Saturday, June 15, 2013

Laser Maze and Free Puzzle Resources from Thinkfun

It's a maze.  It has lasers.  It's a puzzle.  What more could you ask for??!!

Thinkfun just released Laser Maze, and it looks absolutely spectacular!  My birthday is right around the corner, so my kids better get this for me!  I'm positively drooling over this little puzzle game.  It has a REAL laser!  Need I say more?

Here's a link to Smart Play's blog post about this puzzle.  There is a cool video to watch too!

I didn't realize this before, but Thinkfun also has paper puzzle resources that you can download for free.  If you are looking for something to keep the kids busy this summer, you might like to print some of these.  Circle-Tac-Toe looks really cool!


Thinkfun - Brainteaser puzzles

Thinkfun - Turn based strategy games

We have a four hour car trip tomorrow, and I'm totally printing some of these out to keep my kids busy!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Dots and Boxes Freebie

Dots and Boxes is a pencil and paper game that probably every child (and adult!) has played at least one time in their lives!  The great thing about Dots and Boxes, like Tic-Tac-Toe and Hangman, is that you only need a scrap of paper and a nubby old pencil to be able to play.  Trust me, these are great games to keep the kids busy while you're sitting in the waiting room at the dentist's office for two hours while another patient has emergency surgery...or such like.

So even though you don't need any special game board or paper to play, it's still fun to have a pre-printed board to play on.  I've whipped up two different pages for you today.  One has 2 small game boards and 1 medium game board.  This sheet also includes some instructions, in case you and your children have forgotten the rules!  The other sheet has one extra large game board on it.  So choose your board and have fun playing with your kids.  Or give them some sheets when they say they're bored and make them play with each other!  (That option sounds best to me this summer!)

Just click on the pages above to download the printable sheets from Google Drive.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Favorite Books for Kids

Mr Hughes from An Educator's Life has created a linky for people to share their favorite read-aloud books for kids in third through eighth grade.  I have so many favorite books, I simply can't help myself!  I have to share too!

And can I admit to you a little secret?  I read aloud to my kids almost every night still.  My son just turned 12 and my daughter turns 10 in just a couple weeks.  They still adore story time!  Currently, we are reading the last book in the Larklight series, "Mothstorm," by Philip Reeve.  I think the consensus so far is that the second book was better than the first, but Mothstorm is definitely holding its own!  The illustrations throughout all these books are wonderful!  We also listen to audio books in the car when we drive...we are book-junkies!  But that's just some background information so you know we do a lot of reading around here and can make some pretty good recommendations (but don't ask my friend Wendy to verify that!  She'll tell you we always read too many sad books!)

To make this somewhat relevant to my puzzle blog, my first recommendation will be "The Mysterious Benedict Society".  This book, written by Trenton Lee Stewart, is fantastic!  At the very beginning the characters in the book have to take several tricky and puzzling tests.  Those that pass are invited into the Benedict Society and the adventures begin!  The characters in this book are each brilliant in their own way.  I love how they come together to solve problems.  There are 2 other books in the series and a prequel too (a book about Mr Benedict's early life)...all worth reading!

My next recommendation is "Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos" by RL Lafevers.  Theodosia Throckmorton is a cunning girl with a brain full of Egytian tidbits!  Theodosia's parents don't realize how very knowledgeable she is, but she manages to save them time and again.  This would be a perfect read-aloud for your class if you are also studying Ancient Egypt! 

Next up, "The Search for Wondla".  Tony DiTerlizzi is an author and illustrator who just BLOWS my mind!  His books are delicious!  So far there are two books in this series (both awesome!) and we are eagerly awaiting book 3.  Eva Nine is the main character.  She grows up with a robot named MUTHR in an underground Sanctuary.  The adventure begins when she must leave Sanctuary.  She meets some incredible aliens along the way!

I guess its time for some non-fantasy recommendations.  "The Higher Power of Lucky" by Susan Patron is one of those feel-good types of books.  The characters are so well crafted, they stay with you for a long time.  We didn't realize this was a series when we first read it, so we were super excited when we found book 2 and book 3 at the library!  All fantastic!  There are some issues that Lucky and her friends deal with that might be better for older readers, but it does lead to some good conversations.

And "The Penderwicks" by Jeanne Birdsall!  This is such a sweet book!  I am a huge fan of books that portray loving siblings and families.  The Penderwick sisters have lost their mother, but they take care of each other and their dad and a new friend they make on their vacation.  They don't have a huge adventure, but the story-line totally moves.  This is another book that deals with issues that some readers may want to avoid, like death and divorce.

So that's going to be it for today!  I have so many books I could recommend, but I'll save some for later! 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

City Square Off

City Square Off is a fabulous 2 player game from GameWright.  I picked this up several weeks back with some other puzzles that were on sale at B&N.  I've been saving it for a rainy day, and today we cracked it open and gave it a play.  And boy, is this a fun little game! 

It has very simple instructions.  Start with a grid and a cityscape starter piece.  There are 4 cityscape starters to choose from, and they are pretty cool little pieces!  Then you shuffle the deck of shapes cards, lay out your 21 city tiles, and you're ready to play.

One player is green and the other is orange.  The city tiles are polyominoes just like what you use in a game of Blokus! You can see some of the tile shapes in the background of this photo.

Play begins with a card being drawn.  Each player picks up the shape shown and places it on their grid.  Tiles cannot extend outside of the grid, and they must touch either the cityscape or other tiles on at least one edge.  Play continues until a player cannot place their next tile, and they lose.  If both players cannot place the next tile, then free spaces are counted for decide the win.  Game variants are included in the instructions for more ways to play!

Very simple, yet quite elegant!

If you like Blokus, you will surely enjoy this...especially if you like Blokus, but hate being blocked!  My daughter really enjoyed playing City Square Off.  She had her own grid to work on, and no one could mess it up!  We played several rounds together, and afterwards, she and my son attempted to completely fill the grids with tiles.  Turns out you can do it, but you'll find that there are more tiles than grid spaces, so you'll always have extra pieces at the end of the game.

We give this game a thumbs up!