Welcome! I’m Charlotte, a former elementary school teacher turned professional player!
Like countless other teachers and parents, I’ve seen firsthand the powerful learning that emerges when young thinkers engage in meaningful game play. With this SmartPlay blog, I hope to connect with others who have a similar passion for using games and puzzles to support and enrich early learning. By creating a space where educators and parents come together to share ideas and discuss innovative new research, I hope together we can build a fuller understanding of all the ways in which play can integrate into and enrich the development of young children in the 21st century!
Eagle-eyed readers may be crying out “Wait, Wait, Hold on… back to that first line. You’re a Professional Player?” Let me clarify…
As Maria Montessori once said, “Play is the child’s work.” Well, I either never fully grew up or am just about the luckiest adult ever, because Play, in fact, continues to be my work every day.
I work at ThinkFun, the company behind Rush Hour and the world’s leading developer of mind-challenging logic puzzles and thinking games! I wear many hats in my role as Education and Curriculum Specialist at ThinkFun. On a given day you might find me with a group of first graders testing a game prototype, presenting the developmental benefits of our newest game to our sales team, or playing through online Rush Hour challenges to find the perfect set for our Brain Lab tournament. Whether sprawled on the floor sorting Zingo tiles or writing the Parent’s Guide for our latest preschool game, central to everything I do is the need to think creatively and problem solve on the fly. I credit my early career as tireless player of games for building these thinking skills!
When I describe my job to others, the first question is “How do you get a job like that?!” Ok, to be perfectly honest that is the second question I’m asked… first is always and without fail, “You mean you’re like Tom Hanks in the movie Big?!”
An easy answer is to refer back to my schooling… I did my undergraduate work at Tufts University, studying Child Development and Psychology. After teaching for several years, I completed an MA in Curriculum and Instruction at The George Washington University. All along I was preparing for a career I hadn’t yet identified– I just knew I wanted to do something in education, whether working directly in the classroom or influencing the field at a curricular level. I initially came to ThinkFun as an intern (and huge TipOver fan!) looking to find innovative ways to teach using manipulative games. My position never existed before I came to the company, and never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would luck into a role so perfectly aligned with my passions and skills.
I use this example to illustrate the rapidly changing world we live in, where new, never before imagined jobs open up every day. It is in this world that today’s young thinkers will be given opportunities that have yet to be named! No longer is it enough to train children for specific career paths like doctor or pilot. Rather, as Daniel Pink so articulately says, “We need to prepare kids for their future, not our past.” The most valuable thing we can teach children is how to be great thinkers and problem solvers, and what better way to teach these 21st century skills than through play?!
I encourage you to view SmartPlay as a community in which to share your expertise, thoughts, and questions with others. Feel free to email me, post questions, suggest new topics, and respond to comments. I look forward to getting the dialogue rolling and learning from you!