My Favourite Family Board Games – Happy Family Day Weekend

I couldn’t be more excited to have my kids home with me for the next 5 days! With Calgary’s teachers going to Convention today and tomorrow, and Family Day on Monday – we get some well-needed (and hopefully lazy) family time. We have declared it an official stay-cation (especially since Hailey has friends travelling to places like Edmonton… and Hawaii… sigh, someday…) and we are determined to do fun things we don’t get to do as often as we’d like.

This includes – board games! I am a board game fanatic. Along with children’s books I don’t know if you can ever have too many board games! I always have a board game under the tree at Christmas and even manage to throw a few into the kids Christmas stockings.

I thought it would be fitting to narrow a list down to our top 10 favourite games right now, in this moment. Zach is 5 and Hailey is 7, and these are all games we can play together as a family (usually locking the babies in their “cage” as the big kids call it, their time will come!).

Top 10 Board Games

1. Rory’s Story Cubes

We have the original cubes, but these dice come in all different theme packs and even different sizes! This is a great one to help you realize how creative your kids can be (and to re-ignite your own creative side!) Guaranteed to end in laughter, everyone takes turns rolling the “cubes” and creating a story out of the pictures that turn up. It’s nice too because if the babies decide they no longer accept their “cage”, the big kids can carry on playing without me – either with each other or by themselves.

2. Go Ape

Go Ape is basically the game, “Go Fish”, only more fun! To ask another player for a card, you need to act out/copy the monkey’s position on the card. We’ve been playing this one since Zach was probably 3 – he always gave the most accurate depictions of these apes, which made it totally hilarious for us! Game is fairly quick, can probably play a round in 20 minutes on a good day, just enough time to keep the twins occupied in their “cage”.

3. Busy, Busy Airport Game

A Richard Scarry game that anyone can play! There’s no reading involved, which makes it easy. Set up your airport and your four destinations, the nice thing about this one is you can spread them out all over the house if you want – giving your airplane farther to travel, and your children some time to be active indoors! Roll a dice, load up some passengers, drop them off at their destination of choice and pick up a souvenir on your way back! The souvenirs and passengers are pretty small, so could be easily lost – but the airplanes are a ton of fun – with slots to fill with passengers and a slot to keep your souvenirs safe. Game play within 20 minutes – if you can get away with only playing once!

4. Hedbanz

We were gifted Headbanz – the Disney Edition from some amazing people, and it has been a HIT ever since! Disney was great to start out with because my kids are movie fanatics and know (mostly) all the characters! There were a couple of movies we needed to watch though! We’ve since added the original “Headbanz for Kids” to our collection – so instead of a Disney character you could be a food, household object or animal. Great game to get your kids thinking and asking questions! We don’t really play by the rules – we use the timer as we’re supposed to to time our guesses, but we never keep score, and just keep playing as long as we want to!

5. Traffic Jam Jr.

This is more or less a one-player game, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to engage and play along! Basically, you have a deck full of logic puzzles – ranging in level of difficulty – and the goal is always to move the cars around to let the taxi out! Zach’s very math-minded and could spend hours on these! It’s a huge confidence booster when he gets it right and he’s never afraid to challenge himself.

6. Smart Games Day and Night

Another one-player logic game (man, I must really like these… or they just really work to get me that sought after quiet alone time!). In this game, you need to arrange the blocks as they are shown on the page (each page with a different puzzle arranged in order of difficulty). Ready for a challenge? On the opposite side of the page the same puzzle is shown, “in the dark”, where you can only see the outline of the shapes. We loved this game so much that I went out and bought a similar one by the same brand (just a step up in difficulty) – I can’t find the second one we have online anywhere!

7. Cat in the Hat’s: I Can Do That

This is a great group game to get everyone moving and active! With a bunch of familiar items/objects from the story of the Cat in the Hat, turn over cards to reveal a “challenge” for you to complete. Complete the challenge and keep the cards. A quick game they’ll want to play over and over! A little bit of reading/understanding is needed for the cards – but easy enough to figure out if they did decide to play this one on their own.

8. Life

I know what you’re thinking, finally – a classic! This one requires a little more adult involvement and guidance – but the kids absolutely LOVE the game of Life! They love choosing jobs, getting married, having kids (especially twins) and buying a house! It can get a little on the confusing side and sometimes take FAR TOO LONG – more like a twin-sized-nap-time rather than a sitting-on-the-side-in-the-“cage” kinda game.

9. Guess Who

Only for two-players, I guess this really isn’t a family game. Although, play is pretty quick you could easily have a “winner plays next person” type of scenario/tournament going. We have the travel sized version – buuuut I’m dying for this new version that isn’t just a mystery person… you’re a mystery CHARACTER – making it so much easier for the kids to ask questions / notice details… instead of accidentally flipping down the guy with the moustache you were supposed to keep up!

10. Draw Something

Similar to Pictionary (from what I can remember) – we take turns drawing something while everyone else has to guess what it is! The board is super fun – it only lights up for a certain amount of time, and its clear so that wherever someone is sitting they can see what you’re drawing. Once time runs out the light will turn off and you can no longer see the picture! This game has become a lot more fun since Zach’s drawing skills have vastly improved just this year! It does come with a set of cards to tell you what to draw, which Hailey happily reads – but most often we have no problem deciding what we would like to draw on our own!


 

So that’s our top 10 (at THIS moment in time) – there are so many other games that I would love to have on our shelf!

Gamewright Little Hands Cardholder

 

 

I do need to give a shout out to GameWright for their “Little Hands Card Holder”  – if you’re going to be playing any kind of card game with a little one – these are a MUST! And fit in a stocking so nicely!!

 

The next games on my radar – Swish Jr. and Sorry!

Swish Jr. was a stocking stuffer this Christmas and still haven’t had the opportunity to check it out and play it! Maybe this weekend is the weekend? And Sorry! – CLASSIC. Zach got to check it out at his last sleepover with his Aunt and Uncle… and boy, did he love it!

Next Board GamesHave a great Family Day Weekend everyone – and if your not traveling – maybe a family trip to the store to pick out a new board game is in order?!

 

Valentine’s Day

It’s that time of year again – where all of the aisles in Walmart are littered with pink and red hearts – and chocolate – oh the chocolate!

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner – how will you be celebrating?

I really think Valentine’s Day is more fun now than ever before because I have children. I think that rings true for every holiday – holidays are just so much better through the eyes of a child.

What makes Valentine’s Day special? How cheesy it can be. What makes being a mom on Valentine’s Day special? How cheesy we get to be – and no one will even think twice about it. Especially since Caleb and I are NOT the most romantic of couples (although, I would never complain if he decided to wake up one day and flip his romantic switch… that’s a real thing right?).

We get to celebrate Valentines Day twice this year – seeing as the official day is on a Saturday. But the kids will be celebrating with their friends on the 11th! (Here in Alberta our fabulous teachers head to Teacher’s Convention the 12th and 13th — yay! That means, thanks to Teacher’s Convention AND Family Day, I get 5 whole days with my kids!)

My childhood Valentine’s Days revolved around those store-bought valentines you would buy and address to all of your friends – leaving one for you to secretly deliver to yourself, signing it with a mysterious “secret admirer”. Admit it – you did it too.

Now – I get to help my kids experience these memories for themselves (I promise I’ll keep you posted if any of their cards come home reading “secret admirer”).

Lucky for us – we have Pinterest. I honestly don’t know if I will ever look at a store-bought box of valentines ever again. There is this huge collection of adorable and FREE printable valentines for your kids ALL OVER PINTEREST. I should really do a top 10 of my favourites, but there are just SO MANY – I want you all to check them ALL out!

I’ve made a Pinterest Board for Free Printable Valentines – please, please, please check it out here: https://www.pinterest.com/mrsfricker/valentines-day/

I went through as many as I could with my kids before they got bored, (cue – “mom… just pick one.”) And we ended up making some fabulous choices! Of course, for my birthday I was gifted an Adobe subscription so I couldn’t RESIST creating my own… and share them with you!

Feel free to download and use them for yourself! I cannot take credit – these ideas belong to all of you fabulous bloggers on Pinterest – and there are so many different styles of each – I can’t even pin down one blog or two for the inspiration!

Here are the valentines my children will be handing out on that special day:

For their friends! Hailey (my budding writer) will be giving her friends the heart-shaped valentine along with an adorable Valentines-themed pencil we picked up from the dollar store.  Zach will be giving his friends a little sky-diving parachute character. We found them at the dollar store as well. The favour bags I had picked up a while ago from Michaels, although I'm sure they can be found almost anywhere!  On the back of Zach's valentine there is a box that says "From" for him to write his name! :)
For their friends:  Hailey (my budding writer) will be giving her friends the heart-shaped valentine along with an adorable Valentines-themed pencil we picked up from the dollar store.
Zach will be giving his friends a little sky-diving parachute character. We found them at the dollar store as well. The favour bags I had picked up a while ago from Michaels, although I’m sure they can be found almost anywhere! On the back of Zach’s valentine there is a box that says “From” for him to write his name! 🙂
For their teachers, we'll be giving them a spatula and a box of Brownie mix (because you doesn't love brownies?!) I picture myself making one of those mason jar cookie mixes with a favourite family recipe - but for now, Duncan Hines saved the day!   
For their teachers: we’ll be giving them a spatula and a box of Brownie mix (because who doesn’t love brownies?!) I picture myself making one of those mason jar cookie mixes with a favourite family recipe – but for now, Duncan Hines saved the day! We REALLY do FLIPPIN’ love them!!! I am so thankful to have such amazing mentors in my childrens’ lives!
Pencil Valentine
Pencil Valentine
Flipper Valentine Tag
Flipper Valentine Tag
Parachute Valentine
Parachute Valentine

If you are AT ALL interested – feel free to download their PDF files here: (just click on their thumbnail photo)

 

 

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Anxious Child – Anxious Parent

This weekend will be a big one for the Fricker household.

News Flash: Hailey is going on her first-ever friend sleepover. And I couldn’t be more terrified.

Worry Time

She’s slept away from home plenty of times – one of our closest friends has been taking her for fun sleepovers for as long as I can remember. But that is someone I trust, she trusts; a second mom.

Hailey is THRILLED. She has been counting down the days, the hours, the seconds, until this thing begins. Me? The panic is starting to set in. All of her closest friends from school will be there. She’s been telling me non-stop about all of the fun things they plan on doing. But, my mind is racing – what if? what if? what if? And this little girl… alone and afraid in the dark… is all I can see.

Hailey has endured enough for the little old soul she’s always been. Our transition to Calgary was surprisingly the hardest on her. A lot of insecurities have since surfaced and continue to do so.

It started with school. She never wanted to go. Her Kindergarten year – the kicker being, her mom was working right across the hall, and her brother, hanging out with a bunch of 2 year olds a couple of rooms over. Terrified eyes turned to tears, and she spent the bulk of her mornings trying to pretend to be “ok”.

Then came bedtime. And we quickly realized this was becoming a problem that wasn’t going to go away without a fight. If it was a school night, she would be afraid to fall asleep because she didn’t want to have to wake up and go to school. If there was a special event coming up, she would keep herself up afraid that she wouldn’t be able to fall asleep, and be too tired to enjoy the special day. If mom or dad had to go out at bedtime, she would worry we would never come back. If she couldn’t hear us downstairs as she slept upstairs, she would worry we had left her alone.

It definitely affected her socially. At playdates and birthday parties, she would panic at the thought of me leaving her side, bringing herself to tears. The worst part about it was that she knew she was different than her friends. She felt differently than they did, and she hated it. She just wanted to be like them.

In the beginning, I would say things like, “don’t worry Hailey,” and, “why are you so worried?!”. It drove me crazy. But I’ve learned not to ask those questions anymore and as impatient as I still feel about her worries, I will never say those words again.

We were at our wits end, with a professional’s phone number at my fingertips, when I came across this book – “What To Do When You Worry Too Much – A Kids Guide To Overcoming Anxiety” – by Dawn Huebner.

Everyday we would set aside time (15 minutes of strictly, “Worry Time”) and work through this book with Hailey. It opened my eyes to an anxiety-ridden world. Together, we turned Hailey’s worries from these abstract, nonsensical thoughts into a Worry Monster that we were determined to shrink.

Hailey’s learning to separate her worried thoughts from “the truth” and can pin them against each other to overcome her anxiety. We do a lot more asking – and a lot less telling. The questions have changed too… from “why, Hailey?” to “what is worry telling you?”, “is it true?”, “is that really going to happen?”.

At school, she’s started taking the school bus. There is something about it that’s made everything easier. She needs to make the choice to walk away from us, rather than us walking away and leaving her. The bus driver is waiting for her to get on so they can move on to the next stop, she doesn’t have the luxury to dwell on her worries.

At bedtime, she’s started using the intercom on the phone to call us if she was ever concerned that we weren’t there (a safety behaviour that I’m a little worried could end up doing harm..).

Socially, we’re back at the sleepover. She is becoming a lot more confident when it comes to play dates and birthday parties, although she still rejects more invitations than I would like her to.

Up until now, we have been taking small steps. We are learning to expect these worried thoughts and are gearing up to deal with them head on. We’ve been lucky. We have only come CLOSE to looking into professional help, although I know that may be in the cards for us in the future- it will always stay on my radar.

This sleepover doesn’t seem in keeping with our “small steps”. It’s a leap, a bound even; one I’m not ready to take. But Hailey sure seems to be… And after all, that’s what really matters…right?

Here’s hoping I can get through this sleepover without having to pull out any of Hailey’s worry-squashing strategies… for myself.

Update: After a lot of positive self-talk – Hailey did it. She had a fabulous time – and I quote, “the best night of my life.”

Back to School

This is the time of year when we make the transition from summer into fall. My favourite time, I’ve said before, as I’ve always looked forward to the first day of school. Now, having an anxiety-ridden 7 year old, I realize that this is not the case for everybody. Luckily, there are a few things that we can do to help prepare our children for the transition…note the keyword being “few”. Here are the things I’ve been able to do for my two.

The Easy OneGet Them Physically Ready

We start going to bed earlier and getting up earlier, preparing our routine for when we are in school. We’ve also been using our “practical skills” – going to the washroom independently, getting dressed, zipping their zippers, and putting on their shoes.

The funnest part about getting physically ready for school – is the shopping.
*this is where I have to mention – the Gap has a deal going on until the 24th of August. For every $50 you spend, the Gap will give you a $25 coupon to spend sometime in September. (For a lady who’s wardrobe is 75% Gap Factory, I’ll take it!)

Here are Hailey and Zach’s fabulous finds for back to school:

Hailey’s Back to School Finds

Hailey's Back to School Finds1. Indoor Shoes – The Gap
2. Lunch Kit – Balanced Day Kit
3. Backpack – The Gap
4. Lunch Containers – Goodbyn
5. Water Bottle – David’s Tea
6. Ice Packs – Crocodile Creek

Zach’s Back to School Finds

Zach's Back-to-School Finds1. Indoor Shoes – The Gap
2. Lunch Kit – Gymboree
3. Backpack – The Gap
4. Ice Packs – Crocodile Creek
5. Water Bottle – Skip Hop
6. Lunch Containers – Goodbyn

The Fun One  – Get Them Mentally Ready

This is my favourite – simply because this is what I’m so passionate about. These are all easy things that have been casually explored throughout the summer in our house.

Open-Ended Questions
Asking open-ended questions is one of the easiest things we can do to mentally prepare our children for school. While they are playing, take a minute to sit down with them and talk about what they are doing – open-ended questions promote imagination, creativity, problem-solving and boost their self-esteem, showing them that their opinion matters, that we want to hear what they have to say.

Some examples of Open-Ended Questions:
Tell me about what you’re doing.
What else can you do with that?
What do you think would happen if…?
When you say… what do you mean?
Where did you learn about that?
Can you tell me more about that?

Keep in mind –
if you can answer the question with a yes or no, it’s not open-ended.

Reading
Bedtime stories are routine in our house. We read stories with our children every night – pointing to the words and pictures, talking about what we’re reading, predicting what will come next… it’s endless!

Now that Hailey is reading on her own – we’ve invested in all kinds of fabulous begin-to-read type stories. Our favourites include Usborne’s Learn to Read Program – see my review here.

Reading
Learn to Read – Usborne Review

Writing
Last year, Hailey brought home a journal that was sent back and forth between home and school. It was a fabulous way to see how she writes and encourage her to do so.

One Line A Day Journal
Hailey’s Journal

I came across this gem of a journal (above) when I was doing my Christmas shopping last year. I stuck it in her stocking and it’s become invaluable. It’s organized by date and under each date there is room for one sentence – enough to encourage her to write about her day, everyday.

When Zach sees Hailey writing, it encourages him to write as well. Bonus to having multiple children. I’ve recreated these mini-journals specifically with him in mind – big writing lines and just enough room for him to practice individual letters and writing his name. See my tutorial here.

Mini-Journals
Mini-Journals

Math
This is included simply because Hailey’s amazing teacher from last year recommended a little extra practice for her. Hailey’s school uses Ten-Frames as a teaching tool – for children to “see” what numbers look like. I decided to create my own Ten-Frames for us to use to play all kinds of different games and activities with.

You can see my explanation and even download your own copy of my Ten-Frames here.

Ten-Frame Activities
Ten-Frame Activities

The Hard One – Get Them Emotionally Ready

There is only so much we can do to prepare our kids emotionally. I know with our Hailey, there will be tears. School hasn’t even started yet, and there have been tears. So I’ve been doing what I can.

She has a calendar posted in her room where she crosses off each day as it passes. You can download a copy of her calendar below – I just printed the portrait version and stuck it on a clipboard from the dollar store, pinning it to her wall.

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 3.22.57 AM
Click here to download
Printable Calendar-1
Click Here to Download

 

 

 

 

 

 

More than that, I created a countdown to the first day of school on Post-It notes. You can read my tutorial on How to print on Post-It notes and download a copy of my countdown here.

Here's Hailey and Zach's countdown, positioned beside their calendar.
Here’s Hailey and Zach’s countdown, positioned beside their calendar.

Finally, we’ll be having an end of the summer celebration – who doesn’t love a good party? – to mark a clear and distinct end to the summer and the start of school.

Other than that, all I can do is be here to support her. I am here to listen and validate her feelings. We’ll sit together and role play it out. We talk about the possible scenarios that may come – who her teacher may be, what could happen if one of her friends isn’t in her class, what the first day of school will look like – basically anything and everything I can think of… while praying it will all go her way.