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Bright Ideas for Mommy + Me Review by Kim Kautzer and Christine Field

Pal Toys
P.O. Box 2531
Palos Verdes, CA 90274

So, how does a veteran home schooler whose youngest is about to graduate find herself reviewing preschool materials? Let's 'face it---I'm old. I've been at this for fourteen years. When I go to convention exhibit halls, I'm a woman on a mission. "Beautiful Feet...where's Beautiful Feet?" "Hmmm...Video Text? Saxon? Chalk Dust?" "Wow! This sounds great!" "No, that sounds great!" "No, how about this one?' "Doesn't ANYONE carry Auto Mechanics for Dummies?"

But lately, the convention scene is different. Exhibiting my own writing curriculum at a number of conferences, I have more than my share of aisles to stroll through. With my home schooling career screeching to a close, I find myself drawn not to Spanish programs, history books, or grammar texts, but to Discovery Toys, Draw-Write-Now, and . . . hey, what's going on? Oh, wait a minute. Of course!---I'm a grandma!

. . .which is how I happened upon the lady who was playing racquetball in the aisle with a balloon and a paper plate taped to a paint stirrer. And whose partner was fishing for orange juice can lids decorated with circles, triangles, and squares and having more fun with a magnet than anyone over ten should be allowed. Immediately, two cherubic little faces popped into my mind, and suddenly I felt the pull of that magnet. Irresistibly drawn, I pivoted on my heel as the display reeled me in. I had discovered Pal Toys.

Brand new to the home school market, this little company has a big idea---decks of "quick and creative idea cards" for the preschooler near you. The decks, Bright Ideas for Mommy + MeTM, come in four age ranges: 0-12 months, Age 1, Age 2, and Preschool Ages 3-5. Each pack contains 52 high-quality idea cards with "smart and simple activities to do with your child" Large and cheerful, each 3" x 4½" card offers a full-color illustration of an activity on the front and short, simple instructions on the back. Often you can figure out the activity without even reading the directions. Best of all, there's no need to shop for supplies---most materials can be found at home.

Providing "interactive, creative play," these activities stimulate a child's intellectual development; coordination 'and motor skills; language and listening skills; color and shape recognition; and creativity and imagination as you and your child have fun together. For example, fill a muffin tin with small toys and let your baby explore. Show her how to transfer toys from cup to cup, conceal the toys with a scarf, or flip the muffin tin over so she can discover the toys hidden beneath. Or play "Sock Slam Dunk" with your one-year-old using balled-up socks and a paper bag. Your two-year-old will enjoy "Hammer Whammer" as he pounds golf tees into a block of Styrofoam with a toy hammer, or "Art Collection," where together you look through museum postcards of well known pieces (discussion ideas are suggested). With a preschooler, activities such as "Seeds, Soils, and Sprouts" open her up to the wonders of green growing things. A game like "Alternate and Replicate" encourages visual discrimination, problem solving, and small motor skills as she learns to make patterns with colored blocks.

Many home schooling families wonder what to do with their little ones This clever creation will help tots feel like they're "doing school" too! And most activities are simple enough that an older child can pull a card and keep little brother or sister occupied while Mom reviews fractions or grammar with another child. But these decks are not just for young families alone---I know one person who has happily added to her collection of "Fun Things to Do at Grandma's House"!

At 19 cents per activity, each $10 deck is a bargain. Pal Toys' Bright Ideas cards should be coming to many homeschool conventions in your area . . . but if not, check out their website where you can see sample cards or place an order online at

-- Product Review by: Kim Kautzer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

Here's another At Home with Learning Projects review!

Has textbook tedium set in at your house? Take a look at something new! Judy Shewmake helps to take the mystery out of learning projects and shows us how to use reading, investigating and doing to teach our children. She explains how learning projects work and gives us 10 complete projects she has done with her own children, including an all about me project, a family history project and an oceanography unit. My favorite was called "Wonderfully Made," in which the child makes a life-sized mural of the body, investigating all the systems along the way. She provides a planning/recording sheet to help us to plan our own units. There is also a nice listing of resources and an addendum of more learning project ideas. This little volume can be your gentle introduction to project learning.

-- Product Review by: Christine Field, Resource Room Columnist, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine