Posts Tagged ‘ activities ’

Unbored Games: Easy Ways to Have Fun as a Family

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

By Brooke Schuldt

In a world of high-definition entertainment, sometimes it can be hard to get your kids enthusiastic about family game night. Thankfully, Elizabeth Foy Larsen and Joshua Glenn offer loads of ideas to help entertain your kids in their new book Unbored Games: Serious Fun For Everyone. Larsen discusses the importance of family play and why people should take games seriously. 

Your book promotes kids playing not only among themselves, but also with their families. Why do you think that playing together as a family is so important?

Playing games together is great for a lot of reasons: It’s a way to connect and enjoy each other that doesn’t feel forced—it’s genuinely fun, and that’s truly important. I’ve interviewed a lot of child psychologists over the years and one thing they say is that kids are often stumped by the question: “What does your family do to have fun?” We want kids to grow up with memories of enjoying time together with the people they love. And that can get tough in a culture filled with homework and regularly scheduled extracurricular activities.

Along with indoor and outdoor games, your book talks about online games and mobile app games. Why is it so important for parents to be aware of their children’s online activities? 

We enjoy a lot of online games and apps and think there’s no reason kids should stay away from them if their parents have pre-screened them and if kids can show they can regulate their use and not become addicted.

The first page of the book lists the ten reasons why games are important. How do you think playing games positively affects a child’s development?

Where do I start? Games encourage kids, especially younger kids, to learn how to keep practicing until they figure out how to do a certain move or skill correctly. They also teach collaboration, problem-solving skills and, in the case of outdoor games, are an incredibly fun way to get exercise. We encourage kids to hack or modify a game if they don’t like the way it works, which is important when it comes to nurturing creativity.

What is your favorite game to play with your family?

We love Anomia, which is a fast-paced word association game. But when all of my kids were in elementary school our absolute favorite was Apples to Apples. We’re a loud family who love to argue and persuade each other that each one of us is right. Playing that game is still a great way to get us laughing, even if we’ve all had bad days.

How is your latest book different from your previous book Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun?

The original Unbored is an all-encompassing activity book and resource for kids and their families that touches on all parts of a kid’s life. Unbored Games focuses exclusively on games—how to play them, how to make them, how to modify them to suit your needs.

The Best Games of 2014!
The Best Games of 2014!
The Best Games of 2014!

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New Halloween Traditions Your Kids Will Love

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

October is finally here! I wait for this month all year around. Our family’s annual pumpkin-picking trip is approaching, as are our haunted-house and corn-maze trips. We love our traditions. But after years of doing the same things, I wanted to try something new. So I brainstormed and asked around for unique Halloween traditions, and I couldn’t keep these ideas to myself. Here are the top 5 new Halloween traditions that my friends, family, and I have come up with:

1. Pumpkin Painting Party

Gather your crafty kids for an afternoon of pumpkin art.  Mini pumpkins are perfect for little hands to paint, and your guests can take them home as favors.

Add a movie: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

2. Witches Brew Party

Give each of your culinary creators a bowl and the following ingredients to choose from:

Cranberry Juice
Ginger Ale
Apple Cider
Gummy Worms
Red Jellybeans
Raisins
Candy Corn
Milk Duds
Gum Drops
Black Shoestring Licorice

Watch them create and name their own witches brew.

Add a movie: Matilda

3. Harry Potter Party

Have your guests come dressed as their favorite witch or wizard. Supply the following and help them decorate their own broomstick and wizard hat:

Broom sticks
Glue
Glitter
Streamers
Fake bugs
Webs
Pencils, Markers, Crayons
Colored Paper

Add a movie: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

4. Scare Games

It’s not too cold for the outdoors yet! Get the kids outside for Monsters University inspired Scare Games. Adult referees can dress in costume, and the kids can compete in potato sack races, tug-o-war, and hula hoop contests. Award candy bag prizes to the winners, and end the day at home with a big pot of pumpkin soup.

Add a movie: Monsters Inc., or Monsters University after the October 29th DVD release date.

5. Spooky Sleepover

Get out your pumpkin pajamas for a halloween themed sleepover. Roast pumpkin seeds, make s’mores and swap scary stories deep into the night. Add to the fun with a Halloween craft like this adorable paper owl.

Add a movie: Monster House

For more Halloween ideas visit our 100 Days of Holidays page.

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Wonder Box: Hands-On Learning Activities for Kindergarteners, from Education.com

Monday, June 4th, 2012

"Once Upon a Time" Wonder Box - Education.comIs your preschooler starting kindergarten this year?  Just in time for summer, prepare your little one for class with the fun learning activities contained in a Wonder Box. Created by Education.com, which provides helpful content about preparing for kindergarten through college, Wonder Box is a subscription-based monthly service designed to enrich and entertain children ages 3 to 6. (A monthly subscription starts at $19.99.)

Each month, a box with a different theme (science, crafts, etc.), 3 projects, and other extras (coloring pages, sticker books, etc.) are hand-picked by Education.com experts with the goal of developing your child. The boxes are sent to homes with provided instructions and information about accessing an exclusive website for more activity ideas.

Recently, I got a sneak peek at the first available Wonder Box, which has a “Once Upon a Time” theme.   The 3 projects includes a cape to enhance gross motor skills, a puppet to help with shape and pattern recognition, and a pack of story cards to increase reading skills.  A story book of “Stone Soup” is included with crayons for coloring.

For busy, on-the-go parents, Wonder Box provides easy, convenient access to a variety of activities and crafts.  Families can have quality time together and kids will satisfy their curiosity about the world around them.

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PBS Labs Offers Edutaining Games, Activities, Apps, and More

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

PBS KIDS Lab logoThere’s no doubt PBS KIDS is great at entertaining and educating (“edutaining”) young children, and they are continuing to boost children’s development with (free!) new games, activities, and mobile apps at PBS KIDS Lab (www.pbskids.org/lab).

Launched at the end of last year, PBS KIDS Lab seeks to blend the latest technology with 50 games to encourage children’s math skills (numbers, counting, addition, subtraction).  Games are related to popular PBS KIDS shows such as Curious George, The Cat in the Hat, Sid the Science Kid, etc., and further categorized by skills, age (3-5, 6-8), and device. Recently, a Spanish version of PBS Labs was launched (pbskids.org/lab/es), along with new resources and tools for teachers and parents to make learning fun inside and outside the classroom.

What I love best about PBS Labs are the mobile apps (pbskids.org/mobile) associated with some of the games, in particular Fetch! Lunch Rush with Ruff Ruffman. This unique game uses augmented reality, an extension of virtual reality, where objects in the real world (in this case, printout sheets) are recognized by the downloaded mobile app and integrated into the game.  By downloading the app onto an iPad and placing it in front of the printout sheets, kids must figure out how much sushi to order for Ruff’s crew.

But you don’t need an iPhone or iPad to help your kids become math whizzes.  PBS KIDS also offers these simple but fun ways to get kids to love numbers:

  1. When driving in the car, count the trees as you pass by.
  2. Call out street signs and identify their shapes.
  3. Count aloud the seconds it takes for a child to brush his/her teeth.
  4. Cook with the kids; count ingredients.
  5. Play grocery store with household items. Count out the change.

Happy counting!

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A Kids’ Gift That Keeps on Giving

Monday, December 6th, 2010

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In order for an activity or toy to be a hit with both my 5- and 2-year-old daughters—because these days they only want to play with whatever the other one has—it must meet nearly all of these criteria:

  1. It has to be challenging enough for the 5-year-old but not too hard for the 2-year-old
  2. It has to involve crafts and/or coloring
  3. It has to have enough pieces to form some sort of “collection”
  4. It has to have enough elements so that both girls can play with it at the same time

And bonus points go to anything with stickers.

Obviously, I don’t find a whole heck of a lot that fits my specs. But a Grasshopper Kit landed on my desk not too long ago, and I busted it out one recent rainy weekend. Whoa. These kits are basically little suitcases filled with fun-making (and educational) objects. The one my girls tried contained a set of alphabet tracing cards as well as 20 mini crayons (meeting Needs 1, 2, and 4), 30 magnetic fish with a magnet-tipped fishing rod (Needs 1, 3, and 4), letter cards with letters that can be overlaid with stickers (Need 1 plus bonus points), and more (Need 4).

I was impressed, and the girls were happy. And occupied. A winner all around!

You can find these kits here or at Barnes & Noble or FAO Schwarz.

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Time for Turkey!

Monday, November 30th, 2009

6a00d8341c30cf53ef012875b32f18970c-piBelieve it or not, Thanksgiving is around the corner—literally, it’s next week. I have a particular fondness for autumn crafts, when kids can run into the backyard to gather their supplies (sticks, pinecones, bark, etc.).

Check out the November issue of Parents where we made a centerpiece from sticks, napkin rings from acorns, and trivets from wood rounds. We also featured this precious turkey place card (let’s call him Max), made from corks, feathers, and other simple craft supplies (including feet fashioned out of bobby pins!).

After you figure out your most important task (the menu planning) then begin to gather your craft supplies so that you and your little Pilgrims can decorate a memorable Thanksgiving table!

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