Games and toys that promote creativity and thinking (Part 3)

Here is part 3 of a series of posts looking at commercially available* toys and games that can promote creativity and thinking in our kids, at home and at school. When I refer to creativity and thinking, I mean that children (and adults) have the opportunity to approach these toys in a variety of ways, not necessarily just the way described on the box. Creativity may involve changing rules, or allow a ‘free playing’ imaginative space for children to explore. Thinking, and expectations around thinking, will vary depending on the child and adult playing, for example it may be thinking about turn taking, sharing, language development, rule making or even just having a fun and relaxing space to talk in.I was a bit surprised by this ‘bop it’ toy. I had often walked past it in stores and dismissed it as a present option for my nephews, as I had no idea what it was or did. Then, LT was given one as a present and I found out it is actually quite a fun toy and can contribute to both learning and thinking. There are several modes for ‘bop it’ to be used in; individual, pass and play for two or more people, or a two person challenge where you stand one person on each side of the toy. The aim in all these modes is basically the same: the ‘bop it’ toy calls out instructions, and you need to follow them by interacting with the toy. Vocal instructions are accompanied by sounds: “bop it’, ‘twist it”, ‘pull it’, ‘spin it’, or ‘flick it’. Sounds simple, right….wrong!  Instructions are called in different orders, making the thinking and co-ordination required to react quickly surprisingly challenging. As you are able to continue the sequence (we have gotten up to 20 right in a row) it unlocks levels. The different levels include things like the  spoken instruction being removed, leaving the sound to respond to. The next level again will call out colours instead of sounds.  All of these require fast reflexes to be able to stay in the game.

From an educational viewpoint, ‘bop it’ could be classified as a brain training toy. It develops quick thinking and coordination skills, reminding me of the cross marching exercises we use with students.  In terms of creativity, there isn’t much scope for free play with ‘bop it’, however I think it helps make connections within the brain and so would help children to ‘limber up’ towards creativity and reflexive thinking in other areas.

I wonder what other toys are out there that promote creativity, learning and thinking…please add any you think of in the comments below.

Until next time,

Fiona T

*All opinions are my own, and are unsolicited. I personally purchase all items reviewed on this blog and have received no payment from any supplier for promoting their goods. I am a student/teacher/academic and have no personal business affiliation or business motive on this blog. Opinions expressed are my own, and are not necessarily endorsed by my employer.

Games and toys that promote creativity and thinking (Part 2)

Here is part 2 of a series of posts looking at commercially available* toys and games that can promote creativity and thinking in our kids, at home and at school. When I refer to creativity and thinking, I mean that children (and adults) have the opportunity to approach these toys in a variety of ways, not necessarily just the way described on the box. Creativity may involve changing rules, or allow a ‘free playing’ imaginative space for children to explore. Thinking, and expectations around thinking, will vary depending on the child and adult playing, for example it may be thinking about turn taking, sharing, language development, rule making or even just having a fun and relaxing space to talk in.

We love stories in our house. These ‘story cubes’ are a great starter to help children (and adults) create their own stories. Inside this little box are 9 ‘story cubes’ with images that can be used as prompts for your own stories. As a toy it becomes a tool to promote creativity and challenge the story teller to think ‘outside the box’. There are opportunities to work together on a story, or to take turns in creating your own stories, based on the roll of the dice. The inside of the box has hints about different ways to ‘play’ with these cubes. We like to sit around the table and take 3 each, making up a story together. I must say here that WH (Wonderful Husband) lives up to his name during this game, and comes up with terrific tales, scintilating songs and rollicking rhymes, we try to get him to go last because LT (Little Tacker) and I often can’t stop laughing long enough to remember what we were going to say!

These blocks would make a good gift for a primary school aged child. However, if you wanted to make your own version you could draw or cut out pictures of various items and make your own paper cubes to stick them onto. Digital photos could also be used here, and would work as a language prompt for new items or words. This  could be extended for teachers to use in particular topics/themes, with pictures that will prompt students to discuss, explore, extend, and revise their ideas, through the creation of stories.

Do you play story or song based games with your children or family? Do you have a specific tool/toy (eg puppets, books or something else) that helps to structure this play? What are they, and what specific opportunities for creativity and thinking are available? Please share them in the comments below.

Until next time, happy playing!

Fiona T

*All opinions are my own, and are unsolicited. I personally purchase all items reviewed on this blog and have received no payment from any supplier for promoting their goods. I am a student/teacher/academic have no personal business affiliation or business motive on this blog. Opinions expressed are my own, and are not necessarily endorsed by my employer.

Wishing you a Merry and organised Christmas.

Season’s Greetings to all of my readers and followers on Facebook and twitter.
This time of year brings with it a pause for me to reflect on the year and plan towards next year. At this time last year, I was in the midst of a frenzy of baking, wrapping presents and entertaining LT as he had started holidays. This year I decided to take a calmer, more organised approach to the season. I did this by planning well ahead of time the baking I wanted to complete and began to use my freezer to support the baking I like to do at this time of year. I baked Almond Bread loaves and stowed them in the freezer to be cut and baked only a couple of days ago. Next year I will make the cookie dough ahead of time and freeze this too. I also broke up the cooking over a couple of days, so I have time each day to spend with my family and relax too. This has worked pretty well, especially when on the last day I couldn’t store any more food in the fridge/freezer and so I cancelled the last day of baking!

Another thing I did to improve my use of time was to get photo cards printed to use as Christmas cards (I use http://daisydesigns.com.au/ , they have a 24 hour turn around and email the card to you to approve. These would also be great for invitations.) A couple of years ago I set up an excel spreadsheet with my address list for Christmas cards, and after a quick update for people who have moved, I printed off the labels. This made the Christmas card process more streamlined this year.

Christmas shopping was a combination of online and ‘real’ shopping, and I had a list on Evernote to track my ideas for different people we buy for.  This, I am happy to say, meant that I have bought less impulse presents, and so don’t feel that I have wasted money this year.

So, I am much calmer and looking forward to a busy but fun Christmas Season with my family and friends.

All the best for the holidays and happy New Year. I hope to see you all again in 2013, the year of full time work and part time ‘paperless’ PhD.

Fiona T

Making room to study: creating space and time

This semester I have taken on some part time work. It has, once again, made me look at the time I have and how to balance it best. Over the last 5 weeks I feel like I have been in a whirlwind, and while I have been meeting most of my targets for each week, some have been sliding. For example, menu planning has saved my sanity and allowed me a little snippet of time while dinner is cooking/heating to get food and clothes organised for the next day. However, this brief time in the evening is where I used to check emails and sort my reading for the next day of study. I found in the first 3 weeks that my reading time was not as productive, and it took a while to realise that my pattern that had worked for last Semester had been lost.

So this week, as my work slowed down a little, I took the time to stop and reflect on my study priorities and how I can best work the time I do have, to get my reading done. I had a meeting with BB and, once again, she was a wonderful support and has given me practical advice to shape my thinking and action on this.  I have come up with two seemingly small changes: 1. My reading in the evening before bed is now an article (20 mins x 6 days = 2hrs extra reading time), and 2. I am walking to the school to pick up LT on at least 3 days of the week, which means I get an extra 10 minutes to work on something at home, eg: setting up my reading list, as I am not driving and fighting for a park at the school (10 mins x 3 days = 30minutes).  Looking over previous entries on this blog, I can see my routine ‘evolves’ and morphs every few months, as the demands of study and life change.  I need to make sure I am periodically reviewing my time and goals to make sure I am using time effectively.  With the couple of small changes above I have ‘found’ an ‘extra’ 2.5 hours, and I no longer feel like I am in a whirlwind, I feel in control again.

As these times are smaller blocks, with a clear focus I think they will work well for me. I also tried to use ‘pomodoro’ time blocks last week for my writing time, but did find it hard to shift tasks at the end of the block. It is something I will have to work on, before judging if it works well for me.

What suggestions do you have for squeezing the most out of your study time?

Until next week

Fiona T

 

Conference travel preparation.

The countdown is on! In less than 2 weeks I will be jetting off to the UK for my first International Conference.

I have been pondering and planning for this trip for a while now, and here is a link to my previous post on this topic.

After reading other blogs on conference travel I am under no illusion of getting a stack of reading done on the plane. In fact I am looking forward to the quiet (well relative quiet LOL) of not having to rush anywhere or do anything for quite a few hours.

I have found my case to be a little big for the carry on allowance the airline allows, so have sourced another case. I still did a trial pack though, into a smaller case, and think it will work out fine. I have 4 outfits that work with one pair of shoes and can cross co-ordinate these easily (yes, I’m only taking one pair of shoes!) :thinking in a minimalist way is getting easier. I am really proud that my toiletries bag is packed with the bare essentials, and have decanted creams and lotions into the teeny-tiny jars my BB found for us. Today I bought a bag that is between a handbag and a tote bag to be practical enough for plane and train travel and take to the conference. Of course there is always the option of shopping for something if I have really forgotten an essential item, but I don’t anticipate this as being necessary 🙂 .

Packing is only part of the logistics. The presentation will be fine and will be backed up on Prezi and Evernote. Insurance is sorted and tickets and accommodation. This week is busy with final bits and pieces as we get ready to jet off to this great opportunity.

The blog will be quiet for a couple of weeks while I am on this adventure, as I will be saving precious global data for skype calls home. I will post as soon as I can after I return.

See you all on the flip side!

Fiona T

Using technology to organise children’s games

As a parent one of the constant battles seems to be keeping toys and games organised, yet still accessible for kids to see and remember to play. Tucking things away in a cupboard is a great way of keeping them tidy, but often out of sight is out of mind with kids.

One of my close friends has come up with a great idea. She has photographed the games/toys and the cupboard they are stored in, then arranged the photos into a photo book layout.  Quite often there are great discount deals from department stores on printing of these photo books, and my friend kept an eye out for these. In the last discount deal the books were under $15 to get printed.

Now the printed books sit in the lounge and the kids (aged 4 and 6) can flick through to see what games/toys they want before they ransack the cupboards. It also assists them to put away the games, because they are listed in sections with a picture of the cupboard they were from.

I love this idea, it is  great example of getting technology to help to organise a household, and save time and sanity too.

How does technology help you organise your household? Please feel free to share in the comments below, or on the facebook page.

Until next week

Fiona T

Happy Easter and a Recipe.

Happy Easter! I am glad we have some holidays at the moment, it has given me a time to catch my breath and get organised again, with a view for a smoother term 2. In today’s blog I wanted to share a recipe I have adapted and my first photo tutorial to show the steps to make it.

I originally got this recipe from the Coles online blog. It was made with honey and dried fruit. Here is the link to the original recipe, it is nut free and egg free, and could easily be adjusted to be gluten free too. I find the ‘muesli’ slice idea a great one, and often have a slice of this in a container in my bag  in case I am caught out somewhere without a snack.

The reality when baking it was a little different. While it was easy to throw together, it was very crumbly when cut (we used a spoon to eat the first batch!) so I decided to adjust the recipe a bit. Over the last few months I have made this recipe almost every 2 weeks, adjusting it a little each time. I have changed this recipe so much, I now think I can call it my own.

This term I am also trialling a different way of organising my baking. As there are really 2 steps to mixing this recipe (1. Mix dry ingredients, 2. Add wet ingredients) I decided to make one batch, and premix the dry ingredients for another 2 batches (doesn’t take that much longer…I guess about 6 minutes). These extra batches are stored in airtight containers (or large snap lock bags) in the pantry, and when I need to make the next batch I can just add the wet ingredients and bake.

A production line of dry mixes:

Dry mixes: one ready to make and two to store in the pantry: 

 

Fi’s Honey & Nut Slice (Fi’s Honey and Nut Slice link to PDF version for easy printing)

Ingredients:

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup nut mix (can be whole nuts, I do like to chop mine though. Dried fruit can be used instead)

½ cup Wholemeal flour

1 teaspoon of Baking Powder

¼ cup raw sugar

½ cup coconut

125g Butter

1 tablespoon Honey

2 eggs

Method:

  1. Melt butter and honey. I do this in a pyrex jug in the microwave. Once melted, allow to cool. 
  2. Preheat oven to 150 C-160 C (fan forced), and line a slice tin (approx 28cm x 18cm) with baking paper or greased foil.
  3. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. That’s your oats, nuts, sugar, flour, baking powder and coconut. Mix together.  
  4. Add the cooled butter and honey  then mix.  Add the 2 eggs. Mix thoroughly.

5. Press into prepared tin.

6. Bake for approx 20 minutes, until golden.  Allow to cool.

7. Cut into slices, and store in an airtight container. Keeps well for a couple of weeks. Great for snack and treats. Make a fruit only (nut free) version if sending for school lunches.

 

I really like the honey flavour in this recipe, especially for having only one tablespoon of honey in it.

Enjoy!

Fiona T

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Organising My Kitchen Cupboards

 

Last year I organised my hall cupboard, and blogged about it here: Hall Cupboard Guest blog  Today I finally got around to organising our kitchen cupboard. The corner cupboard had become a bit of a vortex in the last 12 months. It was a constant hassle to get anything in or out. Some of my cupboards are more functional:

and another drawer is a nightmare:On a recent trip to bunnings we found this ‘lazy Susan’ type insert for corner cupboards. That inspired me to get on and orgainse this cupboard and the drawers.

First I cleaned out the cupboard: And here is the multitude of things lurking:

  • a laundry basket full of plastic containers
  • Disposable containers for freezing food, blender beakers and a funnel.
  • Glass jars hoarded for preserving (that hasn’t happened on the scale I had planned…so they are going into the recycling)
  • Miscellaneous things that have rarely been used:

Some needed to go in the bin or recycling, a few other dishes needed better homes. I sorted and stacked while WH contorted himself to put the shelves into the cupboard. He didn’t let me take photos of this process, probably didn’t help that I was laughing…but here is the end result:

So then I got to re-arranging and finding better homes for cans, plates and plastics. Here are the photos:

  • made over corner cupboard
  • It swivels with room in the far corners for colanders:
  • The cans are accessible too…sooo much corn!

  • The plastics drawer, this is probably about as organised as it will ever get!

  • The bottom drawer now has large serving plates, quiche dishes and beaters:

So now it’s done. 12 months of annoyance and procrastination, and in under 2 hours it was sorted. I am so pleased, and it is one less thing to ‘deal with’ every day.  I also have seen stacked wire shelving on runners, for the pantry, and one day (perhaps in the easter holidays) WH and I will tackle that.

What de-cluttering task is on your list? Make a plan today to sort it out, I’m sure you will enjoy the benefits of one less thing being a chaotic mess, I know I am!

Until next week, when study has truly begun,

Fiona T

 

 

Christmas Cards: the quick and easy way

Over the last few years (since LT arrived in our lives) I have been writing Christmas cards. I love the idea of getting these in the mail and so have made sure I get them out each year. I began by writing them by hand, a few each day and posting them in batches. Over the last few years I have streamlined the process somewhat. Here are the three steps to ‘stress free’ Christmas cards.

The first thing I did was create address labels(this was prompted by my making mistakes on the addresses and having to re-envelope cards) by making an Excel file with my contacts and mail merging into word to print on ‘avery’ labels.

Then, step two, I jumped online to Daisy Designs and made my Christmas postcard. It took me approx 10 minutes (most of that time was choosing a family photo to put on the card). The file was sent to my email the next day. I took it on a memory stick to Big W and printed the right number of cards. I also picked up envelopes and enough postage stamps (Australia Post has slightly cheaper rates for card postage at Christmas time) while I was at the shopping centre.

Step 3 was putting the cards in envelopes, sticking on the address labels and stamps.

Walking past the postbox near my son’s school and posting the cards hardly counts as a step (we walk past it every day).

I have even had phone calls from some people I haven’t heard from in ages, thanking me for the beautiful cards. So, a special thanks to Daisy Designs for streamlining my card process further.

Part one of Christmas is sorted. Now, back to that ethics application!

Fiona T

Teaching our future citizens: Engage Me! – YouTube

The link Engage Me! – YouTube gives voice to children at school today. They express their desire to learn and be challenged using the tools available to them, both in and outside the classroom. I have seen a similar you-tube, but with tertiary students as the focus.

I have been thinking deeply on the goals stated by the children, they resonate with me as I am ploughing through marking assignments and talking with teachers and student teachers about providing unique learning opportunities and personalising the learning for every student in our care. I hope this video stimulates your own thoughts and perhaps even create a discussion about catering for the learning needs of our digital natives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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