Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Educational Board Games

We no longer hit the books on Fridays in our home. Instead we head for the games shelves. I once read ( and have spent forever trying to find the link) that there were the top three family activities to help children succeed academically were :

Books - reading to your children, reading with them, and providing varied material for them to read themselves.

Days Out - The obvious museums and zoos and such, but also simple days out such as parks, the seaside or wooded areas.

Board Games: This one took me by surprise but it makes sense. There are so many skills children can learn from board games. You need to read and follow instructions - at least to get started - we often make our own rules or variations later. Even the simplest games encourage conversation, teach children to take turns, and of course how to cope with both winning and losing. Younger children's games often include matching, colour recognition, counting and fine motor skills. Older children's games are apt to include a few more math's concept like counting money and change,  strategy and more. There are a wealth of board games designed specifically for educational purposes each with their own goal in mind. I'll be trying to include as many of the games we use and enjoy as possible for now - so if my ratings look a bit one sided - it is because I am only including favourites for now. Age recommendations are my own. I consider the children's interest levels, difficulty of problems etc when estimating age, but assume some parental help is available for very young players.


Candyland by Hasbro
A perfect first board game. Teaches colours, taking turns and a wonderful game for Christmas time.
Ages: recommended 3+ but both of my boys played this from age 2. Still gets used at Christmas time but really best for children under age 6
Players : 2 - 4
Reading Required? No.
Entertainment Value  **** 1/2   Educational Value ****


What's The Point by Greenboard Games
Teaches, fractions, percentages and decimals
Ages Technically 8+, but my five year old enjoys playing this as a team with me.
Players: Technically  2 or more - you could go up to 6, but it would grow tedious with too many players. This could be played alone as well.
Reading Required? No.
Entertainment Value  ** 1/2   Educational Value *****

Sum Swamp  - Learning Resources
Very basic addition and subtraction - fun but only for younger children.
Ages 4 - 6
Players 2 - 4
Reading Required? No.
Entertainment Value  ****   Educational Value ****

Magic Cauldron Maths - Orchard Toys
Simple addition subtraction, a couple of very easy multiplication questions.
Fill a cauldron by collecting cards that equate to the correct number for each spell. Uses heat sensitive cards, but these can be hard to work on a cold day. I resorted to keeping a cup of tea handy and holding the cards against the cup, but children playing alone could use a heated bean bag ( not included).
Ages 4 - 7
Players - 2 + but could be used alone if you really needed to.
Reading Required? No.
Entertainment Value  ****   Educational Value ****

Run, Run, as Fast as you Can!  by Orchard Toys
An all time favourite in our house. Teach simple fractions and counting as well as adding abit of rhyming and literature if you wish. My youngest has played this since age 2, my oldest still enjoys this at age 8, and I'm quite certain I will never outgrow it.
Recommended ages 4+ but I would recommend from age 2 with suprevsion if you child has outgrown eating small parts.
Players 2-4
Reading Required? No.
Entertainment Value  *****+   Educational Value *****


It doesn't really matter which version you choose, we have a lovely set by Galt with animal pictures and a ludo game with different habitats on the back, but any Snakes and Ladders game will work.
When playing the game as you are meant to, children learn to count up to 100 and simple addition.

Adding a few sets of flash cards and some coloured markers creates a whole new game. You can use a ready made set of flashcards or make your own. Just be sure you will have answers that equal up to 100. We use coloured glass pebbles like you would have in a fish tank as markers, but anything will work : Hot Wheels cars ( although they roll about terribly) toy dinosaurs, zoo animals etc...  The object of this game is to get four of your markers in a row, while clocking other players from doing the same. Any time you correctly answer a flash card, you place your marker on that square. If it is already occupied - we allow the child to choose another square, but if you want to make it more cut throat you can bump the player off. Other options would be to draw another card, or just miss the turn. In all honesty this doesn't teach any more than flash cards alone - but it is a lot more fun.

For more variations see my review @


Scrabble by Mattel

The ultimate in spelling fun, this also teaches vocabulary, especially if played with a dictionary, and quite a lot of maths adding up scores, especially with triple or double and letter scores. This is an all time family favourite and one every home educating family should have.
Players 2 - 4
Reading Required? Yes
Entertainment Value  *****+   Educational Value *****

Fish N Spell Game
What's In The Box?
  • cloth pond
  • wooden fishing poles with magnets.
  • 80 magnetic fish with letters.
  • cards which have common words in four languages. You can choose to spell them in English, French Italian or Spanish.
  • two cards with eight fish shapes to spell your words on.
The idea of the game is to turn all the fish upside down and see who can find the all the letters to the given word first. It is meant  for only two players, but more can play by sharing the fishing rods and having the older players play without the card. The card is just a bit of paper anyway. I do wish it had been magnetic as it would have kept the letters together better. You are not meant to take turns which can make this  mad race, but we do take turns.

We also often use our own cards, either Kipper's Word Games cards from ORT, or home made cards using words from my son's phonics books. With my oldest we have played using a spelling list as well - so he doesn't get a card to guide him them.

There are a few flaws with this game. The fish stick together easily, the card for making your words is a bit flimsy, and the words on the cards are all easy in English. I don't really feel you can learn a foreign language with this as you wouldn't know the pronunciation, but it would be handy if you were already studying one of the three extra languages. But this still earns five stars because it is so flexible.  You can leave the fish right side up for younger players and use this to teach alphabet recognition  as well as simple spellings. By adding your own cards, you can focus on any subject you wish. You can even try spelling dinosaur names  or latin names of plants - there are enough tiles for most words.

Highly recommended for ages  3 - 10 but be aware that this does contain magnets. These are very weak, but the game is still not recommended for under 3's.

Hangman by Milton Bradley:

This is played very much like the original paper and pencil game. Each player chooses a word and places the letters in a rack at the front of their case. Players take it turns to guess a letter. If it is correct - the letter is placed facing out in the appropriate position in the rack at the top of their case, making this visible to person guessing, If it is incorrect their opponent turns the wheel one click revealing a part of a gallows - or the gallows with part of a body swinging from the hangman's noose ( although the noose itself isn't shown. When a whole body is displayed that player has lost - or in our house died - complete with gasping and choking with hands clutched to throat before collapsing in a very melodramatic death.

As an alternate you can place all the tiles on top of the case to begin with facing the person who has made that word. As their opponent guesses letters correctly - these are turned over, but my son did find it difficult to spell his words in reverse when he was younger.

Traditionally, each player should just make up their own words and must be able to spell any word they will be using. This is the way we play now as my oldest is 8 and can spell a reasonable number of words. When my son was very young ( ages 5 -6) I often gave him a book we were reading at the time and we would each choose a word from the book. This makes this game easy and fun for very young players. I feel this also helped my son learn to read and spell the words he was using in his every day school work as well. As he has grown older we tried using spelling lists for awhile, and it does help him to learn the words, but it also made guessing the words quite easy. Now we just choose whatever words we like - although as an adult I do refrain from using words I know he will not be familiar with - where if I were playing with another adult I would choose the most obscure words possible.

The biggest drawback to the plastic version of the game is that your are limited to only 8 letters. This leaves many dinosaur names out of the game. I also find the cases very hard to open, but my son can open them easily enough so I suspect that is just me. There are plenty of tiles and we have never come across a word that needed more of any letter than we have.

Stop back soon I hope to be adding more games daily.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Children's books that build character - chapter books - including dyslexia friendly titles.

I am including regular chapter books along with the smaller dyslexia friendly books published by Barrington Stoke. I have honestly been blown away by the quality of the writing and the number of books with very strong moral values published by Barrington Stoke. In addition to brilliant stories and strong values - Barrington Stoke is hands down the very best publisher for dyslexia friendly books. All the books are printed on thick cream coloured paper, in a specially designed font to make reading easier, with double spacing and frequent paragraph breaks. My own child does not suffer from dyslexia - but these books make reading easier for any young child.

Football Crazy by Tony Bradman and Michael Broad - dyslexia friendly. ****** +
This is a real gem for parents as well as for children. It should be required reading for anyone involved in youth sports. Tis book teaches children the real meaning of sportsmanship - as well as making clear that adults are not always in the right. This book features a group of football loving boys and a coach who will do anything to win - even cheat. Please se my complete review on The Bookbag - and excellent resource for new book reviews, with a good dyslexia friendly section as well.

Ninja: First Mission (Ninja Trilogy) by Chris Bradford and Sonia Leong - Dyslexia Friendly *****+
A unique blend of action and adventure with peace and tranquillity. This book has a lot in common with Zen Koans. It teaches a child to persevere and to make defeats into victories.

Cherry Green Story Queen by Annie Dalton and Charlie Adler - dyslexia friendly *****+
At first glance I would have expected this book to be a terribly shallow. Talk about a lesson in not judging a book by it's cover, this turned out to be one of the best books with a moral I have ever read. The story is deep, moving and unforgettable. It reminded me very much of the parable of the long spoons.

 Hagurosan by Darren Shan - dyslexia friendly ****
A very deep moving story for the more philosophical child. The story begins with a young child, living in a small village at the foot of a holy mountain. When he is told to take a small cake as an offering to the spirits of the shrine, he is disappointed as he would rather play with his friends, but he does as he is told. It is a long walk though and he soon grows hungry. Surely the gods will not mind if he has just a tiny nibble at the cake? But one nibble leads to another and by the time Hagurosan arrives at the shrine, he has eaten the whole cake. All children make mistakes, but what Hagurosan has done is a terrible offense in the culture he lives in. He isn't a bad child and confesses his crime to the spirits with great sorrow and fear. The spirits are not totally unkind. They take a liking to this child offering him one wish which he makes very unselfishly - but there are strings attached. He can stay with the spirits as they desire, making his home in the temple, or he can leave but his wish will not be fulfilled. It is a heavy burden for so young a child.

Varjak Paw - S.F. Said *****+
I would never have considered this book in a million years if not for the recommendation of a friend. A karate kitty just sounds a bit lame in my opinion, but this book is so much more, exploring the true meaning of karate as a way of life. This book deals wit prejudice, class, gangs and violence, but most of all it is a story of hope and redemption. Please see my complete review @
I would strongly suggest the review on dooyoo by Koshka as well.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Children's books that teach values.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Michael Morpugo
A truly epic tale of courage and honour.

Noguchi the Samurai
Wits are the greatest weapon of all and this is one of my very favourite children's books ever written.
Please see my complete review:

The Empty Pot by Demi
Another of my  favourite books. Teaches honesty, courage, and giving your best effort. A beautiful story in which the emperor decides his successor by giving all the children a seed and seeing who can grow the most beautiful flower. Ping has always been a talented gardener, but his seed never grows. In all humility he presents the emperor with an empty pot, but there is a twist to this story and a wonderful moral.

Little Monkey's Journey: Retold in English and Chinese by Li Jan
Respect for parents, kindness, courage.

The Water Dragon A Chinese Legend - Jian Li
"Self discovery, kindness, helping others"

Jin Jin The Dragon - Grace Chang
"Self discovery, kindness, helping others"

Jin Jin and Rain Wizard by Grace Chang
How to right a wrong, courage, forgiveness,  and not being wasteful

Leo the Late Bloomer - Robert Kraus
Believing in yourself, giving everyone time to blossom/

Tree of Cranes by Allen Say
Obedience and respect for parents, a mother's love.

The Koi Who Cried Wolf by Katina Lawdis
A beautifully illustrated and unique retelling of the famous tale. If you don't chose this though, do tell some version of this story.

The Snow Dragon by Vivian French
Courage, self sacrifice, love

The Muffin Muncher by Stephen Cosgrove
Helping others allows others to help you

Trafalgar True (Serendipity) by Stephen Cosgrove

Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth
Zen Koans in an easy to understand format for children. We especially loved a story of Good Luck or bad luck - showing how what looks like a bad luck may work out for the best - or vise versa.

The Emperor's New Clothes
There are several versions of this. You can choose any, read an online story or simply tell it from memory. But every child needs to hear this. This teaches the most critical skill - question everything.

My Bedtime Anytime Story Book by V. Gilbert Beers

This one  was written by a prolific Christian author, and is wonderful for teaching Christian ethics to very young children, but does not specifically mention religion. It has wonderful lessons in life for friendship, honesty, forgiveness and more relevant to all children. It has lovely animal cartoon characters and is a wonderful collection of stories which are both fun and educational.

The Usborne Illustrated Tales of the Knights of King Arthur
These stories form the backbone of chivalry, honest and courage in a young reader. I will never forget my oldest son listening to these at age 4. Not long afterwards he saw some bullies tormenting a little girl. The bullies were twice his size, but he marched up to them , demanded the wee girls tea set be handed over to him, then  returned it to the crying girl, comforted her, and helped her gather her things.

The Usborne Illustrated Norse Myths. 
Another good one for courage and honour, as well as loyalty, and perhaps thinking things through carefully.

The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm
This one needs no introduction. It should be on every families bookshelf. True some stories are silly and not relevant today, but many others contain the body very oldest wisdom of our people.  The stories teach both morality and common sense and connect children to a small portion of their heritage.

A moral education

 As a home educator, I'm always asking myself - have I covered every subject thoroughly? Have I left anything essential out? But one topic that I think many educators, both schools and homes forget about now is morals. How do I raise an ethical child? How do I teach my children values, ethics and morals? Of course example is probably the most important - and kids can really call you out if your actions fail to match with your words in this. Taking time to explain and discuss issues is also crucial, there are many teaching moments throughout each day, and home education means we are there for most of them. But another wonderful, time honoured, way to teach morals and values is through stories.

This is one of my favourite quotes
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.

“One is Evil – It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret,...
greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

“The other is Good – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

I believe children are born basically good. But like all of us they must overcome  selfish urges and grow into good adults. As parents we need to help them feed the good Wolf.

My next post will be some of our favourite books to nourish the good within a child -  or adult.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

One of the best home ed items we have bought this year!

Toys of Wood Oxford Multifunctional Advanced Beads Puzzle & Threading Board

Most people buy back to school clothes, gym kits and stationary. We buy back to school toys. Of course do a lot more than just play, but play is an important part of our curriculum. I believe children retain what they learn better when they are having fun, but something like allows children to use several styles of learning. The manufacturer claims this is suitable for ages 3 -10. I originally scoffed at this idea, feeling 10 would be far too old for this toy, but seeing how much my 8 1/2 year old enjoys it, I've changed my mind.


Wooden tray with a peg board lid. There are two grooves cut into the inside of the tray which can be used to hold the pegboard upright like an easel if desired.
360 wooden mushroom shaped pegs , various colours, small medium and large tops. the bottom of the peg is just under 1/2 centimetre in diameter. The pegs are nearly 1 centimetre tall. The height is the same for all of them , it is just the width of the mushroom part.
6 coloured laces.
5 wooden shapes for threading: cow, teddy bear, butterfly, fish
And instruction booklet showing several designs to make.


This toy is made in China. The Amazon ad states that it does conform to EC toy safety rules has a ISO 9002 Certificate and conforms to EN71. this doesn't mean much to me so I looked it up. EC toy safety is obvious, but the ISO 9002 certificate is a British standards certificate but now obsolete. EN71 refers to "European and International toy safety standards EN71"*

The overall quality of the toy can only be described as exceptional. The wood has a lovely smooth surface and the lid fits on top perfectly. The lacing figures are simple, they are all one colour, but also have a nice texture and appear very well made. I do suffer from tremors at times in my hands, and unfortunately this box really went flying shortly after purchase. I was delighted that it came out unscathed. The paint is thick and robust and appears unlikely to chip and thank goodness the whole box was put together well enough o withstand some impact, although obviously this is not recommended. My favourite part however, is the pegs. We do have plastic pegs as well, but these are so much nicer. I just the love the feel of real wood and so do the boys.

The instruction booklet is written in both Chines and English , and I'm afraid the translation is not very good. In one instance it reads "Don't keep the toy in the mouth to prevent children devour small parts of the toy". The English is not perfect, or even good, but it does get the point across, and in all honesty it is common sense anyway, You really shouldn't need an instruction book to advise you not to throw this toy at each other or to allow small children to eat the little pieces. The "Warning choking hazard - Small Parts. Not for children under 3 years" is clearly stamps as are a few other references to 3+. The majority of the instructions are illustrations so no text is needed but what I really like about the booklet is that it has the English word under most pictures accompanied by the Chinese symbol. I really like this as my children have had some interest in Chinese writing and I think it is wonderful for them to be exposed to this little taste of another culture.


I could write a book on what you can do with this toy. It is great fun simply to make pictures and allow for artistic expression. It is also wonderful to make geometric shapes and explore patterns. You can have fun creating half of a picture and allowing a child to create the other half. You can make pictures only from pegs, or by lacing the wooden shapes onto the board. Or you can use this as a threading board with strings alone, crisscrossing them back and forth to make designs or stitching out letters. The wooden shapes can also be used for tracing, or you can just stitch the threads in and out of the holes. You can play X's and o's with this , or even a simplified version of Go one of Albert Einstein's favourite games.


Fine motor skills: The small mushroom pegs are perfect for encouraging children to develop a pincer grip. The threading and lacing activities help children develop the ability to use the hands asymmetric bilateral integration or the ability to use both hands at once in a different task. Both lacing and using the pegs improves hand / eye coordination.

Literacy: The ability to recognise patterns is a key skill required in emergent literacy. You can start with something as simple as a two colour pattern and allow the child to guess which colour comes next. If your child makes a picture, you can use pegs to spell out the word underneath. The main reason I bought this though is letter recognition. First I make the letter with pegs, then encourage my child to feel the shape of the letter. As he does I say the letter name and sound, and we think of words which begin with it. Next he makes the letter himself. He ends up using all of his senses in this activity, sight, touch, sound and even critical thought as he thinks about where to place the next peg.

Maths: You can discuss small, medium and large as you pick out mushroom pegs. The manufacturer suggests doing simple sums on this, but we didn't find that very interesting. But a child can learn multiplication easily using blocks of pegs. An example would be to find the total for three rows of eight. This is excellent for discovering factors as well as a child discovers how many different patterns he or she can make with a set number of pegs. You can practice simple division with remainder as well, or use pegs to represent number values such as blue for ones, red for tens etc... - or you could just use the pegs to count.

Geometry: This does not make a perfect circle, but it is nice for more angular shapes, and allows children to learn the shapes through touch just as we did with the letters. You can also show how some shapes can combine to make others. You can make wonderful geometric patterns as well.

Multicultural: Try making some of the Chinese characters along with the picture. You might also read a book about Chinese writing. I would recommend Jin Jin The Dragon by Grace Chang and The Pet Dragon by Christoph Niemann.

Art and colour recognition are fairly obvious so I won't go into these.


I only have two problems with this set. First I wish you would buy more pegs as with only 360 pegs and 550 holes you can not fill the whole board. The second issue is that while the lid fits perfectly, it does not attach, so this can spill easily, and believe me, you do not want 360 pegs rolling about the floor. To solve this, either make sure the pegs are kept in the plastic baggies, or get a pencil case to keep them as I did. A soft pencil cases fits easily in this, along with all the other bits, and I even had room for an extra set of wooden shapes which I bought separately. There are two notches at the top and bottom of this set. I place a rubber band over the whole box, fitting into the notches to hold everything together and it works perfectly.


This set sells for £13.99 new and delivered from Amazon, fulfilled by Toys of Wood Oxford.

As mentioned, you can not buy additional wooden pegs for this set. However, you can buy plastic ones. They aren't as nice, but they are fairly cheap. Amazon charges £18.49 for five plastic pegboards and 1,000 pegs but I bought the 1,000 pegs alone for roughly £5 on ebay. I have also added a beautiful set of wooden lacing seaside animals from ELC, and as luck would have it, they even fir in the box. Finally I bought of Miniland plastic letters for sewing. These letters can be stitched directly onto the board with the threads, as can the ELC animals. The possibilities are absolutely endless as Amazon has quite a few lacing and threading toys that could easily be added to this.


My sons are ages 5 and 8. Both really enjoy this toy, and I have to admit, I do as well. There are just so many things you can do with this. I think we could have this for years and still find new and different uses for it. Because this toy does have such massive amount of different uses, it never grows boring, you can always find a new game or activity. I love this because it keeps learning fun and really is helping my son with pre reading skills and fine motor coordination. My sons love it simply because it is fun. If dooyoo allowed 1/2 star ratings, I would drop this to 4 1/2 stars because you can not buy replacement parts. We are very careful with small parts, but if you can't be sure these will always be put away properly, this mightn't be a good choice as you will not be able to replace them. I can't bring myself to drop this to 4 stars though as the boys both love it, it has had hours of play already, and it is educational as well.

# How to play a children's version of Go or Goe:
Go is an ancient Chinese games, dating back at least 2,500 years. It is meant to be played on black line, but in this case, we can play it with holes. The idea is simple. Each player gets a colour. You take turns placing pegs. The idea is to surround your opponents pegs. Whenever a group of pegs is surrounded by another colour, with no open space in which to move, they are captured and must be removed. This is actually a highly complicated game using maths and logic, and we do not attempt the correct scoring. For a children's game, we simply count up the number of pegs on the board after a set time and whoever has the most wins. If you wish to play the game in it's true form, you Google "How to Play Go"


This review also appears on dooyoo

The Board (games) of Education

The children will be going back to school soon, and many parents at this time of year are thinking of ways to boost their child's academic achievement. If your child attends school, you may be looking for ways to help the child excel in class, or is some cases simply to catch up. If you are a home educator, you are most likely planning out an entire curriculum. But regardless of whether your child attends school or not - almost all children are home educated to some extent. Most of do try to engage in educational activities at home. Board games are often overlooked, but their value can be immense. For the life of me, I can not find the original study I am about to quote, but it did state that the three most important things a parent could do to help their child academically were:
1 - read to them.
2 - take them places, everything from museums to parks.
3 - play board games.

Now the first two originally came as no surprise to me, but over the years I have come to see more and more how board games can help a child academically. This book focuses on how board games can help a child develop key skills which may translate to academic success, as well as just basic skills required for life. Obviously, I did not need any convincing, I've been using board games more and more on our home education journey - to the point that next year Fridays will be devoid of all pencil work. We will only have board games, science toys, arts and crafts or days out. I bought this book, not to discover if board games could be a part of our curriculum, but in the hopes of finding new and better ways to use them.

The author, Jeffrey P. Hinebaugh is an American attorney and partner in a law firm. He has also taught economics, and is the father of two home schooled children. Because he is American, this book will have American names of games, and some of the games may be less common over here, but in most cases he does mention British Equivalents. I would note that he also seems to be referring to older variants of some of the games, so that The Game of Life he refers to in the book looks nothing like the edition currently available on Amazon. While some of these games may be less common in the UK, I did engage in a quick search on Amazon and ebay and found all of them were available, although some were a bit on the expensive side. Sadly, none of the Orchard Toys board games are listed though, and I believe this is because these are primarily British games, nor were any games created especially for educational purposes, and there are quite a few excellent ones out there.

The book begins with the simplest games Candyland and Chutes and Ladders - which for us means "Snakes and Ladders". At this stage children are learning very basic skills, such as colours and how to count. the author also points out that these teach very important life skills, like how to lose, and that bad things happen - like landing on a snake just when you are ready to reach the end. The Chutes and Ladders section was one of the best in the book and offers all sorts of variation on the game to make it more challenging for older students, as well as teaching new skills. I have got a few ideas from this, and I have in fact just ordered a Snakes and Ladders Game, but I also had a been reading up on other board games and realised I could make my own version of some very expensive maths games with a snakes and ladders set and some markers. Still the simple idea of added polyhedron dice to the game and a maths dice with +, -, x, and / make this a brilliant way to drill basic facts without work books or flash cards. I also liked the idea of using this game to introduce the concept of negative numbers.

Scrabble and boggle are of course brilliant games to improve reading and spelling. Scrabble also teaches maths skills as we use both addition and simple multiplication to calculate scores. The author gives a few variations, but most of these were ones I was already familiar with. Still, I found it a useful section and it does really make think just how beneficial these games are.

I was less impressed with " I Will Buy It!", the section on Monopoly, Payday and The Game of Life. I'll admit these games do all teach maths skills , especially if you have the child serve as banker, but I'm less impressed with their value as means to teach children to invest, budget, and plan for retirement in real life. The payday game does look quite useful for calendar skills, although it looks rather boring to me, so I may consider making my own version with calendar , monthly supplies drop and an expedition theme, if I can get my hands on a few cheap game boards or something similar to reconstruct.

The section on logic and deductive reasoning was brilliant, and this alone made the book worth purchasing in my opinion. This is an area in which the schools are falling short now, and the need for children to be able to think for themselves and come to logical conclusions, or even logical guesses has never been more apparent. The games included are Cluedo, Battleship and Mastermind. I already own the first two, but after reading this, I ordered Mastermind the same day. Much of what Hinebaugh says in this chapter is common sense, but it hadn't really occurred to me before. He does point out exactly how these games encourage children to use logic reason, and form educated guesses.

The section on war games was also brilliant. The include draughts ( checkers), Risk and Stratego. I am now in the process of searching for yet another spare game board to make a game of Risk based on a modern map, and perhaps one of the Europe only. I had never though of using Stratego places on a map of an actual battlefield and adding or subtracting points for things like high ground, narrow passes, marshes etc... This opens up a whole new level of gameplay. It also got me thinking of ways I could change the games , and I have some unusual ideas as well. I've though of our own addition to this as well - disease dice. Disease wiped out entire armies so something as simple as camping your troops in a marsh could put you at risk of fevers etc... If we include a budget and allow the players to buy weapons, medicines food etc... we could make an incredible game. These games are meant to teach strategy and negotiation, but with some alterations they can teach history, science, military tactics and more.

"Out of the Blue" shows how games like Pictionary and Scattergories can increase creativity and drastically improve a child's ability to express themselves. They don't really sound like a I need board game for them for them though, so I can take these ideas without buying the games or add a Pictionary category to one of my own made up board games.

"Einstein Played Board Games" seems a bit of leading title. It does mention that Einstein enjoyed Chess and Go, but doesn't give much detail on these. I had to look Go up myself, but it looks brilliant and is easy enough to play with a chessboard and markers. This chapter really primarily deals with chess, but I can't say that learned much from it. We all know chess has educational benefits, and this gives us some evidence of this in terms of studies and research. There is a significant discussion of Game Theory here, but I'm afraid if I hadn't already studied this in philosophy years ago, I would have been a bit lost. However, this is the only section that I feel any adult would struggle to understand. This section does have a very useful list at the end which lists each game and skills taught.

Overall, I am glad I bought this book. It was expensive. I paid £9.49 for a new copy from Amazon, with used copies being offered at twice the price - something that has never made much sense to me. I did give me some new ideas, and get me started on making up more ideas of my own. I've always been one to add to games, or even make whole new games out of old and unwanted ones. It did help me realise that playing board games really is teaching quite a lot, and so does constitute a fair use of our educational time, and gave me the research to back this should the school board ever call it into question ( which is unlikely as they don't seem to care how we do things as long as we get the desired results).

To be honest though, there really isn't a lot here I couldn't find by combing through home education sites, it just puts everything in one place, and many of the variations were similar to things we already do. Still, I learned enough from this to justify the purchase price in my opinion, and I tend to be very creative in the use of board games already, so I expect most people will get as much from it as I did. I know I am going to sound a bit arrogant here but in all honesty, I do believe if I wrote down my own educational variants for board games though - I would have more ideas than I found in the book. That said, it is always nice to find a few new ones. My one real complaint was that I did grow a bit bored with the authors use of his children as examples. It seems on every game he went into detail on how they lost the pieces, and what they used as substitutes. Some info on what they learned from the game might have been more helpful.

Finally, there is some really fun trivia on the games, and how they evolved. I was fascinated to learn that Snakes and Ladders developed from an ancient Indian board game which illustrated the path to enlightenment. Apparently many of our games originated in India, but there is fun trivia on more modern games as well.

The big question is - should you buy this? If you home educate - I would say yes. If you already home educate with board games, you are sure to find some new ideas, and if not this will certainly encourage you to consider it. If you do not home educate, but are actively looking for ways to help your child get ahead at school, this might also be worth considering. I do believe children would benefit more from books and board games at home than from workbooks, and especially if your child needs help in specific areas, this might be very helpful. If you already have a number of these classic games, this book will certainly be more useful for you. If not, buying enough games to make this book useful may not be practical. As mentioned, I don't own all of them, but I do own more than half - although some are altered. Mariopoly is ever so much more fun than Monopoly Jr and we will be converting Monopoly Skylandopoly next week.

I believe a family game night has many benefits, but we do have to face the facts that not all children will want to play board games when they could play X-box or Nintendo instead. Home educated children are going to leap at the choice of a board game over workbooks. A child who is already tired from a long day travelling to and from school, doing homework and trying to find a bit of time to socialise might really prefer to unwind with a video game before bed instead of a board game. It would certainly be worth discussing with your child before buying the book and games. I'm also afraid too many attempts to make a game more educational may result in the child growing bored. It's one thing to play a game based on maths facts instead of learning those facts from worksheets. It is quite another to be asked to do more sums after a full day at school and pages of homework. Of course other children will be so happy to be spending one on one time with the parents like this that they won't care how educational it is. So whether this book will work for you or not depends very much on your own child's interests. In short - if your child enjoys these types of games, this book may be very helpful. If they don't - there isn't much point.

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