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. 

Giant Roller Ramps from Lake Shore Learning: Review

**Read through to find a coupon code for 20% off!**

Every birthday and Christmas my husband and I go through the same conversation. What toy are we going to give the girls which is first, worth the cost and second, worth the space it will take up. I’m happy for my girls to have toys and fun things to play with, but with three daughters there just is a limit on how much stuff they actually need. As I think about toys now I think about what will inspire them. Lakeshore Learning is a company with inspirational toys. 
We had the chance to review the Giant Roller Ramp Starter SetWhat a fabulous toy! This set comes with 17 sturdy pieces and a ball. Sounds simple, right? My opinion is that simple is often best. This toy has captivated my girls for hours as they experimented with a variety of configurations. 

The girls started out by following one of the many options of configurations included with the pieces. I was pleased to see how clearly they were presented so both Beth (6) and Rose (8) were able to build what they saw. The ladder parts are stackable and a variety of heights can be used. 
The ramps easily snap together for children. It took Beth a little longer to figure this part out, but soon she was jumping right with the building and snapping! They are made so any one ramp will attach to another which makes creativity easy. They are extremely well crafted so the constant building and rebuilding does not put stress onto the connection pieces. 
The included rubber ball glides smoothly on the ramps. The girls called it their tester. They used this first to see if it worked for them. If the ball got stuck they looked things over to figure out how to get it moving again. It has been so fun for me to watch them discover basic fundamentals of engineering while they are playing. 
Notice the toy cars in the background? After using their test ball the girls would try a variety of cars to see which one would work best. They had a handful of cars they liked best. This was Grace’s favorite part! She struggled a bit with the building, but boy did she like the testing! 
Before long Beth especially was ready to try her own setup! I thought at first she was just randomly building and I enjoyed seeing her work, helping her when she asked. Imagine my surprise when she used her test ball and she grinned up at me saying, “It worked just like I thought it would, Mommy!” I questioned her on exactly what she meant. If you notice the setup, she intentionally created a ramp which would cause the ball to end up right back where it started. She told me she wanted to do it this way so she didn’t have to get up and chase after it. Wow! Seeing my recently turned 6-year-old deliberately build model that functioned in a specific way she intended from the beginning was eye-opening to my understanding of how her mind operates.
My girls have played with this almost daily since we received it. Some days small balls roll down the ramps, sometimes cars, and sometimes little characters going on a water slide (this was mostly Grace!). This is a wonderful set which I recommend to anyone looking for a different type of toy for their child, one which will engage them longer than the current trendy toys and cause their imaginations to soar higher than you may have ever thought!

Here is your coupon code: http://www.lakeshorelearning.com/7413
(expires October 31)
Disclaimer: I received the Giant Roller Ramps Starter Set  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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Safari Ltd.: Review and Giveaway!

I’m so excited to partner with Safari Ltd. for this review and giveaway! My girls love to play what they are learning about in school whether it is history or science. I love all of the beautiful figures Safari Ltd. has created for both science and history. This company strives for excellence in accuracy and detail which shows in all of their figures. 

Our family owns several sets from Safari Ltd. Our collection includes both historical and animal figures. This Christmas we pieced together a Chronicles of Narnia playset and one of my favorite parts is Mr. and Mrs. Beaver which came from Safari Ltd

I love their motto: Discover the frontiers of your imagination. Imagination is what leads to invention, art, and discovery. I love giving my girls tools which encourage imagination rather than box it in. I also love seeing how what we learn integrates into their play. Our early American histories studies have been greatly enhanced. Rose would often pull out our Jamestown settlers and act out the various stories from history I read. We studied the Powhatans extensively this year, so I was thrilled to receive this Toob ® to review. 

The Safari Ltd. Toob ® series are affordably priced and come with 12 different figures. My girls love them because they get so much in one container! We have purchased several of these including penguins, Jamestown settlers, baby sea life, dino babies, and arctic. Other sets in the Toob ® series include other historical figures, world landmarks, trees, instruments, people…there are just so many to check out! 

I especially like that the historical figures are based on actual individuals in history like Pocahontas, Wahunsenacawh (her father), and John Smith.The effort to make these figures appealing in clear as they are all beautifully painted and have such intricate detail.  

You can see what effort and care have been made in these figures. I love the natural look of the rumpled clothes. I also appreciate how carefully the faces have been painted. Many children’s toys don’t always take care to make sure the eyes are even in the right spot for toys this small. Every little detail has been monitored with each figure. 
My kids rarely play with just one set of toys. We often have the feel of the movie Toy Story with dinosaurs playing with the early settlers or the Powhatan tribe traveling in a car. Beth enjoyed using the background scenery from her older sister’s origami set and Rose preferred our set of Nature Blocks. One day I found Grace had included her miniature princesses into their play! That’s the point though…imaginative play. It doesn’t matter that they are playing with figures from different eras or even fantasy and reality. Imaginative play is the key, and these particular sets of toys bring out imagination in such a beautiful way! Our curriculum incorporates living books for both history and science. What better complement to this than actual figures to make the history jump off the page! 
We were also given the Toob ® set Land Down Under to review. The girls liked them so much I couldn’t get them to slow down their play enough to get some good photos! The set is also beautifully crafted and includes an Aboriginal trail guide to make sure everyone stays safe. (At least that was his job in our house!) Just as with the historical figures the detail included for each of these figures is exquisite. The frizzled lizard was a particular favorite among my girls! 
Now I am privileged to host a fun giveaway for you all! Safari Ltd. will give one winner the Toob ® of their choice! The winner will also receive a second surprise if following one of their social networks! (The links to those networks are listed in the rafflecopter below) There are lots of ways to earn extra entries so don’t forget to enter as much as possible! 

Nature Blocks from Lake Shore Learning: Review

I love giving my girls toys which are unique and promote imaginative play. I’m also rather partial to toys which are of a simple nature encouraging more ingenuity and less button pushing! Anything reminiscent of the toys of yesterday immediately draw me in. Nature Blocks from Lakeshore Learning fit all of these ideals!

As soon as I opened the package my girls nearly grabbed the box out of my hands! The box of 36 blocks are beautifully crafted and resemble trees. Their smooth texture and natural wood-grain appearance make them so attractive. My girls have played with similar blocks at our local children’s museum and remarked how they liked these better because they stacked more easily. I loved that they could easily play with these on carpet. Other building block sets we have don’t stack well on the carpet and frustrate my daughters since they don’t typically want to play in the kitchen where there is a smooth surface.

The girls enjoyed making buildings out of the pieces. As much as I love these I honestly didn’t know how long they would captivate the girls’ attention. The answer? I had to drag them away! The only problem was no one wanted to take down their creations which in turn meant no one could build anything new!

Rose enjoyed building structures for her Colonial Settler and Native American figurines. She built forests, houses, bridges, and much more over and over.

Beth liked trying to make animals. The unique shapes really allowed her imagination to run wild! She told me this was a giraffe.

Grace just liked to build anything she could! She did prefer to use the hearth for a building medium. She had an easier time stabilizing the base of her creations here.

This past week Grace wasn’t feeling well enough to focus much on her lessons. A cold, cough, and slight fever made for one cranky little girl! Typically this is a problem because she doesn’t feel like trying on her lessons but doesn’t want to miss out on learning. This week I had no problem because she spent at least 45 minutes each day playing with the Nature Blocks! For a three-year-old anything that occupies for longer than 15 minutes is a winner!

In addition to the simply fun of building, these also provided an opportunity to show Rose and Beth tree rings. The circles very clearly show tree rings and provide a nice, kid-sized, hands-on learning tool for science!

Check out these and more fun learning toys at Lakeshore Learning!
I received Nature Blocks in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. No other compensation was received