Category Archives: Organizations supporting play

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Introducing… The Asperkids Collection!

I am THRILLED to share the new Asperkids Collection, an exciting partnership between ThinkFun and Asperkids!  Asperkids creator Jennifer O’Toole has curated a collection of games that support universal education skills for learners of all abilities, and below she shares a post on this initiative.  Learn more about Jennifer and her incredible work with AsperKids on her website, FacebookPinterest, and Twitter!

AsperKids ThinkFun image Introducing... The Asperkids Collection!

At Asperkids, we believe that learning is the business of everyone, every day – and that a, b, c’s and 1, 2, 3′s are just the tip of the iceberg. Real success in real life – friendships, romance, careers – requires persistence, patience, patience, and communication. And there’s no better way to practice all of those skills than PLAY. As Mister Roger’s said, “Play is serious work.” That’s why we are SO proud to introduce THE ASPERKIDS COLLECTION BY THINKFUN – our favorite games for sharpening skills OFFERED SO THAT SOME OF THE PROCEEDS BENEFIT OUR WORK on behalf of Asperkids everywhere.

By paying particularly close attention to the the distinct needs of different minds, we’ve assembled a collection of strategies, philosophies and insights which increase curiosity, wonder and engagement – improving the way ALL children (gifted, twice exceptional, sensory, ADD, typical, etc) LEARN HOW TO LEARN.

For example… you can teach a young Asperkid to practice overcoming mind blindness (the idea that our perspectives aren’t the automatically same) with S’match – a game aimed at children as young as four! Practice using the phrase, “Make me see what you’re seeing.” Help the child explain why they’ve made a “s’match” (or why they haven’t) using as many descriptors (colors, shapes, quantity) as possible….even an older Aspie may find that more challenging than you’d expect. Why? To us Aspies, our thoughts seem “transparent,” or obvious to everyone else. We have to LEARN THE SKILL of communicating what we presume, understand and believe in what feels (to us) like overly stated terms.

That may start by learning to clearly articulate, “I have a “s’match” because I uncovered two red cards, and the category I needed to match was color. If the category had been number or shape, I wouldn’t have made a s’match because these cards have different shapes (one has circles and the other has a triangle) and quantities (two versus one).” Take that to the level of a teen and it become explaining their thoughts about what happened at a party – or to an adult who can successfully communicate with his or her spouse.

“Make me see what you see.” That’s your line. Then repeat it back, “So, you see a…..” If what you’ve heard and what your kiddo meant don’t “S’match,” guide your Asperkid as she fills in any holes or miscommunications.

You see? In our collection, there’s logic building and visual spatial skills, collaboration and problem solving…not to mention LOTS OF FUN. So delight your Asperkid – and empower others everywhere by making your purchases through our site. We’ll all be so very glad you have.

(For more great ideas on how to use ThinkFun Games read my past blog, “Perspective from a Plastic Ice Cream Truck“.)

Color Me Awesome!

The following message was recently shared with me by the wonderful Jennifer O’Toole, the brains behind Asperkids and author of this fabulous guest post on her special use of Rush Hour!  Her Color Me Awesome initiative is inspiring – click here for more!

Asperkids coloring.JPG Color Me Awesome!

So recently, I came across a coloring book called “Nerdy Baby,” which is all sciencey fun.  My daughter Maura (for whom coloring was hard) fell in love with historic coloring books featuring mythology and medieval fashion….and suddenly she WAS coloring BEAUTIFULLY (which showed up in handwriting!)…and inspiring friends to get to know her favorite topics just by sitting together and creating.

Meanwhile, I’ve also just taken to sponsoring a group of artists and artisans on The Asperkids Treasury on Etsy (glass supernova magnets and Hogwarts arm warmers and handmade fairy garden pieces and carved wooden toys and cookie cutters in the shape of molecules!!!) – two of my loves, beautiful handiwork and witty humor, both supporting the Asperkids cause.

 

And here’s where those two notions intersect:

In all that kerfuffle…(we’ve put the cart a bit before the horse, as the popular interest was already VIRAL)….I am sponsoring an international project to publish the “COLOR ME ASPERKIDS AWESOME” geek chic coloring book DRAWN BY Asperkids.

The book itself is not for little kids, probably aimed more 8-adult. And this is no saccharin stuff – we’re talking nebulas, historical fashions, atomic structures, pteranodons, grammar humor…all things beloved by Asperkids. Unapologetically awesome.

Asperkids up to age 18 are eligible to submit an original B&W line drawing depicting their own clever, “colorable” interpretation of science, art, literature, history, or “geek chic” mash up.

Then, Asperkids, LLC (and publisher) will evaluate entries based upon creativity, accuracy of concept, wit, and clarity, and will choose 40-50 to include in our final published product (artist’s name and home country will be shared, but no monetary compensation is involved).

I’m going to donate a portion of the proceeds to arts programs for spectrum kids…And yes, one of my artisans is even going to make up crayons (like Tardis Blue) to market alongside.

Submissions are already coming in hot and heavy (due date is 3/1) – and the buzz is just electric. Thank you for sharing and supporting what will, I think, be a fantastic (and FUN) product that celebrates the lighter side of Asperger’s.

 

Warmly,

Jennifer O’Toole, Author. Aspie. Advocate. Mom.

Creator, Asperkids LLC www.Asperkids.com

 

Get involved! Please submit PDFs by email to kristen@asperkids.com.

Help ThinkFun bring smiles to Hurricane Sandy victims

UPDATE:  Thanks to a fantastic fan response, ThinkFun is thrilled to report a record 308 games were ordered in the 48 hours this promotion ran.  We are so pleased to send out 308 brand new games to the Toy Bank to help bring much-needed joy to families still suffering in New York and New Jersey.

 

toyBank Help ThinkFun bring smiles to Hurricane Sandy victims

In the wake of last week’s storm, our thoughts are with the families who have lost so much.

To bring some smiles to those who so desperately need them, ThinkFun is supporting the Toy Bank with a Buy One – Give One donation initiative – and we’d love your help!

Through midnight tomorrow (11/9), for every game purchased, we will donate a new game to support families affected by the hurricane.

We would love your help spreading the word about this win-win way to help others!  Here’s a link to a Facebook post you’re welcome to share, and a tweetable blurb as well:

Buy 1 Give 1! For every game sold @ThinkFun will donate one to a family affected by Hurricane #Sandy – Shop now! http://ow.ly/f8Bva

This also happens to be an ideal time for early holiday shopping, as we’re offering an additional 25% off all online orders with code HOLIDAY2012

toybank image Help ThinkFun bring smiles to Hurricane Sandy victims

I hope you and your family are safe and warm in Sandy’s aftermath, many thanks for spreading the word and helping ThinkFun bring some joy to families in need!

Exploring the future of learning at TEDxEdmonton Education

Last week, I had the pleasure of traveling waaaaay up north to be part of the very first TEDxEdmonton Education conference!  In the TED spirit of ideas worth spreading, this conference focused around a conversation on how learning is evolving and impacting our schools, workplaces and industries.TEDxEdmonton logo 300x134 Exploring the future of learning at TEDxEdmonton Education

This fantastic event featured speakers directly from the education world and individuals doing innovative work  in related areas.  TEDxEdmonton Education was designed to kickstart a discussion on learning.  How do we disrupt the status quo and replace traditional approaches to learning? How do we leave the politics of education behind to focus on impact and innovation?  Some incredible conversations emerged!

Bill on stage 300x224 Exploring the future of learning at TEDxEdmonton Education

The 500+ attendees included students, educators, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, and community, technology, and business leaders across K-12 and post-secondary education… .quite a dynamic crowd!  Speakers included:

  • Larry Anderson, ManCap Ventures
  • Ashlyn Bernier, Graduate Students’ Association
  • David Bill, Urban School of San Francisco
  • Carla Casilli, Mozilla Foundation
  • Stephanie Lo, TED Ed
  • Bill Ritchie, ThinkFun Inc.
  • Amy Shostak, Rapid Fire Theatre
  • Kris Wells, Institute for Sexual Minority Studies & Services, University of Alberta
Recognize any names on that list?  That’s right, ThinkFun’s own Bill Ritchie was invited as a featured speaker to share his work in the space of education and building thinking skills through play!  Here he is in action…

Bills talk 300x224 Exploring the future of learning at TEDxEdmonton Education

Bill shared learnings from his 28+ years in the games industry, and his talk focused on the idea of Thinking Skills – having spent years searching for a definition and clear meaning of this term, Bill posited to the audience that people are just plain confused about what thinking skills are.  ThinkFun’s goal is to be pioneers in this space, creating programs that genuinely deliver thinking skills through playing experiences.

In Bill’s words, “We believe in the power of play to inspire kids and prepare their minds to be ready to learn, then it’s up to us to deliver the goods.”  He introduced ThinkFun’s newest Brain Lab program set to launch in November – stay tuned!

In discussing the typical way schools teach “thinking skills,” Bill shared this fantastic cartoon he dreamed up and our graphic designer created, anyone have a good caption!?

darth vader3 300x296 Exploring the future of learning at TEDxEdmonton Education

During the breaks between speaker sessions, attendees had a blast playing with ThinkFun games (even Giant Rush Hour made an appearance!)… some fun photos of the games in action:

photo 1 300x224 Exploring the future of learning at TEDxEdmonton Education

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photo 2 e1350931135991 224x300 Exploring the future of learning at TEDxEdmonton Education

The conference twitter stream captured some fantastic highlights of Bill’s talk and the conversations it sparked.

  • @maureen_parkerDo you believe in learning that is more than sugar-coated academic skills?” Bill Ritchie on creativity & thinking skills #TedxEdmonton
  • @puneetasandhu: When thinking skills are subjugated to academic skills, they kind of lose their soul.” -Bill Ritchie #tedxedmonton
  • @carolynjcameron: #tedxedmonton Bill Ritchie thinking skills incude whole person – emotional,cognitive, metacognitive-through play and game-making#gcms #psd70
  • @deanwalls: Bill Ritchie says to move from cognitive to metacognitive by designing, instead of doing, puzzles. #tedxedmonton
  • @wrice1978The importance of emotional, cognitive and meta cognitive skills and engagement to build thinking skills via Bill Ritchie. #tedxedmonton
  • @mmichellelam: “Play is what makes the world go around.” – in a conversation I had with Bill Ritchie from @ThinkFun #tedxedmonton”

I look forward to sharing a link to Bill’s talk once it is posted next month – stay tuned!

‘Knot’ Your Typical Celebrity Sighting!

Last week, the 32nd International Puzzle Party (IPP) was held in Washington, DC!  Never heard of IPP?  Neither had I until joining ThinkFun and getting the inside scoop on this exclusive community of puzzlers and their annual gathering.

IPP is an invitation-only event for serious puzzle collectors only.  Founded in 1978, it provides a venue for the exchange/sale of puzzles, books and related items, as well as for fun and fellowship.  In short: puzzling fun for puzzling enthusiasts!

Frans Gordians Knot 300x250 Knot Your Typical Celebrity Sighting!

Frans de Vreugd is an IPP Member and the inventor of Gordian's Knot!

Why is the IPP community so near and dear to our hearts here at ThinkFun? Our co-founder AND Head of Inventor Relations are both members of IPP, along with several of our wonderful puzzle inventors!

After IPP events concluded this weekend, Bill and Tanya welcomed many attendees to tour ThinkFun headquarters and see where the magic happens – here in the office I had a major Celebrity Spotting moment when I met Frans de Vreugd, the inventor of our Gordian’s Knot brainteaser puzzle visiting from Holland!

Design for Change Empowers Students to Change Their World!

The following guest post is shared by Sanjli Gidwaney, the Country Coordinator for the incredible Design for Change USA organization!  Sanjli first introduced readers to DFC in this 2010 guest post, and the organization continues to do incredible things to inspire creative social change – ThinkFun is thrilled to support them! 

Design for Change banner 300x64 Design for Change Empowers Students to Change Their World!

Children are not passive recipients of modern day pop culture and television overload, they are activators and change makers of their schools, communities and the world!

My name is Sanjli Gidwaney from Design for Change USA, a national school challenge engaging children in service learning projects with lasting benefit to their community. Design for Change USA (DFC) is part of a larger global movement involving millions of students and teachers from over 30+countries. We hope to empower students to address challenges which affect them directly by infecting them with the spirit of I CAN and tasking them with four simple steps:

  1. Feel anything that bothers you
  2. Imagine a way to make it better
  3. Do the act of change
  4. Share your story with the world

Last year, what started off as a small test pilot with a handful of students and educators, has now become a national campaign placing the USA at the forefront of service learning. This year, DFC received entries from coast to coast. Submissions ranged from buying basic necessities for children living in homeless shelters to sending letters of gratitude to United States Service Members. Teachers and students went above and beyond the call to action and we should all be very proud of their efforts.

The winning entry this year came from Lick-Wilmerding High School in San Francisco.  Their project, The ONE LESS Campaign, is designed to create communal awareness about the consequences of not only the production but also the purchase of non-organic clothing.

Design for Change 2011 winners 300x224 Design for Change Empowers Students to Change Their World!

Students from Lick-Wilmerding High School in San Francisco - Winners of Design for Change USA

In an attempt to pay it forward, the students at Lick-Wilmerding requested that the DFC team share their prize with the incredibly deserving children at the Vincent Academy, a new charter school serving a challenged community in Oakland. This is the truest representation of the spirit behind DFC.  Here are some wonderful photos of the students at Vincent Academy enjoying their new brain games!

IMG 0469 300x225 Design for Change Empowers Students to Change Their World!

IMG 0470 300x225 Design for Change Empowers Students to Change Their World!

We’d like to thank ThinkFun, our wonderful sponsors for their generous donation of over $500 worth of ThinkFun games. We believe that children learn best when they’re having fun and who does it better than ThinkFun?  It is the creative and team building skills learned through games such as Rush Hour and Chocolate Fix, which will enable students throughout the USA to brainstorm, create and execute on their plans to improve their schools and communities! Thank you for all your support and for believing in our mission.

 

DFC is a 100% volunteer run and we would not be where we are today without the support of passionate teachers and organizations who also believe that children are the drivers of change. If you are interested in finding out how you can get involved, please visit us at, www.designforchange.us or email us at info@designforchange.us .

Here is what you can do today:

  1. Spread the word about DFC by sharing the link with family and friends
  2. Sign up your school/organization
  3. Volunteer to lead a project at your child’s school/organization/sports team

By participating in Design for Change, you will be joining millions of students and educators around the world saying, yes I CAN.

Destination ImagiNation: Where Human Frogs, Duct Tape Princesses, & Creative Problem Solving Unite!

Holy Smokes!  I’ve just returned from an incredible week in Knoxville, TN at the Destination ImagiNation Global Finals!  This massive celebration showcased creative problem solving at its finest, bringing together over 20,000 kids and adults from 1,276 teams – 45 states, 7 Canadian provinces, and 13 countries!

Opening Ceremony21 300x198 Destination ImagiNation: Where Human Frogs, Duct Tape Princesses, & Creative Problem Solving Unite!

The Opening Ceremony featured indoor fireworks - the kids' energy shook the arena! Click here to see a complete video of the light show!

The DI Global Finals brings together top teams from all over the world whose participants have made it through many rounds of competition to get here.  We met teams who had driven over 20 hours to get there, (and from their energy upon arrival we are guessing this was a very spirited ride!), and we met kids in the US for the very first time who had flown in from China, Korea, Guatemala, and Poland!

IMG 2166 300x224 Destination ImagiNation: Where Human Frogs, Duct Tape Princesses, & Creative Problem Solving Unite!

This Korean team pooled their brainpower to solve Chocolate Fix challenge #40!

Throughout the week, teams present their unique challenge (chosen from the 6 options provided at the start of the year) and also showcase their think-on-your-toes problem-solving skills in an Instant Challenge.  Hats off to the master scheduler who was able to slot in 2,552 unique performance times for all the participating teams, an amazing feat of problem solving if I’ve ever seen one!

Assembly Required 300x200 Destination ImagiNation: Where Human Frogs, Duct Tape Princesses, & Creative Problem Solving Unite!

An "Assembly Required" challenge in action

When teams weren’t presenting, there was LOADS of fun to be had all over the University of Tennessee Campus, with activities that included outdoor concerts, family camps, a Duct Tape Costume Ball (yes, you read that right!), a Glo Ball (featuring enough neon body paint and glow sticks to light a stadium!), the Improv Fiesta, and so much more!

3M Costume Ball1 Destination ImagiNation: Where Human Frogs, Duct Tape Princesses, & Creative Problem Solving Unite!

These ladies arrive to the duct tape ball in style!

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Duct Tape Couture!

ThinkFun was thrilled to be featured in the EXPO Hall, where we set up a booth dedicated to PLAY!  Luckily, these kids are experts in the field, and we had a blast playing with thousands of kids from all over the world throughout the week.

IMG 2133 300x224 Destination ImagiNation: Where Human Frogs, Duct Tape Princesses, & Creative Problem Solving Unite!

A team from Arkansas shows of a 12-CARD SWISH!

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Problem solving is sweeter with ice cream (9am, by the way!)

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Love the hair! This kid had a special kinship with the red Hoppers frog!

We set up dozens of hands-on games, presented giant brainteasers, challenged teams to step into human-sized versions of classic ThinkFun games, and featured team versions of classics like Rush Hour.  Want more?  Here’s a quick video of our booth in action!

IMG 1987 300x224 Destination ImagiNation: Where Human Frogs, Duct Tape Princesses, & Creative Problem Solving Unite!

Pooling brainpower to tackle tough giant matchstick puzzles!

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Kids transformed into frogs to play Giant Hoppers!

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A team collaborates to solve 4 Rush Hour games at once!

ThinkFun was thrilled to partner with Destination ImagiNation to support this year’s Global Finals, and we are very excited to continue working with this incredible network of innovative kids all over the world!  One thing’s for sure – I’ll never look at a roll of duct tape quite the same again!

Duct tape 199x300 Destination ImagiNation: Where Human Frogs, Duct Tape Princesses, & Creative Problem Solving Unite!

4 rolls, endless wardrobe possibilities...

 

“More!” you say?! Here’s a great collection of photos from the week!

ThinkFun is Headed to Destination ImagiNation!

I am THRILLED to pack my bags for Knoxville, Tennessee next week for the Destination ImagiNation Global Finals!  ThinkFun recently signed on as sponsors of this incredible organization, and we can’t WAIT to kick off a year of fun together with this amazing event!  20,000 people from all over the world are expected to descend on the University of Tennessee campus for a week of innovation, creativity, and FUN… and ThinkFun will be right in the thick of the action!  If these photos from years past are any indication, we are in for a wildly fun time!

DI logo 300x75 ThinkFun is Headed to Destination ImagiNation!

DI Opening 300x199 ThinkFun is Headed to Destination ImagiNation!

As a quick background, Destination ImagiNation is an extraordinary non-profit  that provides educational programs for students to learn and experience creativity, teamwork and problem solving – it reaches 125,000+ students across the U.S. and in more than 30 countries each year!  Student teams solve open-ended Challenges and present their solutions at Tournaments, and teams are tested to think on their feet, work together and devise original solutions. Next week’s Global Finals is an incredible celebration of the top teams from all over the globe – and we can’t wait to see this international brain power in action!

 

These kids are seriously creative, and we are so excited to bring some really out-of-the box new challenges and games to put their think-on-your-feet problem solving skills to the test!  We’ll be showcasing some fantastic ThinkFun games, but most exciting are the activities we have planned!  Over the course of the week we’ll be inviting kids to compete in creative challenges using some of our best games!  Participants will create their own puzzles and even play GIANT human versions of some of our favorite logic games!

 

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the prep work going on in the ThinkFun offices as I type this post… can you guess which games we’re transforming into giant kids-as-pieces versions!?

SC 2 300x224 ThinkFun is Headed to Destination ImagiNation!

photo 2 300x224 ThinkFun is Headed to Destination ImagiNation!

 

In the Knoxville area?  This event is open to the public, and we would love to invite you to play with us at the DI Expo Hall! Check out the Global Finals website for more information.