Review: Usborne Little Children’s Drawing Book

My littlest gal is so happy. She got to review something for the blog. Timberdoodle sent us Usborne Little Children’s Drawing Book ($6) for us to review. It’s a good thing too. With her big sister taking on Artistic Pursuits this year, she’s going to want some art lessons of her own. Long story, short, she didn’t want to stop doing her art.

What Is Little Children’s Drawing Book?

The Little Children’s Drawing Book has fun activities that build your child’s fine-motor skills. Make spots on a giraffe, draw lines to show falling rain, jellyfish tentacles, and more. The book says ages 2+, and Timberdoodle includes it with their Complete Preschool Curriculum Kits. It is 48 pages long, and the paper is a smooth, matte surface upon which to draw.

What We Thought

Little Miss Ladybug LOVED it. WE did two pages – the giraffe page (pictured) and a page with rainclouds (not pictured). Well, to be honest, SHE did two pages. I just read the directions for her.

We chose to use colored pencils because we had them handy. The pages are not glossy, so the colored pencil showed up well. You could use crayons, and the pages are sturdy enough to be able to handle markers if your little one prefers to use those. I did not do a bleed test with markers, but I would be surprised, unless a child heavily saturates the page, if the color ran through on the other side.

(She was really intense). There are samples on each page to illustrate the idea that preschoolers are to copy in creating their own art. I like that the activity is structured while still being open-ended. It gives preschoolers a sense of control while also encouraging skill-development.

The pictures are bright and colorful, and that’s great for preschoolers. She didn’t want to stop, so I let her continue to the next page. I think she probably would have sat and completed the whole book if I’d have allowed her to do so. It was definitely a big hit, and now she’s very excited about starting her “learning” as she and Mr. 4 call school time.

Ideas for Using This Resource

As you know, I like to create a list of suggestions for stretching the resource. You can, of course, use Little Children’s Drawing Book as it stands. Here are some ideas if you’d like to stretch it a little bit:

  • Prior to starting the page, practice making the shape/lines on a separate piece of paper to demonstrate (especially if your child is younger).
  • Have your child create their own picture inspired by the page in the book they just completed.
  • Use the animal/image on the page as inspiration for a unit study (i.e. learn about giraffes when doing the giraffe page – read giraffe books, make giraffe crafts, watch a video with a giraffe, etc.
  • Practice counting – “Can you make 5 spots on the giraffe’s neck?” or “How many spots have you made? Let’s count them!”

This is a fun resource for those who are homeschooling younger children or for those who need something for younger siblings to do when older siblings need instruction.

Purchasing Information

You can purchase Little Children’s Drawing Book at Timberdoodle on its own for just under $6 or you may purchase the preschool curriculum that it is part of.

Review: Gobblet Gobblers

Disclaimer: I received the game Gobblet Gobblers from Timberdoodle in exchange for an honest review of the product. All opinions are my own and my children’s.

A lot of people are gameschooling, and it’s easy to see why. In fact, when I was homeschooling my big kid, we would do a morning board game between our langauge arts and math curricula. One of our favorites was Lost Cities, another was the classic, Blockus. Since then, we’ve added a numnber of games to our home, and our family loves gaming – so it seems natural to add games into our homeschool. When Timberdoodle offered the opportunity to review Gobblet Gobblers, I jumped at the chance. I just knew that it would be a hit with at least Miss 6 and Mr. 4. Timberdoodle includes it in their Kindergarten complete currriculum kit.

What Is Gobblet Gobblers?

Gobblet Gobblers is a fun take on Tic-Tac-Toe. Like the game it’s based upon, it requires thinking skills and strategy. The game comes with a playing grid you put it together, and twelve game pieces. The game helps build memory, problem-solving skills, visual perception, and focus and attention.

Game play is simple, in addition to the rules for tic-tac-toe, the Goblet Gobblers can “eat” smaller game pieces of the opposite color. The goal is to get three in a row. Not only is the game great at encouraging those important critical thinking skills, but it’s also great fun.

What We Thought

We had fun. First, I played the game with Miss 6. She quickly grasped the rules and got a big kick out of the idea that she could “eat” my game piece. After a few games – they are very short, she won her first game, and by then, Mr. 4 was intrigued and challenged his big sister to a match. Both of them really enjoyed it, and Mr. 4 very quickly caught on and was using strategy to beat his sister (perhaps because he’s our resident tic-tac-toe afficionado…he loves creating a situation where there are two ways he can win).

Miss 3 came along, and while she thought the game was cute, it was still just a little beyond her. We’re still working on taking turns and following game rules with her, so we’ll try it again in a couple of months.

How To Use To Teach Thinking Skills:

When playing the game, here are some ideas for how to make the educational value stretch:

  • Ask about your child’s strategy when the game ends.
  • Talk about your own strategy when playing.
  • Come up with challenges: what happens when both players start with their biggest piece on the board? The smallest?
  • Try plotting out a partly-finished game and have your child see how they could win from the point the game is set up in.
  • Try to create a draw-game. Can you play where no one wins? (Our first game was a draw!)

Purchase Gobblet Gobblers ($15) or Timberdoodle’s non-religious complete kindergarten curriculum kit ($937).

Story Time Chess Review

Timberdoodle is offering Story Time Chess as part of its new 2020-2021 curriculum rollout. The game promises that children as young as 3 will learn how to play the classic game – no experience required from either adults or children. I received the game in exchange for an honest review.

About Story Time Chess

Story Time Chess includes instructions for playing the Story Time Chess version, Standard Chess instructions, a storybook to play through, a double-sided chessboard, 32 character cutouts, 1 set of custom chess pieces, 30 crown tokens, 1 crown card game mat, and 30 crown cards. The game retails for $60, but is available currently for $54.95 on the Timberdoodle website.

With a beginner – I played a little with my 2, almost 3-year-old, you begin with chapter one of the storybook. Read the story of King Chomper, and play through the exercises where you move him. This teaches children how the individual piece moves and prepares them for the next step. We had fun reading the story and practicing with the three exercises to gather all the pizza tokens. Once you finish playing through each exercise, the book reminds you to shake hands with each other – encouraging good sportspersonship from the beginning.

Once you’ve played through chapter 1, you can play through each of the other chapters – learning how each piece moves as you go, and learning the different rules of chess. It’s a lot of fun – and makes for a great curriculum. I could see this not only being useful for a homeschooling family looking for a way to use chess to help with critical thinking skills, but this would be a great resource for co-ops wanting to put together a chess club.

What shocked me the most in reviewing Story Time Chess was how easily my 2-year-old picked up the rules. Granted, she enjoys playing other games like Chutes and Ladders, Candyland, and Don’t Break the Ice, and she also will be 3 in a month, but she loved the characters, the colors, and the storytelling. The only reason I don’t have photos of her with the game in session is that she’s decided that while we’re all hanging out at home she’s completely abandoning the social convention of wearing clothing!

I can’t wait to play Story Time Chess more with her and introduce my 4-year-old and 6-year-old to the game. I’ve always enjoyed playing chess – my older brother taught me how to play and it quickly became a favorite – and my oldest was in the chess club at his junior high and high school. It’s definitely a fun way to learn to play chess and sharpen those critical thinking skills.

Gameschooling – the practice of playing board games as part of a well-rounded homeschooling curriculum has been picking up momentum. I personally prefer this practice to the practice of using apps to gamify concepts, and I would strongly recommend that this product make its way into your game cabinet.

Review: Djeco Bugs

My 5 year old loves to color. She goes through coloring books so frequently that we’ve taken to purchasing them at the Dollar Tree so we can keep up with the demand. When I was offered the opportunity to review Djeco Bugs, a scratch-off art kit carried by Timberdoodle, I knew that it would be something she might be interested in. That suspicion turned out to be absolutely correct.

About Djeco Bugs

Djeco Bugs is a scratch art set from the French company, Djeco. Kids can scratch through the inc to the surface below using the wooden tool included. There are four images in this particular kit – butterfly, caterpillar, bee, and ladybug – to work with. The kit is only $5.99, making it a nice activity for an afternoon or a nice gift for an artistically-inclined child.

Our Review

Miss 5 really enjoyed working on these. We put some newspaper underneath for easier cleanup, but it really wasn’t necessary – making it a nice no-mess activity for kids that’s different from coloring and doesn’t have the clean-up commitment of painting.

The activity set is for ages 3-6, so it’s one of those great activities for building fine motor skills. Children can make their scratchings as simple or elaborate as they would like – there are patterns underneath the blue ink. Miss 5 went through the kit in an evening and has requested that the pictures be hung on the picture wall in their playroom.

Teaching Tips

While I just let her play with and explore the Djeco Bugs Scratch Art kit, it could definitely be incorporated into both a science and an art curriculum. In fact, it’s originally bundled in Timberdoodle’s Kindergarten Curriculum Kit. Here are some ideas on how you can use the scratch art kit as a learning tool.

  • Use each image in conjunction with learning about the insects. children learn about caterpillars and butterflies, then they can complete the scratch art for that.
  • Use the pictures to talk about composition in art and patterns. Challenge your child to create a different pattern on each area of the scratch-off art.
  • Use the kit as a jumping-off point to talk about how scratch art works. First complete the art in the kit, and then create your own blank scratch art canvas. Here’s a great tutorial on making your own scratch art.
  • Use the images and the artwork created to talk about matting and framing artwork. Either hang the resulting artwork in a place where your child can see it or gift the resulting artwork to a family member or family friend.

What other ways can you think of to use the Djeco Bugs kit in your homeschool? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Review: Timberdoodle’s Farmland Math Mat Bundle

Recently, I had the opportunity to try a preschool resource I’d been wanting to try for a long time. I received a special discount for Timberdoodle’s Farmland Math Mat Bundle in exchange for an honest review. This preschool math resource is available both on its own for $43.50 or as part of their 2019 Preschool Curriculum Bundle.

What is the Farmland Math Mat Bundle?

The Farmland Math Mat Bundle is a combination of resources. It’s a tub of counters, a large play mat, and then a guided manual that takes parents and students through 36 weeks of hands-on math activities. It’s suitable for ages 2+, but I reviewed it with my 3-year-old instead of my 2-year-old.

Learn By Doing

I love resources that get the pre-k set learning while they play (let’s be real here, I love resources that get anyone learning through play). The animal counters are just the right size for little hands to grasp (plus they’re cute). There are five different animals in six different colors – for a total of 30.

The book has a script for what the instructor can say to the student – this is great. Not only because you don’t have to come up with a script when you play with the farmland mat, but also because the script leads the student through mathematical thinking – from counting to grouping to basic adding and subtracting.

Our Verdict

Mr. Three really wants to “play with my farm animals” again soon. He really enjoyed it, even though he’s been counting past 30 for some time now. It’s always good to reinforce those basic math concepts, but it’s also good for kids to get hands-on experience with the counters. While we did activities, his older sister looked on to make sure he was having a good time. I will definitely use this with the 2-year-old as well. I thought of some fun activities that older children can participate in using the counters, as well. I’ll share a few suggestions for that at the end.

Additional Activities

There are 36 weeks worth of activities in the book that is included in the Farmland Math Mat Bundle from Timberdoodle, but if you’re looking for a way to extend the activities or adapt them to older children, here are some ideas:

  • Sorting – young children love to sort. You can have them sort by color, by animal, by animal characteristics (fur vs. feathers, perhaps)
  • Graphing – older children can use graphing skills to depict what is in front of them on the mat
  • Multiplication – if there are 3 of each type of animal, how many animals are there? If there are four four legged-animals, how many legs are there all together?
  • Skip-counting – counting by 2s for pairs of legs or 4s with the four-legged animals
  • Number shapes – get some colored popsicle sticks – have students make shapes and place an animal in each corner.
  • Open-ended play – let your child take the counters and play with them – either with the mat or without it. Imaginative play is vital to healthy development.

What ideas do you have? Share your thoughts in the comments.