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HABA is one of my all time favorite toy producers. Both HABA and my other favorite producer Ravensburger make some of the best toys for children that can be had. To set the proper mood for Christmas Eve, I broke out HABA’s Sternsammler board game. “Sternsammler” means “Star Collector,” and the game is based on the folktale of the Starkind. Starkind tells the tale of a poor, orphaned girl who goes out into the world on a cold winter’s night with nothing but a bit of bread and the layers of clothing on her back. For whatever reason, she heads into the woods and gradually gives away the bread and all her layers of clothes to various beggars that she meets. Finally, she finds herself in the middle of nowhere with nothing left at all. The stars then shine down on her and shower her with gold coins as a repayment for her exemplary altruism. She emerges from the woods with untold wealth and a new gown made of starbeams or some such gauzy and magical material. Possibly due to lack of name recognition, this game was renamed “Pennies from Heaven” for English speaking audiences. It is a fairly basic game, but it comes with the Starkind story and I read the tale before gameplay to ensure that the Starkind’s lesson informs the gameplay.

Star Collector Box

Star Collector Box

Star Collector Game

Star Collector Game

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Handmade games have made a comeback! Once a luxury, handmade is becoming a necessity in “these difficult times.” LOL. To make the concept and difficulties of bird migration fun and more immediate, we cobbled together a migration themed game using junk found in the trunk of a car. Laminated paper game pieces and a die from a previously owned game fit right in as elements of play.

Bird Migration Game

Bird Migration Game

The object of the game is quite simple. Navigate laminated bird markers through a landscape populated with elements that may hinder or promote survival of birds during migration season.

As I had stated earlier, we are spending a month focusing all of our attention on learning about leaves and trees. To ensure that the knowledge learned during this month persists, we have designed and made an educational game based on William Joyce’s book The Leaf Men. The Leaf Men is about an elderly woman who tends a garden until such time that she becomes ill. Her illness brings about the near demise of her beautiful flower garden. Neighborhood children and insects who love the garden fret over its state, and ultimately the insects go on a quest to save it. In the process, they enlist the help of a mysterious lost toy.

Our game consists of a board game with an enormous number of colored squares that make up the ailing woman’s quilt. We need a lot of spaces to allow for the enormous number of leaf and tree related questions that we are trying to fit in. Game play proceeds when a player rolls a color coded die. The player moves to the colored space indicated by the die. Alternatively, he encounters the “lose a turn” spider or a rose that allows him to reach into a bag and pull out a leaf shaped token. Back to the tokens in a minute.

Whenever a person moves to a space, he will take a card and answer a question about leaves or trees. If he’s right, he can take a token from the bag. If the token has the lost toy on it, he automatically wins the game. Otherwise, the first person to traverse the quilt to the old lady wins.

The Leaf Men Book & Game

The Leaf Men Book & Game


Our Leaf Men Board

Our Leaf Men Board


Leaf Men Playing Pieces & Die

Leaf Men Playing Pieces & Die


Leaf Men Question Cards

Leaf Men Question Cards


Lost Toy Token

Lost Toy Token

We have a variety of playmats. Each playmat depicts a different landscape. Some are double-sided to depict the same terrain during different seasons. The playmat depicted in the Hands-On Nature post was made by EvesLittleEarthlings. (The various figures are from NatureTableTreasures and Rjabinnik). Basically, whenever we have a particularly interesting story, I look through our collection of wooden and other creatures to see if I have a suitable number of characters on hand to illustrate the story. If I do, I pull out the characters to put on the story. That makes it all the more entertaining and helps my son internalize it more so than a simple oral telling. We also tell the same story over and over. It’s not uncommon for the same story to appear every day for a week, as was the case with Jack & the Bean Stalk, The Three Little Pigs, and Little Red Riding Hood.

Enacting Master Hare

Enacting Master Hare

Above, my son is getting ready to act out the tale of Master Hare. I don’t recall ever hearing that tale before. It came to us in a collection of Spring themed stories in his Live Education curriculum. Waldorf curricula stress the importance of marking the seasons with seasonally aware stories, songs, food, and activities, so our Spring was filled with tales of bunnies, ducks, temperamental weather, and budding flowers. We weren’t quite officially homeschooling yet, but we were trying to get the rhythm down. The little play mat in the above picture was created by MuddyFeet. It’s very simple, but it’s interesting, because it can be flipped over. One side is green and one side is gray. This is good for illustrating tales with a change of seasons or the classic kind of fairy tale were in the “morally upright” character comes upon a green landscape filled with “milk and honey” and the dubious character finds the same landscape dark and dreary and filled with foreboding things. The puppets and playthings here were created by MamaMadeThem, NatureTableTreasures, and HeartFeltFolks.

Troll & Gnome Story

Troll & Gnome Story

Finally, anybody who knows anything about Waldorf knows that gnomes are ubiquitous in Waldorf culture! I’ll say more about that later. For now, the above picture depicts one of our deluxe playmat experiences. I wanted to get my son into gnomes, so I had him watching the David the Gnome series. I’m not a big fan of TV. We don’t have cable or network TV in the home, but I decided to let him watch the DVDs. I quickly tired of David the Gnome and decided to buy the Gnomes book. (The animation is dated, and David is sexist sounding! The storyline is also sanitized compared to some of the Grimm-like stories in the Gnomes book.) The book is a little old for a four year old, but it does have some great stories in the back that lend themselves to being acted out. There is an epic tale of trolls abducting a gnome child. That is the tale being enacted here. We used an additional mat from EarthBoundPixie, a Shadow Gnome from Grackled Gnomes, and a little wolf from irishenciya.

My son has been fascinated with Eleanor Cameron’s Mushroom Planet series of fictional books for children. The first book in the series–The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet–details the adventures of a young boy who lives out a dream to travel to a planet “just his size.” Apparently, this theme was born out of a statement and wish made by the author’s own son. My own son has recently taken an interest in space travel and has expressed a desire to travel to the Mushroom Planet in the series. While I could not realize a Mushroom Planet for him, I found a wonderful Mars carved from popular from one of my favorite toy makers on etsy.com; mamaroots. We’ve hung the little planet over my son’s loft bed so that he can see it any time he wants. He is also equipped with a flashlight so that he can view his planet in the evening after the lights have gone out. My son has developed a relatively new fear of zombies and ghosts and other things that go bump in the night, and we hope that the planet will be a welcome distraction.

Mars

Mars

We’ve been buying a lot of educational toys from the www.etsy.com Website. We love toys produced by mamaroots and mamakopp. However, we’ve also discovered the joy of creating our own toys. This is beneficial because it let’s us tailor our toys in such a way to reinforce very specific lessons that we want to persist from our Focus Month, once that month is over.

Mushroom Month will be long gone in a few, short days, and we want all the hard work that we put into teaching facts about mushrooms to last for a long time. To that end, we designed a board game around Elizabeth Cameron’s Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet book to provide a fun framework around which to build an educational game to preserve our scientific facts about mushrooms. My son looks forward to playing the game everyday, and it’s working wonderfully.

Homemade Mushroom Planet Game

Homemade Mushroom Planet Game