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  • Review: Cranium Cariboo

    For the last few nights at bedtime, Marc and I have been playing our first board game with Alex: Cranium Cariboo. He loves it and asks for it by name. We love it because it makes teaching him a little easier.

    The basic concept is fairly simple. The “board” is a box with 15 small doors that flip open when you use a key. At the beginner’s level, each door has one to four pictures in one of four shapes in one of four colors, as well as the word describing what’s depicted in the picture. There are six small brightly-colored rubber balls that you put in the box; they roll around and settle under six of the doors. When you pull a card from the set, you’ll get a number, letter, color or shape. You select a door that corresponds to the card, open it, and look for a ball. If there’s a ball, you slip it into a tunnel on the right side of the board. The sixth ball causes the little treasure chest at the end of the tunnel to open, so whoever finds the sixth ball is the winner.

    There are two sets of cards, one for “beginners” and one for “advanced” players. We’ve been playing with the beginner cards because they have the shapes, and Alex has been having a bit of trouble identifying a triangle.

    When we started playing this game, Alex already knew his letters and numbers, so we’ll be moving up to the advanced cards as soon as he masters the triangle. We have Alex spell out the words underneath the colors, shapes and numbers, so he practices his lower-case letters and the sound each letter makes while we play. However, I think you could also use the game to teach letters and numbers to a child who doesn’t know them yet, it would just be a slow process.

    Cariboo is for players age 3 and older. You can buy it for $16.98 from Amazon.com(I think shipping is $6.97). Or you can buy it for $16.95 from Drugstore.com, and shop through Ebates to get 6% cash back (making it $15.93). Drugstore.com also has a couple of free shipping deals. (Disclosure: I’m an Amazon affiliate. And if you sign up for Ebates and make a purchase by August 15 using my referral link, we’ll both get $10. You can read my Ebates review for more information about my favorite shopping portal.)

    Now that Alex is playing board games, we’re looking for more. What game does (or did) your preschooler like to play?

    City of Los Angeles Sanitation Department Open House

    We’ve been to a lot of open houses since Alex was old enough to enjoy them, including three or four at various fire departments and one at a local airport. But the best open house of all was a couple of weeks ago at the Sanitation Department Depot in West LA. And I would be saying this even if Alex wasn’t obsessed with garbage trucks and anything related to them.

    The open house was a smash hit from the get-go. We arrived a few minutes before it was scheduled to start, because we’re early risers and we wanted to make sure we beat the crowd. I was both stunned and delighted that they were actually ready for us and let us in without hesitation.

    There were a variety of trucks all in a progressive line. A driver came over and acted as our “tour guide.” He explained the different garbage trucks and let Alex climb up into the one that he drove and had a key for. We followed the line of trucks to a line of garbage bins, where someone explained how to get them repaired or replaced. Then we viewed the repair truck that goes out to rescue trucks and drivers with mechanical problems out on the road, and the man in charge of the mechanics and on-site garage gave us a little tour. There was also a set-up where the kids could push a button that activated the compactor in the back of a truck.

    Once the tour was over, we headed for some information tables, where city workers explained about recycling and clean water and handed out goodies. Then, we picked up free hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, soda, water and cookies. And then we got in line to ride a small garbage truck around the yard.

    I wish I had pictures, but we were so focused on making sure the kids were having a good time that we didn’t take any. One of the best things about the open house was that all of the workers were just happy people. They clearly enjoyed their jobs – especially the drivers. I’d like to thank all of them for truly the best open house we’ve ever been to.

    PSA: Take your child to Disneyland before his/her third birthday

    Note: This post is intended primarily for Southern California residents.

    Children under three get into Disneyland for free. Alex’s third birthday is a couple of months away, so we are planning on taking him for the first time before then. We were hoping for one of the really good “local resident” deals that Disneyland occasionally has, but so far there doesn’t seem to be one. The best deal I can find is the “2fer”, which gives you admission to both Disneyland and California Adventure on different days. We’re not really interested in making two trips to Anaheim in the next couple of months so this deal doesn’t really do anything for us.

    Regular admission is $66 per person (3 to 9 year olds are $56). There seem to be deals if you want to stay more than one day, but of course that doesn’t apply to us. I’ve checked Auto Club (a.k.a. AAA) as well as some other locations and simply can’t find any discounts. I have a friend who works for Disney so I may call her for help.

    If we end up paying full price, the total will be $132 for tickets for Marc and me, plus $11 for parking. That’s just for admission and doesn’t include anything we buy inside the park. We can afford this, but I do not understand how a family of four can afford to go more than once every couple of years! Although if we lived closer, I’m sure we’d consider getting annual passes with parking.

    Most importantly, though, I’m looking forward to seeing the look on Alex’s face when we get to Disneyland!

    Two Preschooler Activities for the Holidays

    The following ideas are based on games in the weekly PreschoolRock.com newsletter. I’ve described them the way I intend to do them but I’ve linked to the Preschool Rock version also.

    1. Where Did Those Bows Go?: Gather your gift-wrapping materials and gifts to be wrapped, including some pre-made bows (like these). Hide one bow for each gift you’ll be wrapping in the same room. As you wrap each gift, ask your child to find a bow, and allow him to attach the bow when you’re done wrapping that gift.
    2. Little Drummer Boy Game: Put on some holiday music and tap the beat on a drum or the bottom of a bowl. Help your child do the same. (Knowing a few people who can’t find the beat of a song, I think it’s important to help my kids learn to do it.)

    Surprisingly Toddler-Friendly: The Getty Center and the Getty Villa

    I don’t know about your toddler, but mine is happy to have a new place to explore. That means lots of space and lots of walking. Challenging climbs? Even better. What my toddler doesn’t care about is kids’ activities – crafts and such hold his attention for about two seconds.

    So we recently headed out to the Getty Center thinking that Alex would enjoy the gardens and stairs, and we were right. Even on a Saturday afternoon, with a packed parking lot, there was plenty of room for him to explore. He enjoyed the ride up to the museum in the unmanned tram, the expansive city views from the top of the mountain, and the zig zag garden with its winding paths. He happily wore himself out going up and down different sets of stairs. He even made faces at me through the distortion lenses in the Family Room, though he breezed past the art coves where kids can create their own masterpieces.

    Since the Getty Center was such a huge hit, we headed out to the Getty Villa in Malibu (just north of where Sunset meets PCH). Again, there were plenty of stairs and a huge area to explore. Alex actually whined whenever we entered an exhibition, but was perfectly happy when we were outside. The Family Forum contains a couple of kids’ activities but none that held Alex’s interest for long (you can decorate some vases with erasable ink and put on a shadow play). I loved the herb gardens, with their edible plants and fruit trees – I even saw a gardener walk past holding two radishes he’d just plucked out of the earth. Alex’s favorite part was climbing the seats in the open-air amphitheater.

    Unlike when it opened several years ago, the Getty Center no longer requires any reservations. But you’ll have to reserve tickets ahead of time for the Getty Villa. Parking at each facility is $8. Both facilities are completely handicap accessible, which means there are ramps everywhere for strollers. However, we’ve found that it’s easier if Marc wears a backpack and I pop Tyler into a mei tai so that we can all go up and down the stairs together.

    Cross-posted at CFO Reviews.

    An Assortment of Halloween Links

    To get you ready for Halloween, here are some assorted Halloween links:

    Finally, my own little tip for baby costumes: PAJAMAS. I read this tip somewhere when my son was just a baby, but after I’d already bought him a Superman costume (which Tyler will be wearing this year). Last year, I bought Superman pajamas, and they were more comfortable and just as cute as a real costume (complete with cape), not to mention $7 cheaper. Now that our boy is old enough to prefer Spiderman to Superman, I picked up $12.99 Spiderman pajamas for him to wear this year. They have webbing at the arms, which makes them costume-like, and we won’t have to worry about a mask that he won’t want to wear anyway. Plus they’ll be comfortable and without the silly puffy chest that’s become ubiquitous in boys’ costumes.