Archive For The “Layered Learning Method” Category

Walls & Warriors Connect Strategic Thinking with Literacy

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Connecting Critical Thinking skills and Literacy

We love when a game ties critical thinking skills to a love of reading or a topic a child is passionate about.

Thank you SmartGamesUS for providing us a review copy of Walls & Warriors. The opinions expressed herein are strictly my own. This post contains affiliate links.

Connecting Critical Thinking with Literacy

Back to school is in full force and in the spirit of things – we’ve found the perfect pair for connecting strategic thinking skills with literacy. Another SmartGamesUS puzzle game, Walls & Warriors, (coming soon) with knights and a castle is perfect for our adventure stories of knights and midevil times. Victoria was fascinated to learn that castles truly exist and aren’t just “part of the story”. We love the book  I Wonder Why Castles Had Moats by Philip Steele that showcases the inside of a castle… including the ever-famous bathroom. What really went on behind those stone walls? It is a great resource for bringing fantasy and history together. And as long as we’re talking castles and all… be sure to check out SmartGamesUS’ Castle Logix game as well.


Couple the Walls & Warriors puzzle game with fictional stories about knights, such as The Barefoot Book of Knights by John Matthews. Children won’t realize that they are exercising their critical thinking skills while playing the game, especially if listening to the narrated version of the stories or chatting about them should you have had your reading time prior to game play. Either way… take the theme to a whole new level and completely amp up the educational value of these resources when paired together.


Below you can see that the puzzle is appropriate for varying ages with 60 challenge cards, multiple knights (blue and red) and a single castle to defend. There are four wall pieces used to enclose any number of the blue knights (based on the challenge card layout) and the castle. The first few are pretty simple, even for Victoria (age 6) but they do get more challenging. I think everyone in the family has picked up this game on their own to play… something about the pieces and design that is enticing. LOL SmartGamesUS nailed it on this one.


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Back To School with a Classic Tale: Little Red Riding Hood

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#Sponsored review post, where we received a sample copy of Little Red Riding Hood puzzle game by Smart Games in exchange for an honest review. Affiliate links may be contained in this post. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are strictly my own.

Little Red Profile PicFamiliar & Fun – Start your school year off with a beloved family favorite such as Little Red Riding Hood.  There are many versions available, so find the most suited one for your family or select a couple to compare.

Enhance your storytime with an indoor or outdoor picnic.

Packing a picnic theme:

1. Select a picnic basket with with a red blanket and/or napkins, of course. Perhaps even a few delectable bites in the reddish hue like cherries, red apples, red peppers and strawberries.

Little Red picnic basket

2. Pack the Little Red Riding Hood story (or stories). We’ve chosen the Barefoot Books’ Little Red Riding Hood told by Lari Don and narrated by Imelda Staunton.

Little Red Riding Hood Book

3. Bring along a couple of coloring pages or super simple crafts

Here are a couple of really cute ones that are easy to pull off:

Paper plate Little Red

Paper bag Wolf

Little Red Riding Hood Story Finger Puppets

Red Hooded Lollipops

4. Don’t forget the Smart GamesLittle Red Riding Hood puzzle game.

Little Red Riding Hood Picture Book PuzzleThis game comes with 48 challenges (24 with the wolf and 24 without the wolf accompanying Little Red). The goal is to build the path from Little Red to Granny’s house using the puzzle pieces. The challenges get harder as players advance from Starter to Expert. This deluxe puzzle set comes with a picture book of Little Red Riding Hood and has won the 2016 ASTRA Best Toys for Kids award.

Little Red Riding Hood 2

Little Red Riding Hood

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Explore the Wild With Jungle Hide & Seek Game & Jungle Theme Stories

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We’ve partnered with SmartGamesUSA for a series of games and puzzle reviews. We are very excited to be working with them to provide our readers with an honest review of Jungle Hide & Seek. Affiliate links may be contained in this post. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are strictly my own.

Jungle Profile Pic

If there’s one theme that gets kids really going… it’s the wild of the Jungle. We’ve done many variations with the jungle theme because there are tons of craft ideas and great reading selections… not to mention all the animal science and habitat discovery. Here the Jungle Hide & Seek puzzle game by SmartGamesUSA pairs nicely with a couple favorite Barefoot Books: The Animal Boogie and Walking Through The Jungle (both with catchy songs and CD’s). Go wild with this theme… or just enjoy a fun puzzle with some family quiet time. Either way, you can’t go wrong with Jungle Hide & Seek and these Barefoot Books.

Jungle Hide & Seek 3

Jungle Hide & Seek is a puzzle game from SmartGamesUSA, challenging players as a single person game. Similar to well-known, Rush Hour, Jungle Hide & Seek has multiple puzzle challenges which provides lot of game play and ensures players remain on their toes. Jungle Hide & Seek is particularly meaningful because it showcases a dual-sided game board, which incidentally works as storage for the puzzle pieces. On one side you have traditional jungle animals like elephants, tigers and a baboon. On the flip side, children are introduced to nocturnal animals including the lemur, fox, and panther. Aside from being a terrific brain activity, I really like that Jungle Hide & Seek can be partnered with Halloween themes around creatures of the night. It could be used as a party game using teams. We typically leave the spooks to other families and focus on nocturnal animals for our Halloween festivities and activities. It’s all about adding in a layer of learning while having a great time.

Jungle Hide & Seek Profile Pic

As I mentioned above, Jungle Hide & Seek partners perfectly with several of our personal library books on jungle animals. If you are going to the zoo as a family or class trip, this is a perfect game to follow that experience because it speaks to the animals of the wild. Likewise, if you read a lot of stories about animals, Jungle Hide & Seek will help to bring the two activities together. This game will surely become part of our Jungle curriculum, as well as, our Animal Adventures series, both coming soon.

Walk Thru The Jungle & Animal Boogie BFB

Jungle Hide & Seek offers 80 challenges building in complexity. It is perfect for ages 7 to adult… and yes, I’ve challenged myself a couple times and have gotten as far as puzzle card #23. There are four puzzle pieces (with a green and blue side each). Using the corresponding side, players use all four puzzle pieces for each challenge and trust me, it’s a lot more challenging than I’m describing. And a little bit addicting. #JustSaying

Jungle Hide & Seek Jungle Hide & Seek 4Walking Thru The Jungle BFB

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Adventure Series: Hanging With My Little Monkey Friends

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So, how many time since having kids have you said, “You’re not a monkey, don’t climb on the ___” (use your own example here – table, sofa, curtains)?

Seriously, “monkey” became part of our every day conversations once I had kids. Now aside from acting like monkeys or being carried on our person like monkeys… children are also fascinated with this species. (Okay, okay so not just the kids.) Guess who’s most anticipated when we go to the zoo? Of course we love the lions and bird house and those huge snakes we’d never seek out elsewhere… but the monkeys, gorillas and apes always steal the show.  (And if you think I’m a fanatic, oh you should see my sister’s menagerie of monkeys!!)

Monkeys, chimpanzees, orangutans, apes, tamarin – after a while they all just seem to be the same but in fact there are two groups of primates: Apes and Monkeys. Orangutans, chimpanzees, gibbons and gorillas fall into the Ape category, while the Monkey category includes baboon, tamarin and mandrill.   So in the spirit of Homeroom At Home, we decided to put this curiosity to work. My family held our first on-site (and quite interactive) parent/child “edu-play date”. That’s right, we got down to the fun monkey business of learning all about primates.  It was simple; it was entertaining; it was educational (even for the adults!) With crafts, games and snacks we kept ourselves quite entertained for two hours.  Knowing that our audience was going to be on the younger side, we kept the games and crafts very very simple, although you could easily choose more age-appropriate ones. We decorated bookmarks with monkey and gorilla stickers. We used hula hoops and a round table cloth to play games with a blow-up monkey. Of course our littlest guest thought he should be the monkey-in-the-middle.  Another really cute game was “Where Is Sock Monkey?” complete with a stuffed sock monkey. For snack we ate Banana Graham Cracker Pudding Cake and Monkey Bread. We read a variety of books and used a simple story board to demonstrate the differences between apes and monkeys and then we tested our knowledge with picture books and stuffed animals. Each child took home coloring sheets of either gibbons, gorillas, tamarins, orangutans or monkeys. The highlight of the evening was the puppet story telling of 5 Little Monkeys Sitting In A Tree whereby teasing a certain crocodile. I happened to have a Crocodile Cuddle-Uppet and five stuffed animal monkeys. Everyone participated as one by one the monkeys disappeared. We also read and re-enacted 5 Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed and below you’ll find a cute picture of that action. Again, these highly engaging stories were the talk of the night.   Check out our Facebook page for more fun photos of our Monkey Edu-Play Date.

As fun as it was playing games and tossing around stuffed animal friends, it doesn’t hold a candle next to watching these primates in action. There are many local places to check out apes and monkeys including the Philadelphia Zoo. The Philadelphia Zoo has named 2012 the Year Of The Orangutan with special exhibits, events and education awareness. The Buffalo Zoo of New York offers wonderful PDF Fact Sheets for most of their animals on exhibit – in fact many zoos offer bios or facts for their animal population but the full sheet fact pages of Buffalo Zoo was impressive and helpful. This was also the case for Brandywine Zoo of Delaware.

We can’t have all this talk about monkeys and apes and NOT mention the Ape House at the National Zoo in DC. This exhibit is home to several gorillas and orangutans. The Ape House is only one of several exhibits the National Zoo offers for primates. When visiting be sure to stop by the Small Mammal House, Think Tank, Lemur Island and more. Be sure to bookmark their website here, as it is full of information to return to – monkeys and otherwise. Another fascinating feature of the National Zoo is the creation of the first ever Orangutan Transport System (OTS) – no kidding! As a solution to a logistical and design issue within the zoo, they created a traveling system allowing the orangutans to freely roam between the Ape House and Think Tank. In addition, the orangutans are offered the freedom to choose their evening dwelling. How cool is that? Check out more on the “O line” by clicking here. Now among several on-going projects, our National Zoo at the Smithsonian has spearheaded the Golden Lion Tamarin Conservation Program whereby saving these critically endangered monkeys over the last three decades and reducing their classification from critically endangered to endangered. Don’t forget to check out the education tools on the website – there’s so much offered.

Play time equals learning fun too, so check out these great toys to continue your primate experience:

China’s famous Yi Yuanji of 1000 years ago, depicted a beautiful scene on silk of two gibbons in a tree. This painting became memorable due to a culture that mostly focused on flowers and birds in artistic expression. You can check it out here.

Let’s continue our discussion… chimpanzees, monkeys, gorillas, etc have been featured in a number of live-action family films. Share with us your favorite and one lucky participant will win a small monkey surprise just for leaving a comment. (Be sure to leave your email, so I can contact the winner directly.) Winner will be chosen on October 25th.

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Our Blue Moon Journey Concludes… Until 2015

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Tonight’s sky beamed with the our long awaited “Blue Moon”. Hope you’ve enjoyed this experience as much as we have. We brought our Moon story to a close with more songs and here’s one of our absolute favorites – an instrumental piece.

We just sat and watched it play on the screen in darkness… taking in its magnificent beauty. Sometimes you need to slow things down to bring out the best. And sometimes you just need a great beat to enable the lyrics or lesson to stick… try Mr. Lee’s “Phases of the Moon” in a rap. We think it is rather catchy.

Speaking of the phases of the moon, here’s another great learning video from Songs Of Higher Learning also called “Phases Of The Moon”. Take a listen, we love this one too.

Of course we love the songs designed for the little ones like “Man On The Moon” and “Hey Hey Mr. Moon”.

We love reading as much as we love music and dancing, so naturally we continued our adventures through story time. Here are a couple more good ones to consider…

Full Moon Barnyard Dance by Carole Lexa Schaefer: Cute tale of barnyard friends pairing up and dancing by the river in the moonlight.

Full Moon Barnyard Dance

Long Night Moon by Cynthia Rylant: Beautifully illustrated, it speaks to the moons named each month by the Native Americans.

Long Night Moon

Night Of The Moon Jellies by Mark Shasha: Sweet story about a boy who finds a jellyfish washed up on the shore, later discovers its a magnificent moonjelly. He and his grandmother sail to sea to return it and watch all the moonjellies light up the water.

Night Of The Moon Jellies

Homeroom At Home facebook page offers more pictures and tips on a Moon lesson plan. Also, our main website offers video suggestions and reviews for the Solar System; click here to jump over now.

It’s been an incredible journey. We’ve enjoyed learning the ASL sign for moon and how to say it in Spanish (La Luna). Via and I have had a great time reading all sorts of stories about the moon or including it as a main story element. The crafts and music have been particularly fun. This is a fantastic topic with so many options for exploring. Parents, keep in mind that my little monkey is only two and a half, so I’ve had to dial our activities back to her age group and attention span. There is so much more you could incorporate with regard to a lesson on the moon… be it a weekend camp-out or a summer long adventure. Be sure to mix it up to keep their interest and allow their imaginations to go wild… after all that’s how we landed on the moon to begin with. We’d love to hear about your adventures, so please share your stories and pictures.

We conclude our festivities with a beautiful song: “I See The Moon And The Moon Sees Me” with great anime visuals.

Thank you for joining us on our “Once in a Blue Moon Journey”! #BlueMoon

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Our Once In A Blue Moon Journey Continues…

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Our Blue Moon Journey Continues…

With the second full moon this month coming soon… we’ve been celebrating and focusing on our Moon all month long. We’ll admit that we’ve not made it outside every night and a few of the nights were too cloudy to catch the Moon, but those nights we had been successful – were well worth waiting for. Although my little one is only a toddler, we explore the moon and its phases – of course not in too much depth but at least more than “the moon is made of cheese”. I figure if she’s that interested and patient I might as well squeeze in a couple of fact here and there and eventually she’ll remember something factual about her precious obsession. That’s not to say we don’t enjoy all the fictional tales and children’s book for her age too. And a quick trip to the library provided us with plenty.

Crescent Moon CraftSo what have we been up to so far this month? Well, to the right you’ll find a simple craft we did using a black paper plate and silver glitter glue.  The best part is the visual effect if you shine a filtered flashlight over it in a dark room. My daughter really liked this effect. Throughout our journey, I highlighted the different phases of the moon as I could – and this was a perfect little exercise.  You can find more pictures of crafts and such on our Homeroom At Home facebook page.

We love dancing as much as crafts in our house, so of course we had to find some fitting music. Recess Monkey has a whole CD of outer space fun on their album “The Final Funktier”* but we were sure to play “Moon Boots” over and over again. You can enjoy it here from YouTube but we recommend the entire album. We also found some other goodies online to dance to and our favorite was “Phases Of The Moon”.

Reflecting Moon Screensaver

Via and I searched for online fun having to do with the Moon. Together we solved puzzles and shared some videos. An awesome website for this is Here’s one of the puzzleswe completed together online. She and I also searched for pictures of the Moon and a new screensaver. Here’s a picture of the screensaver we finally agreed on. She likes the reflection of the moon; I like the animated bird.

We ended up doing more online with pictures and games, than making crafts this month. It was still a very cool celebration. We also read many books about the moon. Here were some of our favorites so far:

Here In Space

The Moon And You

Goodnight Moon

Kittens First Full Moon

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Here’s to our continued “Once in a Blue Moon Journey”!

Be sure to check out the “Blue” Full Moon on August 31st. PS – it’s not actually blue although we did have an orange moon earlier in the month. And for more information on our solar system, check out our main Homeroom At Home site by clicking here.

(Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post.  *I received a complementary copy of Recess Monkey’s album for review.  All of the opinions stated here are strictly my own.)

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Adventure Series: Sharks and the Deep Blue

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It wouldn’t be the summer without talk of sharks.  Sharks captivate adult and child audiences alike. Ranging in size and holding unique characteristics, they’re just too darn cool. Here you’ll find some of our favorite shark activities to couple with Discovery Channel’s 2012 Shark Week (Sunday, August 12th thru Thursday, August 16th) or to create your own shark week anytime.

Nothing beats seeing these creatures in person. We’ve enjoyed the attractions and huge shark tank at Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ. They have over 70 sharks and a special exhibit thru Sept 3rdMegalodon – The Largest Shark that Ever Lived”. Many folks already know of the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD but did you know that you could participate in the “Sharks! Behind-the-Scene Tour”? This special guided tour (for an additional fee) allows you to get super close to the shark tank, view the food prep area to learn of the sharks’ diet and care, then offers you a special take-home souvenir. Or extend that experience with a shark sleepover at the aquarium. Click here for more details. Don’t forget to check out the education tools on the website – there’s so much offered. The National Aquarium is also located in Washington DC, as is the Sant Ocean Hall at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. Atlantic City offers another hands-on option with the Shark & Ray Touch Tank at the Atlantic City Aquarium in New Jersey. These special feeding experiences are offered daily at noon and 3PM.

Sharks can get pretty in tense, so for the younger crowd or just to mix things up, don’t forget about Disney’s amazing shark scenes in The Little Mermaid and Finding Nemo (which is being released in 3D on September 14th in movie theaters).  You can also find tasty “Finding Nemo” fruit snacks by Kellogg’s in your local grocery store.   “Shark Tale” is a cute animated story about sharks. Another family film would be Disneynature’s “Oceans” features all types of sea life including sharks. Disney also offers education tools, click here to download them.  Here are a couple of nonfiction shark flicks to consider for the family:  “Shark Week: Restless Fury”, Eyewitness: “Shark”, and “Prehistoric Predators: Monster Shark”.


Play time equals learning fun, so check out these great toys to continue your shark experience:

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For MORE shark talk… check out this Four Little Monsters Blog article for food, crafts and learning fun as they embark on a Shark Week Adventure. “My family goes all out for Discovery Channel’s Shark Week. Sharks are some of the coolest and most fascinating creatures on the planet if you ask us. Considering sharks were around since oh… before the dinosaurs, I’d say they score automatic coolness and respect points. Here at our house, we try to make Shark Week about learning, of course, and most definitely about fun.” With ongoing ideas to spark your creativity and give-away prizes, you won’t want to miss this mom’s plan. Discovery Channel also has lots of online interactive options to check out. I found myself calmly mesmerized by the online puzzle, but another option is the Shark Munch game and the Discovery Kids Shark App with lots and lots of choices.

By mixing a little of this and that with a video clip and art projects, shark snacks and interactive games, you can create an unforgettable shark themed week. We’d love to hear what you’ve included in your sharp shark plans. Leave us a comment.

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Our Once in a Blue Moon Journey…

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What takes your breathe away? What distracts you in mid-sentence? For my daughter it’s anything in the sky. Yup, anything. She spots birds, clouds, planes but the most fascinating thing to her is the moon. If the moon is out – day or night, she’s found it. Sometimes driving down I-95 I’ll hear a squeal – “MOOOOOOON, Mommy!” What a beautiful sound and of course what a wonderful sight our moon is at any phase.

To embrace her fascination and curiosity, August starts the beginning of our month long journey with Earth’s moon. And it couldn’t get better with a special Blue Moon month. We are fortunate to START and END our journey with two full moons. This only happens every couple of years… 2.66 years to be exact.  The second full moon of the month gets the actual title of a “Blue Moon”.

So with this being the first of August, we’ll experience a full moon tonight. Then throughout the month we’ll follow the moon, read about our moon and create a variety of artwork around the moon… only to end our journey with a second full moon on August 31st.

Below is a picture Via took just a couple days ago. We hope to capture more cool shots of the night sky this month, as well as capture our adventures through crafts and artwork.

Here’s to our “Once in a Blue Moon Journey”.

Moon July 30, 2012

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