Leo’s Pad Preschool Learning App

The draw of the iPad is intense with our three year old. He’s often found climbing on things to find it and has figured out the password to unlock the home screen to let himself play his favorite preschool learning apps. Honestly, I don’t blame him–I love fun technology, too. Usually, when Asher plays the iPad, he will open an app, play for a few minutes, and move on to another app. Lately, I’ve noticed him choosing a particular app and staying within the app for a longer period of time.

Review Leo's Pad Preschool App by Kidaptive

Disclosure: I was provided this product for free for the purpose of this review. I was compensated for my time. All opinions are honest, and I was not required to post a positive review.

The app my three year old son has been drawn to is Leo’s Pad, an adaptive-learning series for preschoolers by Kidaptive. Designed by Stanford researchers and world-class animators, Leo’s Pad Enrichment Program is a stunningly beautiful app jam packed with learning.

Leo's Pad preschool app

What I like about Leo’s Pad Preschool Learning App

  • Amazing graphics–This is the most beautiful app I’ve ever seen. The graphics are seamless, not choppy or awkward when they move. The graphics are very detailed, much more like a painting than minimalist clipart graphics used in some apps. Here is a screenshot of one of the beautiful ocean scenes:
    Leo's Pad preschool app screenshot
  • Encourages social skills–There are times when kids are encouraged to share with one of the characters and do nice things for the characters. For example, one time the activity was to paint on an easel and give the paintbrush to one of the characters when my son was finished.
  • Multiple levels–There are six chapters that unlock when the early learners have mastered a level. While parents can unlock a level, the app wants them to play a number of times to keep them from breezing through the games and to master the learning. Big thumbs up!
    Leo's Pad preschool app by Kidaptive
  • Creative Skill Learning and Reinforcement–The activities are creative and woven in the storyline of the “app-isodes”.  There are auditory reinforcements that go along with the visual learning. For example, when a color is chosen on the paint easel, the child hears the color name.art on Leo's Pad preschool app by Kidaptive
  • Photo avatars for the non-readers–This was a huge positive for me. Since each child is working on their own level of learning, each child has a user profile. I liked the option of adding a picture for my three year old to help him independently find his profile. Don’t worry, if you’d rather not load a picture into the app, there are several cartoon character profile pictures available instead.
  • STEM focused–There are lots of higher-order thinking skills woven throughout the activities and I noticed a large portion of the activities were designed to cover STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I love STEM activities for my boys–science experiments and engineering get my boys excited!

What my kids think about Leo’s Pad

They love it! To them, it’s an interesting and fun game. As a mom and a master’s level teacher, I know it is teaching them and doing so much more than just entertaining them for a while. While never pleasant, kids fighting over who gets to play first is a sign of a great app. Although Leo’s Pad is targeted for preschool, my second grader enjoyed playing, too.

My Only Hangup

If you’ve been a reader here for a while, you’ll know that I’m a frugal girl. I believe homeschooling can be done well without spending a lot of money, especially in the early years, and can be done with common household items. Normally, we stick to FREE apps or go without. On the rare occasion that I pay for an app, it is less than five dollars. At a price of $24.99, Leo’s Pad does not currently fall within my app price range. However, you get what you pay for, and with Leo’s Pad, you know you’re making an investment in your child’s learning, not just entertaining them.

Leo’s Pad has a trial available for the first chapter. I encourage you to download it and see this app for yourself. Your kids will love it and you might just think it’s worth the investment. Download your FREE TRIAL of Leo’s Pad Enrichment Program. While you’re downloading, be sure to download Kidaptive’s FREE companion parenting app, Learning Mosaic.

Coupon Code for Leo’s Pad

If you like Leo’s Pad and want to purchase it, get 20% off with code IHOMESCHOOL if app is purchased via https://shop.kidaptive.com/. This code will not work via iTunes. Coupon valid until May 31, 2015.

Connect with Leo’s Pad

Find them on Facebook (3 pages to choose from)–Kidaptive, Leo’s Pad, and Learner Mosaic
Find them on Twitter @Kidaptive or @LeosPadApp

Kid Crafts with Kiwi Crate

Kid Crafts with Kiwi Crate-perfect for busy moms!

Disclosure: I received this product for free. I was compensated for my time. All opinions are honest and I was not required to post a positive review.

What is Kiwi Crate?

Kiwi Crate is a monthly kid crafts subscription. They deliver hands-on fun right to your mailbox. Designed for ages 3-8, projects can include arts and crafts, science activities, imaginative play, and more. Everything for 2-3 projects is included in the crate, and there are a variety of Kiwi Crate themes to choose from.

Opening our Kiwi Crate Box

Our Kiwi Crate Experience

We received the “Around the World” Kiwi Crate. (I can’t find a direct link for you on their site since their available themes rotate.) The kids were so excited to get a package just for them and immediately wanted to open it.

Around the World Kiwi Crate

The main craft was a World Flag Banner and the main game was a World Map Game. We chose to make the flag banner on the back porch during a cool morning and waited to play the map game later that evening with daddy.The kids followed the directions for making the flag banner (written and picture directions) without much assistance from me.

Kiwi Crate World Flag Banner Craft

The flag banner was cute and we will hang it in our homeschool room above our world map. We looked at our map to find all the countries represented in our banner. Kiwi Crate Flag Craft

The World Map Game was a great introduction to continents and famous landmarks with a bingo twist. It was perfect for a family game night after dinner! The game was easy enough for our youngest to participate thanks to the color-coded cards, but it was still educational for our oldest who is reading well. He was able to read the quick facts about the landmarks for us. And yes, Asher is walking around saying “Machu Pichu” now. What 2 year old does that?

Kiwi Crate World Map Game

What I Thought of Kiwi Crate

As a naturally crafty mom, I was a bit skeptical of a kid crafts subscription. I wondered if it would be something I could’ve come up with on my own using materials I already had at home. However, Kiwi Crate totally knocked my socks off. Yes, I could’ve made up the craft with materials we already had, but the Kiwi Crate was so much more than just a craft. Our particular Kiwi Crate came with a craft, a game, and an activity book/magazine for further learning exploration, craft ideas, and games.

Kiwi Crate Activities Collage

With three kids, homeschool, extracurricular activities, and just an overall crazy schedule, I appreciated the time Kiwi Crate gave back to me. All I had to do was open the box for the kids and interact. I didn’t have to come up with an idea. I didn’t have to gather or prepare materials. (Let’s face it, that is half the battle!) Kiwi Crate was truly open and go. I was glad to put the time saved in gathering materials to use in other important areas, like prepping dinner.

On a personal note, I haven’t had the time or the energy during the adoption attachment period to put together things like this, so I was excited to have an activity for the kids to do that didn’t require much of me. I’m stretched too thin right now and Kiwi Crate was a lifesaver this month!

Some things I was really impressed with about Kiwi Crate

They thought of everything. Seriously. I was so impressed with everything: peel-and-stick felt, providing scissors, and even a special sticker to wrap around the end of the rope to make threading the rope through the flags easier.

Kiwi Crate thinks of everything!

The activities were fun, engaging, and educational. You know how much that impresses this homeschool momma!

The packaging. Y’all, their packaging is so cute and creative! For example, you can even cut the box down and use it for play with the puppets printed on the packaging. They really pack a lot of fun into one little green box!

Kiwi Crate packaging is even designed for kid crafts and activities

Some things I wish were a little different about Kiwi Crate

We had one meltdown over who was going to make a particular flag and I immediately wished we had more materials so the kids could each make their own flag buntings. After looking on the Kiwi Crate website, I found out there is an option to add-on a sibling set of materials for an extra fee. I am glad for that option, although I probably wouldn’t spend an extra $10 on that option just to avoid a tantrum driven by selfishness.

I loved the clever world map game and wanted to use it over and over. I wish the game pieces were made of cardstock or thicker paper. The game cards were very thin and wouldn’t handle a lot of wear and tear from children. I will laminate these to use in the future and modify the game pieces if needed.

What My Kids Thought of Kiwi Crate

Ultimately, the kids’ opinions are what counts here since it was for them. I asked my kids to talk to me about Kiwi Crate.

What was your favorite thing about Kiwi Crate?
Jonah (7): I liked all of the activities. I can’t pick a favorite!
Lily (5): I liked making the flags.
Asher (a week from 3): I like making da fwags, Momma.

What didn’t you like about Kiwi Crate?
Jonah (7): I had to share it with the others.
Lily (5): I looooved everything! (insert dramatics and jazz hands here)
Asher (a week from 3): Huh? What momma?

Would you like to get another Kiwi Crate?
Jonah (7): YES! Can I have my own this time?
Lily (5): YES! Do they have a princess one?
Asher (a week from 3): YES! Again!

Is a Kiwi Crate Subscription worth it?

Is a Kiwi Crate Subscription Worth It?

I think Kiwi Crate is worth it. I really surprised myself with that statement since I’m such a DIY and frugal girl, but I think boxed craft/activity sets can be beneficial, too. Kiwi Crate is perfect for busy moms or moms that feel planning kid crafts is not their strength. The activities were top-notch and fun for my three kids. I think Kiwi Crate would make a perfect gift! If you like to give “experience gifts” instead of toys, Kiwi Crate would be a hit!

Want to try them yourself?

Use code BTS25 for 25% off 1st month subscription to Kiwi Crate. New subscribers also receive free shipping PLUS a bonus welcome kit.

Kiwi Crate is on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and Google+. Be sure to follow them! They share great kid crafts ideas on their social media accounts and their newsletter.

Caterpillar/Butterfly Finger Puppets {Flip Dolls Pattern}

I first “met” Laura while I was pregnant with Asher. If you were a reader during that time, you’ll remember I was SO sick with Hyperemesis Gravidarum and the entire house was a little down in the dumps. During that time, Laura sent us a package with hand-drawn artwork from her daughter and a homemade crown for Jonah. It was a slice of sunshine during a rather rough time in our lives and we were touched by her kindness.

homemade crown

While the crown was a nice surprise, I was also drawn to Laura’s fabulously creative blog. She comes up with some of the most clever patterns that just beg to be replicated.

And then she gathered all of those clever projects into a book! A real book! It’s the most delightful thing to flip through.

When Flip Dolls & Other Toys That Zip, Stack, Hide, Grab & Go arrived on my doorstep, my boys piled up on my lap. As we flipped through every page, they made a list of sewing projects for me….pretty much every project from the book!

Flip Dolls Pattern Hop & Giveaway

Laura asked if I’d join in the Flip Dolls Pattern Hop and I couldn’t resist! I knew immediately I wanted to master the art of flip dolls, but honestly, the flip dolls intimidated me a little. I decided to start small.

Caterpillar/Butterfly Flip Doll

Caterpillar Flip Doll finger puppet reversible finger puppet

For my first attempt at flip dolls, I chose the Caterpillar/Butterfly pattern. With adorable pom-pom trim for the legs and a simple handstitched smile, I’m somewhat smitten.

Tucked inside, there is a small surprise…

Caterpillar Butterfly Reversible Finger Puppets Flip Doll

An adorable butterfly–perfect for little ones to use as a finger puppet!

Butterfly flip doll finger puppet

I’ll be honest, the butterfly pictured in this post was my second attempt. It took me a little while to picture how things were supposed to work and I was a little too sloppy on my 1/4 inch seams. It made for a tight squeeze! Another thing that I think contributed to the tight fight inside was that I added another layer of felt on the underside of the wings to hide my stitches from the wing details.

After completing the Caterpillar & Butterfly flip doll, I immediately started on another!

Flip Dolls & Other Toys that Zip, Stack,  Hide, Grab and Go Review and Giveaway. These adorable dolls are reversible and can be used as puppets!

Giveaway

Would you like to win your own book and give sewing flip dolls a try? Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Then, visit the first 5 links in the blog hop below for more chances to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Have you made a Flip Doll? Use the linkup below to show off your creations! The first five links are part of the Flip Dolls Pattern Hop and each have book giveaways! Visit them for more chances to win!

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BionicBlox–An Engineering Toy for Open-Ended Play

Bionic Blox an engineering toy for open-ended play

Disclosure: I received this product for free to review. I was compensated for my time in reviewing the product and writing our experience. All opinions are my own and honest; a positive review was not required. No affiliate links are present.

As a former early childhood educator turned homeschool mom, I’m always on the look out for quality educational toys. We were recently introduced to BionicBlox and the boys have played with them every day since they arrived. It’s been a great open-ended play activity to add to our toy rotation and this review fits in perfectly with our current blog series, 31 Days of Open-ended Play.

BionicBlox an engineering toy for open-ended play

Benefits of Playing With BionicBlox

  • Encourages critical thinking skills related to geometry, spatial recognition, engineering, architecture, and more.
  • Independent building–Jonah has a hard time when building with Legos and always wants an adult to help. It is nice because he can do these himself if I need him to entertain himself.
  • Encourages creativity
  • Strengthens Fine Motor Skills

BionicBlox an engineering toy for open-ended play

What I Love About BionicBlox

  • Sturdy & Durable–With a house of boys, that is important! My kids are rough on toys–these blocks passed the test!
  • Sanded Smooth Blocks & Larger Pieces–No worry of splinters or sharp edges. In my opinion, the blocks are large and do not pose a choking hazard.
  • Tight Fitting Connectors–Projects won’t fall apart easily and cause frustration in my boy that is easily frustrated.
  • Made in the USA–Love things made in my own backyard and putting money into our own economy!
  • Endless Possibilities–I love that this is an open-ended toy and gives kids the freedom to create and learn through play.

Watch our video review for a good laugh and to see the cuteness that is Jonah unscripted.

Details about BionicBlox

BionicBlox come in a variety of sets, so you can pick and choose the amount that you need for your favorite little builder. For reference, the set used in the pictures in this post are the 100 Piece Visionary Set which includes 75 Wooden Foundation Beams and 26 BionicStar Connectors in a reusable tote bag.

BionicBlox an engineering toy for open-ended play

Interestingly, you can purchase just the BionicStar Connectors which are compatible with KAPLA Blocks, CITIBLOCS, or KEVA by Mindware. Great news if you already have some of these!

BionicBlox an engineering toy for open-ended play

Connect With BionicBlox

Want to add these to your educational toy rotation? Go to BionicBlox and use the code HOMESCHOOL10 to receive 10% off your purchase. (Coupon Code expires November 10, 2013) These would make a great Christmas gift! 😉

This post is a part of the series, 31 Days of Open-Ended Play. Be sure to read all the posts in the series for more great ideas for encouraging learning and creativity through open-ended play.

31 Days of Open-Ended Play

10 Favorite Toys for Fine Motor Skills

10 Favorite Toys for Fine Motor Skills


While I try to set up frugal  fine motor skills activities from common household items as often as I can, there are times that we purchase items, receive them as gifts, or even dig them out of our own childhood closets for fine motor fun. I thought I’d share some of our favorites with you!


The Lauri Toys Primer Pack is one of my favorites because it comes with several activities in one box that can be used in a variety of ways. Lauri Toys are some of my favorites. They are made of soft rubber so they don’t make noise and you can request replacement pieces if you lose a piece.


The Alex Toys Learn to Dress Monkey has eleven self dressing activities on the stuffed animal. Kids will learn to snap, sip, button, tie, and more~all skills they need for the rest of their life.


We love the Melissa & Doug Deluxe Latches Board! Curious fingers love to explore the latches, locks, and clasps to see the hidden surprise.


The Etch A Sketch is a classic, but it really does promote fine motor movements! Kids are drawn to the “magical” pictures that appear and manipulating the knobs.


Mr. Potato Head is out often at our house. We have a tub full of Disney character pieces we purchased on a trip to Disney a few years ago and they still make a weekly appearance on Jonah’s bedroom floor. Kids love to make up silly characters, but what I love about Mr. Potato Head is the open-ended play and fine motor skills it encourages.


Ker Plunk makes Jonah sit on the edge of his seat in anticipation for the marbles to drop and then startles him when they finally do. It keeps us laughing as we give our fingers a workout.


When I was a little girl, Perfection would make me so mad because I could never beat the timer, but then I became a grown-up with a small obsession with fine motor skills and my attitude changed. We found Daddy’s old game at his grandmother’s house and let Jonah play a modified version. He places the shapes in the holes and then sets the timer to watch them pop out as a reward when he’s finished. He thinks it is hilarious. Try it with your preschooler and see what they think!


We play Ants in the Pants often around here, too. Sometimes Jonah likes to just play with the ants and see how far he can make them jump. Maybe another reason he likes this game so much is because he beats me every single time.


Little Asher can often be found exploring the Melissa & Doug Shape Sorting Cube. While he can’t match up the shapes on his own yet, he loves for me to show him where to place them and then claps every time.


Jonah received a set of LEGO Ultimate Building Set for his birthday and now he’s got Lego Fever. I’ve joined the ranks of moms who are diligently checking the floor for lost pieces and praying the toddler doesn’t find them first. There is no denying it–legos are perfect for fine motor skills!

What would be on your list?

This post is a part of the 10 day series, Developing Fine Motor Skills. This series is part of the iHomeschool Network Hopscotch. To see the list of the topics from the other bloggers, visit iHomeschool Network. There are some fantastic topics and giveaways!

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Samuel L Collins DVD {Review & Giveaway}

If you’ve been around Happy Brown House very long, it is probably no surprise that we are very discerning about the media we let into our home. We preview everything before letting Jonah watch, including movies we might have seen prior to parenthood. While that may sound a little overbearing to some, we are serious about guarding his mind, eyes, and ears from things not appropriate for little guys. We believe that part of our job as parents is to be the diligent gatekeeper from the things of this world while they are still young. By the way, it never fails, the times that we’ve been lax about this have been the times that we have had to stop a movie for one reason or another.

At times, this has proven to be very frustrating for us as parents. It seems like everyone has an agenda and little things get slipped in even though they might be geared for the younger crowd…I’m sure you probably know what I’m talking about.

Imagine my excitement when I found the Samuel L. Collins and the Search for Biblical Truths DVD series, full of adventure and God’s Word!

Samuel L Collins booth

I first heard about Samuel L. Collins when I was at the Teach Them Diligently Convention. After talking with Kristi (Samuel’s mom and supporting actress), I just knew my little guy would be interested in the DVD series. Jonah often pretends to be a secret agent/spy, so I knew this would be right up his alley.

What is it?

Samuel L. Collins and the Search for Biblical Truths is a DVD series designed for children ages 6-12. In each episode, you follow Samuel and his family around the globe. He learns a different Christian principle based upon his Bible verse for the day. We got to review the Samuel L. Collins Singapore Adventure. This adventure focuses on integrity. In the DVD, Samuel finds some money a woman drops and he is faced with the dilemma of what to do with the money. Should he keep it? Should he give it back?

Review

Jonah thoroughly enjoyed the DVD. While he is a little younger than the suggested age of 6, he is one smart cookie. He followed the storyline and could answer questions easily about what happened. Jonah liked the intro music and danced to it in his goofy four-year-old way. As he watched, he provided commentary about Samuel’s dilemma. When Samuel asked what he should do, Jonah spoke to the TV and told Samuel he should give it back. A day or two later, he referenced Samuel L. Collins in conversation and pretended that he was on an adventure like Samuel, too…complete with binoculars and spy watch.

spy JonahAll in all, I was pleased with this DVD series. It appealed to my little guy’s sense of adventure and gave us an opportunity to discuss a real-life dilemma of what to do when we find money. We talked about integrity and the Bible verses Samuel L. Collins uses to guide him in his adventure.

I think it speaks volumes that Jonah was pretending he was Samuel L. Collins. Honestly, I’m pretty excited that he was. What a great role model! The DVD shows Samuel L. Collins spending time reading his Bible, praying, and acting with integrity.

The DVD is interactive. There are cipher codes to help Samuel figure out. There are instructions on geocaching to go on your own treasure hunting adventure as a family.

Giveaway

Samuel L. Collins wants to take one of you on an adventure, too! You can enter below to win a Samuel L. Collins Singapore DVD.

Note: I’m trying out a new way to run giveaways using the Rafflecopter widget below. I’d love your feedback on it. I think it should make things easier, but let me know if you have any trouble with it.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I was provided a free DVD for the purpose of an honest review. I received no other compensation from this post. I only promote products I believe in and believe in blogging with integrity.

An “I Love You” Prayer Review {Giveaway}

We got a belated Valentine in the mail from Tommy Nelson and I’m so glad we did!

An “I Love You” Prayer is the second book in the Time to Pray series by Amy Parker. It is a sweet book with charming illustrations! The board book is shaped like a heart. (I kinda love that…it’s the little things, I tell ya!) The rhyming text is sweet and says a thank you to God for the many ways He shows us His love–a rainbow, homes, fields to explore, etc. (You can take a sneak peak at the book here!)

Our thoughts:

Jonah loved it! We’ve read it over and over, as we do with most of our Tommy Nelson books. We give this one two thumbs up! Jonah’s favorite character in the book is the dog. :)

An Extension:

As we were reading An “I Love You” Prayer, I asked Jonah what he would thank God for. He was precious…and came up with some hilarious things, too! He started listing a long list of people in our lives. Which got me thinking, we should tell these people that we are thinking about them and thankful for them!

So, we rolled up our sleeves…er, Jonah took off his shirt…and we got to work making something special to send to loved ones.

First, we got a red piece of paper. I took a recycled toilet paper and bent it so it would be the shape of a heart. Then, Jonah dipped it in the white paint and stamped hearts all over his paper. After it was dry, we used it to make a card to send in the mail…complete with a hug! (Two handprints on the end of a piece of ribbon~Easy Peasy!)

Would you like to win An “I Love You” Prayer?

Tommy Nelson want to give one to a lucky reader!

To enter: Leave a comment sharing how your kids (or you) would fill in the blank

“God’s love is like ____.”

For an extra entry: Tweet or Share on Facebook using the share buttons below. (Leave a separate comment for each entry)

Giveaway will end Sunday, March 4th at midnight. U.S. residents only, please.

Disclosure: All thoughts from this review are my own. I received a free product in exchange for an honest review, but that did not influence my review. I genuinely like it!