Smart Play Blog
Hard to believe we’ve gone this long without watching this fantastic talk on gaming!
Echoing her book Reality is Broken, Jane McGonigal shares ways that powerful game mechanics can be used to harness – and solve – real world problems. We talk often about the power of play to improve lives, sharpen thinking skills, and boost brain power – McGonigal’s work elevates this further to show how digital games can unify global problem solving around the most critical of issues facing our future.
Exciting news here at ThinkFun! The 2014 Toy of the Year (TOTY) finalists were just announced – and we have THREE nominees! We are over the moon about these nominations… and we need your help!
TOTY awards are determined in large part by online voting – can you spare 3 clicks?!
The 3 Nominees (with links to vote) are:
Laser Maze – Innovative Toy of the Year
WordARound – Game of the Year
Laser Maze – Specialty Toy of the Year
As an added bonus, all voters are eligible to win a fabulous prize pack! HUGE thanks for your vote and for your continued support of ThinkFun!
(Voting ends Jan. 13th.)
Our Customer Service Mailbag (sounds more important than email account!) got a serious gem recently! The letter below comes from a teacher who has amazing things to say about using ThinkFun games in the classroom…
To Whom It May Concern,
I just wanted to express my satisfaction with your company. I am a high school math teacher, and I see students of all types have trouble with basic problem solving skills every day. These students are actually quite good at math most of the time, but they struggle with logical thinking and deductive reasoning. Your games are not only fun for the students, but let them develop those deductive reasoning skills no matter what skill level they are at. Each game is well thought out and unique that it keeps the students interest. My students love to try different challenges in their free time on each of the games.
Might I add, that if it were not for the durability and prices of the games, I would not have them in the first place. I found your website helpful and easy to order. I appreciate your support and helping students in schools, especially the Teacher discount code. Without the discount and the great value compared to other companies games, I may not have had the opportunity to purchase what I have. The games are built strong and not “cheap” so they last and aren’t easily broken. I like the bags that help contain the pieces, and the rings on the card decks help keep cards from turning up missing. Overall such a great value for teachers who have little money to spend on their classrooms in the first place.
I have placed several orders over the last few weeks trying to get a “class set” of games. I need a few more as I have about 25 students at any given time, but I am seriously considering doing a Logical Thinking unit with your games and some logic puzzles and such with my pre-algebra class. I need to figure our a way to grade that, and I will put good use to your free games and activities as well. Anything I can do with them to help them think about reasonable answers and logic will help.
I just wanted you and your company to know what kind of impact you are making in schools and individual students. I wish I would had discovered you sooner. As a teacher, I like to know what impact I have on students as that is the drive that keeps me doing what I do well. I thought you might like to hear that your games and brainteasers are very beneficial in a classroom, even for high school students. Thank You! Keep up the good work, and please continue supporting teachers and students across the country!
Southern Boone County Schools Math Teacher
Are you an educator who uses games to teach?! I’d love to hear your story – please share!
Also, on the discount referenced in this letter, Teachers save 20% with offer code:TEACHERS on the ThinkFun website! Feel free to share with friends who use games to teach!
Turning the crowd into a powerful new force for positive social change.San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) October 25, 2013 BigLeap, the world’s first crowd-funding prize and reward network for social good, is excited to announce that its first Challenge has passed its funding milestone and is moving into its competition phase. BigLeap’s first challenge is championed by Professor Silvia Bunge, a neuroscience and childhood learning expert at U.C. Berkeley, and Bill Ritchie, the CEO of ThinkFun games. The challenge will give children everywhere access to fun, social, interactive games designed to engage the brain circuitry that supports reasoning.”Neuroscience research shows that what we do on a daily basis influences how our brains function, and behavioral studies in children suggest that the right kind of play is more than just fun—it can actually improve reasoning skills. Putting these two lines of research together, we believe that, over time, practice with mentally challenging games can strengthen the brain network that supports reasoning,” says Bunge.“We are at the cusp of a real revolution in how we define play,” adds Ritchie. “We are incredibly excited to have passed the first stage of our BigLeap Challenge. As a result we now have a $10,000 prize pool to get the best minds across the country thinking about creative new game programs that can do exactly what Silvia describes.”Competitors to the Challenge will be asked to submit their ideas for a game that teaches critical thinking skills, can be made usi ng common or low-cost items, and incorporates one or more of the following:
- Improves Executive Function – Stresses working memory, reasoning, task flexibility, and problem solving as well as planning and execution.
- Promotes physical activity – Requires physical activity and movement while stimulating the mind.
- Fosters teamwork – Brings people together to inspire teamwork and creative problem solving.
- Is designed for tournament play – Challenges critical thinking, problem solving or math skills while elegantly balancing different skill levels in players.
“Sometimes, the best solution for a problem comes from the people you would never think to ask,” says Victor Cho, co-founder of BigLeap. “We fundamentally believe that there are tens of thousands of people, probably even more, around the world who have a passion for children’s education, know how to keep young students engaged, and could come up with a compelling new game program for this competition. Our site simply enables advocates like Bill and Silvia to create the incentive to bring those people forward to create meaningful impact.”The competition formally kicks off on November 2nd, 2013 and will run through December 2nd, 2013. New competitors can join the Challenge at any time up until the submission window. Winners will be selected and announced on December 16, 2013 after a two week judging period that includes both education and gaming experts as well as real-world feedback from school children. The winning concepts will be made available, free of charge, to the world via electronic download. $10,000 in total prizes will be awarded, made up of a $5,000 first prize, $2,000 second prize, and three $1,000 runner-up prizes.For full details on this Challenge and to register to compete please visit: http://www.BigLeap.org/games.ABOUT BIGLEAP.ORG
BigLeap is the world’s first crowd-funding prize and reward network that enables anyone to drive social change through competition-based challenges. The BigLeap platform connects passionate advocates of social issues with the funding and resources needed to solve them in innovative new ways. Unlike other crowd-funding sites or traditional nonprofits, BigLeap only distributes a reward or prize when a challenge has been successfully solved. Because contributors can opt to get their money back if a challenge isn’t solved they are effectively guaranteed that their support dollars will have an impact.
This month’s TED Talk Friday features fantastic talks on two topics that are always easy to relate to: sleep and stress!
First up, circadian neuroscientist Russell Foster’s 2013 talk “Why Do We Sleep?” In his talk, Russell introduces theories about why we sleep – and busts up myths about how much sleep we actually need!
Next, we dug into the topic of stress with a fantastic TEDGlobal talk by Psychologist Kelly McGonigal, “How to Make Stress Your Friend.“ While we typically think of stress as the enemy, something to be fought and tamed, this talk urges us instead to see stress as a positive.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one, do you see ways you could benefit by embracing stress?
Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of seeing a new playground built in our local DC community… in under 6 HOURS!
I have long admired the nonprofit organization KaBOOM! and their commitment to improving communities by building safe play spaces, so I was thrilled when ThinkFun began exploring ways to bring more fun and games to their site builds! Over the summer, our team worked with KaBOOM! to develop several large-scale thinking games to engage kids (and keep eager footprints off the freshly-poured concrete!) as their new playgrounds were built. These giant games have been part of several playground builds all over the country, and I was thrilled to finally have a local event to attend and see them in action.
Watching the playground take shape was a powerful experience. Fueled by the beat of an on-site DJ, energetic dance breaks, and visits from Wizards and Capitals players, cheerleaders, and mascots, the community came together to bring PLAY to these excited students at Eagle Academy Public Charter School. Here are some highlights from this amazing event:
These first, second, and third graders had a blast with ThinkFun’s Human Hoppers challenge! Check out their problem solving powers in action!
This week’s TED Talk Friday featured Dan Ariely’s talk at TEDx Rio de la Plata – a fantastic deep dive into motivation that explores What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work.
BigLeap Launches First Crowd-Funding Challenge Platform for Social Good: First Challenge Aims to Give Children Everywhere Access to Free Games That Can Actually Make Them Smarter
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - BigLeap, the world’s first crowd-funding prize and reward network that allows passionate advocates to drive social change via competition-based challenges, today launched its first challenge: to make education more accessible.
BigLeap’s first challenge is championed by Professor Silvia Bunge, a neuroscience and childhood learning expert at U.C. Berkeley, and Bill Ritchie, the CEO of ThinkFun games. The challenge will give children everywhere access to free games designed to improve their brain power by helping to develop their reasoning and logic skills via simple, interactive game play.
ThinkFun’s mission has always focused on bringing mind challenging games to children everywhere, and this challenge is an exciting new way to ensure these brain building games reach even more communities. Read more on Bill’s involvement in this challenge and find out how to get involved here!
One look at sweet little Sunny and you can’t help but grin! Want proof? Check out these adorable little munchkins playing Hello Sunshine – and just TRY not to crack a smile… impossible!
In an effort to spread more Sunshine, I had some fun creating some Sunny-inspired gear for our youngest players and their parents… perfect gifts for playful little ones!
Have ideas for other fun game-themed apparel? I’d love to hear them!
This month’s TED Talk Friday featured Ariana Huffington’s 2011 TED Talk of the Year.
John Hunter, whose work I shared in this post after the 2011 conference, defines inspirational mentorship in my mind. His approach to teaching children about complex world problems through active engagement, and ceding control, is just amazing to see unfold.
Here’s John Hunter’s talk “Teaching with the World Peace Game”
This year’s highlight of the TED Ads Worth Spreading campaign had everyone at TEDActive bopping along… it’s incredibly catchy- in a hysterically morbid kind of way!
Enjoy Dumb Ways to Die!
These brain-boosting games are designed to strengthen mental muscles through play – and you can bet my playful grandma has already got a set!
These three games were created in partnership with fantastic volunteer testers from the ThinkFun community and AARP who gave feedback on everything from packaging to piece design to challenge progression. Industrial designers shared ergonomic pieces designed for larger hands, and testers voted for their favorites and shared great ideas about modifications and preferred game storage. Below is an example of insight from an early survey that led to the tagline “Cross Train Your Brain” on the package front!
We spent several months working with these testers, sharing new ideas, testing play patterns, and refining these new offerings to ensure they were both a fun and challenging experience!
Testers shared some fantastic feedback after a month of playing…
“I plan ahead more. I think of the outcome before hastily acting.”
“I play bridge and find it easier to remember which cards were played!”
“Gets your brain thinking! Challenging, stimulating and fun all in one.”
“I plan to play these for a long time!”
Increasingly we are hearing about the importance of keeping our brains nimble and strong as we age. With so many companies offering digital training games, we are very proud to present quality hands-on thinking games that engage players both on a tactile and mental level. These three classic ThinkFun games, Rush Hour, Chocolate Fix, and Solitaire Chess, have long been celebrated for pushing players to think harder and challenge themselves, and we are thrilled to present them now for an older audience!
Do you play brain games to keep your mind sharp? What are your favorites?