Friday, May 30, 2014

Terrific Toys - Monopoly Deal

I've decided to write a side column about toys (Terrific Toys) and books (Bodacious Books) that I love for my kids.

When my daughter was five years old, she was introduced to this game by her older cousins and loved it. Then she taught me to play, and as I got to understand the complexity of this card game, I was astounded by the strategy one needed to win. And she won a lot against older players.

So, over the years, I got in the habit of picking this up whenever I see them (my favorite place is Target because I could pick it up for $5.99 or so), and give them away to my friends who had children of similar age or older.

The rules are somewhat similar to the classic monopoly game in that players are asked to collect properties. The player who collects 3 suite of properties (3 of 4 properties in each suite) fastest wins. Simple enough, right? But no. It gets very complicated because you can steal properties, take property from another player in exchange of one of your unwanted properties, demand rent from one or all of the players, depending on what kind of rental card you hold, use "wild" property cards to augment your property holdings, etc. The possibilities are endless!

We have two packs of this game - one to leave at home and one to keep it in the car (but we keep forgetting to do that).

I guess I love this game because it's shown me what a strategic thinker my daughter is. At age five, she'd set me up, give up some excellent cards to me, only to take them away from me just when I thought I had won the game. 

I'm not sure everyone would agree, but I think it's great for teaching children strategy. And I love this game especially because the game could finish very quickly (we've finished a game in five minutes because we've  tweaked the game and created our own family's rules). So, if you have little time, but your children are asking you to play with them, this is a great one to play.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Absolutely Amazing!

I started volunteering in classrooms in 2007, and since then, I've conducted over 350 - 400 science projects in classrooms. I usually have projects I do each month, and I follow that because it gets too confusing to schedule different projects in 9 - 12 classrooms a month. Well, this month, it was our last project of the year in one of my second grade classes, and the teacher and I couldn't really think of a special project (after all these years, I struggle to make these projects fresh and interesting to children who were already exposed to them in the previous year and to myself as well). So, I just gathered up the supplies I had left over, and headed for the classroom. This was going to be a very open-ended project (the kind I like best).

This is what I gave to a class of 2nd graders (four groups of six students but smaller the better).

Supplies List:
25 straws (Dollar Store variety)
6 bamboo chopsticks (3 pairs)
scotch tape

I told the students to make a tower of some kind that would hold up at least one of their hard cover, heavy textbooks. I had 1 1/2 hours, and I gave them first hour to come up with a design and build their first version. After the first hour, this group built a structure that held almost 2 textbooks when all the other groups failed.

After the first design and build attempt, I gave additional five straws and another pair of chopsticks to all the groups with some ideas to make their structures stronger.

Well, this is the result and it blew me away. I thought maybe, just maybe a 2nd grader group could build something that would support 3 - 4 textbooks, but a group of them built something that held up 9 textbooks. That's probably between 20 - 25 pounds or more (I tend to underestimate weight consistently). What an awesome achievement! Another lesson in underestimating our children.

I actually think this structure could have held at least one more book, but we didn't have it handy. A little boy ran to the shelf to get another book when it collapsed. Amazing!

Without the books on top.

This turned out to be one of the best projects! I'm definitely going to use this project next year.

Try it at home and have fun.