Thursday, September 30, 2010

Review and Give-Away: Aquarius Game

Update: This give away is now closed.  The winner, "justicecw," chosen by, has been notified by email. 

We've posted before about our love of board games as a tool for homeschooling, let alone for just plain fun.  And we have shared our fondness for Icehouse pieces.  They're made by Looney Labs, a super fun games company co-founded by two ex-NASA engineers.  (The company's best selling game, another that we love and keeping meaning to introduce to our son, is Flux).  I'm really excited to be reviewing a new-to-us Looney Labs game today, and to get to share the love by offering a copy to give away to one of our readers.

Aquarius - Description/Review

From the Looney Labs website:

In this colorful game, cards are laid down so that edges match up like dominoes. The goal is to connect seven panels of your secret element. Gameplay is simple matching that even young kids can follow, but Action cards let players switch goals, hands, or move cards around, and encourage strategy and bluffing that will keep adults on their toes, too. And don't forget -- the player with the longest hair gets to go first!
Number of Players: 2-5
Ages: 5 to adult
Game Length: 20-30 minutes 

One really cool thing about this game, from a parent's perspective, is that the directions include a preschooler variant.  Actually, they contain multiple variants -- for ages 3-4, ages 5-6, and ages 6+ -- in addition to the full game.  The variants build off of each other, so that with each age range, the players learn additional aspects of the game, allowing them to understand all of the rules in a gradual way.  There are no choking hazard issues, because the game is entirely composed of cards. 

Our experience: We've been playing only the ages 3-4 year old variation with our nearly 3 year-old, and it is quite fun.  At first I was a little confused about how to line up the cards properly when playing, but full color diagrams in the directions explain it all very well, and once you get the hang of it, it's a cinch.  The Bibliophile enjoys it (we've never left a game unfinished), and he's such a little gamer that I think he'll enjoy it even more when we start adding in the more complicated rules, which we'll be doing shortly.  I just need to spend some time with the rules myself when he's asleep sometime, so that I'm familar enough with them to explain it all to him in a way that he'll understand.  It is great that someone took the time to think through how to introduce the game in stages, so I don't have to!  For that reason alone, I was an instant fan.  Since we'll soon be adding a sibling to our family mix, I love the idea that one game can serve multiple age groups in this way.

Win your own copy of Aquarius!

Looney Labs has offered to send Aquarius to one lucky reader.  To enter:
1) Leave a comment just saying you'd like to win or something similar (mandatory entry)
 extra entries
2) Go to the Looney Labs store and leave a comment on this post telling me another product that you think sounds fun.
3) Follow or subscribe to Chronicle of an Infant Bibliophile in some way and leave a comment letting me know.
4) Tweet, Facebook, or blog about the give away and leave a comment here letting me know.

Maximum number of entries per person: 4.  Deadline is midnight EST on October 8, 2010.  Prize ships only to U.S. addresses.  Please make sure that your email address is either in your profile or one of your comments; I need a way to reach you if you win.  Good luck!

Disclosure: We recieved a demo copy of Aquarius at no charge in order to write this review.  The opinions in this post are our own.  If you click on any links in this post and purchase anything, we may earn a small commission through our affiliate relationship with

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Homemade Skeeball

We started a Dreambox trial a week ago, and one of the games in the carnival area is skeeball.  I've always loved skeeball - the real one, that is.  I googled for skeeball games, and found this one.  After we had played it together about 100 times, I suggested we try to make a real one sometime.  "Sometime" in the mind of a two year old turned out to be "right now."  So, we improvised and came up with this contraption.

One ramp (the lid from our Step 2 train/car table), leaned against the couch:

Plus three "1, 2, 3" round bins from Ikea:

= 1 happy skeeballer (ok, 2 of us).

We played with this for at least 1/2 hour, with much laughter and silly antics.  I'm guessing it will resurface tomorrow. 

I am linking this post up with We Play and Play Academy.

Comment: Do you or your kids have any favorite carnival/arcade games?  Have you been up to any fun play this week?

Disclosure: If you click on any of the links in this post and purchase anything, we may earn a small commission through our affiliate relationship with

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tiny Talk Tuesday

Here are some of my favorite things things that the Bibliophile said this week:

"Listen Mama, the book goes up and down when I breath through my nose!  (because it was resting on his stomach.)"

Nana asked him to spell C-A-T with his magnetic letters.  Then she said, "what word should we spell next?  Fat?  Mat?"  And he replied: "Afghanistan!"  This doesn't surprise me and his Daddy, but it is funny to those not used to his fascination with countries!

Putting together his Asia Geopuzzle,
Him: "I could go to Mongolia." 
Me: "Thats true.  I'm not sure, but I think it might get pretty cold in Mongolia."
Him: "Well, maybe I could live in Mongolia someday and I will bring a sweatshirt."

One day, after skipping yet another nap this week:
Me: How do you scam Nana out of sleep?
Him: "By saying "donotnudom *raspberry*" (and making her laugh)"
Me:  How do you scam Dada?
Him: "By saying 'You [I] want a story about dinosaurs.'"
Me: How do you scam Mama?
Him: "You [I] need a drink of water"
This is funny in how accurate it is!

Me: What do you think we should get Daddy for his birthday?
Him: How about a birthday present?
Me: Why didn't I think of that?
Him: How about... an Easter bunny!  A little one.  A baby one.  And Dada can be the Mama to the baby.  And maybe Nana could be the Dada.

I am linking this post up with Tiny Talk Tuesday.

Comment: What cute stuff has come out of your tot's mouth this week?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Picasso Craft for the Preschool Set

 Editing to add: If you are a new visitor, please make sure to go and enter our give away for a game of Aquarius!

We read a few Picasso books this week, and did a related craft.

First, we looked through this nonfiction book, which the Bibliophile was surprisingly interested in:

Picasso (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists)Picasso from the "Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists" series) --
We didn't read every bit of text (suggested age range appears to be 9-12 years), but I read selected excerpts as we flipped through and looked at the photographs, cartoons, and paintings.  The book includes paintings from different periods of Picasso's life.  The various styles include portraits (one he did at only 15 years old), works from his Blue and Rose Periods, and, of course, examples of cubist paintings.  This looks like a great series, if you are searching for books on other artists.

 Next, we did our craft, which was a collage to create a "Picasso man," as the Bibliophile called it.  I cut various facial parts (and a few arms) out of Family Fun magazines, gave him a few pieces of construction paper and a glue stick, and let him go to town.

Notice the eyes above the hairdo.

I love this photograph of him studying the Picasso painting as he works:

Here are a few of his finished collages:

Later, we read this very cute book:

When Pigasso Met MootisseWhen Pigasso Met Mootisse by Nina Laden.  Not for those averse to puns (like my husband), this picture book tells the story of Pigasso and Mootisse, who inadvertently become neighbors and begin feuding.  In the end, their rivalry develops into friendship. 
At first, Pigasso and Mootisse seemed satisfied.  Both artists went back to painting by themselves.  But after awhile, Pigasso was surprised to find that he missed that bull-headed Mootisse.  At the same time, Mootisse found his studio empty without the presence of pig-headed Pigasso.
An interesting back section explains how the storyline mirrors reality, in that Picasso and Matisse were in fact friends, at one point said some "bad things" about each other's work, but over time became life-long friends.  I'd definitely recommend it, but probably for a slightly older child (Bibliophile isn't quite 3 yet). Incidentally, for those with younger kids, the Bibliophile absolutely loved Nina Laden's board books when he was younger.

I will be linking this post up with Artists and Art, Kids Get Crafty, Read Aloud Thursday, Read.Explore.Learn, Sunday Best, and STart

Comments: Have you been up to any artsy fun lately?  Are you a Picasso-fan?

Disclosure: If you click on any links in this post and purchase anything, we may earn a small commission through our affiliate relationship with

Math Monday (with free math bingo printable for preschoolers)

Last week, the Bibliophile found a Math Bingo game I had hidden in a box of "for later" materials, but he was adament that he wanted to play it.  It contains multiplication and division in addition to addition and subtraction, so I didn't want to open it yet.  Luckily, he's easily pacified; I offered to play our own Math Bingo with him on his doodle pad instead.  He was all for it.  I wrote up a very quick chart and kept it simple.  The only addition and subtraction involved + and - the numbers 1 and 0.  We just asked Daddy to randomly call out numbers 1-9, and put quarters on the squares as he figured out where they went (sometimes with a little help). 

Feel free to use this printable (slightly different than our prototype, but same idea), if you think you'll kids will enjoy it.  I still don't understand why Scribd seems to lose the grid lines when I upload pdf's, but you could write them in I guess (or maybe it prints fine?  I need to test it).

Math Bingo                                                            

I am linking this post up with Math Monday.

Comment: Have you done any fun math related activities with your kids this week?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Laptop craft

The Bibliophile can be slightly finicky about crafts.  He usually enjoys them once we start, but given the option -- with his learning boxes, for instance, which contain an arts and crafts drawer, they are never his first choice.  He would rather do workbooks, games, and printed puzzle sort of activities.  So, when he said the other day:
I have an idea!  We will make a computer for Gran and Nana... a little computer!
Apple MacBook Pro MC374LL/A 13.3-Inch LaptopI made sure to stick the materials in his box for later that day.  I was roughly emulating my beloved Macbook- with which the Bibliophile is very familiar, but I skipped the touchpad.

I cut out the three pieces (keyboard, downloaded from this site, monitor, and screen), and gave him glue sticks to attach them together.  Then he wrote "Gran" and "Nana" on the two screens.

After that, Daddy suggested that he do some pretend typing on the keyboards.  He "typed" and softly whispered as he typed:
Hi.  How are you today?  I am going to the supermarket to buy groceries.  And soon I will go home to run fast on the grass.
I am linking this post up with Tot Tuesday, Crafty Soiree, and the Art Box.

Comments: How do you structure your kids computer time?  Do they have free reign of your computer?  Do they have their own?  Do you limit their time to a set amount, such as 1 hour per day?  Or are they forbidden from using it entirely? 

Disclosure: If you click on any links in this post and purchase anything, we may earn a commision through our affiliate relationship with

Saturday, September 25, 2010

What My Child Is Reading

Reading-wise, this has been the week of "why."  Or, should I say, "tell you why....!"  Although the Bibliophile knows the difference between "you" and "me"/"I" when asked, he tends to just use "you" for all of them.  So, as we read books lately - especially chapter books but picture books too - every single line of the book is followed by him saying, "tell you why it says [insert text]!"  Although in my mind, I am thinking "agh!!!!!" after the 20th "why," I am trying with Herculean strength to hide my impatience and humor him, because I am glad that he is making an effort to comprehend what we read.  I was rewarded for my patience when we finished the first book on this list, and I asked him what he liked about it:
"You like that Mama explained what all the words meant."
Read to TigerRead to Tiger

We picked this up because the Bibliophile chose tigers as his focus animal this week.  It was a nice choice - perfect for his level of comprehension, with some fun sound effects.  A little boy is trying to read, but he keeps getting disturbed by the tiger behind his couch, who chomps bubblegum, practices karate kicks, pretends he is a bear, and even lifts the couch right off the ground to look for a misplaced whistle.  The boy's insistence that the tiger keep quiet, and the tiger's continual "ooops!," followed by an apology, are just repetitive enough to delight toddlers, without quite driving parental readers nutty.  At the conclusion of the book, tiger catches a glimpse of the reading material, and snuggles up next to the boy, who can finally read his book ". . . to Tiger."  Very cute -- recommended!

Elmer's Special Day
Elmer's Special Day (Andersen Press Picture Books)

As intended, we are continuing to make our way through the Elmer books at the library.  This is our third one.  In this one, the other animals in the forest (who are at first quite perturbed at the amount of noise coming from the annual Elmer's Day parade in which all of the elephants decorate themselves in bright colors) are invited to join in the fun. 

As we were leaving the library, the Bibliophile exclaimed with glee, "Look what I found!!  Clifford's First Snow Day and Clifford's Sports Day!!" with a huge triumphant smile.  So of course we had to take them with us.  I think I have heard some parents say that they don't care for the Clifford books, but we enjoy them well enough (probably the fact that we don't own a TV and so only know Clifford in literary form helps).

Clifford's First Snow DayClifford's First Snow Day
Clifford experiences many of winter's fun delights for the first time -- sledding, snowman building, ice skating, etc.  It will be fun to revisit this one when winter comes.
Clifford's Sports Day

Clifford's Sports Day
Clifford is invited to Sports Day at Emily Elizabeth's school, and tries activities like sack races, jumping hurdles, and tumbling.  In the end, he saves a boy racing to catch a baseball from getting hit by a car, making Clifford the hero of the day.

Look at the BabyLook at the Baby.  This is one for the very smallest bibliophiles.  It was another one that he grabbed off the library shelf and insisted he wanted to take home.  Large, close-up images of various baby body parts fill two page spreads, with text like "Look at the baby's nose" and "Look at the baby's toes."  He would have loved this when he was an infant (and still enjoys browsing it now).

Cars: The RookieAnd one more Disney cars themed chapter book -- The Rookie.  We did a chapter before nap- and bedtime, complete with 8,000 "why" questions.  This one tells the story of how Lightening McQueen came to be a champion racecar.

Beethoven's Wig: Sing Along SymphoniesWe also read (and loved!) Beethoven's Wig (see our review here).

I am linking this post up with What My Child is Reading.

Comment: What have your children been reading this week?  Is this "why" thing when reading a phase, or can I expect this now until he's 18? 

Disclosure: If you click on any of the links in this post and purchase anything, we may earn a small commission through our affiliate relationship with

Friday, September 24, 2010

Weekly Homeschooling Wrap-Up (with a free printable)

This week we have family visiting, so we only really did any bloggable activities during the first part of the week before the big arrival.  Here is what we've been up to, by the categories on our "learning boxes."

Fun with Numbers (Math)
On Monday, we prepared a fun muffin tin lunch with 12 different shapes.  We've been generally playing around with learning parallelogram, trapezoid, rhombus, sphere, and cylinder this week.

We're also just starting to do a bit of addition and subtraction.  I'm not pushing it, because I think he is a bit young for it, but to the extent that he enjoys it, we're working it into games and providing him workbook pages here and there.  I plan to share a very simple printable math bingo game I made for him in a few days.

We started a two week trial of Dreambox this week (available for free on their website).  He enjoys some of it, but not the repetition.  I have to take a closer look at the parental section and see if I can do anything to make it more enjoyable for him. 

Animals and Nature (and Science)
He chose tigers as his focus animal this week.  We read one fun fiction book, called Reading To Tiger.

I also created a tiger-themed code activity where he replaces symbols with the letters they represent (according to a key) to reveal the secret messages.  He did one on a restaurant kids menu recently and really enjoyed it.  I couldn't find any online (I'm sure they are out there somewhere), so I just created our own.  I've uploaded them to Scribd and am going to embed them here, in case anyone else would like to give them a try.  This was the one activity he kept pulling out of his learning boxes all week.  We do them together (I usually take over writing partway through).  Each of the four pages reveals a different code about tigers (just simple facts - I didn't want him struggling to understand what the message meant once he solved it).  The last page contains the answers.

Tiger Code                                                            

Arts and Crafts
We finally tried our hand at salad spinner art, which led to some fun imaginative play (see post here).  We also studied Beethoven a bit (see this link for details).

Let's Get Moving
Nothing in this box this week. 

Word Games
We finished up the last page of our alphabet scavenger hunt (which I posted about here). 

Game Box
The surprise in his games box this week was a $1 Alphabet bingo game from Target.  Each bingo card contains an assortment of letters, and the cards that get chosen each turn have images (like a rug) and a word with  missing letters (like r__g) - beginning, middle, or end sounds -- as well as alphabet sequences with a letter missing (like abc__efg).  He has no trouble figuring out the missing letters right away, but still really enjoys it.  We've been playing it often.

Reading and Storytelling
I put a few library books in here (Clifford books he had chosen).  I'll review them in our Saturday "What My Child is Reading" post.

Play Fun
I just stuck a Dover spot the differences book in this box.  He never really used it, though.  I also introduced a fun game with his hula hoop.  We laid the hoop down, and I put a few items in it, and asked him to spot which was different.  This was my first (easy) example:
He only wanted me to use cars and trains, and this evolved into more of an open ended playtime.  He decided that he liked being the one to set it up, so he would put 5 or 6 cars in the hoop, and then we'd talk about similarities and differences (colors, but also "this one is the only one with a person in it," "this one is the only one with a siren," etc.).  Then he started creating "pretend Rush Hour" scenes for me to solve.
I asked him what we should call our game - suggesting "Hula hoop same and different game?" and he said, "No, how about ... "'Bibliophile" and Mama together game."  Aww.  You'd think I wasn't together with him 24/7.

At his request, I printed off the lyrics to Frere Jacques in Spanish, French, and English, and we've been singing them off and on during the week.  Near the end of the week I printed Happy Birthday in Spanish, so we can look at that next.  I'm not asking him to memorize them -- we just have fun reading/singing.

I also put a couple of tracing sheets (letter C and Ch) with new Spanish words in his boxes; the sheets are from this site

Countries / Places
He chose Norway as his focus country this week, but we didn't actually do anything with it.  I printed a Norway flag to color, but he never chose to do it (and company arrived midweek).

I am linking this post up with Weekly Wrap-up, Preschool Corner, and Tot School.

Comment: What have your kids been up to this week?

Disclosure: If you click on any of the links in this post and purchase anything, we may earn a small commission through our affiliate relationship with