Great Games to Enhance Learning

The rainy days of spring are upon us and summer vacation will soon be peeking around the corner.  As a parent, I was always looking for ways to keep my boys off their screens, if only for a while.  Board and card games can be a great way to encourage family connections, improve social skills and even support areas where kiddos may struggle in the classroom.  Let me show you what I mean!

Take the game Apples to Apples, for example. This fun word association game is a favorite with upper elementary and middle schoolers! Not only is this game great for supporting social skills, it also encourages planning, reasoning, and creative thinking.  Because kids don’t have to wait to submit their answers, kids who struggle waiting their turn to play traditional games can still be included and those kids who think outside of the box may find that kind of creative thinking is rewarded in a game like Apples to Apples. 

Did you know that taking turns is a foundational skill for conversation and communication? Often, kids on the Autism Spectrum struggle with taking turns during play and researchers believe that this may also inhibit their ability to have conversations with peers and adults.  Games for younger ages that encourage turn taking (along with other skills) include Monkey Around, by Peacable Kingdom, or Zingo, by Thinkfun. Traditional Board games like Candy Land and Hi Ho Cherry-O also reinforce turn-taking, along with color recognition and counting.

Below is a chart of some of our favorite games cross-referenced with cognitive skills they encourage.

Do you have a favorite game you like to play at home or in the classroom? Please share it in the comments!

 ReasoningMemoryNumber conceptsQuick thinkingProblem SolvingMotor SkillsSequencingVisual ProcessingCause and Effect
Acorn Soup  X  XX  
Apples to ApplesX   X    
BattleshipXX  X    
BanagramsX   X XX 
Blink XXX X X 
Bop-ItX XX X   
Candy Land       XX
Chutes and LaddersX X     X
Connect 4X XXXXX  
FluxXX XX X X
Jenga    XX XX
Last LetterXX XX XX 
Mad GabXX XX    
Oh Snap    XX  X
Perfection XXXXXXXX
Rat -a-tat CatXX XX  X 
ScrabbleX   X X  
SequenceXX  X XX 
Simon XXX XXX 
SlamwichXXXX  XXX
SlapjackXXXX  XX 
Skip-Bo  X   XX 
Snug As a Bug In a RugXXX  XXXX
Spot It X     X 
SuspendX   XX XX
What’s Gnu    X XX 

Perfect Summer Spaghetti Salad

We all have our own definitions of “Winning,” but for me, it’s all about getting dinner made ahead of time! We are exceptionally busy this week, so make-ahead meals are the perfect go-to to get everyone fed without sacrificing health, flavor or the budget by eating out.  Today, I made a delicious spaghetti salad that came together quickly with some leftovers from the refrigerator and the pantry. Because this recipe is so adaptable, feel free to improvise with whatever you have on hand.

Prefect Summer Spaghetti Saladphoto

16 oz. cooked spaghetti

15 oz. can of Cannellini beans, rinsed

1/2 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced (I peeled my cucumber leaving strips of the deep green skin. Feel free to dress your cucumber to your own taste!)

1 med. red bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 cup of broccoli florets (bite-sized)

1/4 cup of red onion, diced

8 leaves of fresh basil, torn into pieces

8-10 oz Vegan Fake-out Italian Dressing (this was the game changer for me, since I’ve NEVER found a good vegan substitute for store-bought Italian dressing. I saved some of the dressing to use on a salad at lunch. I was over the moon with joy over this!)

Vegan Fake-out Italian Dressing

2/3 c. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

7 tbs. vinegar (I used plain white vinegar but you can also use red wine, balsamic, etc.)

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp. granulated sugar (you could also use agave)

1 tbsp. Italian seasoning blend (or eye ball a mix of dried oregano, basil and rosemary)

4 tbsp. nutritional yeast (This is the revelation! Most recipes contain Romano or Parmesan cheese, and since I substitute nutritional yeast in so many other dishes, I wondered if I could do the same here to get that nutty, cheesy taste. Miracle of miracles, it worked!)

* Mix all ingredients into a jar with a lid.  Shake vigorously to combine well.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Store any  remaining dressing in the refrigerator.

* Combine all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl. I recommend tossing them a bit before adding the dressing, but you will toss them again to ensure that the dressing is well-distributed, too.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to chill and let the flavors marry.

I must admit that this entire dish came together with a handful of this and a dash of that. It was only upon tasting it that I knew I wanted to share the recipe, but realized that I’d have to approximate the measurements for the salad.  I find this to be the inherent beauty of this dish though! You can use whatever you have on hand to make your own version of the perfect summer spaghetti salad! Just promise me you will try the dressing! It’s totally worth it, especially if you are used to buying bottled dressings! Don’t let the nutritional yeast throw you for a loop! (More on that product in an upcoming post!) 

 

 

 

 

Start a Summer Book List!

hammockThis summer, my family is experimenting with having no cable television. We have Netflix (We’re not savages!) but we are hoping that this will be an extension of our past tradition of taking one week with no television every summer.  Nothing. Not the local news, not sports, no television watching whatsoever. Instead of banning all television for one week, we are instead, becoming more deliberate in our media consumption and only watching things that we set out to watch at a specific time. For instance, we are currently hooked on the BBC drama, “Sherlock.”  It has become our Sunday night routine to clean up after dinner and then settle in to a see what kind of mysteries and riddles Sherlock and John Watson are unwinding this week! (Luckily for us, we came late to the party, as this show just wrapped it’s 3rd season and we haven’t even finished watching the first season yet!)

So with all of this new-found free time, I have been relishing the idea of catching up on my reading.  Summer always affords me more time to read since we don’t homeschool over the summer months and there is something magical about whiling away an entire evening on the back porch, lost in a good book.  Ahhh, I can almost hear the crickets now!

Here’s just some of what I’ll be reading this summer! (Spoiler alert: I prefer non-fiction, so I’ll apologize in advance for the utter lack of anything by Nicholas Sparks!)

1. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

2. Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

3. Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young

4. Last Child In the Woods by Richard Louv

5. The Third Plate by Dan Barber

 

What will you be reading this summer?