Smart Play Blog
This month’s installment in our TED Talk Friday series featured two fantastic talks focused on kids…
First up, 15-year-old Jack Andraka spoke about his innovative new approach to detecting pancreatic cancer in a cheaper, less invasive, and more effective way than previous technology ever imagined… incredible.
Next, we listened to Gever Tulley talk about 5 dangerous things parents should let their kids do. As the founder of the Tinkering School, Tulley speaks passionately about letting kids take risks and exposing them to new opportunities to push boundaries and explore.
A little danger may be good for kids… grown-ups too!
ThinkFun braved the elements and headed to New York for Toy Fair! Once again, the team was undeterred by an ill-timed snowstorm (the weather gods must not like toys!?), we had a blast sharing our new 2014 games with retailers and media for 4 fun-filled days!
Toy Fair started with the Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards ceremony! While we didn’t have any big wins, we were thrilled to celebrate our THREE nominees!
ThinkFun’s amazing product development team and founders Bill Ritchie & Andrea Barthello got dolled up and enjoyed the night’s festivities too!
After the TOTY Awards, the show began! While the event is closed to the public, I thought you might enjoy a sneak peek inside the ThinkFun booth… here are a few shots taken during our set-up…
We were so excited to see the booth come together – our 2014 games looked fabulous in their displays!
Once we had everything ready to roll…. we celebrated!
Theo and Ora Coster created the original Zingo! Zinger… did you know they’re also the inventors of the classic game Guess Who?
What is love? (I realize it’s impossible to ask that without your head bopping… SNL-style)
But seriously… my wonderful friend Amy who teaches 1st grade asked her students to share their definition of Love. These responses are just perfect.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Here at ThinkFun we talk a lot about thinking skills… what they mean, what they do, and why they’re so darn important. While we often think about these in terms of major academic arenas (mental math, spelling skills, etc.), we recognize the multiple types of intelligences that resonate with and support a range of thinkers.
Musical intelligence is something I’ve had many conversations about lately, so I was thrilled to share this talk from 2011 by Eric Whitacre. Here’s Eric presenting A Virtual Choir 2,000 Voices Strong - You’ll have goosebumps, promise.
The turtles are coming… Robot Turtles to be exact! I’m beyond thrilled to share ThinkFun’s latest game designed to teach coding literacy and early programming skills to preschoolers.
The daughter of a programmer, I grew up sitting on dad’s lap playing Logo, so it’s no surprise this game hits particularly close to my heart (See Exhibit A below!)
For those unfamiliar with this board game sensation, here’s a quick history. Released last year on Kickstarter, Robot Turtles is a board game created by Dan Shapiro, a programmer dad who wanted to share his love of coding with his 4 year old twins.
Playing on the Logo programming language, this clever game captured the enthusiasm of thousands… the inventor’s goal of $25,000 was quickly met, and the project closed with over $630,000 in funding, the must backed game in Kickstarter history!
When funding closed, the turtle frenzy was in full swing. Learning that no additional games were planned after the initial print run for Kickstarter backers, ThinkFun reached out to the inventor to share our excitement about continuing the Turtle movement – and we were thrilled to work out an arrangement to bring the game into the ThinkFun family!
Here’s a fantastic video introducing Dan and showing the game in action:
ThinkFun made a few modifications to Dan’s phenomenal game, including improvements to the instructions, storage box, and card design. While the game doesn’t ship until June, ThinkFun is accepting pre-orders now and including an expansion pack with new challenges and ways to extend the fun and learning!
As a child, there was nothing better than spending an afternoon sitting on my dad’s lap and playing on our (gigantic!) desktop terminal. He shared his love of programming, I got to control the actions of the little Turtle and get special time with dad. To me, Robot Turtles represents the opportunity for families to share that same learning and bonding experience – in a board game!
First up, Amanda Palmer’s 2013 talk The Art of Asking. This was one of my favorites at last year’s conference, and I was thrilled when a colleague suggested it for this week’s gathering. In her moving talk, Palmer explores the relationship between fans and performers, and shares her belief that artists should allow fans to pay for content rather than force them.
“I firmly believe in music being as free as possible. Unlocked. Shared and spread. In order for artists to survive and create, their audiences need to step up and directly support them.”
Palmer talks about passing the hat, couch surfing, and giving it all away, with themes of trust, honesty, and fear woven throughout. Not sure I’ll ever look at a human statue the same way.
Next up: Doodling – a topic near and dear to my heart. Anyone who has ever sat next to me in a meeting can attest to the fact that my margins are rarely empty. Fish tend to swim between the lines, and dates often morph into galaxies. As a kindergartner, I took the non-nap option and doodled during rest time – and to this day there’s something calming and grounding about my pen moving that helps me listen more clearly and process information.
There’s a stigma of “spacing out” that doodlers like me know well, which is why Sunni Brown’s 2011 talk, Doodlers, Unite! was such a welcome perspective! Fortunately, I work at a company that encourages my doodles – and I was thrilled to receive this book from our founder earlier this week!
“Our culture is so intensely focused on verbal communications, that we’re almost blinded to the value of doodling… Doodling has a profound impact on the way that we can process information and the way that we can solve problems.”
Any other doodlers out there?! I’d love to see your thinking and hear how you use it as a tool – tweet me your doodles (@charlottefixler) if you don’t mind sharing!
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!