Category Archives: Parenting

The Perspective from a Plastic Ice Cream Truck

The following guest post is shared by Jennifer Cook O’Toole, Author of Asperkids: An Insider’s Guide to Loving, Understanding and Teaching Children with Asperger Syndrome (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2012).  I met Jennifer a few months ago when she reached out to ThinkFun to share her experiences with our game and her interest in sharing our games with her readers.  She is an amazing resource and I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn about the AsperKids community through her expertise!  We were particularly honored when she recently awarded ThinkFun the prestigious AsperKids Seal of Awesomeness!  Learn more about Jennifer and her incredible work with AsperKids on her website, FacebookPinterest, and Twitter!

Asperkids fmaily The Perspective from a Plastic Ice Cream Truck

Jennifer and her playful family!

The Perspective from a Plastic Ice Cream Truck

This weekend (like most of us mommies and daddies during most of our weekends), my kiddos and I attended a child’s birthday party.  Well, actually we attended three, but maybe that’s part of what contributed to the (ahem) somewhat frazzled state in which I found myself driving my minivan from one end of the county to the other.  Yes, there was the usual chaos of simply maneuvering three kids from place to place (to place) without losing a gift, a shoe, a child or my mind.

Now, let me offer the perspective that all three of my children and I have Asperger Syndrome.  Essentially, that means that we prefer routine and concrete, fact-based hobbies, are gifted at seeing patterns, connections, and logic, have minds that can absorb factual information on a vast scale — and are not so hot at picking up on social cues or being able to step outside our own minds to anticipate or understand another person’s perspective. So sometimes, what seems like a perfectly lovely atmosphere to the rest of the world (hello? birthday party?!) is laced with stress, confusion and nerves for us.

Which is why, back at the party, my middle child (who is almost six) was having a rough time.  Social misreadings were abounding.  He couldn’t negotiate the ebbing and flowing of the groups of kids who ran from one bounce house to the next, and he was quickly looking more and more like a baby sea turtle being tossed about in waves of busy kindergarteners.

But the biggest problem lay ahead.  Note: the birthday boy at this particular shindig was his best friend from the neighborhood, the only peer he regularly sees outside of school.  Adults know, of course, that the host never gets to spend much time with party guests.  And true to that playbook, the newly-minted six-year-old was very busy trying to have fun with lots of kids.  Try though I might to explain to my own son that he wasn’t being ignored, he felt suddenly unimportant to the boy he loves like a brother — so he spoke up, lip trembling, and said, “I just want to play with you. You’re my best friend.”  Now I know for a fact that this other guy loves my Asperkid.  But in an attempt to be diplomatic amidst the other children, the little host said, “You’re not my best friend. I have lots of best friends.”

My son fell to the ground in a small ball, and began to sob.  It hadn’t been meant as rejection, but it sure felt that way on the receiving end.

As I wrote in Asperkids: An Insider’s Guide to Loving, Understanding and Teaching Children with Asperger Syndrome, “Play is a child’s first experience of work, learning, and emotional response…(But) group play requires significant cooperative skills, real-time flexible thinking, and otherwise sticky interpersonal play that can feel awkward, uncomfortable, or truly scary.”  It’s for those reasons — among many more I explore at length in the book — that Asperkids “crave clarity and predictability. When most of our day is spent negotiating a world that doesn’t match our neurological hardwiring, it’s no wonder that we find calm in objects and activities that simplify things as much as possible” (68).

So we who love and teach these brilliant children must find methods of play that innately match their natural preferences, giving “them early experiences of success, confidence and road signs toward fulfilling, productive careers” (72).

What does that have to do with the breakdown amidst the bounce houses? Everything.  You see, in order for me to be able to help my Asperkid understand what was actually happening in the immediate social situation — rather than what HE thought was happening — he would have to be able to see the encounter from his friend’s perspective rather than his own.  That’s called “theory of mind” among psychologists — it’s called standing in someone else’s shoes by the rest of the world.  And we Aspies can’t — not won’t, can’t — do it naturally.  We aren’t self-centered or self-important.  We literally cannot intuit another’s feelings without having to think through — to intellectualize — them.  Compassion we have in utter droves.  Natural empathy, however, eludes us.

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Jennifer's son Sean, age 5 3/4, focuses on a Rush Hour Jr. challenge

So once I got my son to take some deep breaths and snuggle into a deep hug, I began talking with him. “Hey, Little Man,” I began, “I know you’re feeling pretty small and hurt right now.  But I was wondering if we could talk about Rush Hour?” He looked up at that, one eyebrow cocked.  Mom wanted to talk about a board game? Now?

Yup. Sure did. Just the other day, we had been playing Rush Hour Jr. together.  First, I will freely admit (to any adult but not to my kids! Shhh!) that not only is this game one of my favorites because of its logic and systems of patterns (there’s my Aspie noggin again), but because it’s a fantastic tool for pushing my children’s visual tracking and processing skills.  While their vision is absolutely perfect, the two eldest (9,6) have struggled with their eyes teaming or tracking smoothly — a problem common among many kids with ADD.  It can make tasks such as handwriting, drawing, coloring and reading physically and mentally exhausting, even for folks like these two, who both sport Mensa-level IQ’s.

In our last game, I encouraged my son to touch each of the grid squares as he laid out the vehicles to match the puzzle card.  Does the ice cream truck touch the top corner or bottom corner of the green car? I had him trace his finger left-to-right across each line of the set-up card and then do the same on the board he was building (that’s training his eyes to travel smoothly and his mind to correctly spatially interpret what his eyes take in).

And all the while, my gently repeated mantra was, “Think before you do.” Stop and plan before you act.  All-in-all, a good lesson for everyone.  But it’s especially so for kids with ADHD (a commonality among nearly every Asperkid), for whom impulsivity gets them in frequent trouble.  They speak out without thinking of the effect.  They interrupt.  They leave without their lunch. They turn in their homework too soon without checking their answers.  In “Rush Hour,” you can get yourself completely locked in on all sides, unable to escape the jam you’ve created simply by doing without pausing to think first.  The same, I would argue, will be true for the game-playing children as they grow — in life, love, and friendship.

So when my son has his board set up, we repeat together that mantra, “Think before you do.” And then we add the only strategy we really need — a three-parter.RushHJr 5040 HiResSpill 300x300 The Perspective from a Plastic Ice Cream Truck

  1. Who or what is in my way?
  2. Who or what is in his way?
  3. How much room does he need to move?

Yes, of course I am talking about plastic police cars and fire trucks.  I’m also talking about a lot more.

What is in your way of feeling content? important? loved? included? Is it a thing — like a seating assignment or confusing class project that can be adjusted? Or is it a person?  And if so (here’s the BIG MOMENT — the theory of mind-taking, perspective-seeing challenge!), what people, problems, ideas, or feelings might be keeping him or her stuck there?  Maybe it’s something small, and a few words will make the difference (like just moving an obstacle one position), or maybe, like the school bus, it’s a bigger dilemma that requires a lot of problem-solving “space” (time, emotional room, privacy, etc.) to change.

Which is why I sat there with my crying six-year-old and talked about Rush Hour.  What was getting in his way of feeling happy right then and there? His friend had said something that had hurt him, and was off playing with lots of other people. OK, so what was getting in his (the birthday boy’s) way of being the steady playmate my Asperkid knew and loved? That’s where my son was utterly stumped.  He had no idea.  None.  Other than that his friend “doesn’t love me anymore.”

And that’s where these children internalize the misinterpreted situations, and turn them into feelings of isolation, worthlessness or doubt.  So that’s where we — as parents and teachers — can make a difference.

We talked about other possibilities: a host’s responsibilities, about how the birthday boy needed to make all his guests feel equally important (and probably hadn’t wanted the other kids to feel hurt by hearing that they weren’t the “best friends”).  It was, he came to agree, an attempt at diplomacy — at trying not to show favorites, not to reject the BFF everyone knew he loved.

What’s in my way? What is in his way? How much room does he need to move? Because we had prepared with “Rush Hour” — with concrete, seeable, touchable play (and yes, it absolutely was preparation as much as it had been play) — I could use those questions to help build a case for perspective, and for reconciliation.  Ten minutes later, the boys were sitting side-by-side, eating their cake with arms around one another.

The power of play is limitless, and so are the children who are guided by it — both to success and to defeat.  No matter what kind of child is playing, he or she is developing perspective on much more than logic, spatial-relations, visual tracking or problem solving — although each of those are worthwhile.  With guidance and love, these kids are learning that their ideas matter. Their voices matter.  That they matter.  And that there is an awful lot you can learn about the world from a plastic ice cream truck.

Let Boredom Ring!

The other day, two very different articles crossed my desk on the subject or boredom.
First, one of my favorite dad blogs posted “Top 10 Phrases That Will Reduce a Parent To Tears” – sure enough in the number 8 spot was…. “I’m Boooored!”

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Which got me thinking… why is it that these two words are almost always thrown out in a whiny, most unhappy context?  Why, in today’s overscheduled world, aren’t kids doing back flips and celebrating the rare opportunity they find themselves free to exclaim, “I’m Bored!”

A friend sent the second piece on boredom my way via Fast Company.  This article Want to Be More Creative? Get Bored! encourages us to embrace the “creative pause” that boredom affords.  This piece echoed my belief that we need to flip the script and see boredom as an opportunity for game-changing Aha moments.  When do you get your best ideas?  Whether in the shower or zoned out on the treadmill, it’s often when we’re on auto pilot and our minds left idle that flashes of genius strike… reading The NY Times on your waterproof Kindle may actually cost you the next great idea!

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One of my favorite quotes on the importance of embracing boredom comes from Steve Jobs.  Arguably one of the most innovative minds the world has known, Jobs worried deeply about the future of boredom.  In a conversation with Wired Magazine, Jobs said, “I’m a big believer in boredom.  Boredom allows one to indulge in curiosity, and out of curiosity comes everything.  All the [technology] stuff is wonderful, but having nothing to do can be wonderful, too.”

Often we equate boredom with unproductive, wasted time, or a failure on our part to provide adequate stimulation for our children or students.  This mindset is most certainly conveyed to our kids, effectively teaching them to shy away from opportunities to let their minds take them away to stretch, explore, and create.  Retraining ourselves and our children to not only manage boredom, but to seek it out and use it as a time to run wild and create is key to building problem solving skills for the 21st century.

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While building in “boredom blocks” is sadly not feasible in most schools today, parents can be more mindful about the importance of providing these opportunities for boredom.  Kids used to one activity after the next may initially struggle with the prospect of this unplanned play time (cue those 2 magic words!) – encourage your child to see this as an opportunity to dig deeper into a question s/he has, redesign a living space in your home with a new purpose in mind, find new uses for a household device… the possibilities are endless – and so are the places your imagination can take you!

I hope someday soon that the dreaded “I’m Bored!” becomes music to our ears!

Age is just a number…

Another gem from the ThinkFun mailbag!  I loved this email and photo from Brian, a homeschooling father of 3.  Brian writes:Rush hour homeschool 225x300 Age is just a number...

“My wife and I have played several ThinkFun games at Mensa MindGames over the years, and we recently bought RushHour for our 3 kids.  We’re homeschoolers, and your puzzles are part of our curriculum.

I have attached a shot of our 4 year old Autumn playing Rush Hour.  (The 8+ age on the box is a standing joke in our house.)   Autumn is up to card #14, and Laura (age 5) is into the low 20’s already.  Santa brought them packs 3 and 4 in their stockings this year.  Thanks for some amazing games.  You guys do great work.”

We often hear from fans who report that the recommended ages on some of our games don’t apply to their kiddos.  With Rush Hour in particular, parents tell us their children as young as 3 are already taking on early challenges.  I’ve wondered what it is about this particular game that makes it such a natural for young minds to understand and take on.

In part, I think it’s because the goal is straightforward and the same for every challenge.  If you get the red car out, you’ve won – no need to check a solution or try another possible path.  The movement rules are also very intuitive – cars  move like regular cars, forward and backward in a lane, with no fancy jumps, turns, exceptions, or “flying cars” allowed.  Finally, the entry point to play (setting up the board) is something very young children love to do and can become comfortable with at a young age.  I’ve seen 2 year olds take huge pleasure in accurately setting up the vehicles to match the challenge card, a great spatial puzzle in itself!

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With more and more young kiddos playing Rush Hour on the iPhone and iPad, this game is reaching more young minds than ever! With the quick flick of a finger, kids can test new paths, get comfortable with the movement rules and patterns – very satisfying, and very easy to reset again and again without loads of tiny plastic trucks strewn on the rug!

Have you found games for which the “recommended age” is too old/young for your children?  Please share!

 

8 Nights of ThinkFun!

happy hanukkah 300x225 8 Nights of ThinkFun!I recently connected with Hilary, one of ThinkFun’s fantastic Facebook fans, who shared a fun new approach she and her family were taking for the Hanukkah holiday!  This year, she and her husband decided to keep Hanukkah simple with a focus on family togetherness, and they gave a new ThinkFun game to their sons each night for 8 nights!  Here Hilary describes the fun they had celebrating with good-for-you brain play!

This time of year is very present-heavy for our family, with Hanukkah at home, Christmas with extended family, and then the boys’ birthdays following in January and February.  I like to keep Hanukkah simple with a focus on family togetherness time.  I love how the many days of the holiday allows for time to actually focus on the present received before moving on to the next.

I thought that a few games would be great for the occasion.  I started looking for some games for my soon-to-be 5 year old son.  He’s already a huge fan of Zingo and Hoppers Jr., so I thought I’d see if there were any other games of the same quality.  I came across the Hebrew version of Zingo and couldn’t resist – how appropriate.  Then I saw so many other fun-looking games that I couldn’t stop there.  It turned into an 8 Nights of ThinkFun holiday!  The whole family managed to get in on the fun!

Night 1:

We played with the ThinkFun Sliding Puzzle on the way to downtown DC for the lighting of the National Menorah on the Ellipse.  Grandma had some skills that Spencer was most impressed with!

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Grandma shows off her Slide Puzzle skills!

Later at home, that first night, we played Ducks in a Row.  You can see that Sam (our ten month old) is still working on good sportsmanship : )

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4 Ducks in a Row - high five!

Night 2:

Trango came next.  Sorry to say it was a bit of a bust, but we still had fun making patterns out of the pieces.

Night 3:

Next night was Swish.  What an awesome game! We adapted the rules slightly – taking turns looking for “swishes” until my older son caught on.  Then it was a free for all.  This game has come out every day since it was given.

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Swish in action

Sometimes to play by the actual game and sometimes to just study the cards and see what kinds of patterns we can make.  Spencer likes trying to make “letter swishes”, like – I,T, L, and O as well as shapes – squares, triangles, and diamonds.  We worked together to design a full 12 card swish.  I am overjoyed to see how much thinking and exploring he’s doing while playing.

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Getting silly with Swish!

Night 4:

We moved on to a double game night on the fourth night – my husband got River Crossing, and my son got River Crossing Jr.

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Learning to play River Crossing Jr.

After playing together for a bit to get the hang of the game, we moved on to Head-to-Head challenges.  Gelt comes in handy for more than just Dreidel!  With the stakes high, the boys were focused, but in the end Spencer was victorious!

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A River Crossing face-off!

His triumphant joy is pure beauty!  Better luck next time, Dad!

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VICTORY!

Night 5:

Rush Hour took the stage the next night.  A bit too challenging for the boys – but those cars sure were fun anyway.  We’re waiting on a Rush Hour Jr. to arrive so that the Head-to-Head challenges can continue.  Spencer is determined to successfully solve one of the challenges.

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The faily explores Rush Hour

Night 6:

What’s Gnu? came next. Fantastic game for my emergent reader of a son. He was so proud of himself for actually making his own words.

Night 7:

The seventh night was a Zingo extravaganza. The Hebrew version was a huge hit. We eventually moved into combining the original, number, and Hebrew versions for a very fun, if mindboggling, game. This mama’s brain was getting tired! Thankfully, Sam brought the craziness to a close by crawling across the mayhem.

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Night 8:

We ended our celebration quietly with Amaze.  Again – huge hit. As you can see, my son had to bring it to bed with him.  And as an added bonus it kept my 10 month old completely entertained on a half-hour car ride . I wish he could have told me what he was thinking!  Truly fun for the whole family.

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Snuggled up with Amaze!

I can’t thank ThinkFun enough for providing such wonderfully fun and challenging games.  They helped to make our holiday so joyous.  It was so nice to spend such quality time together – learning and enjoying each other’s company.  And it seems we’ve barely scratched the surface of your catalog of games.  Good thing Spencer’s birthday is just a week away! : )

Thanks!
Hilary, Jerry, Spencer, and Sam

Walking the Line

I am thrilled to share the follow post by Sue Coates, better known as The Desperate Housemommy! A former elementary school teacher, Sue is now a full-time mom of 3 beautiful kiddos who love a great game!  Here Sue shares her thoughts on the power of play, and the important role games play as her children grow and develop.

Walking the Line

When I was a new parent…

Specifically, the kind of new parent that read every book on parenting under the sun…

Multiple times over…

I came across the phrase:  “A child’s play is his work.”

I took this to mean that when my then two year-old daughter knocked over the block towers that I had so carefully stacked for her, or my ten month-old son threw his teething toy from his high chair only to have me hand it to him so that he could fling it yet again, I, as their mother, was to remain a portrait of patience, ever mindful that this was how my babies learned about the world around them.

I like to think that I did a pretty good job of that when my children were small.

And now…now that I have blinked and a decade has passed, I sometimes hear myself saying things like:

“The kids are at an ‘easy’ age now…they arrange their own play dates and walk to their friends’ houses by themselves!  Hallelujah!”

“Ten year-olds are self-entertaining…I’m reclaiming some precious ‘me time’ these days!”

“Thank goodness the kids are old enough to set up games and play against each other now…I’d lose it if I had to play Go Fish one more time!”

This is a good thing, yes?

Yes…and no, I think.

For as much as I love me some “me time,” I need to remind myself that my kids are still…well…kids. In their formative years.  In need of guidance and a role model.

Case in point?

My older son takes a twisted delight in squashing the competition to a pulp.

My daughter can trash-talk her way through checkers like no other.

My younger son invariably blows a gasket when he loses a close game of Go Fish.

Read: I’m still on referee play duty.

And so?

I find myself walking a line…a sort of balancing act between giving my children freedom and being there for them as a playmate, guiding hand, and sounding board for the choices that they make while engaged in the business of play.

Enter ThinkFun. *cue the angelic chorus*

Our collection of ThinkFun games has seen my children and me through some invaluable learning experiences.

Our newest favorite, Swish, delivers a serious workout for spatial reasoning skills.  But, learning curve aside, it has been a fantastic vehicle for lessons about winning graciously and losing with character.  An added bonus is that I can always count on Thinkfun products to keep me as entertained and engaged as my children.

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An intense Swish game in action...

So I will continue to walk the line, supporting my children’s work through play where I can.  As long as Thinkfun keeps rolling out one quality product after another, we can’t lose.

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A Homeschooling Mama on a Mission!

I am thrilled to feature the following guest post written by Amy, a missionary and homeschooling mom of 3 who uses games to enhance her curriculum.  Amy is the fantastic mom behind the Missional Mama blog which I encourage you to check out – and you can follow her tweets here!

Here Amy shares the many benefits of game play:

It all started with Rush Hour Junior!

Another family, who was years ahead of us in the homeschooling endeavor, mentioned that Rush Hour was their family favorite.  We were convinced to give it a try.

My oldest was around six at that time and he would spend hours setting up the cars just so and working his way toward the conclusion of the puzzle.  It was mind work and he enjoyed every minute of it. Once the levels were completed, he moved on to Rush Hour leaving Junior behind for the siblings.

After this experience, we found ourselves drawn to the ThinkFun displays at educational stores to see what else could help us along in our learning. ThinkFun games are highly motivational and enjoyable for our multi-aged homeschooling classroom not to mention useful towards our educational goals.  Here are a few reasons we like ThinkFun…

  • Critical Thinking Skills – Forget the workbooks, my children enjoy the hands on mental and visual skills required by ThinkFun. It does not even feel like learning!
  • Competition with Yourself – Because most of the games we have are one player, they can work towards harder cards and skills trying to exceed themselves.
  • Math – Many of these games sneak in Mathematical Skills. Try the Math Dice game which promotes mental math, for example.
  • Creative Thinking Skills – We found that ThinkFun can be enjoyed “outside the box” for those children who are wired that way. My oldest likes creating new patterns and sometimes new games with ThinkFun products.
  • Working Together – The older kids enjoy sitting with the younger ones occasionally and showing them how a game works.  They become the teachers and learners.
  • Playing Together – It is just fun!

We keep our ThinkFun games in our homeschooling basket to be pulled out during learning time, down time, or when we need a break. It also has been used as part of the curriculum when we are working on a skill such as mental math. So whether you use the games for homeschooling, quiet time, or family game night, you cannot help but have fun while learning along the way.

Our favorites are Zingo and Rush Hour, what are you family favorites?

Family Game Night… with a Zing!

The following guest post is shared by Sarah Hill, the mom behind the Raising Redheads blog which features her three adorable children.  Last year in a post called Zingo! Monday, Sarah featured video of her youngest daughter Gemma naming Zingo images rapid fire.  Here she shares more on how the Hill family continues to make game play an important part of their lives!

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Usually, when our family plays games, our youngest child Gemma takes a relatively passive role, scooping up whatever discarded tiles/cards/miscellanea we aren’t using. At two and a half, that’s all we could really expect from her. Or so I thought.

A few months ago, as we sat around the table playing Zingo, I tuned into Gemma’s little voice shouting, “Dog!” or “Panda!” or “Stinky Foot!” (It’s actually just a foot, but I suppose in our family, every foot is a stinky foot) She wasn’t just parroting what Ainsleigh age 8 and Donovan age 5 were saying – she was recognizing the tiles! So for the next round, we gave her a card after I went through all 9 objects and verified that, yes, she knew them all.

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Then we turned her loose. As proud as I was that Gemma was actually playing with us, I was even prouder of the other two kids. See, they love seeing Gemma succeed even more than winning themselves (well, most of the time). They would pause before claiming a tile in case Gemma had it. Not always, but often. And then all clap and squeal right along with her as she filled her card. A part of me wonders if we’re setting Gemma up for disappointment later on in life when she realizes the world does not, in fact, revolve around her. But we’ll worry about that when we get there, I guess.

Gemma went to bed that night positively giddy. The encouragement from the other kids made my heart swell with love for these little people of mine. I know they won’t always defer to her, but it was pretty wonderful to witness. It’s important for us to encourage each other as we’re learning new things. The challenges will come all too soon. For now, it’s Family Night and Zingo.

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We have since added several more ThinkFun games to our evening repertoire (because after a hundred rounds of Zingo, you need something to mix it up!) and two of Gemma’s current favorites are “Snack Attack” and “Bug Trails.” Both require a little more assistance on our part, but since Gemma is now only 3, it’s understandable. My goal is to set her up to be a game master, and I think we’re well on our way. Thanks, ThinkFun, for making Family Night even better!

Stop Summer Brain Drain!

summerBrainDrain 162x300 Stop Summer Brain Drain!School is out, and summer fun is on everyone’s brain!

While a vacation from projects and homework is welcome break, the lazy days of summer can do a lot of damage.  Did you know kids lose an average of 2 months of math skills over the summer!?  Low income students are at far greater risk, falling behind an average 2-3 months in reading skills.

But never fear – ThinkFun is here!

No child looks forward to a summer filled with workbooks and flashcards, so what better way to keep brains engaged than through play!?

Mind challenging puzzles are the perfect way to fight Summer Brain Drain, and through July 31st ThinkFun is offering 25% on all Brainteasers!

These Brainteasers are designed for travel and will keep parents and kids sharp through summer and beyond.  My favorite thing about these puzzles is that they are far from child’s play – Brainteasers are perfect for all ages!  Want proof?  Here I am high-fiving my 87 year old Grandma after we solved Izzi – one of my favorite Brainteasers!

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Take the Smart Summer Challenge!

So much has been written about the importance of keeping kids engaged through the summer months to prevent learning loss, and this is a fantastic and fun initiative aimed at doing just this!  Three fantastic bloggers (the moms behind teachmama, PinkAndGreenMama, and NaturallyEducational) have teamed up to create the Smart Summer Challenge, a pledge to incorporate at least one fun learning activity into your child’s day during the summer months.

Summer Challenge Take the Smart Summer Challenge!

Here’s how it works (From Teach Mama):

The Smart Summer Challenge is simple–it’s a challenge for all parents to pledge to incorporate at least one learning activity into their child’s day over the summer vacation.  That’s it.

The learning activity can be as simple as reading a book or as involved as packing up the crew and taking a hike.  It’s as involved as you want it to be, and our focus is to help parents realize the important role they play in helping their kids avoid the summer learning slump.

And we want to reward everyone who joins us in this Challenge by awarding prizes–super-cool ones–each week.

So we’ve worked hard to prepare a sample calendar of ideas, aimed at children K-3, with adaptations for preschoolers and upper elementary students that can be downloaded and printed and hung on your fridge. Our calendar is merely a list of themed suggestions to get you started–you are the expert on your children and you know what they will find most engaging.

View the calendar:
Smart Summer Challenge Calendar 2011

I encourage you and your family to take the pledge and make this your smartest summer yet!

“World’s Most Embarrassing Dad” Finally Makes Teenage Son Laugh

This clip on the ABC morning news made me laugh out loud.

In the turbulent throes of identify formation, teenagers are petrified of a misstep that could label them uncool, and no one causes humiliation like parents can.  After his son Rain complained that dad waiving to his school bus was “embarrassing,” this creative papa decided to show him the true meaning of the word!  Over the next 170 days, Dale Price greeted Rain’s school bus with a different costume every day, including a giant chicken, Michael Jackson, even the Little Mermaid complete with seashell bra!

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Ariel 151x300 Worlds Most Embarrassing Dad Finally Makes Teenage Son LaughProving that dying from embarrassment is actually impossible, Dale’s son survived the school year and admitted that “In the end, it was just fun.  I was just laughing on the bus the whole way!”

Check out Dale’s Wave At The Bus blog to see 170 days of playful fun – the blog even features a link to donate to Rain’s College/Therapy Fund… well played!

Finally, a long-overdue apology to my own wonderful mom, who I literally wished alien abduction upon one afternoon in high school.  Walking through the center of town, mom stooped to pick up change, unaware a group of teenage boys was on a nearby bench tossing pennies and laughing uproariously as she scrambled to pick them up.

Actually, that still feels pretty humiliating.

Sorry mom, I may need a few more years to work through that one… My heartfelt apologies for all the more minor infractions I held against you in my day though, and thank you for staying out of costume during my teenage years!