Each year when I tell friends – especially those with kids – that I’m headed to Toy Fair, the first response is generally, “That sounds AWESOME, how do I get in?!”
Unfortunately for my game-loving buddies, this event is not open to the public. Learning the doors are locked tends to conjure up visions of top-secret toy meetings, tinkering elves, a massive toy workshop inside the Javits Center… the imagination can run wild!
I hope I’m not spoiling the magic by sharing the experience inside the ThinkFun booth…
Welcome to the ThinkFun Booth!
Laser Maze, available in May!
I thought you said no outside visitors?! This brainy bird couldn’t resist playing WordARound during show set-up!
The ThinkFun team, ready to roll!
Sadly no game-making elves were spotted this year, but we were thrilled to visit with some amazing inventors who have created many of our great games… kind of the same thing right?!
A familiar face! ThinkFun co-founder Bill Ritchie poses with his two toddler inventions: Roll & Play and, new for 2013, Hello Sunshine!
Luke Hooper, one of the inventors of Laser Khet, stopped by to pose with the amazing new game he created with ThinkFun – Laser Maze features a REAL (safe) laser, we can’t wait for it to arrive in May!
The Hebert Brothers are the brainy duo who created WordARound, we’re addicted!
A visit from the inventors of UnHinged!
The Costers are the inventors of the iconic Zingo Zinger!
Steve Hayton, Turnstile inventor, visited ThinkFun to say hello!
Yackety Smack inventor Roberto Fraga stopped by to play!
Despite auspicious beginnings (ahem, Snowstorm Nemo, I mean YOU!), 2013 Toy Fair was a fantastic show – The Toy of the Year Awards were a wonderful celebration to begin the festivities, and our 5 new games were so well-received – and we are looking forward to a terrific year!
My suitcase filled with games and toys may be to blame.
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!
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!
Cocktail dress + snow boots, good thing NY Fashion Week is over!
After a monster pre-Toy Fair snow storm (fittingly named Nemo!) threatened to derail months of careful planning, the ThinkFun team braved the elements, the train gods smiled upon the DC-NY route, and we successfully made our way to New York for the show… and what a show it was!
Things kicked off on Saturday night with the Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards celebration at The Plaza hotel! While probably not a ThinkFun-worthy puzzle, my first challenge of the show was a race against time to get ready for the TOTY Awards en route to the city, meaning a Superwoman-style change into a cocktail dress on board the Acela train… not my finest hour but it got the job done!
The event was a wonderful celebration of some truly remarkable products – and we were thrilled to have three of our games (Roll & Play, Zingo Sight Words, and Swish) nominated for a record FOUR awards!
While we didn’t leave with any statues, it truly is an honor just to be nominated, and we were thrilled to have our games recognized in great company among this year’s winning games and toys. Here are some highlights from the evening:
Zingo! Sight Words and Roll & Play pose with their fellow nominees for Educational Toy of the Year!
The ThinkFun team awaits the start of the show!
Sweet! Hosts passed around popcorn and cotton candy to up the excitement
ThinkFun CEO Andrea Barthello presents a TOTY Award
But wait! We didn’t leave entirely empty-handed! ThinkFun was recognized with a Play Connects Award for our nomination of The National Lekotek Center, a non-profit that supports children with special needs, for a $10,000 grant! We are thrilled to support the wonderful work they do, and this award represents much-needed funding that will go to a very worthy cause.
Andrea Barthello accepts the Play Connects Award
The Play Connects Award – fittingly constructed of Tinker Toys!
The TOTY Awards were a fabulous way to kick off a great show – a big congrats to this year’s deserving winners!
Guess whose shining face just showed up at ThinkFun HQ?
Isn’t this the cutest little face you’ve ever seen!?
Following the huge success of last year’s Roll & Play, the first-ever game for toddlers, Hello Sunshine joins this innovative early learning line – we couldn’t be happier to welcome Sunny to the ThinkFun family!
Hello Sunshine is a hide and seek game, a play pattern young children love and are familiar with, and game play is enhanced by the addition of positional words (terms like “on,” “under,” “inside”) which are reinforced through repetition and activity. After extensive testing (which meant lots of very cute, very curious toddlers set loose in our offices), the game play was carefully designed to suit the developmental needs and learning goals of children age 18 months to 3 years – they had a blast!
Perfectly soft and sized for hugs!
While Hello Sunshine play is cleverly-designed to promote thinking skills, family bonding, and social interaction for toddlers, the real appeal of Sunny, in my expert opinion and terminology, is that s/he is just so stinkin’ CUTE! Our Design team worked very hard to get Sunny’s face just right, with careful attention to eyebrows and smile angles, and the results just make you go, “awwwwww!”
Here’s a quick how-to-play video, I can’t wait to introduce Hello Sunshine to the little ones in my life!
I am THRILLED to share the new Asperkids Collection, an exciting partnership between ThinkFun and Asperkids! Asperkids creator Jennifer O’Toole has curated a collection of games that support universal education skills for learners of all abilities, and below she shares a post on this initiative. Learn more about Jennifer and her incredible work with AsperKids on her website,Facebook, Pinterest, andTwitter!
At Asperkids, we believe that learning is the business of everyone, every day – and that a, b, c’s and 1, 2, 3′s are just the tip of the iceberg. Real success in real life – friendships, romance, careers – requires persistence, patience, patience, and communication. And there’s no better way to practice all of those skills than PLAY. As Mister Roger’s said, “Play is serious work.” That’s why we are SO proud to introduce THE ASPERKIDS COLLECTION BY THINKFUN – our favorite games for sharpening skills OFFERED SO THAT SOME OF THE PROCEEDS BENEFIT OUR WORK on behalf of Asperkids everywhere.
By paying particularly close attention to the the distinct needs of different minds, we’ve assembled a collection of strategies, philosophies and insights which increase curiosity, wonder and engagement – improving the way ALL children (gifted, twice exceptional, sensory, ADD, typical, etc) LEARN HOW TO LEARN.
For example… you can teach a young Asperkid to practice overcoming mind blindness (the idea that our perspectives aren’t the automatically same) with S’match – a game aimed at children as young as four! Practice using the phrase, “Make me see what you’re seeing.” Help the child explain why they’ve made a “s’match” (or why they haven’t) using as many descriptors (colors, shapes, quantity) as possible….even an older Aspie may find that more challenging than you’d expect. Why? To us Aspies, our thoughts seem “transparent,” or obvious to everyone else. We have to LEARN THE SKILL of communicating what we presume, understand and believe in what feels (to us) like overly stated terms.
That may start by learning to clearly articulate, “I have a “s’match” because I uncovered two red cards, and the category I needed to match was color. If the category had been number or shape, I wouldn’t have made a s’match because these cards have different shapes (one has circles and the other has a triangle) and quantities (two versus one).” Take that to the level of a teen and it become explaining their thoughts about what happened at a party – or to an adult who can successfully communicate with his or her spouse.
“Make me see what you see.” That’s your line. Then repeat it back, “So, you see a…..” If what you’ve heard and what your kiddo meant don’t “S’match,” guide your Asperkid as she fills in any holes or miscommunications.
You see? In our collection, there’s logic building and visual spatial skills, collaboration and problem solving…not to mention LOTS OF FUN. So delight your Asperkid – and empower others everywhere by making your purchases through our site. We’ll all be so very glad you have.
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!
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.
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 Puzzles.com 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!
I was recently contacted by Bogdan, the co-founder of the soon-to-launch social puzzle site globalpuzzle.net. While the term “puzzle” can range in meaning from the traditional jigsaw association to logic puzzles like Rush Hour, there are some notable differences between puzzles and video games – here he shares his insights…
Puzzle Games vs. Video Games
Puzzles differ from video games for various reasons. A puzzle poses a challenge that the gamer is required to resolve. In an ordinary jigsaw puzzle for example, the gamer is expected to put pieces in a consistent way to come up with the anticipated solution. Puzzles are viewed as forms of amusement, yet they are equally seen to be derived from serious arithmetic problems. Any smart resolution can lead to a pertinent contribution to the body of mathematics.
Puzzles Come in Levels
Puzzles and video games come in levels. When you finish level one, you advance to a new level with even more serious challenges. This makes the game captivating and worth the challenge. Simple puzzles are often traditional and have some foreseeable moves, and playing several times leads to monotony. Newest puzzles and video games have been developed in a way that breaks the monotony. A novice player can teach himself using a test level until he is ready to advance. This permits players to leave certain stages they have difficulties with and get back to them later if they wish. Otherwise, players can also choose to play within a given sequence. This maintains a serious investment in your game, as the gamer is not allowed to jump to the last stage at will.
Unlike puzzles, video games have many hints that allow the player to temper the challenge. Creating a leeway through which players can avoid the challenge can also be detrimental if over-exploited. The initial stages of a video or puzzle game are often made so easy that players don’t get stuck, however as the game progresses, players will start getting real challenge. In the long run, they tend to create objectives in terms of which levels they want to arrive at. That’s makes the game interesting. Because any serious play would require spending considerable time trying to master it, players wouldn’t dare relinquish their progress by quitting.
Video Gaming Perception
In the age of rampant video gaming, the judicial system has come up with its own unjustified theory as to why children should be weaned from playing video games. People worry games such as Doom, Mortal Combat among others might easily turn teenagers into serial killers or draw them to drug abuse. These allegations, while extreme, may have something to do with changing trends of parent purchases, making traditional puzzle play more attractive with their added benefit of being good for the brain.
Puzzles can be played in many forms
Many people like puzzles over video games because with puzzles, they have a wide field of play from articles, books, online, desktop, and so forth. For video games, they can play from all multimedia gadgets, but not using print media. One could argue this makes puzzles more diverse. When people play a puzzle in print media, their interest develops – and they can extend their focus using online puzzle games to further develop their prowess.
Bogdan G. is a co-founder of www.globalpuzzle.net, a challenging online puzzle game where you participate by answering questions posted by people all over the world and solve a message hidden in a unique picture painted by a talented artist.