Family time enriched by card and board games

By Caryl Clem:

High spirits evident by laughter and smiles occur the moment you know you have won a game!  Lady Luck was an honored guest by my side anytime I challenged any family member to Gin Rummy, Monopoly, Scrabble, Chess, or Cribbage.  The thrill of risks combined with skill made long winter days fly by as we played taking chances, placing bets, enthusiastically shouting out our feelings. Family gatherings today have many choices blending old game allure with new approaches and situations.

Fascination with trains is evident by train themed exposition shows during the winter. Honoring this American preference is the Days of Wonder brand, Ticket to Ride.  Planning and building a railroad across America from the first showing in 2004, its’ popularity has remained constant. Expanding on the original version, A Ticket to Ride, Europe covers major cities in Europe.  In 2018, A Ticket to Ride, New York City premiered. The rules fold out like a travel brochure, and taxis replace trains as transportation.

For fans of mystery and suspense, Castle Panic challenges the players to defeat the monsters surrounding the castle.  For former lovers of Clue, an updated  card game has come out Codenames (2015) publisher Vlaada Chvatil involving secret agents. Deciphering clues is based on word association experience, young teens on up will enjoy this game.

Several popular strategy games are available for young adults. Highly recommended with millions sold is The Settlers of Catan Mayfair Games (1996) designed by a German Klaus Teuber where players compete to form a successful colony.  A Worldwide Tournament is held every two years for serious game players.  Pandemic (2008) by Matt Leacock involves a theme of survival as players strive to keep cities safe from spreading diseases and epidemics.  A tabletop gaming series about survival by the same creator includes Forbidden Island (2010) Forbidden Desert (2013) Forbidden Sky (2018). Lovers of Star Trek can enjoy the recent release of New Frontiers by Rio Grande Games engaging players building their own space empire. Scythe (2016) entertains the question, How to conquer Europe without warfare?

As the game horizon has expanded, a new dimension has emerged, teamwork.  Terraforming  Mars (2016) by Jacob Fryxelius  presents the dilemma of trying to survive on the red planet that cannot support life. Players on Mars must change it into a green planet. Strategy requires working together to find a solution, collaboration.  Check newer versions of games for collaboration.

No matter what the weather, playing games will add rays of sunshine from smiles shared while relishing the festivity.  A painless way to build learning skills and practice social interaction, bring on the game afternoon or night!

Halloweens spellbinding customs

By Caryl Clem:

As summer ends on October 31 and fall begins November 1st according to the Gaul calendar, the boundary between the living and the dead dissolves freeing spirits of the past to roam free. Unknown whether a visiting spirit is friend or foe, your logical defense was to dress up like a ghost spirit to camouflage that you are still alive. Food is served for all visitors to spread the message of goodwill. Samhain was the most important holiday for Celts in pre-Christian times.  Later, medieval poor of all ages go door to door begging for “Soul Cakes”, in exchange for praying for the family’s past relatives on the Catholic Church’s All Saints Day.

In Scotland and Ireland, the youth dressed up knocking on neighbors doors entertaining the door opener with a heartfelt song, poetry, or telling a funny story. After a brief performance and review of the costume, a reward of fruit, nuts, or coins would be given. During the potato famine in 1846, over 300,000  people from Ireland and Scotland headed for North America .

The influence of Scottish, Irish and British Halloween customs started to spread across America. By the late 1800’s, it was a common practice. Wealthy families competed by hosting elaborate Halloween parties offering food, games, dancing, and drink for costumed guests. Churches offered parties for the young and old that my grandmother, born in 1885 and mother born in 1908, remembered.

Apples were sacrificial fruit in pagan times.  By 1800’s in the northeastern states. apple bobbing meant  male guests diving for previously marked apples secretly coded by ladies. The coupling between these women and men is believed destined to occur. If a young lady can peel an apple in one long strip, she throws the strip over her right shoulder to glance at the letter the apple peel forms on the floor. The initial formed foretells of a lover nearby with a name of that letter.  At midnight, a maiden can look between a lit Jack O’Lantern and a mirror  to find an image of her future husband.

Halloween is less scary as chubby faced  kids appear celebrating Halloween fun in 1904  by artist Grace Drayton, Campbell Soup kid creator. The postcard craze postcard craze to celebrate Halloween lasted from late 1890’s until 1918. A delightful sample is in this link Brave this bounty of 27 beautiful and bizarre antique Halloween… 

The Depression and a sugar ration dampened Halloween giving until the late 1930’s as communities started to sponsor family/kid friendly activities.

 

Be careful how high you push

My childhood backyard held a yellow and red metal swing set with two straight seated swings, a teeter totter and a slide; the latter I had no use. But how I loved to swing; higher and higher. I never fell. When I visited my South side Chicago home in 2009, after briefly talking to the present owner, she sadly claimed that my swing set had been uprooted to make room for a new garage.

In 1992, my daughter loved to swing, too, at Ruth Powers Park in Downers Grove with her best friend and brother. The swings were rubber without restraints. She did not need the only baby swing. She was three! A big girl and Mom liked to push. However,  one beautiful afternoon Mom pushed; only to have her topple over.

Kaleigh fell, in shock, holding her arm  and when I looked at her arm, the elbow was not in the right place. We had walked to the park,only a few blocks from home. No cell phones, of course. But we all cooperated, knowing that this was an emergency and ran together. I cradled her arm until we reached our driveway and the nearest car. Later that evening, she had surgery, a cast for everyone to sign and an overnight stay in the hospital together.

Assisting in a kindergarten class, during outside recess this month,  twice a day, my kindergarten friend grabs my hand and walks me to the playground as she says lets swing and picks out her favorite. The same kind of swing from 1992. I told my daughter, who is now 29, about my little partner at school and in jest,she asked me if the five year old knew my history with swings.

Of course not... but I do remember.  Every time I get behind her to push and position myself in just the right spot..just in case, she yells..higher…higher…higher. I tell her to hold on tight….hold on tight….hold on tight. She laughs as her feet try to reach out towards the trees in front of her. As each day passes, she begins to pump a little more. watching her classmates swing next to her. Some of them help me out and push her too. Someday, I can breath a sigh of relief.

Like another child, another season, another day, another moment,she will begin, soon enough, to soar on her own.

 

Back to school

I don’t remember the beginnings of kindergarten though I do remember that my teacher, Mrs O’Brien, at Hoyne School on the South Side of Chicago. She was kind, patient and always encouraging. I had a favorite friend that she would let me sit next to while we sang songs. I loved to watch her play piano and she said I had the hands of a musician. She would tell me that when I would become frustrated with writing. Yes, Mrs. Obrien, I taught and played piano for many years probably because of you.

I do remember beginning first grade because it was at a brand new school that had just been built in 1962 because of overcrowding at Hoyne.  We were the first class at Kate Sturgis Buckingham school; in the second picture (currently closed because of just the opposite problem).

The school was to offer kindergarten through fifth grade. I remember sitting only two rows in the back from the four long windows on my left that hung over the built-in bookcases and heating vents. I remember watching the new playground being built and my teacher Mrs. Fox who invited her entire class to her wedding at St Marys in Chicago. After, she was called Ms. Boz and though I liked her, I was scared in first grade.

In the early 1990’s, when the school bus came to pick up my son in Downers Grove for kindergarten at Indian Trail School, he got on but cried… seated in the first seat. My husband put him on because I was too busy crying too. And my daughter who was next in line, could not wait for the bus to arrive on the same spot to take her to school.

Currently, I am assisting in a new kindergarten classroom. Parent and student orientation was on Tuesday morning and how wonderful it is when parents and students from previous year come to find out what class you are in. So many families found me; telling them how they missed me over the summer, sharing their fears and concerns for a new school year.

Wednesday was the first day of school without Mom and Dad. And I wait by the main door to help monitor bus and parent drop off. That is when amazing things begin to happen. As soon as they exit the bus, many come running and that’s when I hear my name called out like never before. There are several ready to give me my hug for the day; sometimes I have one on either side excited to know that I am here for them anytime, any day and any year. Today, I had parents snapping pictures on their cell phones of little ones beginning kindergarten for the first time and asking me to stand with them. How proud it made me feel!

As teachers, administrators, assistants and all staff within a school environment, we inspire hope, establish trust, ignite imaginations and establish a passion for learning. But most of all, we demonstrate love… genuine love for the children, families and the staff that surrounds us.

And when we stumble out the main door at the end of the day, bleary eyed, muscles aching, voices and thoughts strained after the struggles we will encounter as the year progresses, we can never forget those first days we celebrated on the playground.

And that is why we do what we do!

 

 

 

Jenga® GIANT™ JS7 Hardwood Game

Though I have played the classic block-stacking Jenga with family, friends and students, until recently, after playing a game with my 25+ daughter, I did not realize that Jenga has become a popular event at adult parties! Even bars, breweries and restaurants are offering the game to promising guest challengers! Maybe playing Jenga is a great opportunity to meet that special someone…. with the same interests?

Introduced in 1983, Jenga is a game of mental skill and you have to be very careful and strategic on how you take one block or add another. Jenga offers a variety of products that include Jenga Ocean which are blocks made from recycled fishing nets and the Walking Dead hardwood game. The record for the highest known Jenga tower is 40 complete stories and was built in 1985. Jenga is always looking for new records to be awarded.

This year the makers of Jenga® GIANT™have added a competitive component to the popular game. For the first time, the game comes with tournament charts for competitive play; a real sport element.

Manufactured and distributed by Art’s Ideas, JENGA® GIANT™ JS7is THE largest authentic hardwood JENGA® game you can buy! Fun to play and exciting to watch, it’s the perfect addition to any outdoor summer party!

Key features include:

  • 54 precision-crafted polished hardwood blocks
  • Stacks to over 5 feet high in play
  • Each block is over 14 times the volume of a Classic Jenga® block
  • Includes Heavy Duty Jenga® GIANT™ Carry Bag
  • Includes Jenga® SPORTS™ Tournament Charts for competitive play. Winners can print out an award: jenga.com/ certificate.pdf
  • For 1 or more players
  • Ages 12 to Adult
  • MSRP: $169.95

You finally won! Share the news, download a certificate and present another challenge at your next party with Jenga Giant.

What are your children doing this summer?

As a child, with the exception of weekend trips, summer vacation was not always fun for me. Reading alone was difficult and I did receive help when in school but I envied those that enjoyed sitting down on a rainy afternoon with Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys. I also missed my best friend who went to summer day camp. It wasn’t fair and to this day, I am not sure why I couldn’t go with her. Sadly, I would wait on the sidewalk for the bus to drop her off. Some days were long….very long for me, my dolls and my swing set.

When my own children were growing up, many summers I worked, but I always tried to make every vacation or field trip a true learning opportunity. We always visited museums and trips would focus on their interests. For example, my son loved trains so there was always visits, to unique train shops, museums, and of course, rides on the Chicago Metra. My daughter loved photography and she spent a few days with a photographer to learn more about the working world of that profession; exposing her to possible career choices in the future.

Dr. Pam Roggeman is a proven academic leader familiar with and passionate about technology in progressive education and has extensive experience designing curriculum; preparing teachers in a university setting. She currently serves as the Academic Dean for the College of Education at University of Phoenix. Below, she provides wonderful suggestions for a summer filled with fun, learning, self-improvement skills and essential family time.

Create a “matching agreement.” For every hour spent in front of a screen entertaining themselves, have your child match that time in with a learning activity. Most book stores or a quick online search will have workbooks for math, reading and writing to practice skills. Have your kids do work like this to “earn and accumulate” time they can bank for screen time.

Set “learning self-improvement goals” such as a number of books read, minutes of math tutorials a day, or pages written and then agree on a fun reward for goals attained. Make it more meaningful to your kids by allowing them to decide what they’d like to learn and study. Make it even more meaningful by creating rewards for attaining the goals. These rewards don’t have to cost you anything – maybe they can earn sleepovers with friends, breakfast in bed or “owning” the TV remote for a night.

Summer reading can be essential for students to maintain and continue building their reading skills. This summer, help your children find books that will make the child think on a much larger level. Together, explore your child’s interests and find books that feed those interests.

Encourage your children to keep a journal to regularly document their activities throughout the summer. This is key because kids will start to see their accomplishments on paper. This can be a conversation starter at the dinner table, “what did you do today that will make it into your journal?” When they go back to school and the teacher asks, “What did you do all summer?” they will have the best answer in class!

Look for educational camps and structured social activitiesthat parents can in participate with their children. Make every vacation an opportunity to have the whole family grow and learn together. Maybe visit a different museum in a town nearby that would make a great day trip, or when you take that drive to the local national or state park, take the time to read the information about its origin and why it was established. Be the parent who researches and does the leg work to find the fun, educational activities at your local community center and invite your child’s best friend to attend.

Use the summer to do the kind of learning you don’t have time to do during the school year.

Parents are highly encouraged to participate in their child’s digital play

As a recess first grade monitor, children’s first choice is outside on the playground or playing soccer though some that may be shy will sit on a bench with me until someone offers them a swing or slide. Indoor recess when the weather is poor is always in the classrooms playing in groups without technology. Those choices usually includes building Lego,Jenga mountains or cooking with silly putty in small groups.

They love traditional play times and will work hard not to lose any recess minutes. All the children have an I pad and our given breaks to play educational digital games. Both types of play are generally exciting to the boys and girls. But is one better than the other?

The Genius of Play  is a national movement to raise awareness of play’s vital role in child development, spearheaded by the Toy Association. Deeply rooted in research and facts, The Genius of Play is a leading resource on the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional benefits of play that serve children throughout their lives.

They released a new panel report that included child development and digital media experts convened by The Genius of Play during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January of this year.

“Kids learn and develop crucial skills through all types of play – structured and unstructured, as well as traditional and digital play,” said Ken Seiter, The Toy Association’s executive vice president of marketing communications and the panel’s moderator. “It’s important that parents understand that screen-based or online playdoes not have to be an all or nothing experience. Our panel of experts was extremely knowledgeable and shared best practices for appropriately fostering kids’ development through digital play.”

The panel, which included Sara DeWitt, vice president of PBS Kids Digital, Dr. Jodi Sherman LeVos, director of child development & learning at Mattel, and emotional dynamics expert Dr. Erik Fisher, explored the evolving nature of play in today’s world and sought to provide parents with guidance on how to incorporate all types ofplay into a child’s daily routine. The experts’ consensus: when it comes to digital play, experiences that have a clear learning intent combined with parental engagement are paramount.

INSIGHTS FROM THE PANEL:

Play exists in a variety of arenas and forms. Opportunities for play are everywhere: at home, in school, in stores, at amusement parks, etc. Kids get the most benefit when traditional and digital play exist simultaneously, in a balanced environment.

The best kind of digital play is high-quality content that’s designed with clear learning objectives. These objectives should include: improving cognitive thinking; building language skills; encouraging social skills; and/or promoting creativity.

Technology gives kids a variety of perspectives on the world. Technology supports traditional play by reinforcing key values and adding another dimension to the play experience. For instance, apps and game play can bring unique worlds to life and allow children to explore these worlds in a new way.

Technology can also help drive the benefits of play by emphasizing personalized and adaptive learning. The best kind of high-tech play involves quality engagement in short bursts that engages kids while extending their knowledge in other areas. For instance, if a system can detect a child struggling with a particular concept, offering tutorials or prompts is an area where technology can really help kids learn.

Parents are highly encouraged to participate in their child’s digital play and ask questions. Implementing this type of interaction at an early age builds on communication skills between parent and child, develops trust, and prepares children for more serious talks about internet safety as they grow.

“Why Play is the Secret Sauce for Raising the Next Generation of Digital Innovators, A Special Report by The Genius of Play”​ can be downloaded at TheGeniusOfPlay.org.

Without the Weekly Reader

Decades of children, all ages, couldn’t wait until Fridays when the weekly newspaper was passed out in school.  Ninety years ago, the first edition of the Weekly Reader was distributed on September 21, 1928 and was an immediate success. The first edition catered to older children and a second edition to younger ones; introduced in 1929. By 1931, there were four editions complementing a variety of grades with a circulation of over a million. After a series of several owners in the last fifteen years, Scholastic no longer publishes the reader as we knew it since 2012.

A few years ago, I shared my surprise and sadness over the news of discontinuing the Weekly Reader with my cousin a few years ago who was almost as old the Readers life. We shared our fascinating stories of invention and themes of the week which included anything from safety to volunteering for others even though my experiences were younger than his.

He asked if we had to pay for the Weekly Reader and in 1934 it was approximately 20 cents a semester. In the early 1960’s, my mother always wrote a check every year for the Weekly Reader for me to read about mice going to the moon, a memorial to John F Kennedy and finally men taking that  one historical step for mankind on the moon with the Apollo landing in 1969.  Great progress and history was made as I traveled through the years with my Weekly Reader.

After researching the Weekly Reader, I found one for sale from 1935; a perfect gift for his 84th birthday that he would be celebrating along with the reader.  In January of 1935, it was time to celebrate the birthday of Ben Franklin and his ideas on thrift while articles today in 2012 focus on the similar including protecting the environment and recycling.

However, the main story of 1935 was Old and New Ways to Travel which compared the old steam engine to a new train engine that pulls cars that are streamlined and cuts through the wind. America by rail today is still available with luxury suites and trains that can exceed 300 miles per hour.  Another form of travel mentioned was the celebration of the Wright plane built in 1903 being able to stay in the air 59 seconds. And, of course, new planes had taken part in the event and some of them went three miles in a minute. What a change there has been in airplanes in 31 years.”      “What a change there has been in airplanes in 109 years,” those same individuals would say about the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the new airplane of the 21st Century. Who would have thought you could view a presentation on your computer introducing this dream in the sky.

Wig Wags, the dog, shares experiences in a designated column and children still respond enthusiastically to the little canine friends who can really talk. While another column talks about safety and the game stop and go. A boy plays a policeman with a stop-go- sign and whistle which he blows while turning the sign to stop. A girl is riding her bicycle and must stop when the police boy blows his whistle. She gets a ticket if she does not follow the rules and after three, must forfeit something she likes.

Ultimately, the lessons of the Weekly Reader have never lost their relevance, a treasured memory added to the scrapbook once again. However, Scholastic does publish a weekly nonfiction print and digital magazine for elementary classrooms. They use the most-taught science, social studies, and safety topics to create a multimedia curriculum

For us, the Weekly Reader exemplified more than a just a recap of current events but a cherished time for so many every Friday afternoon during rain, sleet, snow and sun when the Reader was placed in our hands to begin our weekend.

Courtesy of Ebay who offers many vintage copies of the Weekly reader.

Bargain town/South Chicago/Toys R Us

We would go to Steel City Bank in South Chicago and then Gassman’s clothing store for my mother to try on numerous outfits that took forever. However, if I waited patiently outside of the dressing room, our next stop would be Bargain Town. A slinky was only 68 cents! And walkie talkies were under 10 dollars, a lot cheaper than cell phones today.

It was Bargain Town where I remember the aisle crowded with my favorite colorforms; the Jetsons, Dress designers, Barbie, Crazy shapes and the Addams Family. If not in the mood, I would take my time picking out a paint by number. Generally, it was an autumn landscape with oil paints. The paint by number assumed a usual routine at home.

It was set up on a card table in the family den in front of the TV.  It was right before dinner that my Mother and Dad would have their 5:30 cocktail and I would be watching Garfield Goose along with spilling my creativity in front of me. I was allowed to have a small glass of 50 /50 soda.  Oil paint landscapes that would take me alot of time were always my first choice. They still are today. I have a winter and summer print I hang over my fireplace during the appropriate seasons.

After Bargain Town, we would head to the new Jewel in South Chicago before we went home, now CVS pharmacy.

According to That’s It, back in 1948, Charles Lazarus – the founder of Toys”R”Us, opened his very first store in Washington, D.C. called Children’s Bargain Town. It wasn’t until he opened his second store almost 10 years later that he adopted the name we’ve all come to know and love. And that is how the legacy of Toys”R”Us began. Bargain Town also offered nursery items, cribs and baby furniture as well as bicycles. Bicycles cost about 30 dollars. And crown pools that you could set up in the backyard were under 100 dollars.

In the 1990’s, my children could walk to the nearest Toys R Us and for my son, anything Power Rangers would work. My daughter loved board games and art sets; her eyes wide as she studied the massive collection.

The company has been in the toy business for 70 years and operates around 800 stores in the United States and around 800 outside the US, although these numbers are steadily decreasing with time. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. on 18 September 2017, and has also filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada.

Charles Lazarus, 94, no longer held a stake in the chain and founded the company 70 years ago, just passed away last week. His passing was one week after the company announced it will be forced to shut down its U.S. operations. Many believed that he was the king of toys.

Check out A Tribute to Children’s Bargain Town USA Toy Store in Chicago on Facebook

Now, back to my painting. I even have an easel now!

Let’s play Jenga’s Ocean game!

I know all about Jenga.

In the 1990’s, my own children loved to try and stack the 54 hardwood building blocks on a snow day from school with Mom pointing and cheering them on.

Last year, assisting in the fifth grade classroom, we built one of the best Jenga towers, a game of physical skill, which was a favorite activity during indoor recess. However, I am currently working in the a first grade classroom and we used Jenga blocks just yesterday to set up a math game.

Jenga was created by Leslie Scott in the late 1980’s and according to statistics, as late as 2017, over 80 million games have been sold world wide. And over the decades there are number of collector edition Jenga games such as the Walking Dead, as well as so many other variants like the two described below.

Jenga® Ocean™ Game http://www.artsideas.biz/jeng a-ocean-game/

· Jenga® Ocean™ is the first board game ever using plastic recycled entirely from fishing nets.

· This game is a reminder of the urgent need to protect our oceans. Discarded fishing nets have been identified as the most harmful form of plastic pollution in the ocean. Every year, they trap tens of thousands of ocean animals, including whales, dolphins, sharks, sea turtles, seals, octopuses, and sea birds which become entangled and cannot escape.

· Each set of Jenga® Ocean™ game blocks is made from over 25 square feet of recycled fishing nets. The use of this recycled material will help reduce the continuing accumulation of plastic fishing nets in the ocean, helping to protect ocean sea life and ecosystems.

· Ages 6 to adult, MSRP $49.95.

· Available at jengagiant.com as well as specialty retailers.

JENGA® GIANT™ JS7 http://www.artsideas.biz/jen ga-giant-js7-hardwood-game-sta cks-to-5-feet/

· Jenga Giant JS7 is THE largest authentic hardwood JENGA® game you can buy!

· Fun to play and exciting to watch, it’s the perfect addition to any party!

· Key features include 54 oversized, precision-crafted, high quality, smoothly polished hardwood blocks with a Heavy Duty JENGA® GIANT™ Carry Bag.

· JENGA® GIANT™ JS7 is recommended for one or more players.

· Ages 12 to adult, MSRP $169.95.

· Available on jengagiant.com