To Blend or Not to Blend

to blend or not to blendAlways on the lookout for literary and word games, I spotted this fantastically stylish box on the shelves of JaZams, our local independently-owned toy store. The game came highly recommended by their staff, and has won several awards to boot. Did it live up to the hype? Read on!

“The Chameleon,” released by Big Potato Games, retails for around $15. It’s a card and category game for 3-8 players. But it’s also a game of deception, because the whole point is to fake out the other players when you are the “chameleon.” The game includes 40 topic cards, 14 code cards, 2 chameleon cards, 2 die, a marker and custom card, instructions, and one super awesome Big Potato Games logo sticker. Here’s a sample of the box contents:

chameleon box contentsLet’s say there are 4 people playing this round. As you can see below, there are 3 identical Code Cards, but only 1 Chameleon Card. Each player randomly chooses a card and keeps it secret from the other players.

chameleon cardsThe dealer flips over the Topic Card and rolls the yellow and blue die. Players with Code Cards quietly match the die roll results to the appropriate category of the Topic Card. So, in the case of the roll below, the secret category is “The Three Little Pigs.”

game playStarting with the dealer, each player takes a turn describing the secret category with one word. But if you are the chameleon, you are faking your little heart out, trying to come up with a word to describe a category you have NO idea about. But you can listen to the other players and wager a pretty good guess, all the while keeping a straight face.

When everyone has said a word, the players have to guess who the chameleon is.

Having played a couple rounds, I can say that this game is a LOT of fun! The creative word usage, fake outs, shifty looks, pointing fingers, and increasingly bold accusations make it low stress, non-competitive, and utterly hilarious. The more players involved, the funnier it gets. Bonus…there’s also a blank laminated Topic Card and dry erase marker to make a custom Topic Card!

chameleon blank topic cardThe game manufacturer’s recommended age range is 14 & up, but we test ran the game with the 9-12 year-olds in Cotsen Critix, our children’s literary society (we just made sure we pulled out some of the more mature Topic Cards, like ones that included the names of alcoholic beverages). After just a touch of trouble with the instructions and locating the secret category from the dice roll, the kids were off and running!

They liked the various topics, coming up with the description word, and how funny it was to both be, and try to figure out, the chameleon. As one kid so aptly put it “Something is fun about lying to your friends’ faces.” Hah!

The beautiful packaging, clever concept, interesting topics, clear instructions, and devious social nature of this game make it extremely enjoyable. 5 out of 5 stars. Highly recommended!

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…

it was a dark and stormy nightStorms can be very scary, but this story time project lets YOU be in charge of the clouds, rain, and lightning!

We read Stormy Night by Salina Yoon (Bloomsbury, 2015). A storm is booming, and Bear can’t sleep – and neither can his stuffed bunny Floppy, his Mama, or his Papa! But a sweet song, kiss on the nose, a tickle on the ear, and good book can do wonders, and the family rides the storm out together.

You’ll need:

  • 2 corrugated cardboard rectangles
  • A box cutter
  • 2 strips of poster board
  • 2 paper towel tubes
  • Construction paper
  • 1 small box
  • 4 jumbo craft sticks
  • Scissors, tape and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

This theater is divided into two pieces: the back and the front, which are later hot glued together to create a free-standing theater. Here’s the back piece…

back of storm theaterFirst, glue a piece of blue construction paper to a corrugated cardboard rectangle (we used 9.75″ x 13.75″ cake pads). Next, cut a silhouettes from black construction paper and glue it down as well. Definitely make sure to glue these down tight, so the edges don’t snag on your puppets later. Here’s the front piece…

front of storm theater step 1Use a box cutter to cake a window in the second corrugated cardboard rectangle. Then glue or tape 2 strips of poster board to the front of the window (definitely use poster board, construction paper is a little too saggy). Add a pair of optional window curtains. Then flip the front piece over…

front of storm theater step 2Shorten 2 paper towel tubes so they fit inside the sides of the window, then hot glue them firmly in place (we reinforced the connection with tape as well). Hot glue the tubes to the back piece of the theater. Now there is a gap between the front and back of the theater.  This is where you drop your stick puppets! We also hot glued a small box to the very back of the theater to keep it more steady (our box was white, sorry, it’s a little hard to see in the photo!).

top of storm theaterTo make the stick puppets, cut a lightning bolt, fringe of rain, crescent moon, and storm cloud from construction paper, then glue or tape them to the bottom of a jumbo craft stick (ours were 8″ long).

storm theater puppetsTo operate the theater, simply drop the puppets into the gap and narrate the story as storm clouds move in, rain comes, lightning strikes, and the skies finally clear to reveal the moon!

finished storm theater

We also gave kids the option of creating cozy rugs with markers and ovals of white construction paper. Love the rainbow and storm cloud in the one above!

Shelter Story

Puppies and kitties in our Storytime Shelter eagerly await adoption…bring your custom pet set (complete with carrier, treats, blanket, ball, collar, and food dishes) and find your forever friend!

We read Who Wants Broccoli? by Val Jones (Harper, 2015). Breezly’s Animal Shelter has many pets, but none quite as big, energetic, loud, and messy as Broccoli the dog. The problem is, most people want a slightly less…ah…enthusiastic pet in their homes. So Broccoli gets passed over time and time again. But when little Oscar moves across the street, a big energetic dog is EXACTLY what he wants. Yes! Broccoli and Oscar, together in love and loudness.

You’ll need:

  • 1 large tissue box
  • A box cutter
  • 1 strip of poster board
  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • 1 dog adoption papers template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ paper
  • Various pet accessories (more on this below!)
  • Scissors, tape, and stapler for construction
  • Markers for decorating

Accessories vary according to what you have on hand, but here’s our pet set…a carrier, treat canister, plastic ball, blanket, collar with bell, and a water and food dish.

We used a 4.5” X 4.5” x 9” craft box, but a large tissue box works too! Use a box cutter to make a little door in one side of the box. We added a foam bead knob to the door, and used a hole punch to create “air holes” as well. The pet carrier’s handle is a strip of poster board stapled to the lid. You can decorate the carrier with markers, or used color masking tape and patterned tape like we did.

We wanted the top of the carrier to open so kids could stash their supplies, but we didn’t want the lid flying open while they were carrying the box. So we rigged up a latch using foam beads and a small rubber band. It worked great!

In terms of accessories, our treat jars were old film canisters, the balls were leftover from our Willy Wonka escape room, and the food and water dishes were snippets of a toilet paper tube. A little bit of ribbon, a bell, and a square of fleece fabric completed the set.

But the REAL surprise? You actually got to take a dog home, courtesy of a major Beanie Baby donation to our library!

Yes! When kids were finished their pet carrier set, they walked over to our Storytime Shelter (which was a cardboard facade propped up by two small tissue boxes).

Kids waited outside the shelter while Katie asked them the following questions…

Do you like dogs that bark, or dogs that are more quiet?
Do you like dogs that do tricks?
Do you like to play ball?
Do you want an adult dog? Or a puppy?
Will you take good care of your dog?

When all the questions were answered, Katie would select a Beanie Baby dog and “run” it out the shelter door to the kids, and the official adoption papers would be signed!

After everyone had a dog, we made another special announcement. You would get to select ANOTHER Beanie Baby companion for it! And out came a massive box of Beanie Babies to choose from. Were the kids excited? Oh, they were WAY excited! So were the grown ups! Hah!

We had enough Beanie Babies to allow younger siblings to adopt pets as well. So no one left the Storytime Shelter empty handed.

And now, an incredibly sweet coincidence…one little girl selected a cat from the big box of Beanies. She selected the VERY same version of the Beanie Baby kitty that had been her mom’s lovie so many years before. As the lovie was in storage, the little girl couldn’t have possibly known it was the twin to her mom’s. But she picked the very one.

Tears in my eyes!