaging for them. However, I do wish that these codes were located on the pages with the words throughout the book, instead of all on a two-page spread with reference back to the page number which included each vocabulary word.

If you are looking for a simple way to incorporate vocabulary building into your day, My Epic Life Word Book is an excellent resource. For extra fun, Bogart (the bookwork larva) is hidden throughout the book. There is also a QR code to scan that will take you to an Epic Word Adventure game. At the time of our review, this game wasn’t available yet, but it looks like a fun way to reinforce the vocabulary and we will definitely be checking it out when it becomes available.  IMG_2186

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Things To Remember About Homeschooling…

I wanted to post this sooner, but let’s be honest, it’s been a weird week. Even though my children haven’t had the disruption of school closures, they have had every other activity and event in their schedules canceled. No therapy, no music lessons, no church, no going anywhere. Monkey is having a hard time with the idea that food isn’t free range. This is a bad habit I’ve been meaning to tackle for a while now. We have enough food, but with store shelves empty, I want it to last more than 2 days! This Mama has been on poop patrol because SOMEONE decided to swallow a dime…..worst treasure hunt ever! Needless to say, we’ve been pretty unmotivated.

DSC_0748I wanted to share a few things with those who find themselves home with their children all day and aren’t sure what to do with them. First, remember, when homeschooling there is a period known as deschooling. This is a time of transition between school and homeschool. Learning at school is entirely different than learning at home. Let’s be honest, how many kids actually respond well when Mom wants them to do work? Most likely, they will fight you. They will whine, complain and turn on the tears. We’ve homeschooled for two years and we still turn on the tears regularly.

More than likely, if your district isn’t supplying work or online classes, then the students will be required to make up this missed time. So don’t feel you need to teach them everything they would do at school. Instead, focus on reviewing what they were learning so they don’t forget. Practice spelling, read, review math facts, watch documentaries, and read more.

But my kids are bored and stir crazy!? IMG_1923Allow them to create and tell stories, build with legos, cook (so much can be learned in the kitchen). Play board games. I cannot stress enough the amount of learning that happens through board games and they don’t even realize they are learning!

 

It’s also important to keep in mind that a typical day at school is FULL of interruptions, transitions, and disciplinary moments. It will not take you 6 hours to do a day’s worth of work at home. Please don’t try… you will burn out your child quickly. Schools typically move at the pace of the slowest child. Teachers have to wait for everyone to get on the same page before continuing. When you only have your children, things go much faster. Remember, most homeschoolers only do a few hours of work a day. We are almost always done before lunch.

IMG_1807Remember to give yourself grace and your children patience. None of you were prepared for this! Today, it’s 3:00 and I am still fighting my kids to finish their math. Yes, it happens to the best of us. What have we done today? Mr. Man spent the morning reading to Monkey. He read him the entire first Press Start book. Then, we took turns working on our new Osmo Detective Agency app. and worked on our Timberdoodle Smart Cookies logic game (I will be posting a review for this shortly). After that, we spent some time working in the garden and playing outback with their new bunny, Oreo. Will we get to the math? Eventually. It just didn’t seem that important today. Remember, it’s important to look at the big picture. Think about what’s important, TODAY. One step at a time….we want to emerge on the other side of this and still enjoy each other.

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Please take a look at our page of things we love for more ideas.

I am joining in with Timberdoodle‘s blog hop, take a look for more great homeschooling activities and tips.

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Hide & Seek Polar Bear: A Timberdoodle Review

My boys LOVE playing hide and seek. However, this can be challenging because it’s often too hot to play outside and our house is very small, with few good hiding places for growing boys. Timberdoodle’s Hide & Seek Polar Bear is an amazing solution!

bearThis cute little bear connects to your phone using an app and BlueTooth. You hide the bear and use the app to send pre-recorded (or you can use it walkie-talkie style) clues to those who are looking for the bear. This puts a fun spin to the typical hot/cold style game of Hide and Seek!

The app was easy to use and we were off laughing in no time! My husband even got involved and we all had a great time. The boys constantly ask to play with the bear, it definitely has a high replay value. You can adjust the volume on the bear itself which is nice. We also realized that you can use it as a BlueTooth speaker and play your music through it. The boys loved this discovery.  My only complaint, and really it’s just the nature of BlueTooth, is that occasionally there is a slight delay between clicking the phrase on the phone and when you hear it out of the bear’s speaker. Usually, this isn’t too much of a problem, but when the boys start moving quickly some of the ‘you’re getting closer’ or ‘you’re almost there phrases’ don’t fit very well.

The boys both enjoyed taking turns hiding the bear, making the bear talk and finding it. The best was when it was hanging on the wall in the entryway and the boys kept running back and forth down the hall, passing the bear completely, as they heard the clues go off. This kept them going for quite some time and gave mom and dad a good laugh.

See it hanging above their heads as they look through the backpacks!

I was pretty sure my boys would like this item. I am so pleased that it surpassed my expectations. The Hide & See Polar Bear is also waterproof (up to 3 feet), so playing in dewy grass or snow is no problem. I am looking forward to trying this outside, as well.

When I asked the boys what they thought about the Hide & Seek Polar Bear, Mr. Man responded, “So fun!” and Monkey said, “It’s SO good!” Hide & Seek Polar Bear definitely gets 4 thumbs up in the Bean house. This would make an excellent gift for any child who enjoys Hide and Seek. I can especially see this being nice for a single child family. The child can still learn valuable problem-solving skills through play and mom and dad don’t have to hide. This is also a good solution for families who want to discourage children from hiding from their parents. Hiding the bear is a much safer alternative.

The Hide & Seek Polar Bear is part of Timberdoodle’s Tiny Tots curriculum kit, but clearly it can be enjoyed by children much older, as well.

*Disclaimer: I received this product at a discounted rate to provide an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.

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Natural World Workshop: A Timberdoodle Review

 

The boys and I had the opportunity to review Timberdoodle’s Natural World Workshop by Djeco. My children are always very excited to have the opportunity to paint, so when our box arrived they quickly claimed their pictures. The kit comes with beautiful opaque watercolors, a high-quality brush and four prints to paint. I was very impressed with how vibrant the paint was, not at all washed out like standard watercolored paint. The pictures are on boards that are more like a canvas (though not quite as thick) than the cardstock you would expect. The items were definitely of high quality.

 

Both children (Kindergarten and Second Grade) were able to follow along using the instruction book and color-coding on the canvases. Occasionally, they would miss part of the painting and have to go back, but this was a minor problem due to their own oversight. I liked how the order of painting started with the lighter colors and moved to the darker. This allowed for two things. One, less color mixing. I don’t know if anyone else has the same issue with watercolors that I do, but the color mixing is awful and pretty much makes the typical watercolors a one-shot use. Secondly, when multiple colors are needed close together, like on the turtle’s back, using the lighter color first allows the second color to cover any out of line mistakes easily. Both children enjoyed this project very much and look forward to completing their second pictures.

My only complaint about this kit would be that the brush needs to be smaller. My boys had a hard time staying inside the shapes because the brush was too large. This is easily fixed by switching the brush out with a smaller brush. Overall, I felt that the kit was very high quality and the final products are definitely something we plan to frame and hang in our home. The boys really enjoyed this project. The Natural World Workshop is currently part of the Timberdoodle 2nd Grade Curriculum Kit.

 

“It was great. I like it when it is all colored.” Mr. Man, age 7

“It’s good!” Monkey, age 5

 

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My New Year’s Promise to Myself

I’m joining in with the Timberdoodle Blog Hop. Here’s to a better 2020!

81418907_2922179654469586_8272687146213572608_nEveryone talks about how important it is for moms to take care of themselves. That we can’t give from nothing. But let’s be honest… Mama’s, do we really follow this advice?! I know I fail miserably. Most of the time I feel like this happens because, well, if I don’t…who will? And, if I am really honest, this Mama is pretty close to hitting nothing.

After a year that has included emotional/behavioral issues with both boys, emergency surgery and ending the year with an ulcer for mom, I am thinking its time this Mama tries a little harder to focus on some of her needs for once. I am not entirely sure what this looks like or how I will make it work, but I do know in 2020 I plan to…

Let more go- sadly this often means my housekeeping, but that’s just something that I (and my parents) will have to get over. We are already working on ways to relax our homeschool and cut down on family conflicts.

More scheduled girl time-  The first one is already on the calendar! One night out- no kids!

More date nights- My husband and I have never been big daters… plus, we’re cheap. But, having some time together without the kids needs to happen more often this year.

Healthier me- My health definitely suffered in 2019 and I need to get it back together. I gave myself a membership to the StepBet app and my co-workers and I have committed to moving more this year.

Healthier family- In 2019, I cut out soda (Huge for me!) I began thinking about what I can do in 2020. I plan to cut out processed junk and spend more time at the farmers’ markets. If we do need a special treat, I plan to make it myself instead of buying prepackaged. We are pretty good about produce and using real foods. I just need to be better about planning ahead because this is when I get in trouble. I need to make a few tweaks to the boys’ snacking habits, too.

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What are your plans for a happier and healthier family in 2020? I would love to hear your suggestions!

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Why We Don’t Do Santa and How We DO Celebrate

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I’m joining in with the Timberdoodle Blog Hop. Here’s a little about the what and why of our holiday traditions. I would love to hear yours… Enjoy!

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We decided early on we weren’t doing Santa. It just doesn’t make sense. Pause for gasping and sputtering… it’s okay, everybody does. Don’t even get me started on that elf!

I did worry a lot about the boys missing out on the wonder and excitement, especially early on. I also worried they would feel like they were being left out. But, I also didn’t want them caught up in the commercialism of Christmas. The first few years we just didn’t mention the S. man. They were too little, no need to discuss it. We had our tree and did our gifts and moved on with our holiday. No Santa required. Then, Mr. Man’s fears began. He was seeing green faces coming out of walls. The idea of someone he didn’t know coming into our house at night was terrifying. Why on Earth would we perpetuate that? In fun? Absolutely not. He must have heard of Santa somewhere because he once pointed to a display and said, “HE isn’t coming to my house, right?!”

96264F7C-AA50-4C82-AD8C-6AB3685B7265Recently, Monky asked for something and I responded with the typical “Maybe for Christmas” response. To which he replied, “Oh, we’ll have to ask THAT man.” This made me chuckle.

Besides this, I really never understood the point. I felt like we lie to our kids then try to teach them not to lie. Not to mention the confusion between our spiritual beliefs about Christmas and Santa… I mean come on, Santa wins, hands down! No, it just made more sense to have the Jolly Old Elf pass by our house altogether. By the time Mr. Man was old enough to ask about Santa, he was past the age of belief anyway. Plus, he struggles so much between what is real and make-believe. We saw absolutely no reason to confuse him further.

I don’t feel the boys have ever felt left out or that Christmas was any less of a magical time, at least not that they have expressed to me so far. We’ll see…

So what DO we do to celebrate?

We’ve always focused on Christmas being Jesus’ birthday and a time to show others that we love them. We do decorate a tree, mostly because of sentimental reasons for Mama. Mr. Bean could do without that tradition.

4B8E8178-D50C-41B9-A47A-C272059A9ECEWe do a lot of baking, looking at lights, special movies, and hot cocoa- time together. We always pick one charitable activity to participate in. We do advent calendars, candlelight services, and special days with grandparents. Focusing on the true value of the season. I use to cook a Christmas dinner, but decided I didn’t enjoy spending the day in the kitchen and not WITH my boys. Now, Chinese take-out is our Christmas Day tradition and the boys LOVE it. I do make a special breakfast, which is mostly for the fun of a parent torturing their child while they are made to wait even longer for their presents.

I have to avoid social media on Christmas. While I do love to see the trees, decorations and family photos, I have noticed a trend that occurs every Christmas Eve. More and more posts appear in which parents try to show-off how much Santa left under the tree. For SO many reasons, this is a phenomenon that I need to avoid. The one upness is a behavior I just don’t have the patience for. I also don’t want the boys to see it. We are trying to teach them that Christmas is about more than how much stuff we get, and this perpetuates feelings of envy and discontentment.

Yes, as a parent I absolutely love giving my children gifts and watching their eyes light up with excitement. However, I don’t like having to fight off the little green-eyed monster that pops up when we overindulge them. The first few Christmas’s we overdid it…absolutely. To be honest, this Mama is constantly having to place herself in check in this area. But, we have definitely toned down the amount under the tree and the boys haven’t seemed to notice or care in the least. We aim to follow the Three-Gift Rule. Just as the Wise Men brought three gifts, the boys get three gifts. Usually, it’s something they want, a game and something creative, fun or educational.  If I struggle with keeping myself in check, I tend to throw some books in the mix.

71EF377F-1AF4-40E1-B4B8-51F93EC96846One other thing we find important is teaching each boy to think of his brother. We take each one out for a special one on one time and give him $20 to get a gift for his brother. This is still hard for them, but a great opportunity to learn to think about what someone else would like. This time is so special to me, and I hope its something they remember as they grow up.

What do you do during the holiday season that is special to your family? However you celebrate, enjoy those around you and remember the true meaning of Christmas!

“I love Christmas cookies!”~Mr. Man

“It cools down and snow!”~Monkey

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