We're down to the final week of winter break, and I could really use some quiet time. Know what I mean? We're having a ton of fun doing activities together, but I have to admit the ipad is starting to make more frequent appearances. I don't mind if the kids play mindless games now and then, but I feel better when they enjoy an app that has educational value. Thank you Chicktionary!
Recently included in TIME Magazine's top 25 apps for kids, this game is really all it's cracked up to be. (haha.)
What's it about?
Seven cute chickens each display a letter on their bellies. Players tap combinations of letters to form as many words as possible. Every time players make a valid word, it appears in the egg crate above the chickens. Choose between the 3 minute speed-play version, or take your time with the long-play version. If you're stumped, you can tap "beak sneak" or "free bird" for letter clues.
What's the educational value?
Kids will work on spelling, reading, and even gain a little vocabulary. Players are pushed to find longer words to fill up the egg crates. Words not found are displayed at the end of each round, and you can click on any word to see its definition.
What about the fun factor?
Kids find the clucking and squawking chickens really cute, and they love the challenge of upping their scores each round. A new multiplayer "Chicktionary Coop" version for ipad allows you to "customize your chicken COOP with hats, bandanas, costumes and more!" You can challenge Facebook friends to a multiplayer game, or team up to solve puzzles.
Everyone in our family has been cracking up with Chicktionary. It's a fun break when we're feeling a little cooped up! :)
Building snowmen in -30c windchill weather isn't everybody's cup of tea. With winter break around the corner, you might be looking for family activities that don't involve freezing your tushy off. Staying indoors doesn't have to mean hours of mindless screen time. I've put together 5 indoor activities that will keep everyone engaged, and you don't even have to leave your house! Perfect for those extra cold days, for home bodies, for the slightly lazy, and for family bonding.
1. Board Games Galore
We've all heard the family that plays together stays together. Games are a great way to bond, to learn, and to let loose. You could go for a classic like Life or Monopoly, or you could try one of my family's favourites from this list.
2. Crazy Cooking
Prepare to get messy and crazy in the kitchen. Cooking as a family is fun, educational, and the best part? The eating, of course. Here are some tips on keeping it under control, and some easy recipes to make from Canned Soup Mom. She even makes muffins in a blender!
3. Movie Marathon
Snuggling on the couch and watching movies together doesn't have to be mind numbing for adults. Check out my favourite family films that will keep everyone in the family interested and entertained.
4. Get crafty even if you're not Martha Stewart
I'm craft challenged, so I loved these ideas for top 8 snowflake crafts for kids of all ages. Even I can cut snowflakes, and these are pretty nifty. My kids will love decorating the windows with their creations. Tip: Save boxes and wrapping paper, so kids can make their own doll houses and forts. It's amazing how many hours of play kids get out of a box!
5. Reading Popcorn Party
Popcorn? Check. Hot chocolate? Check. Fireplace? Check. Blankets? Check. Favourite books? Check. Sharing books is extra fun when food is involved. It's not just reading, it's a reading party! Everyone brings a book to the table, so this is also a great way to expose kids to new titles. Here are 3 great titles for tweens, and some laugh-out-loud reads for the whole family.
Stay warm, and happy holidays to you and your family!
It takes guts for an adult writer to convey real emotions and issues from a kid's perspective. The dark side of bullying, love, betrayal, and fitting in isn't always what people want to hear. Every Day, Wonder, and The Reluctant Diary of Henry K. Larsen are three gutsy, powerful books that will resonate with young adults. These books speak the "truth" (in a fictional sense) about tween and teenage life. Rather than sugar-coat difficult issues, these writers use insight and dark humour to spark interest. There's just no point in condescending to today's well-informed kids.
As an adult, I don't always expect to connect with YA books. Much to my surprise, I could not put these titles down. I even cried. After my daughter read one of the books, we had a great discussion. It reminded me that the most difficult topics can make great conversation, especially when they lie safely between the covers of a book.
Winner of the Governor General's Literary Awards, 2012. After IT happened, 13-year-old Henry's life would never be the same. "When people find out you're related to a guy who committed murder/suicide, they can never treat you the same way ever again. They can't help thinking that, at any moment, you could go postal, too." Henry's struggle to recover a sense of normalcy after his brother's crime and death was deeply moving, but not sappy. Author Susan Nielsen uses humour and believable teen scenarios to break up a dark theme. Nielsen's exploration into the dynamic of bullies and victims was heart-wrenching. (Ages: 11 and up.)
Every day 16-year-old "A" wakes up in a different person's body for one full day. He half-expected to wake up as a pot-head, or even as a Spanish maid. But he never expected to fall in love. "If I woke up in a different body every day-if you never knew what I was going to look like tomorrow-would you still love me?" More than a captivating story, this novel challenges our assumptions about family, education, social class, identity, and love. (Ages: 11 and up.)
"If I found a magic lamp and I could have one wish, I would wish that I had a normal face that no one ever noticed at all." August's facial deformities have kept him from going to school, but that's about to change. How much courage will it take to be different among ordinary kids? Maybe August isn't so different after all, but it won't be easy convincing others not to judge a boy by his face. An uplifting story about courage, friendship, and the power to overcome adversity. "Be extraordinary in an ordinary world." (Ages: 9 and up.)
These are books I know my daughter and I will carry with us a long time. They are thought-provoking reads that will last long after the batteries have worn out on the latest gadgets. And don't forget, they definitely make great holiday gifts for the tweens on your list.