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:

“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!

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 thoughts on “Age is just a number…

  1. Julia Formichella

    My 5yo and 6 1/2yo both play Rush Hour Jr. regularly both with the toy itself as well as the iPad & iPhone versions.

    They also both can play Chocolate Fix with ease for the first 20 or so cards. At that point, the layers of deduction go too deep and the “first let me try this”, and if it doesn’t work “then I’ll try that” become a little much for them. But I definitely see an opportunity for a “Chocolate Fix Jr.” that includes many more cards at that easy level that they would LOVE to engage with. If fact, I’ve been thinking about trying to make some myself so that they can interact with the toy.

    Also, I’ve found for my 6 1/2yo that Solitare Chess has been the perfect next step for her in learning Chess. She learned how the pieces work playing No Stress Chess and wanted to play the real game. That proved a little tough for her, so she is enjoying the Solitare version. Again, would love a “Jr” version of the cards, so that she had more to interact with. At their age (5 & 6), even though the skill level isn’t increasing as quickly as it does for both CF & SC, the repetition really helps to concrete the skill.

    Oh, and just yesterday, we started playing Math Dice Jr. Here’s what I found for the little ones. First of all, there’s no shouting “Math Dice!” or being the first to find anything (not yet). We’re totally taking turns at their age. Finding “sums” was easy for both of them, but adding in the subtraction part proved difficult. They understand the concept of “Take Away”, but they were struggling with the fact that they had to do it all in their head and their cute little fingers… :) So I found some card stock and cut out 1″ cubes and printed a “+” sign on four of them, a “=” sign on another four, and one with an “=” sign. Then they were able to make the equation right in front of them using the 5 dice, the cutouts and the 12 sided die as the goal. Having the printed “+” or “-” instruction in between each die really helped them. I also printed out a sheet of paper that allowed them to write down all of the equations we made that for example, “made EIGHT” in one row, and then the next child would have a row where she could write down all the ways we “made 4″. They both quickly realized that rolling a low number was going to be harder for them than rolling a high one. 😉 Clever little girls…

    36 CUBE
    I also recently bought the 36 cube for myself… My 5yo makes towers out of it and has no interest in playing with it in the manner in which it was intended. My 6 1/2yo can get 20-22 of them on and probably comes back to it 2x/week to try again.

    We’re also just getting into Swish and Tilt, so I’ll let you know how that goes.

    Thanks for all the great toys! My kids absolutely LOVE them. And so do I!!


  2. Cyrus

    In my opinion, the age recommendation is just that. My little geeks have different levels of mastery of the geek skills needed to play games well. As a parent, it is knowing what the game expects of the players and where your little geeks are in relationship to the requirements that makes all the difference. Get a game too easy, boredom will ensue. Too complex and frustration will win the day. The happy medium is only obtained when you really know your audience.

    Great article!

  3. Paula Schuck

    I also found rush hour to be for a younger age than the game states. My daughter Ainsley has special needs and can do rush hour literally by the hour. She started when she was four and is now seven. She still loves it and plays often. She can go upto about 40. She has to start at level one every time because that’s just how her brain works. This was a fabulous investment for us. Keep making great games.


  4. Charlotte Post author

    Thanks so much for sharing your daughter’s Rush Hour experience – it’s fantastic to hear this game has been a go-to for so many years, and I can imagine she’s building strategies and learning more planning and sequencing skills with each play! 7 years old and already through all 40 challenges?!
    Bravo Ainsley, keep playing!

  5. Charlotte Post author

    Hi Cyrus,

    Thanks for sharing your feedback here – you make a great point about the importance of knowing your child and determining what types of challenges are most appropriate given your little geek’s skills – and areas that need strengthening! Glad to have connected, I’ve had fun exploring your site!

  6. Charlotte Post author


    Wow! Yours is truly a game-loving family! Thanks so much for sharing this great insight on so many of these wonderful games. I love your modifications to MathDice Jr. in particular, what a great way to make this number sense game more concrete and focus on the skills, not the competitive part which will come when they’re good and ready, no rush :) I would love to see a photo of your modified game, and perhaps share in a guest post on the blog if you’re interested!

    Your suggestions for Choc Fix and Solitaire Chess Jr challenges are great, curious whether you’ve seen the apps available for both of these games? The apps offer LOTS more challenges at easy levels which young players can play and gain confidence and practice before moving on.

    Thanks for your support of our great games and for being such a terrific proponent of learning through play!

  7. Joyce @Childhood Beckons

    We haven’t played Rush Hour, but it looks fantastic and like something my five year old would really enjoy. He loves puzzles and games like this and he always surprises me with how quickly he can figure some out. I think I’d love just watching him! I’ve really been enjoying your blog. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Charlotte Post author

    Very excited to share Rush Hour with you and your family Joyce – can’t wait to hear what your son thinks of the game!
    So glad to have connected, love your blog and the great learning ideas/resource you share!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>