Planet 316: A TOS Review Crew Review

Planet 316 Daily Bible Jigsaw by Planet 316Our household is always trying to find a balance with technology. My husband and I enjoy playing games in the evenings as we wind down and we allow our girls a limited amount of time each day just for fun on their tablets. We live in a technological society and we feel it is beneficial for our kids to learn to navigate some of this now while they are young. We do place very strict parameters on the games they play and are more restrictive in this area than most families we know. When I heard about Planet 316 I was intrigued because of the inclusion of Bible verses in their app Daily Bible Jigsaw.  I enjoy playing this game in the evenings. I’m very busy during the day between homeschool, the English class I teach, and teaching piano lessons. I feel like I have to engage and interact constantly throughout the day, so being the introvert that I am having a little time to play gentle games that are not intense and don’t involve a lot of strategy. I enjoy puzzle type games but had never tried a puzzle building app. This was a lot of fun for me personally as I enjoy building puzzles in real life.   Daily Bible Jigsaw by Planet 316 Daily Bible Jigsaw  is available in multiple formats. You can find this app via Facebook, the App Store, or Google Play. I appreciate it when apps are available in different places because I use an iPad and my girls use Android platform tablets. For this review we all used  the iPad. You simply drag pieces together in order to have them click into place. Pieces are easily rotated by tapping. Once you get some pieces connected you also can rotate these connected pieces if you need. There are also extra helps you can use at the top of the screen which cost coins from within the app.  

 Everyday there is a new puzzle available. You can go back and play previous puzzles from each month, but this does cost you puzzle coins. You can earn these coins throughout completion of the puzzle, by watching advertisements for other apps, or through payment. (I would caution allowing your children to earn the coins through watching advertisements without supervision.) You can use the coins to buy helps during the puzzle play, but this was not something I cared to do. I like the challenge of figuring it out on my own. I preferred to use the coins for completing previous puzzles.   Daily Bible Jigsaw by Planet 316 My girls also enjoyed playing! The fun of this game is the challenge of completing the puzzles. Once you complete the puzzles you are rewarded with a beautiful picture and an encouraging verse from Scripture. The inclusion of encouraging Scripture is a unique aspect for this app. It is rare to find an app of any sort, short of Bible study helps, which includes anything Bible related. After enjoying this app I’m intrigued by what other games Planet 316 has created.  Here is an excellent view of what this app has to offer!   Don’t forget to see what my Crewmates have to say! Daily Bible Jigsaw {Planet 316 Reviews} Crew Disclaimer

Fascinating Facts Human Body Game: A Review from Lakeshore Learning

There are a lot of ways to learn. In my experience as both a classroom teacher and homeschooling mother meaningful learning takes place with tactile and engaging activities. Workbooks and pages have their place, but my girls remember so much more with they are involved with hands-on experiences. Most of the time we get these opportunities at museums and other special events. This time we were blessed to have one of these opportunities right in our living room! 
I’ve been thinking that a human body model might be a nice addition to our homeschool, but none of the ones I’ve seen before are made to be handled by elementary age kids. They would function as display models, but not very well as learning models for kids who are very curious.
This is The Fascinating Facts Human Body Game from Lakeshore Learning and unlike all the other body models I have looked at this one was perfect for my children to handle and take apart as much as they wanted. In addition to the really cool model, this also came with trivia cards with both easy and difficult questions. This is a fun way to explore the body. 
I was surprised at just how large this body model was. It was easy for my girls, ages 10, 8, and 6, to manipulate, take apart, and put back together. The pieces are solid plastic and it would take a lot of effort to break them. This would not be appropriate for young children who put things in their mouth, however, because there are several smaller pieces. 
I really, really liked the question cards. The easy side was perfect for Grace and Beth and they had a fun time seeking out the various anatomical parts. The cards provided statements like, “This is what you use to smell chocolate chip cookies.” Critical thinking skills come into play with this type of analytical questioning and create a more meaningful and deeper learning experience. 
We used the cards and played a game where each one would pick a card and find the part being described. If they didn’t know an answer, it was shown on a diagram on the reverse side of the card. The girls loved taking turns and the only trouble we ran into was I had to prevent them from telling each other the answers! 
In our case there were some really neat personal applications. In December of 2012 I had surgery to remove a tumor from my intestines and in July of 2013 I had a partial thyroidectomy. I’ve tried to explain both of these in terms of anatomy before to my girls, but it wasn’t until I used this body model that the light bulbs went on. This was a neat side blessing which I hadn’t anticipated. 
This is already a favorite in our household and I caught my girls several times playing with this on their own for fun. This would make a superb Christmas gift for any little boy or girl, especially one interested in a medical field. 
I also have some exciting news! The wonderful folks at Lake Shore Learning are offering a 20% off coupon! 
Disclaimer: I received the Fascinating Facts Human Body Game in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review. 

Are You Ready? Game Show®: Review

(Awesome coupon alert!!!!! Read through to the bottom to find it!)
I have really enjoyed the opportunity to review for Lakeshore Learning in the past and their most recent product I’ve reviewed does not disappoint! The girls get so excited when they see a Lakeshore Learning box on our front porch. They know it will be filled with fun as well as learning!
The Are You Ready? Game Show® series is a new way to assess grade level readiness without the traditional pencil-to paper bubble tests. What a great change of pace! One question I’m frequently asked by families who aren’t homeschooling is how I know if my children are ready for the next level. This is a new way to check their progress without it being so very boring. 
We reviewed the assessment for 1st graders called, Are You Ready for 2nd Grade? Game Show. At only $30 per level this is an excellent assessment tool for any family. The fun game format makes it much more exciting for the child. Included are 6 separate games to be played at different times. At the end of the last game the parents can input their child’s individual missed questions to gain access to printable activities to work on that specific skills. Other Lakeshore Learning products are also listed which can help with the specific skills. I really appreciate that the company offers free tools to help students achieve in the areas they are lacking. 
Beth has finished 1st grade (yay!!!!) and is busily working on work at the next level. My girls typically work a little ahead grade level so I’m not concerned about their academic progress. Even so it is nice to have assessment tools available for several reasons. It is important for them to know they are doing a great job. Accomplishment feels good and gentle assessments can help that along. It is also nice when I’m questioned about their abilities to be able to say they are at or above grade level and have something to back it up. I know I do not have to answer to anyone, but I don’t mind answering questions when asked respectfully. 
As I expected Beth very much enjoyed playing the games. She earned play money for each correct answer, but incorrect answers really weren’t  big deal. They just went into a side pile. She kept scratch paper handy for math problems although she didn’t need it. Her sisters played the game with her. Rose, the oldest, asked questions and put the cards in the correct or incorrect pile. Grace (the littlest) handed her the money. In reality all three of them enjoyed this and the other two asked if they were going to get a turn!
Everything you need is in the box including the game board, play money, game cards, and assessment paper for parents to record missed items. The only thing I would find more helpful is having a printable version of this record card available especially since I hope to use it again! 
This particular assessment lives up to it’s title of “game show.” What kid wouldn’t enjoy this over a standardized test? We do still of course complete a yearly standardized test as required by our state’s law, but this is a really fun alternative for review or for those who are not required by state law to use standardized testing.

You can check out more by watching the video below…

Now for the coupon code! Lakeshore Learning is offering my readers $10 any Are You Ready? Game Show®!!!!!!! Isn’t that great? 
Expires 7/31/14

Disclaimer: I received Are You Ready for 2nd Grade? Game Show® from Lakeshore Learning in exchange for an honest review.  I was not required to give a positive review. I was not compensated in any other way. 

Wild Cards~Baby Animals Around the World from Birdcage Press: Review

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I don’t know if it is because I have all daughters or because it is their age or I am just blessed, but all three of my children are infatuated with everything baby related. Nearly every time they play pretend a baby is involved with the family. They all croon over newborns and label everything as a Mama and baby…even inanimate objects! One of our favorite car games to play at the moment is identifying the names of baby animals I will call out a baby animal name and they have to figure out what the adult version is called. Needless to say we were all excited when we received Wild Cards: Baby Animals Around the World from Birdcage Press
Wild Cards - Baby Animals Around the World photo Birdcage-wildcardsbabyanimals_zps7f8bf6b3.jpgBirdcage Press specializes in learning games which an be found in the world’s finest museums covering a variety of topics including science, history, and art. These beautiful cards not only have stunning pictures, but are filled with interesting facts about each animal. Also included is a nice little book with even more information! To say my girls crave knowledge is an understatement. I could hardly tear them away from just reading these cards to play some of the suggested games. For only $10.95 this is a very high quality product. While it is intended for ages 6 and up all three of my girls (7, 5, and 3) enjoyed this set. 
The 28-page booklet also includes game ideas to use with the cards. This particular set has 3 pairs of animals from a variety of continents around the world. At the bottom of each card the other two corresponding animals are listed. Each continent represented also has a corresponding color and number for easier matching. 
Because there are two of each card go fish and old maid are easily played with this set. However my favorite game we played was reminiscent of rummy. Instead of simply searching for a match, we tried to get a set of animals from the same continent. This was a bigger challenge and was a more unique way to play. 
Grace really liked this game although my husband helped her out quite a bit. Our girls have played games of all varieties from the time they were about 15 months old. Sometimes in our laps, sometimes on their own, but always as a family. Grace often plays Go Fish with her sisters and she kept wanting to go that route, but she caught on once she and Daddy matched up a set. 
We inherited our love of game playing from our parents and are passing the tradition down to our girls! We’re always on the lookout for something new and unique. Kids games tend to be very similar, but this one was different than any other we have. The only downside was our game went rather slowly…but I can’t complain! The reason it took us forever to finish one game was because the girls couldn’t help but read and discover more about the animals on the cards in their hands!
Here is the proof of the real test of a product. My girls organized this game on their own. Beth asked if anyone wanted to play the Baby Animal Game, they got out their beanbag chairs, and played without us. While the girls enjoy games, they don’t typically play without us. It was fun to Rose and Beth help Grace along and see the have a good time making memories! 
Check out more reviews of this and other products from Bird Cage Press below from my Crewmates!
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Always Ice Cream: Review and Giveaway!

My daughters really enjoy using the computer, but we limit the time and limit what games they play. My girls are allowed to use a small handful of websites and a few games we have loaded on to a laptop given to us by a friend. However I’m rather skeptical of some kid-friendly sites because of the amount and type of advertising. Wouldn’t it be great for our boys and girls to have a safe, educational, advertisement-free website? I have some great news! I found one!

These sibling sites are geared respectively towards girls and boys. The idea is to provide something safe, educational, and fun! After watching my girls play and learn for the past month I can tell you they have succeeded! As kids play the educational games they earn scoops (for girls) or gold coins (for boys). They use these to purchase pets, items for their pets, or items for their house or castle.
You can choose games within a range of grade-levels (k-8th) which is nice since no one child is exactly the same as another. The learning games span a wide range of topics including language arts, math, science, music and art, Bible, geography, history, life-skills, and foreign languages. New games are being added all the time and as students complete a level they move on to a harder level. Students also create a person and can customize it using hundreds of possibilities for skin, hair, eye, and outfit colors/styles. 
Rose has been begging me to learn how to type for several months now. She is fascinated by how quickly I am able to type and often mimics my fingers on the keyboard. Until finding Always Ice Cream I honestly thought she would need to wait a few more years before beginning typing skills. So far, this has been her favorite game.  
The typing game keeps her attention and has gradually taught her letter placement on the keyboard. Rose always wants to get to the next level and she loves the challenge! I like that she can see the letters and finger placement on the screen so she is not looking down as much at her fingers. I also like that there is an option on screen to move to an easier level. This way if she is unable to practice for a few days she isn’t stuck with a level beyond her skill. 

This particular website has been a great incentive for my girl. She knows she’ll have a chance to use Always Ice Cream when she completes her other schoolwork for the day…although, she also begs to play on the weekends as well. We still limit their time because I recognize that too much screen time is not healthy for them, but it is so nice to have such a good option for learning and reward.

Since I had surgery over Christmas all of my great ideas for things to do with my girls went out the window. I found myself happily allowing my girls more screen-time than usual because I knew they were learning and I could trust what they were doing was safe without my having to look over their shoulder the entire time.

Ideally each of your children should have their own account.The benefit to doing this is you get weekly reports unique to each specific child and you can customize each student’s account. For now we only have one, but it would be great to have an account for each of my girls. There are several purchasing options so you can choose what is the best fit for your family. 

I know you are really interested now! When you purchase your order (because I KNOW you will want this for your kids!) be sure to put my name, Melissa Williamson, into the “how did you hear about us” field during registration!

And now for the giveaway!!!!
The great people at Always Ice Cream and Clever Dragons are generously giving away a full year membership (valued ta $47.40) to the site of your choice! WOW! Enter through rafflecopter below. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received a free year subscription of this product from Always Ice Cream in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. No other compensation was received. 

Let’s Go Bananas!!!! (Review and giveaway)

We are a game family. Both my husband and I grew up playing games in our families so we have continued the tradition with the girls. We also have a monthly game night at church and have so much fun just spending time with our church family. This is where I discovered Bananagrams. I had seen the oh-so-cute banana-shaped game in stores, but hadn’t had a chance to play it until one lovely game night when a friend brought it.

I have always enjoyed the typical tile-letter board game. While my husband was willing to play with me, he honestly didn’t have much fun. He considers himself a poor speller and since my major was in English I think he sort of felt like he never had a chance to begin with! I tried to convince him otherwise, but to no avail.

…and then came Bananagrams

Wow! It’s fast paced, and isn’t about spelling long words, just spelling quickly. I loved the game and I was so happy when he had fun too! Basically you make your own crossword-style grid out of letter tiles. Everyone plays at the same time and you are working to be the last one to finish first. Fun! I thought after playing just one round how much fun my girls would have playing this game…when they were older.

…and then came new games!

The makers of Bananagrams created two new games with a younger audience in mind….Pairs in Pears and Appleletters!



I have been giddy ever since I found out I was going to get the opportunity to review these two wonderful games! I had no idea how to play either game, but I knew they would be fun. They come in adorable packaging that instantly drew my girls’ attention. Each came with instructions for multiple game variations and I couldn’t wait to try them all!

In this game each player is given a set number of tiles. There are four complete sets of the alphabet with four different designs. The first to make a set number of pairs of words crossed in the middle wins. The number of tiles and number of pairs changes depending on the number of players. For instance, in a two-player game each player is given 52 tiles and must make 4 pairs of words to win.

In addition to the directions for the original game there is a small booklet with a variety of variations and activities. The activity ideas are separated by levels including pre-readers, early-readers, and solid readers.

I loved Pairs-in-Pears for my youngest daughter who is three. She is learning her alphabet and really enjoyed sorting the tiles into letter sets. Another activity she enjoyed was sorting the four patterns. She sat in the floor for 45 minutes playing with these tiles! For a three-year-old, 45 minutes of focused, structured learning-play is almost unheard of. She frequently asks to play her fruit game which is a great way for her to stay focused and still be learning while I’m teaching her older sisters.


This game is a fun way reinforce spelling for students of all ages. In Appleletters each player starts with nine tiles. Players then take turns building words in the center of the table. The catch is that each word must begin or end with either the first or last letter of what is already on the table. In the end you have a word worm of sorts.

My older daughters really enjoyed this game. They played well together. I had to help Beth the most who is five. She is learning to spell through All About Spelling, but was struggling to see words with the letter tiles she had in front of her. She eventually caught on and was quickly making words on her own. Her sister, Rose, was a little quirky about this game. She would think of a word before she really looked at her letters. It took her a little while to figure out that she should look at her letters before she decided what word to use.

The girls really did have fun and worked together to get the entire pile done! We’ve played this several times now and each time they have more fun. I love that their spelling skills are being reinforced in such a fun way. There are a variety of other ways to play this game as well, but they are intended to make the game harder, so for now we’re sticking to the original version.

Remember the church game night I mentioned? I took Appleletters to game night and we had a great time playing with just the adults! I wasn’t sure how it would go over since it was created for a younger audience, but the four of us who played really had fun with our word building.

Here is our final word worm from the night!
Are you ready for a giveaway now? I know you are!!!! Check out what the wonderful people at Bananagrams is giving to one lucky winner!!!!!
Did you notice the third game? Zip-It is a face-paced two-player game. The 24 letter cubes are divided between two players. Using any letters on the cubes each player creates a cross-word style grid. The first to do so wins. Wow! Each round typically lasts lest than a minute. My husband and I even played one round in 20 seconds! The first player to win 10 rounds wins the game. I am very good at this game. My husband is determined to beat me, no matter what!
So now I’m sure you’re asking how to enter? There are several ways to enter through Rafflecopter below. I wish you all could win, but for everyone else don’t forget to pick this game up while you’re doing your Christmas shopping. The entire line of Bananagrams games are great stocking stuffer ideas! 
When you have time, take a look at the story of Bananagrams. It’s a family run company and their story is really inspirational! 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

*I received Appleletters, Pairs in Pears, and Zip-It in exchange for an unbiased review. No other compensation was received.