Thursday, April 28, 2016

Attack (part 2)

Last week I mentioned that one of our hens was attacked by a dog. This week I’m going to show you the setup we had for her, and how we cared for her.

The children were both very concerned with what happened, and wanted to inspect the hen’s wounds. I showed them the puncture marks and bare spots, and then explained how we were going to watch her inside for a few days to make sure she is okay before putting her back out with the flock.

We were very thankful we hadn’t gotten rid of our octagonal baby gate, as that was the perfect enclosure for her to still be able to move around yet be confined. Our only other readily-available option was a small cat carrier, and she wouldn’t have been able to stand up. I wouldn’t like that very much, and I’m sure she wouldn’t!

We put plastic down on the floor, then newspaper roll across the top of it. The baby gate was placed atop that, and we covered it with a large piece of cardboard to keep her in. I really disliked the cardboard part because it made it much darker in her area than it really was, so we put a lamp on the floor nearby and took the lampshade off of it (but only turned it on during daylight hours).

We made a makeshift nesting box with a produce box (one side removed) stuffed with straw, and a little makeshift roost from another produce box and a piece of wood. A small bowl with food and water was placed in there, but she was spoiled with fresh produce (more than usual, mostly because she didn’t have to share it or fight over it).

The kids asked about why we cleaned the wounds (a little soap and water, then spraying with an anti-fungal/anti-bacterial spray called Blu-kote), so we mentioned germs and explained how we want to keep them out of the wounds so she doesn’t get sick. They got to watch her eat and just her general behaviours a lot more while she was inside (for obvious reasons), and got to observe our cats in full predator mode, too. (It was tricky keeping them out of the room!)

We assumed she was going to be fine when she was eating and drinking like normal that evening, but decided it was a pretty safe bet when she laid an egg for us. If you’re curious, no… it wasn’t in the makeshift nesting box. She determined that it was of inferior quality and instantly kicked all the straw out of it and across the enclosure, and laid her egg on the floor. I tried.

We put her back outside in the fenced (but open) part of the yard that is just for the chickens, and then let the other chickens out, and scattered a bit of scratch grains for them. We were worried they might pick on her while she was injured, but they all went right back to normal immediately. Well, except the fact one of them has naked spots!


Disclaimer: Thoughts of Fluff is responsible for the content of this post. All opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Super Why! ABC Letter Game (review)

A great game for beginning readers is the Super Why ABC Letter Game by University Games. It helps with all the reading basics like letter recognition, word meaning (selecting the correct word for the sentence), rhyming, and letter sounds, as well as counting to 4.

You can play as one of the four show characters: Alpha Pig, Princess Presto, Super Why, or Wonder Red. The youngest player goes first, spinning the spinner. They move the number of spaces the spinner lands on, and draw a card to match the space they land on.

The goal is to have the most cards when you reach the finish circle, but you only get cards if you correctly perform the instructions on the card. The child doesn’t need to be able to read the card, they just need to have someone to read it to them. Just like the show (see review here), the cards for each character match their ability or talent. This means that a card for Wonder Red would involve rhyming, and a card for Alpha Pig would involve letter recognition. If you couldn’t point to the correct letter for an Alpha Pig card, you don’t get the card.

We tend to work with the kids a lot to help them get the cards, and I think there have only been a couple of times when we didn’t end up giving Bobble a card. He had the most trouble with the concept for rhyming, and always tried to change the end sound instead of the beginning sound. (Example: If you said Cat, he would think Cake rhymed because they both started with the same sound.) This game has helped him understand rhyming, but it took a while. The only time he ever didn’t get a card, it was a rhyming card, and it was after working with him for a while to try and help him get it.

Eventually the whole game was way too easy for Bobble with the exception of the rhyming, so we changed the rules to him needing to answer one of each of the 4 types of cards correctly when he lands on the finish circle. If he doesn’t answer all 4 cards correctly, he has to wait until it’s his turn again, then he has to answer all 4 again. This was helpful for those games where he got lucky (in his eyes) and didn’t land on a Wonder Red circle at all. Since that’s what he needed to work on, at least it encouraged him to learn the skill so he could win the game… and he loves winning.

Super Why is available at Amazon for around $20 and can be found at some retail stores like Target or Kmart.

Disclaimer: Thoughts of Fluff is responsible for the content of this post. University Games did not sponsor this post in any way. All products mentioned above were purchased by me, and all opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Attacked (part 1)

Chickens are an amazing addition to our family, but they have brought a host of other learning opportunities for our children aside from learning how chickens live. The concept of predators is one of those examples, and one that is visually available for the children quite frequently.

When we first got chickens, I worried mostly about the neighborhood cats preying on them. That fear was quickly put to rest when my chickens matured and started charging at cats when they got near, effectively scaring the cats off. We still have to watch out for hawks, however, and I have run outside to scare off a hawk that was on its third swoop down, and just feet off the ground.

This has been a very real experience for the children. They understand that lions, for example, eat other animals. Just hearing about it on a show or reading about it in a book is very different than trying to protect your own animal from becoming another animal’s dinner. They have started asking questions about all sorts of animals to see what might be a danger to our hens and what might not.

Living in the city limits, however, comes with more of these learning opportunities than anticipated. We had someone come up to our door a few days back to let us know his dog got loose, chased a cat, saw our chickens and went for one of them instead. There were feathers everywhere, but I saw no blood. He said the chicken walked away, so he thinks she might be okay, but I had to explain to the children what happened.

The hen only had minor puncture wounds (and quite a few feather-bare spots). It really could have been so much worse. Thankfully the owner was actively chasing the dog before the dog got to our chickens. From the looks of it, he probably grabbed the dog as soon as the dog successfully grabbed our chicken, forcing the dog to release her. The result was puncture wounds exactly at the teeth, but no tears along the skin.

At the time of this writing, our hen was back outside with the rest of our flock, and not at all intimidated by her experience… which she had proven by instantly flying out of her safe area (fenced in, but not covered) as soon as she was put back outside.


Disclaimer: Thoughts of Fluff is responsible for the content of this post. All opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Angry Birds Card Game (Game Review)

Bobble is sort of obsessed with a game called Angry Birds. This obsession started when he was an inpatient at children's a couple years back. He occasionally got to use the iPad they had for his floor, and there was a game on there called Catapult King. He loved it a lot, and so I decided to get him the Angry Birds trilogy I linked to above.

I don't want him playing video games all the time, however, so I got curious when I saw the Angry Birds Card Game in the store. I admit, I impulse bought it. It said for ages 5+, and it was for 2-5 players. It also emphasized on the packaging it was from the makers of UNO.

The game contains 56 cards (20 power cards, 36 structure cards), 2 dice, and a king pig.

The game is very simple to play, too. You deal 6 structure cards (blue backed cards) to each player, and they are allowed to arrange them in any order they like on the table for all to see. This stack is called your "castle". Two power cards are dealt to each player (these are not face up). To play, when everyone has their lineup set, the first person rolls the two dice. The dice have various birds on them. If you roll the bird in the first position (at the bottom of your castle/closest to you), you get to remove it. The goal is to remove all your castle cards and then you get to try and knock out the king pig to win the game.

You have to remove the cards in order, but in the above picture I could have removed the bottom two cards from my stack with the below roll:

This is because the red bird removes the red card, and then the other die rolled up a "wild" (all the birds), so that removes the next one. Had I rolled a black bird and a white bird (my second and third position cards), I couldn't have done anything.

The two orange/red-backed cards, your power cards, can be used during game play. Each one means something different, and have specific times they can be used. The +1 card, for example, you may only play during your turn. This makes the opponent of your choice draw a new structure card and place it in the first position of their castle. The No Launch (slingshot) card can be played at any time, and it causes the opponent to skip their turn.

You may only play one power card at a time. If you were unsuccessful at getting rid of any birds from your castle on your turn, you may draw a new power card.

When your castle is gone, you get a chance to win the game (when it's your turn again). The king pig is set up (at least) 2 feet away and you flick a die at him. You have to knock him over to win the game. If you hit him but he doesn't fall over, you didn't win and you try again next turn.

The game is pretty fun, and easy to learn for all ages. I would definitely recommend it if you're looking for something different to play, especially if your child isn't great at holding a hand of cards yet. This requires no more than 3 cards in your hand at any point in time, so that was beneficial for Bobble's small hands. Reading isn't required for this game, either.

The only con I see with this game is that some people get overzealous with the flicking of the die and it ends up across the room. Ironically, that never happened with Bobble, but it did happen with an adult that was playing with us!

The price seems to vary online, but it appears to average out to around $8.

Disclaimer: Thoughts of Fluff is responsible for the content of this post. The product mentioned above was purchased by me, and all opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Shopping Tip

There comes a point when babywearing is only helpful on occasion. As the kids get older, they don’t always want to be worn. It can be just as exhausting putting a child on you that does not want to be worn as it can be to chase them down in the store. My kids won’t sit in the cart most of the time (and try to climb out), don’t usually want to be worn unless tired or ill, and rarely stay next to me unless I only have one of them with me. It can be challenging to get them to be cooperative and end with me leaving the store with my sanity.

I tried handing my shopping list to the kids, but that ended up as a disaster. They fought over it, tore it, or crumbled it and threw it the floor as this hilarious new game of theirs. Not so fun for me, but I guess there is something to it since they were having so much fun. I tried writing two little fake lists. They weren’t pleased. Bobble was angry that they were not real words (he quickly realized they had no actual letters), and Squiggle was just plain angry that I still had a list in my hand. Obviously theirs were not good enough if I still had to have one.

Finally, by accident, I stumbled across a pretty decent solution, and quite by accident. I went to a craft store with my mother and the kids, and they were everywhere. Simply everywhere. There was no listening happening at all… until they found the little tablets of paper near the patterns accompanied by little tiny pencils. All they needed to be content was the ability to make their own shopping lists while shopping. Obviously this won’t always work, but it does make it easier since they also will willingly sit in the cart so they can write their lists as we’re in the store. Bobble tries to write the actual words of things he sees that he wants, and Squiggle scribbles on the notepad or paper that she has whenever she sees something she wants.

This works in the grocery store and in retail stores. If they are on foot, we still move slowly since they are pausing to write what they want, but at least they aren’t running off!

Disclaimer: Thoughts of Fluff is responsible for the content of this post. All opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Connect 4 (Game Review)

While looking for something in the basement, I noticed our games that we set aside. Games like Scrabble, Boggle, and other games we had played before having children. We don't have the time for Scrabble much these days, and Boggle will likely come back out as Bobble learns to spell. One game caught my eye though: Connect 4.

 I cannot believe I forgot we had Connect 4! Not a board game, and not a card game, I thought it would be a great option to introduce to Bobble. It was something different, it involved strategizing, and it was fairly quick. He had recently learned how to play tic-tac-toe, so I thought he'd grasp the concept fairly simply.

He is quite smitten with the game. Well, to be fair, he is quite smitten with any game right now. Still, he loves this game, and I love how quickly we can play it.

The newest version of Connect 4 apparently has red and yellow discs/checkers. The base is also slightly different, just containing the legs on the side (like the original version had). I prefer our version, as it prevents the discs from going all over when you release them. I have a 2 year old and a 5 year old, I don't need help losing pieces!

The game comes with 21 of each colour disc, the slider bar, the grid, and the two legs. It's easy to just put it together, and this is made quite apparent by the fact Bobble does it himself every time.

We are not the kind of parents who are going to go easy on their children and let them win, so a skill game, like this, is not an easy win for Bobble. That's not to say that we are mean about it. Especially while teaching the game, we will explain our move, and what we are hoping to accomplish. I'll say that I put a piece in this place because I only need one more piece over in this spot and I will have four in a row and win. This helps him see the logic. He frequently loses to me via the two-way trap where if he blocks me from winning, I play atop that disc and still win. It's totally a set up.

Playing against his uncle
You might think that sounds mean, but it's taking longer and longer for me to win because he's getting better and better. He's also beaten me with that exact same strategy. He learns quickly!

Playing against his uncle
Connect 4 is a great game, but it is only a 2 player game. This is not a big deal for us since it's so quick, we just take turns. It's great for those times where there is only one other person to play with him, as some games aren't much fun with only two people. This is a great alternative. It says it's for children age 6 and up, though that is obviously not a necessity if your child isn't going to put the pieces in their mouth and they understand counting.

Beaming after the first time he beat his daddy.

You can find Connect 4 at any general retailer for around $10. There is also a travel version (which I've never played) that runs about $7. I imagine Bobble would love a travel version, but I cannot foresee the pieces not getting jammed into seats and lost. Maybe if they were older.

No reading is required for this game, though being able to count to four is required.

Disclaimer: Thoughts of Fluff is responsible for the content of this post. Connect 4 was purchased by me and all opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Shower Tip

This may be something you have already thought of, but for some reason it took me a while to start doing this. My children have longer hair, and the older they get the more difficult it seems to be. I thought it would get easier as I could tell them to tilt their head back, but it seems to be quite the opposite. The second water hits the top of their head, they throw their head down to keep it out of their face, effectively making all the water run towards their face.

They have hair. Lots and lots of hair.
I've tried resting my leg behind them for them to lay their head on. I've tried those little shower hats you put around their head that keeps the water out of their eyes. I've tried using a cup instead of the shower head. No luck with any of them.

Finally, the other day, I handed a cloth wipe to Squiggle for her to hold to her eyes as she held her head back. She was more willing to let the water hit her head without moving it because her eyes were "protected". If she leaned forward and the water/soap ran towards her face, it stopped and was absorbed by the wipe.

All this time struggling, and all I needed to do was grab a wipe. Of course, a washcloth would work just as well, but we have a million cloth wipes and no children in diapers anymore, so those were the first thing I thought to use.

These aren't even close to all our cloth wipes, either!
So if you have been having similar troubles, try a cloth wipe (or a washcloth), and see if it might work for you, too!

Disclaimer: Thoughts of Fluff is responsible for the content of this post. All opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Sum Swamp (Game Review)

For his 5th birthday, Bobble was gifted a board game by Learning Resources called Sum Swamp. We had never heard of Sum Swamp, but the person that gifted it to us said their family really enjoyed playing. He opened it at his birthday party, and the kids all wanted to play right away. Lucky us, the rules were really, really easy, and the game was short enough to keep everyone's attention span, but long enough to make it fun.

It's a 4 player game, though I'm sure you could always use a little toy (maybe a Lego?) as a place marker if you wanted to play with a 5th person. There are 3 dice: two green dice with numbers 1-6, and 1 white operations die. There are also 4 player pieces are a rubbery material, so they won't slip out of little fingers. They are all swamp critters: a red snail, an orange alligator/crocodile, a purple dragonfly, and a green frog.

The game play is simple: You roll all 3 dice, and perform the addition or subtraction they create. You always subtract the smaller number from the larger number.

This turn shows a roll that would be 5 - 2, so the player would move 3 spaces

If you land on a stone that has a number on it, you roll the white operations die. If it is a +, you move forward the number on that stone. If it is a -, you would move backwards that same number. If you land on a stone that says "odds" or "evens", you roll a green number die. If the number that turns up is matches the stone you are on (so an even number for a stone that says "evens"), you move forward the number rolled. If you rolled an odd number when you landed on an "evens" stone, you simply stay where you are and it's the next person's turn.

The "endless loop" near the right side of the board is the only thing we alter the rules on. Players are supposed to land on the "exit" stone before they may exit the circle on their next roll. We play that once the first person actually exits, then everyone else may leave as well. The reason for this change is because it is so close to the end of the board that the first person out will almost always win without anyone else getting out of the loop. It would be better placed in the center of the board for that reason.

Bobble already enjoyed math before this game, but he didn't quite understand subtraction. Thanks to this game, he has become a wiz at subtraction as well as addition. 

When this game gets boring for him (when his skills far surpass this game), I plan on introducing him to negative numbers, and letting him subtract the numbers in the actual order they land (making him go backwards spaces if it ends up being a negative number). This will keep the game fun for much longer!

Reading is not required for this game (pretty sure any child would quickly recognize the difference of  the word "even" and "odd" and memorize which is which, even if they cannot read). Recognition of the numbers 1 through 6 are needed. Though you need to recognize which numbers (1-6) are even or odd, this is a skill they can learn while playing and not needed before hand.

Sum Swamp can be purchased at select retailers for about $20.

Disclaimer: Thoughts of Fluff is responsible for the content of this post. All opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own.