Category Archives: Games at Home

The stars and their mommies!

Meet the stars of the new Hello Sunshine video!

I am so excited to share the world premiere of our newest video for Hello Sunshine, starring some incredibly cute little toddlers and their mommies!

As you can imagine, we have an absolute blast filming this video with these playful kiddos – and I am thrilled with the final product – enjoy!

Many thanks to Jack, Charlotte, EJ, Penny and their playful mommies for making this fantastic new learning game come to life!

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!)


Pass the Rush Hour, Grandpa!

Just had to share this lovely note that came to our customer support team today from the UK! It’s always wonderful to hear about games supporting inter-generational play – and I’ve shared before how important games are in my family, especially with my Scrabble-master grandma!  I just love the image of grandfather and grandson exercising their brains side by side! 

thinkfun traffic1 Pass the Rush Hour, Grandpa!

Hello Folks,

I have only very recently come across your brilliant game Rush Hour & felt I had to write & compliment you all on such an excellent game for all ages.

My 8 year old grandson & my 66 year old self enjoy it equally!! I especially appreciate the “mind stretching” logic of it, a bit like chess for one! In addition, the simplicity & portability of it make it especially suitable for car journeys etc.

All in all a triumph.

Cheers, R G Bingham


Using Bingo as an Educational Game

The origins of our beloved Zingo’s name are not difficult to trace – climb one branch up on the family tree, and you’ll find the classic game of Bingo! While Zingo is designed to support early reading and language skills, I was thrilled to know its educational roots run deep – did you know the age-old game of Bingo was originally created to teach children math?! Read on to learn more – and get tips on hosting your own learning-packed bingo experience!

kid bingo Using Bingo as an Educational Game

How to Use Bingo as an Educational Game

After it first originated in the 1500s in Italy, bingo spread through Western Europe. When it finally reached Germany it was adopted by the nation for the purpose educating young children about how to learn mathematics. This proved to be very helpful to the children, who went on to grasp all of the basics with relative ease.

Well, this lesson is just as applicable today as it was back then. You can use bingo as an educational game to help your children learn more for school. The reason why it will succeed is because you get to repackage learning within a fun trivia game that will also come with prizes. Below we will go through all of the basics on how to arrange such an event.

What You Need to Do

  1. Decide on the subject that you would like to cover: Pick perhaps a difficult area of education or something that would help your child’s friends.
  2. Start choosing the questions: Go through your chosen subject – it could be History, Math, or anything else – and select 25 questions for the kids to answer. The reason why you select 25 is because they will be playing on a 5 x 5 grid.
  3. Design your printable bingo cards: Use your computer to draw up a 5 x 5 grid numbered between 1 and 25 – these will be the bingo cards used for the game.
  4. Assign questions to the numbers: Each of the numbers on the bingo cards should correspond directly to one of your 25 trivia questions. Be sure to make a list of the questions and their assigned numbers – 25 is too many to remember.
  5. Get the balls ready: Go to the store and pick up at least 25 ping pong balls (extras can be used as spares). A good idea is to buy them in different colors to resemble the traditional balls. Now that you have your bingo balls you have to number them between and 1 and 25. All you need to do is draw on the numbers with a black permanent marker.
  6. Find a large container: This will be used to house all of the balls for the game. The way it will work is that you pick out a ball at random and then ask the corresponding questions until the game is finished. The winner will be the kid with most correct answers.
  7. Send out the invites: With all of the hard work out of the way you just need to send out the invites.

The Final Touches

Before we leave you, we are first going to impart some advice on creating a perfect bingo night. Make sure in advance that you have plenty of seats and chairs ready, not to mention daubers to mark off the answered questions. Also, your players will be very grateful for refreshments, so make sure you have plenty of juice boxes ready and healthy snacks for when they take a break. Lastly, make sure everyone has plenty of prizes to win because that will make the whole event more rewarding.

Follow these steps and to a fruitful and rewarding educational experience is guaranteed. Enjoy!

Getting Crafty: DIY Zingo!

Zingo 7700 LoResSpill 300x300 Getting Crafty: DIY Zingo!


What can you teach with 72 plastic tiles?

As I’ve shared in past posts, it turns out a creative brain can tweak these tiles to teach just about anything – from genetics to family member names!

This latest post, shared by Tammy G. of the Fumbling Thru Autism blog, shares some fantastic ideas (and a great how-to description for all you crafty folks!) for modifying the classic Zingo! game to expand game play and support learning!

Expanding ZingoPosted: March, 2, 2013

In my last post, I wrote about how to make easy turn-taking games easier. Now Beth and I play turn-taking games for hours every day.  It is so wonderful to work on interaction and language development and have fun at the same time.

When given a choice of games, Beth always chooses Zingo.  There is something uniquely fun about sliding that dispenser to eject the game pieces, matching the pictures, and then throwing up our hands and yelling (well, quietly yelling) “Zingo!” when we are done filling our cards.  During the game Beth readily talks.  I ask, “What did you get?” and she almost always answers.

 Getting Crafty: DIY Zingo!

Farm & Vehicles Zingo!

Lately I don’t even need to ask, she is commenting on her pieces without prompting.  I also expand her language based on the game pieces. “What does the dog say?”, “Where does the bird fly?”, and “Where do you put a hat?” are just a few examples of ways we expand language during play.  After running out of ideas to expand Beth’s language using the Zingo game pieces, I realized it was time to expand Zingo itself.

Below are two ways I have expanded Zingo by making custom made Zingo game pieces.  I wanted to keep our original Zingo game intact so that we could still play the game, so I bought a second Zingo game (Zingo 1-2-3 numbers version, which we will use later when she is counting) to attach pictures to the game pieces.

Clip Art on Zingo Game Pieces

I bought JPEG clip art files from an artist on Etsy.  Using Power Point, I sized the clip art appropriately and added text under each picture, then I printed out game boards and smaller images for the Zingo game pieces.  Next, I cut out and covered the game boards with clear Con-tact paper and cut out the smaller images and attached them to the Zingo game pieces (I used clear Con-tact paper to attach the paper to the game pieces, but Scotch tape should also work).

Here are two sets of games I made with links to the JPEG files and my Power Point Templates:

 Getting Crafty: DIY Zingo!

Summer & Brown Bear, Brown Bear Story

 Getting Crafty: DIY Zingo!


Below you can find Power Point Templates to create your own boards and Zingo game pieces:

Another method is to buy stickers and put them on the Zingo game pieces, which is a great option for adding your child’s favorite characters to the Zingo game.

 Getting Crafty: DIY Zingo!

Here is a game set using Dora and Pooh stickers

If you want to reuse your tiles, be aware that some self-adhesive stickers adhere strongly, so it will be a lot of work to remove the stickers. Also, it was difficult to find stickers that were the right size to cover the whole original image on the Zingo game pieces. Therefore, for most stickers sets, I cut out each sticker to the appropriate size and stuck it on white paper, then attached the mounted sticker to a Zingo game piece with clear Con-tact paper (alternatively you could use Scotch tape).

Another option is to print the images on self-adhesive computer labels and attach them to the Zingo game pieces, but they might be difficult to remove at a later time.

Want to DIY?! Tammy has generously shared JPEG files for the 4 game boards and game pieces with instructions in this post, get crafting!


Solitaire Chess: Brainiac Edition

This email absolutely made my day!  Shad, a retiree from Montana who shared in this post how she and her husband play (and fiercely compete in) Solitaire Chess, wrote to let me know the game has now spread to her son and daughter in-law!   The mental image of this brainy family at play made me smile!

Solitaire Chess Shad Bailey 225x300 Solitaire Chess: Brainiac Edition

Shad's husband practices to maintain his competitive edge!

Dear Charlotte,

The funniest thing just happened.  Our son and his wife are here and we showed them the Solitare Chess.  Jessica is an electrical engineer and Todd is a PhD dissertation writer in Political Science.  They were stuck on #41.  Todd finally figured it out the way we do by thinking of how things can move and in what sequence makes things possible.  Jessica got out her little laptop and wrote some code to figure it out.  They came to their answers about the same time.

We really have had fun with that game!   What a funny evening.  We really enjoyed seeing how the two of them would manage.

Thank you


Zingo by candlelight…

foosball 150x150 Zingo by candlelight...I hope you and your family are safe and sound in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. We were very fortunate not to bear the worst of it in the DC area, and I’m thinking dry thoughts for friends in areas harder hit.

At our house, Sandy meant an epic foosball tournament.  In between rounds (or for me, losses),  I saw a wonderful trend emerging in my Twitter feed… seems when the lights go out, people get a lot more resourceful – and playful!

Some highlights:

 Zingo by candlelight...


For one dad in NY, 20+ rounds of Zingo! just about did him in!

And finally, a silver lining to all that time spent playing… a dad reports a MAJOR victory!

  • @double21d: The streak is over!!! I finally beat my son at Zingo…
FB Hurricane Sandy 1024x916 Zingo by candlelight...

Our Facebook friends played their way through Hurricane Sandy too!

Do you play games when the lights go out? Which are your family’s favorites?!

Summer Learning Abounds at Auntie Camp!

I had such fun writing this Aunt Camp article for Savvy Auntie the other month and hoped it served to inspire other aunts to think about fun learning experiences they could create over the summer months.  I was thrilled when I received the following email and photos from Jennifer, a very savvy auntie who has been running Auntie Camps and Retreats for her lucky nieces for years!  Here she shares her story… where can I register!?

DSC08072 300x199 Summer Learning Abounds at Auntie Camp!

I wanted to respond to an article from Savvy Auntie that you posted a while back.  I was just delighted to see you promoting Aunt Camps (or as my nieces and I call it “Auntie Camp”.  I have been doing Auntie Camps and now Auntie retreats for the past 3 years and before that sporadically and we are all huge fans!

DSC08912 e1346261819503 225x300 Summer Learning Abounds at Auntie Camp!
It started when I was living/teaching overseas and I was looking for a way to spend some quality time with my nieces when I was home during the summer.  So I sent my sister and her husband away for two nights and moved in to take care of my two nieces then about six and seven years old.  I did simple things but made a big deal about it. Auntie Camp 300x225 Summer Learning Abounds at Auntie Camp!

Going to the park, baking a cake, a simple craft and a simple science experiment (I am a high school science teacher so that one came naturally. icon wink Summer Learning Abounds at Auntie Camp! ) My nieces LOVED it.  Since then they’ve been begging to send their parents away every summer so we can have Auntie Camp.

I now live near Washington D.C. and they came to my place for a few days.  They are 10 and 12 now and it just keeps getting better.  I try to tailor activities to their interests or educate them about it so they are interested!  This past year we went to the Kennedy Center and the zoo, painted pottery, did cake decorating, saw free concerts on the Capitol steps, traveled the world through Thai food, and other exciting things.  The best part is my relationship with them is deepening and as they head into the teen years – I’m so thankful I can be a positive voice in their lives.
DSC00524 300x225 Summer Learning Abounds at Auntie Camp!
I realize it’s not possible for everyone, but even starting with an overnighter is a blast, minimal planning and tons of fun.   It’s also a HUGE blessing to my sister and her husband who are thankful for a break and at peace that their kids are well cared for and not homesick.

DSC08775 300x225 Summer Learning Abounds at Auntie Camp!

I’ve attached a couple of pictures from over the years and my niece’s edition of her biweekly newspaper that she writes. This one was about Auntie Camp.

Duvallville Herald July 28 2012 1 784x1024 Summer Learning Abounds at Auntie Camp!Duvallville Herald July 28 2012 2 781x1024 Summer Learning Abounds at Auntie Camp!

Extra Extra, Read all about it! Auntie Camp featured in the Duvallville Herald!

I have tons of ideas including easy science experiments, craft ideas, even how to schedule things.  It does take some effort but it is definitely worth it.
~Jennifer F. aka Auntie Jenn

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!

Build Early Reading Skills through Play!

The following post is shared by Malia, a former teacher and founder of the early literacy company Playdough to Plato!  Malia reached out to ThinkFun after finding our games to be fantastic language tools, and she was eager to share them with her readers!  In this post she shares her experience with Zingo! and What’s GNU?

Small Logo Banner Build Early Reading Skills through Play!

Several weeks ago, my boys and I had a play date with one of my supermom friends and her children. I casually mentioned how excited I was to start playing games together when the children were a little bit older. Sportsmanship, perseverance, teamwork… There were so many healthy life skills that games help develop.


As soon as the words “kid-friendly games” left my mouth, my friend jumped up and walked over to a large shelf filled with activities for her children. She took down a medium-sized royal blue box and asked, “Have you played Zingo!?”

Zingo lo res 300x300 Build Early Reading Skills through Play!

“No,” I said. I’d never even heard of it before. Hmm…  My curiosity was piqued.


Just as my friend placed the box on the table, her four year old son noticed the flash of blue out of the corner of his eye.  “Zingo!” he shouted as he ran over to join us.


My friend opened the box and pulled out a bright red thingy-majig and a set of game boards filled with pictures and matching labels.


“The rules are simple,” she explained. “It’s just like Bingo but with a twist.  It motivates children to practice reading. I promise it’s addictively fun.”  It sounded like a dream come true. But I was still skeptical. Could it really live up to her rave reviews? Zingo Collage1 Build Early Reading Skills through Play!

We invited her 2.5 year old daughter and my 2.5 year old son to join us. This would be a great test. Could young children actually play the game on their own? To my surprise, her daughter jumped right in.  “I LOVE Zingo!” she said. I mentally added another tally to the list of Zingo Fan Club members.


My friend invited my son to slide the red tile dispenser forward and back, revealing two bright yellow tiles: an owl and a bat. She asked him to “read” the words on the tiles. “Owl and bat,” he said. Then she asked him to look at his game card and check for matches. He had an owl. “Owl!” he shouted.


“I have an owl too,” the little girl said. My friend explained that the first player to say the name of their match could take it. She invited my son to grab the tile and add it to his board. Then he slid the dispenser again dropping two new tiles.


The game continued for several minutes until my friend’s four year old son filled his board first. He was crowned as the official winner, creating a perfect opportunity for us to model how to be good losers and offer a heartfelt “congratulations”.


Without a second thought, the three children jumped right into playing round two.  As parents of 2.5 year olds understand, there are few things that occupy my son’s attention for more than a minute and a half. I was blown away!!


The moment my boys fell asleep that night I hopped onto the computer and ordered our own Zingo set.  We could finally enjoy a family game night!


In addition to Zingo, ThinkFun also offers another early literacy game called “What’s Gnu” that I couldn’t resist adding to our Amazon cart.  To play, you spread out cards showing two letters and a blank.  One player slides the tile dispenser to drop two tiles.

IMG 8492 300x200 Build Early Reading Skills through Play!

Players must race to use the letters that are revealed to make a word on one of the cards.

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The player who has made the most  words when the tiles run out wins the game.  I can’t wait to try this with my oldest son in a year or two. It’s a motivating, entertaining way to practice sounding out words and is PERFECT for beginning readers.