I am so excited to share the world premiere of our newest video for Hello Sunshine, starring some incredibly cute little toddlers and their mommies!
As you can imagine, we have an absolute blast filming this video with these playful kiddos – and I am thrilled with the final product – enjoy!
Many thanks to Jack, Charlotte, EJ, Penny and their playful mommies for making this fantastic new learning game come to life!
Apparently ThinkFun fans love their coffee as much as they love their games!
After I shared this photo on Facebook Monday morning, several folks chimed in right away to let us know they’d also love to start their day with a ThinkFun-fueled smile! Always happy to support our caffeine-loving fans, I’ve set up a giveaway so you can win your very own mug – click here to enter! (starts midnight 5/14 - 5/16)
And on a related note, I’ve also started an Instagram account for ThinkFun, featuring more “inside our world” photos from around the office and events we attend. Please follow us at ThinkFunGames!
How do you wake your brain up in the morning? Does your secret weapon come in a mug or another form?!
May is National Inventors Month! (Incidentally, it also happens to be National Barbecue Month, so fire up the grill and celebrate!)
ThinkFun’s inventors are the creative brains that drive our new products, and we love any chance we get to celebrate them. To kick off the month, I’m thrilled to introduce two new additions to the ThinkFun Inventor club: The Herbert Brothers!
This loveable duo behind the new card game WordARound has been creating clever, quirky – and simple – ways to have fun since they were little boys mixing it up in a family of five kids in Southeast Indiana.
In 2009, Dave and Joe Herbert’s passion for film-making took a life-changing turn when their shoestring production of a Super Bowl ad for a Doritos contest won them $1 million in prize money. But the acclaim didn’t stop there. The hilarious 30-second commercial “Free Doritos!” hit #1 on USA Today’s annual consumer ranking of Super Bowl ads, taking Madison Avenue by storm and leaving 51 “big-budget advertisers” in its wake.
Released in February 2013, WordARound is recent evidence of the Brothers’ knack for balancing the offbeat with universal appeal. The game features words in a circle and players race to call them out. It’s a quick study but surprisingly tough, fueling laughter, frenzied play, and accolades like “instantaneously fun,” “genius” layout and “streamlined elegance.” And just like their famous ad, the acclaim doesn’t stop there. Players build focus, reflexes and vocabulary – fitting perfectly with ThinkFun’s repertoire of addictively fun games that sharpen your mind!
While I spent many pre-adolescent hours claiming otherwise, I now feel incredibly lucky to have grown up in an almost entirely screen-free home. As I shared in this post on Mr. Rogers, I enjoyed a magical 30-minutes-a-day of PBS during my preschool years, but after that, our little black box stayed off through high school.
The lack of screens in my childhood is a bit ironic when you figure my father was one of the very first Computer Science PhDs – but fun computer time in the 80′s meant either a game of Pong or learning to program the Logo turtle to walk in a line – both thrilling, but certainly nowhere near the all-consuming appeal of today’s computer offerings for kids.
While there is certainly loads of fantastic digital content available to kids today and quality educational brain snacks served up on a screen, I strongly believe that time spent away from the glass is critical for healthy development. I’ve blogged before about the beauty of allowing – and encouraging kids to be BORED – and the amazing things that can emerge when left to their own devices to create, innovate, and stretch to find new ways to entertain themselves.
I’m so thrilled to celebrate Screen-Free Week this week. This annual national celebration encourages children, families, schools, and communities to turn off TV, video games, computers, and hand-held devices – and turn on life. Instead of relying on screens for entertainment, they play, read, daydream, explore nature, and enjoy spending time with family and friends.
Check out this Pinterest board for loads of fun ideas for games and crafts you and your family can create together – and learn while you’re laughing!
Whether playing outdoors, writing the next great novel, or planning a family game night, there are loads of creative ways to make screen-free time enriching and fun for the whole family! I would love to hear your creative ideas… Want to get involved? For a listing of Screen-Free Week activities in your community, click here!
I’d love to hear your ideas – how will your family celebrate?! (please post – then kiss your screen goodnight and go play!)
We are so excited to celebrate the grand opening of a new exhibit at the Strong National Museum of Play! The permanent Game Time exhibit, which opened April 13th, features 4,200 square feet of interactive PLAY experiences for the whole family!
Featured among the fantastic game experiences is ThinkFun’s Rush Hour – as you’ve never seen it before!
I love the way this cleverly-designed exhibit encourages the whole family to engage in game play together – particularly wonderful with a game like Rush Hour that is typically played solo.
An exhibit designer at The Strong shared some additional photos of this installation before it opened. Rush Hour seems very comfortable in the limelight, we think she has never looked so lovely!
More on the Game Time exhibit from the Strong’s website:
Your turn! Move like a piece on a giant game board through three centuries of American games, puzzles, and public amusements at Game Time! an original permanent exhibit on the second floor of the National Museum of Play® at The Strong. Feast your eyes on oversized toy props, see rare historic treasures from The Strong’s game and puzzle collections, and jump right in for active hands-on family fun.
The Strong is located in Rochester, NY – if you live in the area or are planning a trip soon, I encourage you to check out the fun. Personally, I think a road trip is in order!
Scientific American Mind Magazine is dedicated to innovations in brain science. My geeky heart skipped a beat when I opened the new May/June issue… and saw Rush Hour! This iconic ThinkFun logic puzzle was featured in a piece on brain training games that have a proven effect on improving the way children’s brains work.
This article on brain training games for kids describes several products and programs designed to enhance children’s thinking skills – on page 42, it features an image of Rush Hour and describes the work of our friend Sylvia Bunge at UC Berkeley, who used this game and others (including Chocolate Fix) to improve reasoning IQ of students in a low-income community in Oakland, CA
We are thrilled to continue our work with the Bunge Lab to truly understand ways in which our games shape and improve brains – it is thrilling to be on the forefront of such innovation! This issue is available on newsstands nationwide.
A preview of the article is available here, and the entire issue can be downloaded for a fee.
An Occupational Therapist in Puerto Rico recently shared this great feedback on using Cartoon It! with her patients!
I work as a certified occupational therapy assistant with kids 6, 7, and 12 years old. They loved Cartoon It! I recommend this for children with problems with visual motor integration and with form constancy, although it helps with visual discrimination and visual memory too.
To make it easier since it was their first time, they were allowed to note on the paper the number of the characteristic so they could copy it directly from the board. At first, my patients did some badly arranged drawings. We discussed the problems we were having with the cartoons and how we can make it better. Actually, a kid made a head so small, he had to make the face outside the head.
It’s part of the therapy process to make mistakes and fix them. As the kids continued making the cartoons, the quality escalated to the ones I’m showing you. They can see their progress in the same therapy, so they loved it so much. Hopefully, their writing will become better than before, with the help of your game.
In a 45 minute therapy session, they could do 4-7 cartoons, including giving the instructions and showing the drawings to their friends. Thanks for this awesome game -my patients loved it!
Have you used any games in therapy sessions? I’d love to hear your experiences – which games were used and the skills they targeted!
If you’ve been following my blog over the years, you may have noticed a trend around this time every year… a yellow, rubber, and VERY noisy trend!
It seems fitting that, on the warmest day we’ve had thus far, these Spring Chickens showed up at my doorstep…
As background, these rubber chickens are given as awards for Best Team Spirit in the Arlington County 5th Grade Math Dice Tournament that happens in May! Now in it’s 10th year, we can’t wait to celebrate the brainy 5th graders at this year’s competition!
While the quest for Math Dice victory means serious competition, over the years the Rubber Chicken spirit award has taken on a life of its own – and teams have gone wild preparing songs and choreographing performances in hopes of taking home one of these little guys.
Want proof? Check out this amazing performance from last year’s competition – set to the tune of “Proud Mary,” these 5th graders were “Rollin’ On a Math Dice!”
As you can see in year’s past, the arrival of the rubber chickens marks the beginning of an exciting month of preparation. See these past posts celebrating the rubber chickens’ arrival in 2012, and in 2011!
Just had to share this lovely note that came to our customer support team today from the UK! It’s always wonderful to hear about games supporting inter-generational play – and I’ve shared before how important games are in my family, especially with my Scrabble-master grandma! I just love the image of grandfather and grandson exercising their brains side by side!
I have only very recently come across your brilliant game Rush Hour & felt I had to write & compliment you all on such an excellent game for all ages.
My 8 year old grandson & my 66 year old self enjoy it equally!! I especially appreciate the “mind stretching” logic of it, a bit like chess for one! In addition, the simplicity & portability of it make it especially suitable for car journeys etc.
All in all a triumph.
Cheers, R G Bingham
FIRST Robotics is an amazing organization, founded in 1989 with a mission to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders.
Founder Dean Kamen articulates his vision for FIRST, “To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.”
For years, ThinkFun’s CEO Bill Ritchie has participated as a guest judge – here’s a fun video he shared of a tournament in action! Recently, ThinkFun was thrilled to support the brilliant local teens of Herndon High School’s FIRST Robotics Team. This team recently wrapped up an amazing season, and their coach shared the following update – enjoy!
This past weekend Herndon Robotics participated in the DC Regional FIRST robotics competition! When we went to Raleigh 2 weeks before, we finished 49th out of 54. In DC, my team ended up 2nd out of 59! The finals are best 2 out of 3 matches and we crushed the other alliance in the quarter finals; had a super intense semi-finals where we lost the first match, and thought we lost the second one and were out (unreliable real-time scoring) when we had actually won by 5 points, and won the third match taking us to the finals… Unfortunately, while we won the first round of the finals, one of our alliance partners’ robot died in that round and they were unable to repair it and we lost the next 2 matches. But by keeping our 2nd place standing, we won a wild-card spot to the Championship in St. Louis.
DC is where our team submits essays for some pretty big awards that are based on what your team does besides build a robot. We won the Engineering Inspiration Award thanks to our stepping up and adopting a team from Israel by providing batteries and power tools for them to use since they could not bring their own, for our amazing outreach, including taking our interactive SquareBots to the Udvar-Hazy Center’s Halloween event, Air and Scare and to the Moon and Beyond Event, for our Robotics Poetry book, and for our team creating an animation contest for other teams after Autodesk cancelled the animation contest they had run for more than a decade. The judges we’ve lined up for this contest include judges from Pixar, Autodesk, Disney, and the creator of Pinky and the Brain!
I could go on for hours about this team, so I’ll end it with a few pictures from the event!
Pic 1: Our Human Player, Alex, feeding ED 14.0 while our driver, Megan (orange hat), looks on. The robots can only hold up to 4 discs at a time, and will receive a penalty if carrying more than 4 (this includes any that may bet stuck on any part of the robot).
Pic 3: Our Chairman’s presentation group, Danny, Leah, and Alice. Their presentation was to 3 judges and is what made those judges send other judges to our pit to talk with the team some more and was key to us winning the Engineering Inspiration award. The students talked to 13 judges total (15 if you count the 2 who ask solely about the robot and it’s abilities).
Again your support for our team this season is truly recognized and appreciated by all our members. The accomplishments listed in this email are just as much yours as they are the team members who were recognized this weekend.
Regards, Matthew L.
Herndon High School FIRST Robotics Team 116
Mattel’s clever “Save the Bunny” campaign this month features celebrities sharing the plight of the dwindling chocolate bunny population. These earnest spokespeople urge the public to protect this endangered species by filling their Easter baskets with TOYS instead!
Still stocking up your Easter baskets for the weekend? Consider adding some quality “brain candy” in the form of games and puzzles for some sugar-free fun. Do it for your loved ones – and, perhaps more importantly, for the chocolate bunnies. As one celeb reminds us, “their little chocolate lives are in your hands!”
Need some inspiration? Check out my Pinterest board with lot of creative ideas – both sugary and non – for a fun-filled holiday!
We recently received the following message from our Turkish distributor about a pilot program using ThinkFun games in classrooms – along with a fantastic newspaper article:
We are very happy and would like to share good news proudly with you. Since the beginning of our partnership as we have always told you our vision is to present high quality and educational games that can be played enthusiastically by both children and adults everywhere in Turkey.
We believe that these useful fun games develop children academically and socially. In this way we hope to change the way people see the games in Turkey. Therefore, we have always focused on the good hands on presentations and informed people of the skills that these games improve. We have been holding workshops on how to use these games to improve children’s thinking and problem solving skills. After many years of effort we achieved to attract the attention of a lot of children, parents and teachers.
Now one of the enthusiastic teachers has set off a pilot Project on using mind improving games in classrooms and this is figured in press:) As a team we have put a lot of time and energy while building the base of this Project. Since it covers the grades from 1 to 8 we have graded and grouped the games to have a harmonious flow throughout the grades. This Project appeared on the cover page of the newspaper called “Dünya International Herald Tribune” on March 19th. We are sure that this Project will be the engine of other similar Projects.
The ThinkFun games that are being used are: Block By Block, Chocolate Fix, Hoppers, Math Dice, Math Dice Jr, River Crossing, Rush Hour Deluxe, Rush Hour Junior, Shape By Shape, S’Match, Solitaire Chess, Swish, Tipover, and Zingo 1,2,3
Wow! This fantastic email shares ways our River Crossing game is helping young cadets in the UK improve team communication and build leadership skills – I can’t wait to see photos!
I am the School Staff Instructor (ex Regular Soldier) of the St. Bees School Combined Cadet Force. This is a School Cadet Youth movement sponsored by the UK Ministry of Defense in which Cadets from ages 13 to 18 can experience military activities from the Tri-Services; Navy, Royal Air Force and Army. Cadets are issued the same equipment and uniform as the UK Regular Forces and we have an armoury within the School which holds 30 Army assault weapons for training purposes and live firing on Army ranges,
I digress, this game was purchased by one of our American students and has been converted to a full scale version for Cadets to practice and improve team building and leadership skills by working as a team to solve several of the puzzles. The puzzles are given to the Cadets with a military scenario (possibly with a rescue mission – swapping the dog for a piece of eqpt or ‘civilian’ but in practical Terms it is no different than the game version.
Our Contingent runs a Military Skills competition each year for twenty teams of 6 cadets from around our Brigade. The Perilous Planks Command Task features each year as one of the ‘stands’ that are used to test the Cadet Teams marking them on Leadership, Team Work, Communication, and whether they can complete the several crossings in the time allocated.
The game has also proved as an effective ‘last minute’ backup quick option when we require to operatee a background activity to a main event. Our full scale version works on one metre spaces between the posts and in our case the planks are real. Our Senior Cadets use the game initially to decide which crossings to use for the Full scale version.
So there you are, the version is being used to its fullest extent and maybe not quite in the way you might have considered.
With best regards,
S. R. Warrant Officer One (WO1)
St. Bees CCF
The following post is shared by expert Speech Therapist Sherry Artemenko of Play On Words. Sherry recently awarded Hello Sunshine! the Play Advances Language (PAL) Award in recognition of its uses as a language learning tool!
Toddlers can be a bit of a challenge in speech therapy because you have to keep them engaged and motivated with great toys and activities while building their language. Sunshine was quite a hit with my little ones as they warmed right up to her and delighted in hiding and finding the furry bit of radiance. 2 year-olds were following directions and learning prepositions, while 3 year-olds decided to play teacher and send me on the hunt. Use Sunshine to teach wh-questions, pronouns, prepositions and vocabulary as you go on your search around the house.
Here is my full review:
Say hello to Sunshine, who joins ThinkFun’s first toddler game, “Roll & Play” which was popular with toddlers and their moms last year. I am more frequently asked for toy suggestions by parents of toddlers than any other age, which might explain why these simple starter games provide more structure for parents and caregivers who appreciate some guidance on where to begin their play.
Hide the plush Sunshine according to picture cards depicting positions such as in a box, next to a chair or on top of your head! Ask your toddler, “Were is Sunshine, can you find her?” The game’s directions offer wonderful language learning tips for toddlers such as modeling questions, greetings, and positional words within the context of a child’s play.
Kids loved playing this game of hide and seek with their furry Sunshine. When my little friend spotted her “on top of a pillow,” he squealed with delight, grabbed her, and leaned in for a squeeze! Three year-olds upped the fun by trading places with me and being the “hider.” I had to follow directions, “Now me hide it, close your eyes” Playing just once, isn’t enough, “”I wanna hide it again!”
Last summer, ThinkFun donated a shipment of great games to an exciting new after-school enrichment program in Wellington, FL. The “Mind Games” program launched in September, and founder Jenny Levin recently wrote to share an update and some great photos of learners at play!
Mind Games is a fun and challenging way for students to increase academic achievement while working cooperatively towards common goals. Our mission is to help students improve academic achievement by expanding their cognitive abilities and to assist them in developing important life skills that will lead to a lifetime of successes.
Mind Games will also create an environment that will help improve students’ self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence as well as provide a setting to develop interpersonal skills such as communication, cooperation, teamwork and leadership.
ThinkFun games play a big role in the Mind Games curriculum. The single player games allow the students the opportunity to compete against themselves, set goals and reach new levels of play. Games such as Rush Hour, Rush Hour Jr., Hot Spot and Tilt are some of our favorites! Thank you to ThinkFun to helping make Mind Games a huge success!
The origins of our beloved Zingo’s name are not difficult to trace – climb one branch up on the family tree, and you’ll find the classic game of Bingo! While Zingo is designed to support early reading and language skills, I was thrilled to know its educational roots run deep – did you know the age-old game of Bingo was originally created to teach children math?! Read on to learn more – and get tips on hosting your own learning-packed bingo experience!
How to Use Bingo as an Educational Game
After it first originated in the 1500s in Italy, bingo spread through Western Europe. When it finally reached Germany it was adopted by the nation for the purpose educating young children about how to learn mathematics. This proved to be very helpful to the children, who went on to grasp all of the basics with relative ease.
Well, this lesson is just as applicable today as it was back then. You can use bingo as an educational game to help your children learn more for school. The reason why it will succeed is because you get to repackage learning within a fun trivia game that will also come with prizes. Below we will go through all of the basics on how to arrange such an event.
What You Need to Do
- Decide on the subject that you would like to cover: Pick perhaps a difficult area of education or something that would help your child’s friends.
- Start choosing the questions: Go through your chosen subject – it could be History, Math, or anything else – and select 25 questions for the kids to answer. The reason why you select 25 is because they will be playing on a 5 x 5 grid.
- Design your printable bingo cards: Use your computer to draw up a 5 x 5 grid numbered between 1 and 25 – these will be the bingo cards used for the game.
- Assign questions to the numbers: Each of the numbers on the bingo cards should correspond directly to one of your 25 trivia questions. Be sure to make a list of the questions and their assigned numbers – 25 is too many to remember.
- Get the balls ready: Go to the store and pick up at least 25 ping pong balls (extras can be used as spares). A good idea is to buy them in different colors to resemble the traditional balls. Now that you have your bingo balls you have to number them between and 1 and 25. All you need to do is draw on the numbers with a black permanent marker.
- Find a large container: This will be used to house all of the balls for the game. The way it will work is that you pick out a ball at random and then ask the corresponding questions until the game is finished. The winner will be the kid with most correct answers.
- Send out the invites: With all of the hard work out of the way you just need to send out the invites.
The Final Touches
Before we leave you, we are first going to impart some advice on creating a perfect bingo night. Make sure in advance that you have plenty of seats and chairs ready, not to mention daubers to mark off the answered questions. Also, your players will be very grateful for refreshments, so make sure you have plenty of juice boxes ready and healthy snacks for when they take a break. Lastly, make sure everyone has plenty of prizes to win because that will make the whole event more rewarding.
Follow these steps and to a fruitful and rewarding educational experience is guaranteed. Enjoy!
What do you get when you stir together 700+ brilliant minds from 50+ different countries for a week in the desert? You get the amazing brain gumbo that is TEDActive!
While I thought nothing could top the 2011 Late Night Game Suite experience… only to have the experience exceeded in 2012 with Giant Swish and a wildly creative Game Creation Challenge - this year’s conference managed to be the best by far!
This year’s many talks flung our brains in just as many different directions – from a former street performing mime to a guerilla gardener in South Central LA – to a giant squid hunter to Shane Koyczan’s moving talk on bullying that brought the room to tears and to their feet – the content was nothing short of awesome, my mind is still buzzing!
In between sessions, attendees had a chance to explore all kinds of fantastic hands-on play experiences…
Artist Kiel Johnson created some incredible giant cacti for the DIY cardboard mini golf course on the putting green!
What better way to relax between talks than with Giant Jenga!
It’s a bit tough to take in all that’s going on in this photo below – but it’s my absolute favorite – look closely and you’ll see it’s a picture of a camera taking another picture of Giant Rush Hour WITH an iPad featuring the Rush Hour app – holy puzzle mania!
My geeky little heart almost skipped a beat.
What can you teach with 72 plastic tiles?
This latest post, shared by Tammy G. of the Fumbling Thru Autism blog, shares some fantastic ideas (and a great how-to description for all you crafty folks!) for modifying the classic Zingo! game to expand game play and support learning!Expanding Zingo, Posted: March, 2, 2013
In my last post, I wrote about how to make easy turn-taking games easier. Now Beth and I play turn-taking games for hours every day. It is so wonderful to work on interaction and language development and have fun at the same time.
When given a choice of games, Beth always chooses Zingo. There is something uniquely fun about sliding that dispenser to eject the game pieces, matching the pictures, and then throwing up our hands and yelling (well, quietly yelling) “Zingo!” when we are done filling our cards. During the game Beth readily talks. I ask, “What did you get?” and she almost always answers.
Lately I don’t even need to ask, she is commenting on her pieces without prompting. I also expand her language based on the game pieces. “What does the dog say?”, “Where does the bird fly?”, and “Where do you put a hat?” are just a few examples of ways we expand language during play. After running out of ideas to expand Beth’s language using the Zingo game pieces, I realized it was time to expand Zingo itself.
Below are two ways I have expanded Zingo by making custom made Zingo game pieces. I wanted to keep our original Zingo game intact so that we could still play the game, so I bought a second Zingo game (Zingo 1-2-3 numbers version, which we will use later when she is counting) to attach pictures to the game pieces.
Clip Art on Zingo Game Pieces
I bought JPEG clip art files from an artist on Etsy. Using Power Point, I sized the clip art appropriately and added text under each picture, then I printed out game boards and smaller images for the Zingo game pieces. Next, I cut out and covered the game boards with clear Con-tact paper and cut out the smaller images and attached them to the Zingo game pieces (I used clear Con-tact paper to attach the paper to the game pieces, but Scotch tape should also work).
Here are two sets of games I made with links to the JPEG files and my Power Point Templates:
Below you can find Power Point Templates to create your own boards and Zingo game pieces:
Another method is to buy stickers and put them on the Zingo game pieces, which is a great option for adding your child’s favorite characters to the Zingo game.
If you want to reuse your tiles, be aware that some self-adhesive stickers adhere strongly, so it will be a lot of work to remove the stickers. Also, it was difficult to find stickers that were the right size to cover the whole original image on the Zingo game pieces. Therefore, for most stickers sets, I cut out each sticker to the appropriate size and stuck it on white paper, then attached the mounted sticker to a Zingo game piece with clear Con-tact paper (alternatively you could use Scotch tape).
Another option is to print the images on self-adhesive computer labels and attach them to the Zingo game pieces, but they might be difficult to remove at a later time.
Want to DIY?! Tammy has generously shared JPEG files for the 4 game boards and game pieces with instructions in this post, get crafting!
I have shared several posts on the incredible William Kamkwamba, also known as the Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, and I’m thrilled to share the next chapter in his amazing story.
A young innovator from Malawi who taught himself to generate electricity by building a windmill from found materials and scrap parts, William embodies what it means to be a problem solver – resourceful, creative, and pioneering in his vision and drive.
On Sunday, a new documentary William and the Windmill will have its world premiere at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival. This film from director Ben Nabors details both his original story and his subsequent brush with fame (click here for more) – I can’t wait to see it! You can see the movie’s trailer below:
Few things grate me more than poor grammar – as I reflected in this post, my 6th grade English teacher spent countless hours making sure we went forth armed with the rules for proper comma usage, and her crusade for grammatical correctness lives on in me!
Today is the day for freaks like me, it’s National Grammar Day!
Which begs the question – where are you and you’re friends celebrating at?!
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