Category Archives: Just for Fun!

Giant River Crossing Used in Military Training

Wow! This fantastic email shares ways our River Crossing game is helping young cadets in the UK improve team communication and build leadership skills – I can’t wait to see photos!

I am the School Staff Instructor (ex Regular Soldier) of the St. Bees School Combined Cadet Force.  This is a School Cadet Youth movement sponsored by the UK Ministry of Defense in which Cadets from ages 13 to 18 can experience military activities from the Tri-Services; Navy, Royal Air Force and Army.  Cadets are issued the same equipment and uniform as the UK Regular Forces and we have an armoury within the School which holds 30 Army assault weapons for training purposes and live firing on Army ranges,


I digress, this game was purchased by one of our American students and has been converted to a full scale version for Cadets to practice and improve team building and leadership skills by working as a team to solve several of the puzzles.  The puzzles are given to the Cadets with a military scenario (possibly with a rescue mission – swapping the dog for a piece of eqpt or ‘civilian’ but in practical Terms it is no different than the game version.


Our Contingent runs a Military Skills competition each year for twenty teams of 6 cadets from around our Brigade.  The Perilous Planks Command Task features each year as one of the ‘stands’ that are used to test the Cadet Teams marking them on Leadership, Team Work, Communication, and whether they can complete the several crossings in the time allocated.


The game has also proved as an effective ‘last minute’ backup quick option when we require to operatee a background activity to a main event.  Our full scale version works on one metre spaces between the posts and in our case the planks are real. Our Senior Cadets use the game initially to decide which crossings to use for the Full scale version.


So there you are, the version is being used to its fullest extent and maybe not quite in the way you might have considered.


With best regards,


S. R. Warrant Officer One (WO1)

St. Bees CCF

TEDActive: My Week at Brain Camp

What do you get when you stir together 700+ brilliant minds from 50+ different countries for a week in the desert? You get the amazing brain gumbo that is TEDActive!


While I thought nothing could top the 2011 Late Night Game Suite experience… only to have the experience exceeded in 2012 with Giant Swish and a wildly creative Game Creation Challenge – this year’s conference managed to be the best by far!


This year’s many talks flung our brains in just as many different directions – from a former street performing mime to a guerilla gardener in South Central LA – to a giant squid hunter to Shane Koyczan’s moving talk on bullying that brought the room to tears and to their feet – the content was nothing short of awesome, my mind is still buzzing!

In between sessions, attendees had a chance to explore all kinds of fantastic hands-on play experiences…


Giant Rush Hour soaked up some desert sun!

Artist Kiel Johnson created some incredible giant cacti for the DIY cardboard mini golf course on the putting green!




What better way to relax between talks than with Giant Jenga!


It’s a bit tough to take in all that’s going on in this photo below – but it’s my absolute favorite – look closely and you’ll see it’s a picture of a camera taking another picture of Giant Rush Hour WITH an iPad featuring the Rush Hour app – holy puzzle mania!

My geeky little heart almost skipped a beat.


Read more about all the fun and learning at TEDActive in this fantastic TED blog post!  For more fun photos from ThinkFun at TEDActive, visit our Facebook Album.

William and the Windmill

I have shared several posts on the incredible William Kamkwamba, also known as the Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, and I’m thrilled to share the next chapter in his amazing story.

A young innovator from Malawi who taught himself to generate electricity by building a windmill from found materials and scrap parts, William embodies what it means to be a problem solver – resourceful, creative, and pioneering in his vision and drive.


On Sunday, a new documentary William and the Windmill will have its world premiere at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival.  This film from director Ben Nabors details both his original story and his subsequent brush with fame (click here for more) – I can’t wait to see it! You can see the movie’s trailer below:


Happy National Grammar Day!

Few things grate me more than poor grammar – as I reflected in this post, my 6th grade English teacher spent countless hours making sure we went forth armed with the rules for proper comma usage, and her crusade for grammatical correctness lives on in me!

Today is the day for freaks like me, it’s National Grammar Day!

Which begs the question – where are you and you’re friends celebrating at?!

Photo: Commas save lives - Happy National Grammar Day!<br /><br /><br />

Brain Buzzing? Must be time for TED!

I feel like a kid packing for summer camp!

My suitcase filled with games and toys may be to blame.

TED bag

I am so excited to take my toys and head to Palm Springs this weekend for my third TEDActive Experience! For those unfamiliar, this incredible conference happens concurrently with the TED Conference in Long Beach, with 700 individuals coming together to watch the TED Talks via live simulcast and then engage in meaningful experiences, conversation, and activation around these ideas worth spreading!

I have been so fortunate to be part of this event for the last 2 years (see my recaps from 2011 Game Suite and 2012’s Giant Swish and Game Creation Challenge workshop!), and am thrilled to return to help make this year’s conference the most PLAYFUL one yet!

TED Active - game on

In partnership with the amazing TEDActive team, we’ve curated some amazingly fun game experiences for conference participants, from mega Rush Hour to a Caine’s Arcade-inspired cardboard creation.  I can’t wait to share all the fun next week will bring – stay tuned!


Toy Fair or Bust!

With a verrrrrry ominous weather forecast looming, We at ThinkFun prepare to set out for Toy Fair in New York this weekend!  Several members of our team beat the storm and are setting up the booth today and tomorrow, while the rest of us hold our breath and hope that flights and trains make it out on time tomorrow!

When I taught 3rd grade, the reigning expert opinion was that sleeping in inside-out pj’s was the surefire way to guarantee a snow day, so I’m hoping that wearing mine properly will have the adverse effect.  Here’s hoping the snow allows tomorrow’s train to get me there in time for the Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards celebration, where the winners will be announced!  With 4 nominations, we are hoping this is the year for a ThinkFun win!

A photo from the 2012 (snow-free) TOTY Awards

My packing list has grown considerably over the years!  In addition to snow boots, check out the super sweet swag I’m bringing along!  The only thing missing is a ThinkFun-themed ball gown for the TOTY red carpet…

Hope my ThinkFun Converse have good traction on the snow and ice!

Snazzy warm ThinkFun scarf to ward off the snowy cold

Gotta stay warm and caffeinated!

Umbrella ready, fingers crossed it turns to rain!


There's a stowaway in my ThinkFun lunch box! A little preview of one of our new 2013 games...

Will you be attending the show?  Please stop by Booth #2251 and say hello!

Safe Travels… and think melty thoughts!

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!

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.



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

Creator, Asperkids LLC


Get involved! Please submit PDFs by email to

Happy National Puzzle Day!

Puzzlers worldwide are celebrating today… in case this missed your calendar, it’s National Puzzle Day!  Thankfully, ThinkFun’s resident puzzle expert (and head of inventor relations!), Tanya Thompson, brought this oft-overlooked holiday to my attention just in time – whew!

Need some inspiration?  Check out the great free puzzles in the Puzzle Playground! Feeling crafty? A search for “DIY Puzzle” on Pinterest was enough to get my creative juices flowing!

For all you word puzzlers out there, I had some fun creating my own ThinkFun-themed word search today with some of my favorite game and puzzle titles (here’s a great site if you want to make your own!)… give it a try!

New Year’s resolutions for body and brain

I recently shared an article with the Savvy Auntie community on ways to involve the kiddos in your life in keeping those get-healthy new year’s resolutions.  You can read the full article here, but one of the tips I shared was to help those resolving to keep their MINDS as healthy as their bodies in 2013.

With all the focus on getting fit and healthy, don’t forget to keep your mental muscles toned! Studies show games can improve memory and prevent dementia—do you really need more incentive to play?!

Game night doesn’t have to mean Monopoly every time… Expand your repertoire with classic strategy games like Mancala, Backgammon, or Go! Live far away? Become puzzle pen pals and exchange Sudoku puzzles or crosswords from your local newspapers. For older kids, launch an ongoing mobile game of Chess, Blokus, or Catan. You’ll stay connected and get a brain boost with each move—a win-win!

Do you make games part of your family bonding?  Prefer to play solo?  Finding new ways to incorporate brain play into your healthy routine has so many benefits, and I encourage you to get creative in involving loved ones for double the fun!

An aside – my first get-healthy resolution of the new year… switching to a stand-up desk! I’m 2 weeks in and, for lack of a better phrase, still standing!

I’d love to hear any healthy resolutions you’ve made for the new year – whether for body, brain, or both. Please share!