Category Archives: Parenting

Childhood unplugged! Celebrate Screen-Free Week

 Childhood unplugged! Celebrate Screen Free Week

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.

SFW logo with 2013 date 0 Childhood unplugged! Celebrate Screen Free Week

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!

7f46dd1e5564f32553f7198f6a1e8dcb Childhood unplugged! Celebrate Screen Free Week

Source: Childhood Beckons

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!)

 

Hello Sunshine!

Guess whose shining face just showed up at ThinkFun HQ?

Meet Sunny!

Hello 1820 PlushWCards 300x300 Hello Sunshine!

Isn’t this the cutest little face you’ve ever seen!?

Following the huge success of last year’s Roll & Play, the first-ever game for toddlers, Hello Sunshine joins this innovative early learning line – we couldn’t be happier to welcome Sunny to the ThinkFun family!

Hello Sunshine is a hide and seek game, a play pattern young children love and are familiar with, and game play is enhanced by the addition of positional words (terms like “on,” “under,” “inside”) which are reinforced through repetition and activity.  After extensive testing (which meant lots of very cute, very curious toddlers set loose in our offices), the game play was carefully designed to suit the developmental needs and learning goals of children age 18 months to 3 years – they had a blast!

Sunny 246x300 Hello Sunshine!

Perfectly soft and sized for hugs!

While Hello Sunshine play is cleverly-designed to promote thinking skills, family bonding, and social interaction for toddlers, the real appeal of Sunny, in my expert opinion and terminology, is that s/he is just so stinkin’ CUTE!  Our Design team worked very hard to get Sunny’s face just right, with careful attention to eyebrows and smile angles, and the results just make you go, “awwwwww!”

Here’s a quick how-to-play video, I can’t wait to introduce Hello Sunshine to the little ones in my life!

AsperKids-ThinkFun-image

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“.)

Roll & Play (bottom right) is featured in the new Toys R Us Guide

Toys R Us Differently-Abled Kids Guide features Roll & Play

Toys R Us has just published the newest Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids!  For over 20 years, this guide has served as a fantastic resources for parents, teachers, and therapists who work with children with a range of different learning needs.

 

TRUp49 screenshot 1024x800 Toys R Us Differently Abled Kids Guide features Roll & Play

Roll & Play (bottom right) is featured in the new Toys R Us Guide

The toys featured in the guide are assessed by the National Lekotek Center.  Experts screen hundreds of toys to make their selection, looking for specific skill-building traits to assign to each toy that appears in the guide.  The skills include auditory, creativity, fine motor, gross motor, language, self-esteem, social skills, tactile, thinking, and visual.

We are honored to have our newest toddler game Roll & Play featured in this new Guide!  The experts at Lekotek celebrate this new game for supporting 5 important learning skills, including Thinking, Visual, Social Skills, Language, and Gross Motor.

Browse the complete guide here:

Create your Own Family Zingo!

I love hearing from creative fans who take a game and make it their own!  The photo below comes from the Subity family, who, after hours of fun playing Zingo!, decided to personalize the game and create a family version called… SUBINGO!  Here Caleb’s dad Sam describes their creation…

 

I’m attaching a picture of my son, Caleb, with the “Subingo!” game, which is our twist on Zingo.  After we’d played Zingo for hours, I realized that we could use the same format to teach our kids new words and concepts.  So we came up with Subingo to help them learn the names of everyone in our large family.  

Zingo Family names 300x225 Create your Own Family Zingo!

Caleb shows off his "Subingo" board!

 I just put a family member’s photo in each square and then printed and laminated the playing cards, then we printed sheets of everyone’s photos to use as the tiles.  Since we can’t use the launcher with the paper tiles, we just put all the tiles in a pile upside down and then do a speed version where we all start flipping over tiles and try to fill up our cards first!

 

Have you ever customized a favorite game?  I’d love to hear about it!

Send your Campers a (Think)FUN Surprise!

For many of us, texts, email, and Face Time chats have become the primary way we connect.  For all you stationary hoarders out there (guilty!) nostalgic for the days of the letter, there is still one place where snail mail is king… Summer Camp!

While sending candy and snacks is usually a no-no (turning your child’s cabin into a critter-magnet is not the most welcome gift!), there are loads of fun things you can send to brighten their day!

I decided to channel my current Pinterest obsession into something productive and created a Summer Camp Care Packages board filled with ideas for thoughtful packages filled with fun!

Do you have a camper who would love a FUN surprise in the mail?!  Pick 3 ThinkFun games your camper would love and leave a comment on this post with your wishlist!  I’ll pick a random winner a midnight on Sunday (July 22) and send a ThinkFun care package to a camp or home address (US-only please)!

 

Rush Hour: An Autism Adventure

Several weeks ago, I featured a fabulous post by Jennifer Cook O’Toole, author of Asperkids: An Insiders’s Guide to Loving, Understanding and Teaching Children with Asperger Syndrome,  in which she shared her use of our Rush Hour Jr. game with her own family!  It’s always gratifying when readers particularly connect with certain articles , so I was thrilled to see this post tweeted by Rebecca Mitchell, a psychotherapist in the UK who was so inspired by Jennifer’s post she purchased the game for her own son and shared her experience on her Loving Martians blog! Rush Hour: An Autism Adventure

Rush Hour: An Autism Adventure

Posted on  by Rebecca Mitchell

Yesterday, the doorbell rang and Mr Postman delivered ‘Rush Hour - Traffic Jam Game’, Junior Edition by Thinkfun TM.  I had read a recommendation by Jennifer O’Toole ofAsperkids and decided to try it.  L has become incredibly wary of games and generally now refuses to play them.  I think that he sometimes struggles to comprehend the rules but the bigger issue is the stress caused by adversarial games where social niceties such as turn-taking are essential; patience and a non-agressive response to being beaten are required; and competitive big sister M cannot be persuaded not to gloat when winning and wail when losing.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve encouraged L to play a game for quite some time.  Recently, however, when M and I set up a Lego game, I noticed that despite claiming not to want to play it when invited, L sidled furtively up to see what we were doing and then joined in (albeit in a slightly scary fashion which involved him building all the Lego hens, throwing the die wildly at the wall when it was his (my) turn, and cheating slightly and us not daring to challenge him for fear of precipitating meltdown).

Anyway – I threw caution to the wind and decided to order Rush Hour.  When it first arrived, L was angrily suspicious and wanted nothing to do with the package.  After I unpacked it and he saw all the little cars he did this…

 Rush Hour: An Autism Adventure.

Yep – he lined them up.  After lining them up, he became very territorial about the cars for a day and wouldn’t let anyone touch them.  He loves the cars, especially the Police cars.  The next day, when asked if he wanted to play, he refused.

I decided to see if M wanted a game as she had been the model of self-restraint for the last day but clearly wanted a go.  The initial possessiveness had diminished a little and L ’allowed’  M to play.  We set up the game on my bed and instantly, L appeared and virtually within seconds was smitten.  After ten minutes more, M and I no longer got a look-in.  If you’ve never heard of Rush Hour – it is genius in its simplicity; fiendish in its difficulty; and totally, totally addictive and the best thing (for L) is that you can play it on your own.  The junior addition has a grid and then 40 cards that each have a pattern of trucks laid out which you have to copy onto the grid.  Each card gets progressively more difficult.  The idea is that you push the vehicles backwards and forwards (you can’t lift them) until the ice-cream van is free to move along, unhindered, to the exit. In simple terms, the ice-cream van is blocked in by a traffic jam and the player has to move the traffic to free the van.

AwQrMSeCMAADRxk Rush Hour: An Autism Adventure

The game has so many elements that L loves.  I’ve already mentioned the little cars and in particular the police cars.  Then there is the Lego-like element.  L is very good at Lego.  On his birthday I was amazed to watch him building his Lego Batman Cave by just glancing at the page and seeming to have an almost photographic memory of the layout of the bricks.  M and I, faced with the same page, would have been using our finger to count how many spaces to leave before adding a piece.  So, he LOVED following the cards to build up the traffic jam.   Very quickly it became clear that L was really very good at this game.  He was somehow able to see the bigger picture whilst M and I were bogged down with trying to move one vehicle.  After taking it in turns well at first, L became increasingly frustrated with our ineptitude and was obviously itching to step in and rescue us as we made our jams worse.  The excitement levels mounted as L saw the way out time and time again.

Eventually, L became rather hyper, flushed with success as he was, and jumped madly around the bed shouting, ‘I’m an Aspergerkid and we are superheroes’ (something he’s brilliantly picked up from the Asperkids sites).  I was touched.  His self-esteem which has been struggling recently, was soaring through the roof.  He was also identifying himself proudly with Asperger Syndrome and seeing that he could do some things well and that maybe autism could give him some kind of advantage.  Even M became drawn into the general atmosphere of excited abandon and was generous in her praise of her little brother, forgetting her usual desire to be best at everything.  She so clearly loves him and was delighting in his success.  We were all swept up in a tide of goodwill.

The downside of all this was that it was getting late, the routine was shot to pieces, there was no way that L was going to go to bed without doing another ten cards and the turn-taking had totally broken down as L found it so hard to spectate from the sidelines.  I suggested that he take five cards into his bedroom.  He took them in and told us that we weren’t allowed to disturb him or say anything but that he would shout ‘banana’ every time he completed a card.  Five bananas later and L got into bed,  tired but satisfied.  The game was a resounding success.  Unfortunately, L now rather sees it as his game.  So M had to wait until he was busy pursuing his MI9 special interest on the computer this morning to sneak the game into the kitchen and have a go, and when L realised what she was doing she had to agree not to go any further than the cards that he had completed.

So we settled down this morning, still giddy with success, to a celebratory breakfast of pancakes (I had batter left over from the weekend), except that I didn’t have enough batter left for L’s second one and he wasn’t having any of it when I said that the spoke effect looked like a cool spaceship.  ‘I’m not having that’, he cried in disgust.  I offered to make him a pitta bread with honey instead (one of his favourites).  He looked even more disgusted when I passed him the pitta bread.  ‘Mummy, you KNOW I don’t like ROUND pitta bread’, he yelled.  I had tried an organic brand of mini wholemeal pitta breads and it was indeed smaller and rounder and browner than his usual white, oval shaped pittas.  Life’s never easy in our neurodiverse household but it’s never boring and at least we now have a game we all love.

 

Wake Up Your Brain with Swish!

Another lovely message from the ThinkFun Mailbag!  This mom in Michigan shares how her family uses our Swish game as a daily brain warm-up!

 

Hi there,

I just wanted to send a quick “thank you” for the hours of entertainment your games and puzzles have provided our family — kids and adults alike!

Your company is so aptly named — it’s great to be able to show kids that you can have a blast and give your brain a workout at the same time! Any frustration from not solving a puzzle right away quickly shifts to determination, because the fun is in the figuring!

We love the fact that so many of your games can be played in different ways. I’m attaching a photo of my 6 year old daughter, Anna, and the activity we came up with after we played a couple of rounds of Swish using the traditional rules.

Swish photo CantonMI 682x1024 Wake Up Your Brain with Swish!

Swishes of up to 10 cards! Anna, we're impressed!

 

We decided to spread all of the cards out, cooperate, and see if we could create Swishes with increasing numbers of cards. We had a blast — what a fun way to get our brains working for the day icon smile Wake Up Your Brain with Swish!

So again, thank you for your clever and well-made games and puzzles! We are huge fans, and our big bin of your games will certainly be handed down to our children’s children, because this type of fun never gets old!

Sincerely,

Louise

Canton, MI

Drop Everything and PLAY!

The following post is shared by David Burk, a friend from TED and wonderful supporter of ThinkFun games who has clearly passed on his passion to his two children!  David and his family have created a “drop everything and play” tradition that I’m pleased to share here – hopefully it will inspire you to find new ways to fit playtime with your loved ones into your busy lives!

 

Ever since we discovered Rush Hour, ThinkFun games have had a place in our home.  When we got the whole complement of the games, we started a group tradition with them.  These days, the games live in our entry hall, under the “telephone table.”  Several days a week, when I come home from work, my kids (Ezra, 11yo, and Emmet, 9yo) will run to greet me, followed by my incredible wife.  We’ll usually throw down a few games and lie on the carpet right in front of the door, sometimes playing in parallel, sometimes working together.

RushH 5000 HiResSpill 300x300 Drop Everything and PLAY!           Choco 1530 HiResSpill 300x300 Drop Everything and PLAY!

Chocolate Fix has been the family favorite for a long time now.  Ezra is by far the best at these games, so he’ll do a few rounds and then start showing us all what we should be doing.  The play only lasts about 15-20 minutes, and it’s really fun!  Only when I step back and think about it do I realize that it is also a great way to focus, relax, and stretch the brain— all while spending family time together.  In summary, I get to turn off the work part of my brain and start being with my family, and my family gets to turn on their brains and have some fun together.  It’s lovely—and good for us.  Can’t beat that!

 

Does your family have a unique or special way you like to play together?  Is there a particular time in your day or week that you carve out just for play? Please share!

Sneaking in the Good Stuff with Games that Teach!

The following guest post is shared by Kimberlee Jost, mom of 2 game-loving girls and a fantastic advocate for the power of playful learning! Kimberlee’s blog shares her family’s adventures as they navigate their way down The Driveway of Life!

When I was a little girl, I fondly remember playing games. Game time often occurred after dinner. There were card games with dad and grandpa. Word games were played with grandma. I became a game kind of girl. I loved the challenge of trying to beat them, but even more I enjoyed having their undivided attention during those games!

Jost Family Sneaking in the Good Stuff with Games that Teach!

 

At our house, game time tends to be earlier in the day. I have two daughters, Ella, age 7 and Talia, age 3. The first time we ever played Zingo 1-2-3 it was at 8:30 in the morning, Ella had already gone to school. I recognized that Talia needed a little one on one time—she was grumpy, demanding, and overall not well behaved.  This was a red flag to me that her love tank was a little low. Within five minutes of starting the game, her attitude changed. She became cheerful, thoughtful, and easy going. Her love tank was getting full!

Jost Zingo 300x199 Sneaking in the Good Stuff with Games that Teach!

Talia and her cousin Owen loved playing Zingo 1-2-3 together at Christmas. Learning to lose graciously is also an important life skill...we're still working on that.

The best part for this Mom is knowing that Talia was also learning. Before the end of the game, she could read the number five and understand its value. Now that’s sneaky! I had set out to spend time with her, but I had no idea I could sneak a little education in there as well. I live for that!

There are hours of Zingo 1-2-3 in our future. Talia and Ella both enjoy it, and I love knowing that we are being intentional with our time. We aren’t just playing a game, I am investing in them and they are begging for more!

Thank you, ThinkFun, for making a game that sneaks the good stuff in there. Now if only you could do something about getting my girls to eat their veggies at dinner!