I ordered Forever Boy as soon as I heard it was being published and read it within 24 hours of Amazon delivering it to my doorstep. Mind you, this is the first book I have given myself permission to read in quite a long time. The boys require so much of my attention during the day and I am usually exhausted by the time they are asleep.
In Forever Boy, Kate describes the journey her family has been on. Her son was diagnosed with Severe Nonverbal Autism. My boys both also have an Autism diagnosis; however, all three boys are very different. What I loved about Forever Boy is that it spoke straight to my Mama heart. Our boys may different, they have different struggles and our day to day looks completely different, but the words she wrote still rang true.
I ended up reading much of the book aloud to my husband through tears (just to be clear, Harry Potter can make me cry these days!) Each time he would comment “You’ve said that exact same thing a million times” or “Wow, that sounds familiar.” This is what makes Forever Boy so moving. It’s relatable, no matter where the child is on the spectrum.
I appreciate Kate’s honesty. She is real about how her son’s diagnosis has affected her marriage, her family relationships, her friendships, and her emotions. She talks about BOTH the joys and the struggles of life with Autism. The world tells us Autism Mamas that we need to be joyful about our kids’ diagnosis. Kate shares how she came to find joy, but doesn’t shy away from the stuff that we aren’t supposed to talk about.
Within her pages, Kate gives you permission to be real, to worry, celebrate, cry, or get angry, when the world says you need to smile and pretend like everything is wonderful. Goodness knows I have felt all of those things, sometimes within a few minutes of each other. In the last chapter, Kate talks about grief and allowing yourself to feel it. I firmly believe that in order to move forward, you must allow yourself to process these feelings. Toxic positivity isn’t helpful to anyone. Kate urges us to be the person we needed in the beginning.
If you are a parent of a child on the spectrum, you should read this book. You are not alone. If you are an extended family member of a child on the spectrum, you should read this book. It will help you understand what your loved ones live. If you work with a child on the spectrum, you should read this book. It will help you better understand the families you support. If you are a human, you should read this book. It will help you gain new perspective and be a kinder, more understanding person.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I 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.
Monkey, 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!
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.
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 colorful 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. Both 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.
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!
This 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.
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