Print-&-Play Board Game: Paths and Predicaments!

Guest post by the fabulous Jill Katzenberger

Are you looking for more ways to keep your family edu-tained through quarantine?

Well, look no further. I​t is with great excitement and minor trepidation that we announce the laborious fruits of our playtime, ​Paths and Predicaments in the Kingdom of Quandary​. This collaborative game is brought to you by Ryan Madson, Leo Borasio, and me (Jill Katzenberger). We are the Boulder-based non-profit, Junkyard Social Club​, and ​Paths and Predicaments​ is just what you need to get your family across the social distance. Puzzle your way through the paths that lie before you. Express your creativity, challenge your resourcefulness, and reinvent your experience each time you play.

While I may not self-identify as a hardcore “gamer”, I have always had a geeky love for games and puzzles. This love, and our penchant for strategic and creative thinking, drove the Junkyard team head first into the world of original board game design. Our goal: to orchestrate playful opportunities that encourage families to foster strong bonds through collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving.

The first step to develop our original Junkyard gaming experience was to play-test as many games as we could get our meeple-loving hands-on…at work and at home…with family and friends. While on this mission, and in the name of research, I also took it upon myself to spread my love of games to my 6-year-old son. He was mentally ready and I was emotionally ready. My husband and I used to play games regularly, but when we expanded from DINKs with a dog to the complete nuclear family, games were superseded by stacking rings and cups. As legos began replacing baby toys, we got a glimpse of leisure time that once again resembled (almost) mutual play. It was like a dim light at the end of a BPA free tunnel, one that could lead us back to game night.

Fostering my son’s love of games took some time – some carefully carved out and curated time with a commitment to keeping his toddler sister from going all Godzilla on the gameboard. Initially, the nostalgic side of me wanted to introduce him to the games of my childhood like Candyland, Chutes and ladders, and Life.

I learned something. As an adult, these games are mind-numbingly lame​. I don’t think Milton Bradley ever played with obsessive kids (over and over and over again).

These games require zero strategy. There’s little incentive to “try.” In fact, there’s really no logical way to. They’re all chance, no thought, and if you really want to win, you figure out how to cheat. The game pieces are cheap choking hazards and at best they prepare your kid to understand the concept of a lottery ticket.

Luckily, there is a world of family-friendly games beyond the big-box store toy aisle. We fell in love with collaborative games that encourage you to work together, to celebrate your successes and commiserate in your losses. We were also drawn to games with creative narratives that immerse you in a story where YOU are the main character. Even better… were games with clever mechanisms that level the playing field so that while you might have decades of gaming wisdom, compared to your kid, the tables can suddenly turn and force you to rethink your next move.

Each of these concepts informed the development of Paths and Predicaments​. We found ourselves repeatedly inspired and reminded of the beauty and ingenuity of well-designed rules (and instructions). We also learned that while quality games for families DO exist, there’s definitely room for more experiences that bring groups together by engaging the mind AND the body. Paths and Predicaments is a​ ​fast-paced, collaborative game that will challenge you to apply ​MacGyver-​ like resourcefulness and Unicorn-level creativity in order to survive a wicked wonderland. Each time you play, the game can be different: a new board, new challenges, new resources, and even a new playing field.

Purchase the files to print your own copy of the ​game​ today. Let us know about your experiences: what worked, what didn’t, what we spelled wrong.

Pay what you can. Your contributions go directly towards the execution of the Junkyard Social Club, an adventure playground and cafe coming to Boulder as soon as the fabric of society can be woven once again.

Visit the JunkShop

 

5 Fun-Filled Winter Activities to Foster Learning and Engagement


Guest Post by Harper Reid

 

Winter can sometimes feel dreary, but there’s plenty of fun to be had! The cold climate is an excellent opportunity for kids to explore more fun and exciting STEAM projects. These activities are available no matter the season, and kids are free to enjoy doing them wherever they are. With the emphasis on play, and having as much fun as possible, kids can make the most out of them as a learning experience. With that said, here are five fun-filled activities for your kids to enjoy!

 

1. Supercooling Liquids – Science

It’s common to show water boiling into steam to demonstrate states of matter because the slow process of water freezing into ice is rather boring. What if it wasn’t? Try Supercooling your water, or any other liquids you want to experiment with.

  • Place an unopened bottle of water or whatever liquid you have in the freezer (purified water works best).
  • Leave it undisturbed for around two and a half hours (the time may vary depending on your freezer). Check to see if it is still liquid. If it’s frozen, you will have to repeat this process and lower the duration.
  • Gently remove it from the freezer, take care not disturb it too much as you remove the lid.
  • Give it a quick shake, or pour it onto a piece of ice. Watch instant crystallisation before your eyes!

2. Arduino Programming – Technology

Kids have the best opportunity when it comes to learning to code. Small, cheap and portable work stations like Arduinos provide the chance to practice and explore all manners of projects.

  • Order an Arduino electronic platform. Most are available online or with electronic retailers.
  • Organise a fun, exciting and productive coding project. There are many resources online to help find inspiration.
playingwithbricks.png

Image Source: Unsplash

3. Building with Lego – Engineering

Lego is a fantastic way to engage kids in creative projects that can challenge their skills in planning and problem-solving. There are countless amounts of pre-fab kits to build, but buying the general-purpose lego bricks is ideal for making whatever you want.

  • Set a challenge to build a certain structure, such as a tower or bridge.
  • Draw a plan, write what bricks are involved in building it and why.
  • Work in groups or solo to build it, and test its integrity so that new things can be learned about the process of building.

4. Mosaic Pictures – Art

For many kids, drawing is the common alternative when left inside or without a chance to play outside. Mosaics are a great way to exercise the creative freedom of making pictures, but with the added inspiration found in all the coloured tile pieces available.

  • Brainstorm ideas for a cool Mosaic picture.
  • Take the time to collect all the weird and wonderful tile pieces needed to make the right picture.
  • Have fun!

5. Fibonacci Craft – Mathematics

The amazing world of math is not always appreciated in its normal form. It takes a creative visual project to demonstrate just how our world is based on the rules of mathematics. Art and craft projects based on the Fibonacci sequence make great representations.

  • Grab a good compass, a pencil and all the craft material you may think you’ll need to make amazing Fibonacci art
  • There are plenty of online resources and tutorials to show you what is possible to make.
  • Match up your art with the sequence of numbers, showing the progression of the sequence.

 

All of these activities are great for winter and any other season where you have the time. Go out there, learn and have fun!

 

 

Author bio:

Harper grew up on books and board games, from the silly and fun to the clever and challenging! When not busy writing and meeting deadlines, she and her friends love to play Scrabble or Scattergories. Get to know more about Harper through her written pieces on Harper Reid. 

Creative projects to keep busy while “sheltering in place”

There is no mistaking that we are in a very unusual and some might even say scary time, but we have to remember to look for silver linings and to control what we can control and rest in the knowledge that we have done just that. One of the silver linings of the “shelter-in-place” directives is there may be more time in the day for your kids and for your family to incorporate things into your new norm that provide fulfillment. 

Creative activities are often one of the first things we as adults let go of when our lives get busy, and it is one of the best things we can do for critical thinking, focus, incubating ideas and solutions, and improvement of mental health. And as for our kids, we know they love being creative and have the most amazing imaginations. Here are a couple challenges for you and your children to do together or separately. They can modified very easily for different aged children by throwing in some math and other challenges for the older kiddos and simplifying it for the younger.

Landscaping Challenge

A lot of kids don’t know anything about landscaping and the process that goes into designing a great outdoor space. There are a number of challenges that going into landscape design.  Encourage your child to create a landscape design for your home. If your home’s landscaping is already in tip-top shape, have them design their own terrarium or succulent garden, or have them create their dream backyard with a swimming pool and a skate park.

This is video you can watch with your kiddos – it is a peek at what a landscape designer does during a typical day! This video created by Lowes, gives the basics on what to consider when you are creating a great outdoor space. Google images will give you hundreds of landscaping plans to give your budding designers a place to start drawing and planning.

Sculpture Challenge

Recycling is not only good for the planet, but it can also be a great medium for creating beautiful and fun pieces of art. Kids can make tree sculptures using old palettes; bottle cap lid mosaics can be extremely interesting and fun to create. Even paper towel and toilet paper rolls can be used to make visually appealing abstract artforms.  Whatever you are collecting in your bin is sure to spark the imagination of your youngsters, and if the materials don’t get their creative juices flowing there is always pinterest.

Our kids are rarely encouraged or allowed to play with their food, but sometimes, it is MANDATORY! Make this edible sculpting clay and your kids will have a ton of fun playing with and eating their food!  After washing their hands (for a long, long time), they can take a can of white frosting and a bag of powdered sugar and make a sugary medium for art creation. All they have to do is gradually add and mix the powdered sugar into the frosting until it is too difficult to stir. Shazam, you and your kids have an edible and moldable medium! They can create some minimalist sculptures or add some food coloring and create all sorts of colorful and delicious art forms.

Museum Challenge

Everyone loves field trips, and we love them even more when we can’t go on them!  Fortunately, there are a number of museums that allow visitors to virtually check out a number of their exhibits. How about each week your family chooses a new museum. Each person has to pick out their Top 3 pieces in the museum and share what they are and why they like them!

  1. Smithsonian Natural History Museum
  2. Science Museum
  3. Google Arts & Culture (Links to a number of museums)
  4. Eternal Egypt

Shelter in place can make many of us, kids included, feel confined and anxious. But, using this new found time together in positive productive ways can lead to new norms where families feel closer and more connected. Try a few of these missions and see if they don’t help you and yours relax and enjoy hunkering down (at least for the time being).

Hunting for spring? When you can’t find it, try a scavenger hunt!

It’s about this time of year when spring fever starts to set in, at least it does for many of us who are looking forward to longer days and more hours outside. While there are a number of outdoor sports that can be enjoyed throughout the winter, let’s face it, many of them require a lot of work to get up the mountain, to get on the gear, and to get moving.

Here is a simple, fun outdoor scavenger hunt for you and your kids that just requires a coat and gloves, this list, a pen, (Optional) a phone with a camera would be fun for recording artifacts and that allows them to look up tree types, scat and other important information, a bag for trash, and a keen sense of observation.  Send your kiddos out bundled up like the Pillsbury Dough Boy and tell them not to come home until they have finished hunting and finding the items on the list, and of course, “last one done is a rotten egg.” 

Winter Scavenger Hunt

When the kiddos get home, encourage them to draw pictures of each of the items they found. Or, encourage them to do a plasticine/modeling clay model of one of the items they found or saw, e.g. a bird, a pinecone, a tree. You could give bonus points for unique items like an old toy or marble. To make things more competitive, then you could set a time limit. 

If it is a blustery day outside, an indoor art scavenger hunt may have to suffice. Have them collect the items in a Ziploc baggie or in some Tupperware.

Using the items that they found, encourage them to create a multimedia masterpiece.  The rule is they have to use each item in the scavenger hunt to create a unified piece of art which includes the principles of design.  Give bonus points or a prize for artists who are able to describe their design choices and the reasoning behind their choices!

Spring will be here soon enough (hopefully), but until then, enjoy each other and the togetherness that the less than ideal weather provides.

Things in the Boulder area to keep kids engaged this winter break

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” which means the winter school break is here. Rather than have it become a time where “mom and dad can hardly wait for school to start again” take your kiddos on some fun local adventures to help them use some of their boundless energy while broadening their minds while you stay sane and relaxed.

Denver’s Nature and Science Museum is one of the best places to take your children for entertainment, play time, and many “that’s so cool!” moments together when everyone begins to go holiday stir crazy! Kids can learn the science behind all their favorite PIXAR movies, see a sensory friendly screening of The Polar Express, and explore the human body and its ability to persevere over ice, snow, water, and rock. You and your children can even try out their American Ninja skills with a course developed by its creators (wear good athletic shoes), take a virtual leap off a cliff like the wingsuited cliff jumpers, and much more!

Denver’s Nature and Science Museum is the bomb, but CU’s Museum of Natural History isn’t too shabby either! The whole family can explore a number of exhibits that go in depth on the animals, plants and ecosystems right here in Colorado, but also around the world. The Season of Light show shares the many traditions of light that have been celebrated for centuries and continue today. 

The Fiske Planetarium is in the holiday spirit!  The planetarium located on CU’s Campus has a multitude of events to get you and the family in the holiday spirit as well as Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum has an interactive maze where kids can learn all about the history of NASA and even get a little peek into where NASA is going in the future. Likewise, the whole family can check out a real flight simulator. The museum is located in Denver and open 7 days a week, so you might even want to go twice!

CreatorSpace in Loveland is a super cool place to check out this winter break. The organization provides access to tools, machinery, and classes to inspire creative engineering. A key part of their mission is to provide Northern Colorado’s youth with mentors who are skilled and knowledgeable in a number of areas including music, art, programming and manufacturing. Check out this studio and get your child’s imagination soaring.

For some creative relaxation, check out the Wildfire Arts Center if you haven’t already. They have a multitude of classes including dance and visual arts that will inspire and relax you and your children over the break. The U-Create Studio time is open on December 21st from 10:00-2:00 to get you all out of the house. And mom’s and dad’s, check out their yoga classes; an hour long relaxing stretch is just what you need to get through the holiday break! 

You don’t have to go any further than the local library to experience some serious relaxation with your children over the break! The Longmont Public Library has a winter reading program to inspire your children to get their reading on, and nothing says calm for mom and dad than seeing your kids engaged in a great book.  The Longmont Public Library has a lot more to offer than books! There is a cookie decorating party on December 16, Winter Break Daily Reading Bingo for Kids and Teens December 28-January 3. A Nintendo Switch Launch Party, Drop-in Craft Time on December 30 and Lego Time on the 31st.

May this holiday season be a time of peace and joy, not to mention, a time to enjoy learning and growing together and where you wish that school would never start again! Happy Holidays.

STEAM Gift Giving for Your Colorado Kids

The holidays are upon us and because time appears to be moving faster than normal these days, it’s important to get your shopping started early (as in last month). With that said, it can also be difficult choosing gifts that seem worthy of your hard-earned dollar and that provide your child with a little “more” than the average Frozen 2 dollhouse and the Fortnite Jumbo Loot Llama provide! Fortunately, we have a great little gift guide to help you with the purchasing decisions for your child that will not only provide loads of fun but help them develop other skills as well (and you are supporting local commerce)!

For Building:

Sure, you could buy your child another lego set, but how about this year go for something a little more unique. At Traxart Toys, you can buy Kinazium which is the premier course builder for robotic and rc toys.  Building is both technical and creative, and when your child finishes building they can have hours of fun navigating their robots and remote-controlled toys around their creation. Check it out!

Does your child love to create models, dioramas and/or posterboards?  Do they like to teach others how things work? Do they have interest in programming electronics with computer software? If so, 1010 Technologies has the perfect product for them.  To find out more visit Youtube to see how your child can turn another “volcano how to” into a dynamic demonstration.

At Sphero, a Boulder company, they seek to inspire the creators of tomorrow, and clearly, recent collaboration with big names like Disney and Star Wars, it’s no doubt that the app-enable spherical robots they have designed are all that and a bag of chips. Get your budding inventor into robotics, programming, coding, and other STEAM principles with these unique and futuristic robots and all the accessories, not to mention, a number of other products that will feed your child’s imagination.

For Crafting:

There is nothing more therapeutic not to mention warm than knitting a scarf. The Longmont Yarn Shop has gifts for your child and you. They have everything you could need to get your child started on a lifelong hobby that will bring them hours of relaxation and an opportunity to create some functional or just plain beautiful art. Your child and three of her friends can even arrange for a small group lesson from one of their experts or you can sign your child up for one of the many classes they offer including crocheting, knitting, rug hooking, weaving, and even spinning classes. Pretty cool! 

Arts Parts Creative Reuse Center in Boulder has an awesome mission worthy of your contributions, “to inspire and promote creativity, resource conservation, and community engagement through reuse.” They accept donated, reusable industry surplus, and other arts and craft resources from businesses and individuals to provide you low cost materials for your budding creative geniuses. Best of all, you can host your child’s next birthday party at their space and your kids can create artwork and have their cake, too. They also promote local, environmentally conscious artists and their work.

For Everyone:

And finally, for the parent who just can’t imagine buying another toy that sits in the toy room unused or worse, cluttering up the living room. Or, for the parent who just wants to give their child a memory that they will love, there is STEAMfest!  Order tickets for your child to attend the 2020 Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest March 7-8. Your child will have opportunities to participate in “hands-on, interactive hacking, building, tinkering, and imagining!” The event is a celebration of all things creative, imaginative, and exploratory. “STEAM Fest is an awe-filled, jaw-dropping chance to tinker, hack, build, crumble, fly, drive, taste, DO, dabble—PLAY!”  There will be exhibitors with the latest and greatest gadgets, activities, entertainment and of course: arts and crafts, robotics and electronics, building, Legos, marble tracks, science in action, and of course, food for the whole family! You can get your tickets for the family or individual tickets at MakerBolder.com.  Likewise, if giving back is something of a tradition at your home, you can purchase a scholarship to STEAM Fest for students who wouldn’t be able to afford to attend STEAM Fest on their own.  

Now that your shopping is done, you can sit back and actually enjoy a cup of cocoa, the lights on the tree, and a good (oxymoron? Well at least a sweet heartfelt) Hallmark holiday movie.

DIY: Backyard Movie Night

The lazy summer days are over, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t continue to enjoy the beautiful warm weather that is in front of you.  One of the best ways to connect with your kids, take in the warm weather and decompress after a hard week of school and work is an outdoor movie.  Setting up an outdoor movie screen doesn’t have to be a huge project and sure, you could hook up a television outside, but that just doesn’t have the same feel. You can put together a screen in no time, and it will probably be a great investment of time and money.  In fact, your kids will likely enjoy their movie under the stars so much that they will be begging to do it for many weeks to come. 

Materials

You will need a sheet.  Many people think that a white sheet is the way to go, but in reality, a white sheet lets in light that may conflict with the movie on the screen.  By using a dark, opaque sheet, the movie will be much easier to view. 

Frame

You can build the frame out of a number of materials, wood, PVC, your fence.  Create a structure to support all four corners of the sheet. (You can even enlist your kids to help you to engineer your own version of a movie screen.)  There are a number of inspirational sites that can get the creative juices flowing:

Of course, once your kids get this movie night idea in their head, they may be a little impatient for a building project.  No fear, there are inflatable screens for as low as $99.00 that only need an extension cord and some power. SHAZAM, your movie screen is ready!  (And, worst case scenario? Tie or staple a sheet to your existing privacy fence!)  

Projectors

As with any electronic device, there are a plethora of choices based on price, function, quality.  When looking for a projector, you want to consider a number of factors. Of course, you can just buy the $50 one at your local Walmart, but these outdoor movie nights will likely become a regular thing, and if so, you will want a projector that will stand the test of time and provide a good experience.

You will want to consider the following characteristics:

  • Lamp, Laser, or LED – Lamp bulbs will need replaced more often while LED are more expensive but will last longer. 
  • Light Output & Brightness – You will want a projector with a high light output.  A low light output will lead to a fuzzy and unclear image even in a very dark room.  The  Lumens rating will help you determine the just right projector with the right amount of light output.
  • Contrast Ratio – You will need to look at projectors that have a ratio of 1,500:1 minimally and 2,000:1 or higher for good contrast between black and whites in your movie image.
  • Pixel Density – If possible, get a projector with a pixel density of approximately 1920×1080.  You can get by with one that is 1024×768, but the higher you go the better the quality. 
  • Sound quality – This varies by user, but check out the speakers before you buy, or see if it has Bluetooth, and you can connect to your portable speaker.  Also check out the sound of the fan for your projector. Some of the models have loud fans that will compete with movie audio, so do your homework.
  • Type of screen – Share the type of screen (sheet) you have with your sales representative and ask them which projector will work the best.

According to a Tech Guru on Offers.com, the best choice is Vankyo mini project that meets the requirements and costs a whopping $89.99.  Check out his other projector reviews

Input

The projector takes the image from your dvd player, computer, etc… and projects it onto the screen; therefore, you need to determine the compatibility between the projector and your computer, a dvd player, Roku or AppleTV, and/or any other device you plan to use to play the movie.  You may need an additional HDMI cord or something else to connect and project.

Other materials:

Extension cords

Power strip

Flashlight

At last, you have your screen, your projector, your computer, your kids, and now you are ready for family outdoor movie night. Oh wait, don’t forget the popcorn, candy, a big drink, and one more thing, grab those pillows and sleeping bags, and enjoy! You are all in for a fun and memorable experience!

 

Tie Dye Ta-Da – using fruits and veggies

The Saturday morning farmer’s markets are in full gear.  The sweet summer air, the rambunctious rainstorms and warm toasty sun have nurtured a bounty of lovely vegetables and fruits for human consumption.  But guess what, they can be used for a number of other things besides filling your belly, one of them being a dye for clothing.  

There will be some decisions you need to make because there are a number of designs and of course, vegetables and fruits to choose from.  But first off, gather the materials you will need to do this cool functional project. Of course, in order to tie-dye a t-shirt you will need a shirt (duh, I know, but can’t forget the basics). It is recommended that you wash the t-shirt before dying to remove any chemicals that it was treated with to prevent stains.

Then gather: 

  • heavy duty rubber bands
  • circular objects (balls, marbles, rocks) 
  • fruits and veggies like beets, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, cabbage, onion skins, the spice turmeric, and even herbs like mint or parsley (organic foods make great dyes and are good for the environment too)
  • salt
  • last but not least, vinegar

Here is a list of the fruits and veggies to help you decide which fruits and vegetables you will need.

  • Beets- fuchsia
  • Beet greens – green
  • Raspberries / strawberries – red/pink
  • Blueberries – blue
  • Green cabbage – light green
  • Red cabbage – purplish pink
  • Onion skins – yellowish brown
  • Spinach – green
  • Turmeric – yellow/orange

You will want to decide on your pattern next.  Here are a few ideas, but frankly, don’t be afraid to create your own one-of-a-kind original work of functional art!  The directions for the following designs might just get those creative juices flowing. 

Starburst

To make the circular pattern you often see in tie dye, you will put a round object in the center of your shirt.  It can be a tennis ball, a rock, or even a marble. Wrap the t-shirt around the object and tightly put a rubber band around the t-shirt.  Then like the one before, add rubber bands every one to two inches all the way down to the end of the t-shirt. 

Stripes

If circles aren’t your thing, then you can make a more linear pattern by putting rubber bands in a line all the way down the shirt.  Don’t forget the sleeves. You can also achieve big stripes by tying knots all the way down the shirt. These lines will be much less uniform than if you used the rubber bands.  

Circles

To make a shirt with a number of circles you will put a round object in the center of part your shirt.  It can be a tennis ball, a rock, or even a marble. Wrap the t-shirt around the object and tightly put a rubber band around the t-shirt.  Then add more round objects all around the shirt, securing each one with a wide, heavy duty rubber band.  

Choosing your fruits and vegetables may be a tough decision.  If cost is an issue, then red cabbage and beets are a great choice.  If you have ever cut open a beet, you know that its juices are a beautiful bright fuchsia and boy does it do its job to stain things that color.  If you want a lush green instead, use spinach.

The standard formula for the special sauce that will change your bland white Hanes t-shirt into a work of art is 1/2 -1 cup chopped fruit/vegetable (depending on the intensity of color you want) for every 2 cups of water.  For a large child-sized shirt you will need approximately 8 cups of water. Then add two cups of vinegar and ½ cup of salt. These ingredients help to set the color so it doesn’t bleed and fade.

Boil your water and fruits/vegetables for approximately 1 – 2 hours to get the natural dye out of the fruit.  The longer you simmer your fruits/veggies, the more intense the color will become. Strain the water to remove the food.

It’s time to DYE! Place your fabric into containers with the dye, or add your dye to squirt bottles and squirt the dye onto the fabric directly. 

Rinse in the sink, and then run it through the rinse cycle of your washing machine.

Ta-da, your own very organic, amazing, totally terrific, most beet-ific original masterpiece that you can wear on the first day of school! 

Cooling-Down during a heatwave: STEAM APPS that kids and parents will both love

Remember Miss Frizzle’s amazing field trips on The Magic Schoolbus?  Where taking chances, getting outside (and sometimes inside someone’s intestines or other odd places) are the orders of the day?  It’s summertime, what better opportunity is there to go on adventures, “make mistakes” and “get messy.” But, summertime also means scorching temperatures and when a heatwave rolls in sometimes there is no choice but some downtime indoors.  Time indoors and time on their technological devices doesn’t have to be a total loss for tweens and teens. Here are some amazing STEAM-inspired apps allow your kids to cool off, have some fun, and best of all—learn and grow, when going outdoors and getting messy aren’t an option.

  1. Starry Night Interactive – If your kids love Van Gogh’s Starry Night, they will love this interactive app where they can manipulate a masterpiece and relax to some enjoyable music at the same.
  2. Robot School Programming for Kids – A multileveled game where kids help R-obbie the Robot who has crashed his spaceship. Kids learn how to “learn procedures, loops and conditional instructions” to help him get home.
  3. Math Versus Zombies – Kids are part of a team of scientists who are helping to save the planet from zombies by using their super-human math skills.
  4. NASA Visualizer – This is a great app for kids excited about space by presenting the latest research in an “engaging and exciting format.”  Users can see images of Earth that have never been seen. 
  5. Frog Dissection – This is an iPad app for tweens and teens to learn about organs and organ systems in an eco-friendly way.  
  6. The Everything Machine – This app will blow your kids’ and maybe your mind!  “Create something as simple as a light switch or as complex as a kaleidoscope, a voice disguiser, a stop-motion camera, or a cookie thief catcher!”  But watch out, your kids can use their inventions to play a joke on you.
  7. Swift Playgrounds – A great coding tool for novices.  Users solve puzzles to learn Swift, a coding program used by expert coders to build many of “today’s most popular apps.”
  8. Thinkrolls & Thinkrolls 2 – This puzzle slash physics app with 26 fairytalish characters is “100% irresistible for kids 3-8.  Get it now and let your little geniuses amaze you with their reasoning and problem solving skills!” 
  9. Busy Water – This is another critical thinking leveled puzzle game that uses paddle wheels, water, blocks etc… to help Archie get back into his tank.  Logic and reasoning are developed as users work their way through the levels.
  10. Simple Rockets – What kid doesn’t get excited about becoming a scientist who designs his/her own rocket ships and helps them blast off into space?
  11. Noticing Tools – This is a “ground-breaking suite of iPad apps that make learning math and science irresistible through play, creative design projects, and collaboration.”
  12. World of Goo – Another puzzle game, this one requires users to move the goo.  They must find ways (by building bridges, towers, etc…) to get the goo to a pipe that will suck it up. 
  13. Odd Bot Out – This robot is the odd one out.  Tossed into the garbage for not “being good enough,” Odd the robot has to escape over a 100 unique rooms to find his way out.  
  14. Inventioneers – This app teaches “realtime physics and the science behind different features like air, fire, magnetism and (of course) jumping bunnies.”
  15. Attributes – Users play around with attributes and patterns to solve puzzles and complete various levels.  

Also try:  Move the Turtle; DragonBox; The Land of Venn

As parents, we will always encourage our children to get out and explore the outdoors, and to “take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.” But, there are times when being indoors and having some downtime on our devices is necessary and doesn’t always have to be a bad thing.  So, when the heat index is 115 degrees, and you have to get that project done without interruption, allow your children to play one of these great STEAM apps. And, while it isn’t as good as time with you or trying out the latest science experiment, at least you know they will be learning and doing something that is a win/win.  

DIY: Your Own Crossword Puzzle

Need something fun and engaging for your children during those hot days of summer?  Have them create an “all about me” crossword! Not only will you be able to catch up on work, but you can have fun trying to complete their puzzles. You might even learn something new about them.  Who knows, when you get your big work project completed, your beach towels washed, and the mowing caught up, you might want to create one yourself.  

There are a number of cool sites where your children can go to create their puzzles electronically:

Crossword Hobbiest
Puzzle-Maker.com
Tools for Educators
Crossword Maker

If you want it to be a more authentic (and time-consuming process) and more of a puzzle to create a puzzle, you can print out a free crossword template, and then give your kids these directions:

  1. Make a list of clues/hints
  2. Create the list of answers
  3. Using the answers, start placing them in pencil on the crossword grid and give them a number (don’t forget to number the clue as well) interlocking them with previous words if you can. Try to make a somewhat even number of across and down.
  4. Outline the words with a dark box.
  5. Now create a carbon copy on an empty template, and of course, don’t write in the words. 
  6. Optional: Shade in any boxes that are unused.
  7. Make copies so everyone in the family can solve your puzzle.

Here is a list of possible clues that you and your children can use to get started.  They are sure to get your creative juices flowing.  

  • Nickname
  • Favorite food
  • Favorite holiday
  • Last book read
  • Favorite invention
  • Movie favorite
  • Famous idol
  • Game I most like to play
  • Where I want to go most
  • Favorite beach activity
  • What I love most about summer
  • My least favorite chore
  • Best friend
  • Worst enemy
  • Favorite subject
  • Hardest subject
  • Dream job
  • Job I would hate
  • Favorite soda
  • Favorite pizza topping
  • Favorite candy
  • Favorite ice cream
  • What makes me cry
  • What makes me laugh
  • Fave mode of transportation
  • Fave musician
  • Fave sci-fi movie

Enjoy this ‘stay at home’ activity, and if you get a crossword craze going on in your household, they can have a go at some of the fun science crosswords at whenwecrosswords.com!