Monday, August 29, 2016

Tuesday's Giveaway Link Up- August 30, 2016

Welcome to Tuesday's Giveaway Link Up with your hosts Karen @ Tots and Me, Emily @ Emily Reviews, Shelly @ The Attic Girl, and Rena @ An Ordinary Housewife.

So glad you could join us as we share our giveaways on  Tuesday's Giveaway Link Ups. 

This link up will be posted Monday at 7 PM est. and run all week long! Make sure you stop in as often as you can to list your latest giveaways.

Here is how to use the Giveaway Link Up

1. Post your reviews and/or giveaways, as many as you have, be sure to add the end date (family friendly please)

2. Help spread the word about the giveaway link up by grabbing our button, Tweeting or posting on Facebook. (Not mandatory- but it helps get more exposure to your giveaways as well!)

3. Take a moment to enter any giveaway that strikes an interest to you!

If you would  like to follow the  hostesses, we will gladly follow you back! Simply leave us a message to do so.

Featured Giveaways

Top That! US only Ends 9/11

Thank you for linking up with Karen @ Tots and Me, Emily @ Emily ReviewsShelly @ The Attic Girl, and Rena @ An Ordinary Housewife.

Using Critical Thinking Skills to Build Magical Hat Stacks With Top That! {Review and Giveaway}

We have been having a blast playing a couple of new games from Blue Orange Games. I will be sharing about the first one in this post, and then later this week I will be writing the review of the other. We were sent Top That! and Gigamons:

Today I will be sharing about Top That!, a fun, fast moving game where players need to build a hat stack following the specifications on the card.  

Here, let's take a look:

This game can be played by 2-4 players, each of whom will have a set of the hat-stack building components. See how they nest together so perfectly for storage.

Top That! comes with a set of 55 Challenge Cards, and 4 of each of the following: Black Top Hats, Red Cups, Orange Tubes, Green Coins, and White Rabbits. Lastly, there is a fold-out booklet of illustrated rules. 

See how all the pieces fit inside the Top Hats:

Here is a look at the challenge cards.

The concept is quite simple. The top card is flipped over, revealing the challenge. The players race to be the first person to stack the correct pieces. They do not have to be in any specific order, but you have to make sure you don't use the pieces that are not included on the current card, and you have to be aware of which pieces need to be hidden and which ones need to be visible when viewed from the side. 

We know which pieces need to be hidden, because they are the ones that are colored gray on the card. The pieces that are to be visible are shown in color. Only the pieces shown on the card are to be in the hat stack.

Before the game begins, the number of points needed to be the winner is declared, or you can play until the deck is gone. The player with the most points/cards wins.

Let's look at an example:

In this challenge there are 4 pieces that need to be used: the hat, the tube, the cup, and the coin. The rabbit is set aside. It is up to the player to decide how the stack is formed. The orange tube could have been placed directly on the hat with the cup on top of it and the coin finishing it off. Technically, the hat could have been on top if it was placed upside down. 

Sometimes it takes a bit more thinking to figure out how to stack the pieces, making sure the right ones are hidden. 

The first person to complete the stack calls out, "Top That!." If the stack is correct, the player gets the card as a point. If any mistakes were made (including a piece that wasn't on the card, forgetting one that was, having one hidden or visible that was not supposed to be) the remaining players continue building their stacks until the next one completes theirs and says, "Top That!."

Someone was quite happy to beat her sister.

Tabitha is actually quite fast, even beating me quite a bit of the time.

Here, let's take a closer look at a challenge.

Could you see which pieces were to be used?

The orange tube was to be set aside.

So, do you think the stack pictured above is correct?
No, it is not. The red cup is in gray on the card, as is the rabbit.

Here is the correct stack:

Both the rabbit and the red cup are under the top hat.

One thing we haven't done yet, is tried the advanced play options. If you notice on the cards, sometimes one of the pieces is surrounded by yellow stars.

There are two options for advanced play. 

Option 1: The piece surrounded by yellow stars needs to remain empty (so the player needs to make sure hidden objects are in a different piece. 

Option 2: The piece surrounded by yellow stars must have a piece inside it.

I'm thinking of insisting that Tabitha and I play using the advanced play instructions, so the younger children have a better chance of winning.

The children are so fascinated by this game. They love to play it again and again. We have even included Harold, when he wants to play. He prefers to play one-on-one with a parent so he doesn't get frustrated as he can't keep up with us. When I play with him alone, we will take turns looking at the card and telling each other what pieces need to be set aside. The leader will then show the other player which pieces go where. Harold can figure it out pretty well, as long as he isn't rushed as he would be while playing the actual game.

This has become a very popular game in our household. I love that the children are using critical thinking skills to build the hat stacks. And of course, it is a great hands-on game, helping children to develop fine-motor skills. Though the game is designed for ages 6 and up, I am glad I was able to figure out a way for our 4 year old to play as well. I can definitely see where the 6 and up age designation makes sense, as players need to be able to make quick judgments about the pieces and get the hat stack built up.

This is a game I highly recommend for fun family times and educational development. I also enjoy the fact that it is simple enough that I can leave the children to play by themselves if I need to get work done.

 Great news! I have been given the opportunity to offer a giveaway for one person to win Top That!

All you need to do is enter in the Rafflecopter form below. 
There are only 2 simple mandatory entries, with the remainder of the entries being optional. 
Remember, you do not have to do the extra entries, but they will increase your odds of winning. 

This giveaway is open to US residents 18 and over. 
The giveaway runs August 29th through September 11th.

Thanks for stopping by, and good luck!

 By entering the giveaway, you understand and agree that your contact information will be shared with the sponsor.

Disclosure: I received a copy of Top That! from Blue Orange Games in exchange for my honest review. No further compensation was given. This did not in any way influence my review. I only recommend products I use personally and feel will be a good products for my readers.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Learning to Read and Spell with the Help of Some Really Cool Manipulatives: Can Do Cubes {A TOS Review}

If you have followed my blog for any amount of time, you are probably aware that hands-on products are very important in our homeschool.  I have been using different types of manipulatives with the children since Tabitha was a toddler. When it comes to learning to read, I feel that having some sort of movable letters is hugely beneficial. There are quite a few options out there for simple letters, such as foam, magnetic, or felt letters. And we've used them all through the years. However, I have never seen anything like the Can Do Cubes from (just2ducks LLC). We have been using these cubes alongside the Jolly Phonics and Grammar that I posted about earlier this week. However, they can be used with any phonics program. I am so excited to be sharing these with you now.

Let's take a look at what is included with the Can Do Cubes. 

We received:
  • Tray of Stage 1 cubes
  • Tray of Stage 2 cubes
  • DVD - Teaching, learning and 'sounding out' with Debbie Hepplewhite
  • CD-Rom with Laurie Fyke's teacher's guide, plus templates and worksheets
  • Instruction/Activity Book for Stage 1
  • Instruction/Activity Book for Stage 2
  • Two At-a-Glance Word Charts
  • Synthetic Phonics Overview Chart
Let's look at each of these components:

Tray of Stage 1 Cubes

The Can Do Cubes are made out of hardwood and measure 26 mm. They are laser-engraved with the alphabetic code. These cubes come in a tray that has a nifty tab to help lift it easily out of the box. There are eight different cubes in stage one. These have the sounds that are considered the "Simple Alphabetic Code" which is the 44+ sounds that make up the English language. 
  • There are 6 of Cube 1 which include the letters s, a, t, i, p, and n
  • There are 3 of Cube 2 which include the letters c, k, ck, e, h, and r
  • There are 3 of Cube 3 which include the letters m, d, g, o, u, and l
  • There are 3 of Cube 4 which include the letters f, b, ai, j, oa, and ie
  • There are 3 of Cube 5 which include the letters ee, or, z, w, ng, and nk
  • There are 3 of Cube 6 which include the letters v, oo, y, x, ch, and sh
  • There are 3 of Cube 7 which include the letters th, qu, ou, oi, ue, and er
  • There are 3 of Cube 8 which include the letters ar, ve, se, ce, ge, y
Now, to be clear, each of the cubes in a grouping have each of the letters listed. It isn't that one cube has s, and another a and so forth. Each of Cube 1 has s, a, t, i, p, and n.

Tray of Stage 2 Cubes

The cubes in stage 2 are different in that the sides of each cube have different spelling variations for the one sound.  For example the sound /ai/ is represented on the /ai/ cube with these spellings: ai, ay, eigh, ea, a, and ey. The stage 2 cubes are the "Complex Alphabetic Code" which is the 175+ spelling variations for the 44+ sounds. Also included are the split-vowel digraph, double letters, capital letters, and basic punctuation cubes. 


The DVD contains information about the original Can Do Cubes for English Grammar (which we did not receive) and information about the Systematic Synthetic Phonics by Debbie Hepplewhite. 

There is one section where each sound is shown and sounded out, showing the video of the mouth while making the sounds. 

We also see Ms. Hepplewhite working with the cubes with a student, showing different ways the cubes can be used. Here she has slowly sounded out a word and rolled the cubes out to him so he can find the sounds to build the word.

The remaining sections of the DVD have Debbie Hepplewhite explaining Synthetic Phonics.


The CD includes 5 different sections, four specific sections which are then combined into one book in the final file. There are instructions for using the cubes plus worksheets that can be printed out to work on matching letter sounds, blending, segmenting, sounding out/spelling, and handwriting. 

Here are some examples of these worksheets:

Here the child is to match the letter on the worksheet with the letter on the cube.

Here the child finds the letter shape on the cube that matches the sound. They help to sound out the word.

At the back of this section of the book there are some pages with blank boxes so different words can be built.

These worksheets focus on segmenting words. The child is to find the missing sound.

The next step is seeing a picture of the object and being able to say the word, sound it out and build it without seeing any of the letters. In other words, spelling.

On the following worksheets, the child is to practice writing the sounds, and later words and sentences.

 I have to admit, I was a bit confused about the place holder pictures on these worksheets. There is no correspondence with the actual sound that is being written on the line and the visual place holder picture next to it. These same six pictures are used on all the worksheets in this section. To me, this would be confusing for a child as first an s is to be written next to a house and p is to be written by the dog, and so on as they go through Cube 1, but then on the next worksheet, different letters are to be placed next to these same pictures. To me, it would make more sense for the image in the box to be the actual sound or something that contains the sound they are to be writing. Though I will be using the other worksheets included on the CD, I am not sure if I will utilize these handwriting worksheets.

Instruction/Activity Books (Stage 1 and Stage 2)

These books give instructions for teaching children to read, along with ideas on how to use the cubes.

At-a-glance Word Charts

These word charts show a list of words that can be built with the letters already learned, and how many cubes of each cube are needed to build the words.

Synthetic Phonics Overview Chart

This chart shows the different phonemes plus the graphemes that make the sound. The light blue graphemes are taught first. These are the sounds that are taught in Jolly Phonics Book 1, which I am using with Harold. The dark blue graphemes are taught later. This chart also includes teaching points.

How we used the Can Do Cubes:

We primarily used the Can Do Cubes as a hands-on manipulative with the Jolly Phonics. As I mentioned in my review of Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar earlier in the week, there were times when Harold was to be writing words from dictation. Instead of having him write his words, I allowed him to build with the cubes.

We would only use the cubes that had the sounds we have learned so far.

He had a blast turning the cubes all around and building his own words.

I then printed out some of the worksheets from the CD. He told me what sounds were in the word, blended them together and read the word. Then he built it with the cubes.

Then we worked on rhyming words, by placing the last two letters of the word on the table and finding other letters that would work as the first letter.

We also played one of the suggested games, where I rolled out the cubes and had him make words using only the letters that were on top. 

We haven't gotten to words that have long vowels yet, but I did want to share the split-vowel digraph cubes.

We can use the cubes to build words with short vowel sounds. Here is a simple CVC word.

With other letter manipulatives you would just add an "e" at the end of the word, the "silent" e to make change the word and make the first vowel say its name. 

However, with these cubes, you would use the split-vowel digraph, which allows a child to see that these two blocks are connected and work together.

What we thought of it:

I absolutely love the Can Do Cubes. Children love building with blocks, so this is a wonderful way to get children interested in building words. They are just the right size for little hands, and allow a child who does not yet have the fine-motor skills to write words, to be able to build words. The hands-on aspect of having to turn the cubes really gets the child involved in the task of creating words.

I highly recommend these wonderful manipulatives.

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