Tag Archives: River Crossing

ThinkFun Mind Games Sharpen Math Skills in Istanbul Schools

We recently received the following message from our Turkish distributor about a pilot program using ThinkFun games in classrooms – along with a fantastic newspaper article:

excerpt ThinkFun Mind Games Sharpen Math Skills in Istanbul Schools

We are very happy and would like to share good news proudly with you. Since the beginning of our partnership as we have always told you our vision is to present high quality and educational games that can be played enthusiastically by both children and adults everywhere in Turkey.

We believe that these useful fun games develop children academically and socially. In this way we hope to change the way people see the games in Turkey. Therefore, we have always focused on the good hands on presentations and informed people of the skills that these games improve. We have been holding workshops on how to use these games to improve children’s thinking and problem solving skills. After many years of effort we achieved to attract the attention of a lot of children, parents and teachers.

Now one of the enthusiastic teachers has set off a pilot Project on using mind improving games in classrooms and this is figured in press:) As a team we have put a lot of time and energy while building the base of this Project. Since it covers the grades from 1 to 8 we have graded and grouped the games to have a harmonious flow throughout the grades. This Project appeared on the cover page of the newspaper called “Dünya International Herald Tribune” on March 19th.  We are sure that this Project will be the engine of other similar Projects.

The ThinkFun games that are being used are: Block By Block, Chocolate Fix, Hoppers, Math Dice, Math Dice Jr, River Crossing, Rush Hour Deluxe, Rush Hour Junior, Shape By Shape, S’Match, Solitaire Chess, Swish, Tipover, and Zingo 1,2,3

Dunya News Istanbul ThinkFun Mind Games Sharpen Math Skills in Istanbul Schools

Playing Puzzles Builds Artisanship

The following post is by Neil Denny, a collaborative lawyer, trainer and author.  Neil lives in Bath with his wife, two children, and their guinea pigs – he originally shared this post on his blog Get Artisan. You can follow Neil on Twitter.

 

June 11, 2012

I spent yesterday afternoon exploring my geeky games, toys and puzzle collection with my children and I was struck with what I learned.

Watching my children become completely absorbed by these excellent ThinkFun made me think about the artisan theme of complexity.

Here is my son playing the River Crossing puzzle.  I think he is only playing the first or second level out of 40 graded challenges.  It was amazing to watch though.

Get Artisan River Crossing Playing Puzzles Builds Artisanship

Neil's son takes on a River Crossing challenge

He would pick up a piece, try it, replace it if it did not work and try with something else.

He would pause and think, working out a new hypothesis and then test that.  If it worked he went on relentlessy to the challenge until, eureka! he had crossed the river.

At the same time his sister was playing Rush Hour.  She would touch this car or that lorry, move it or, if it could not be moved, try another.  (This idea of physically connecting with the work is a key thought of John Ruskin and craftmanship – more on that later)

I loved that there were no self-recriminations if they had got it wrong but, instead, a playful frustration, accompanied by giggles and squeals of “It’s making my brain hurt!” as they set about another attempt.

Whenever a puzzle had been solved there was a real hunger to move onto the nextharder level.

Thinking Fun games have brilliant shaped learning curves so that the next challenge is always a little bit harder.  As we progress through these successive challenges then our skill and mastery grows too.  We are able, through effort, struggle and gradual progression to build up to sophisticated levels of complex problem solving reasonably quickly.

The struggle is important.  Just reading the answer cards will not bring about learning.  We simply lose that ability to make and refine  the synaptic connections that will help us in future problems.

As adults, and as professionals, it is very easy to lose this playfulness.  We can get caught in believing that we know it all.  At the very least, we can caught up in what I call “The Expert’s Curse”, namely a self deluding conceit that if I convince myself that I know all I need to then I can call myself expert.

All the time we see professionals dismissing novel ideas without even a hint of curiosity.

We see reductive thinking where anything new or challenging is reduced to be an example or evidence of something we already know or have already dismissed.

Imagine my son saying, as he sets up the next harder challenge… “Oh, this is similar to the last one I did.  I can do River Crossing…”

The moment my son believes he is an expert at River Crossing, or my daughter at Rush Hour, well, that is the moment they stop reaching for the next challenge and continuing to grow.

Want big fun? Super-size your games!

We’re all about the value of hands-on play here at ThinkFun, with games and puzzles designed to challenge players to think with their hands, encouraging tactile learning and building new understandings and strategies by manipulating pieces.  But why should the hands have all the fun?!

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This week’s giant office-wide craft project to create two massive game mats for the Destination Imagination Global Finals got me thinking about the other ThinkFun games that have been super-sized over the years!

Back in February, Giant Swish was unveiled at the TEDActive Conference with an entirely new way to play!

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Giant Swish in action at TEDActive!

Any time I mention big games, I always hear, “Wouldn’t it be AWESOME to make a giant Rush Hour game?!”  It’s been done!  At the 2007 International Puzzle Party (IPP), puzzle-lovers from all over the world came together to take on a massive Rush Hour challenge – I must say I’ve never seen such cheerful people stuck in gridlock !

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Giant Rush Hour is a crowd-pleaser at the International Puzzle Party!

This photo shows a huge version of our River Crossing game being played by none other than Andrea Gilbert, the game’s inventor!  This large hands-on puzzle was featured at the Delft Science Museum in 2006.

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Andrea Gilbert, the inventor herself, attempts a River Crossing challenge!

Slightly less fancy, but no less impressive, is another fantastic version of River Crossing – this one constructed by a teacher and his students in Mumbai, India!

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Students in Mumbai, India construct a massive River Crossing game!

When Solitaire Chess was still in the development process, ThinkFun created gigantic versions of the game based on the most current prototypes!  During a company event, employees teamed up to try their hand at the test challenges and experience the game play in a BIG way!

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ThinkFun employees puzzle over a Solitaire Chess challenge!

During this same 2009 company event, we tested out another new game that hadn’t yet been released… any guesses what this one became!?

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I'm "knot" giving any clues...!

Here, a creative teacher in Vermont turned her students into candies for human Chocolate Fix!

Mary Ann Caraco 3 Want big fun? Super size your games!

 

Finally, here are the 2 most recent additions to our Giant Game collection, both featured at our Destination ImagiNation booth!  Check out Human Hoppers and Live Action Solitaire Chess!

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photo 21 300x224 Want big fun? Super size your games!

What is it about playing a large-scale version of a game that makes it more engaging?  For our single-player games like Rush Hour, blowing them up into massive versions transforms them into collaborative, multi-player challenges – great for team building and encouraging effective communication!

Have you played a giant version of a game that’s been more fun than the original?  Please share!

8 Nights of ThinkFun!

happy hanukkah 300x225 8 Nights of ThinkFun!I recently connected with Hilary, one of ThinkFun’s fantastic Facebook fans, who shared a fun new approach she and her family were taking for the Hanukkah holiday!  This year, she and her husband decided to keep Hanukkah simple with a focus on family togetherness, and they gave a new ThinkFun game to their sons each night for 8 nights!  Here Hilary describes the fun they had celebrating with good-for-you brain play!

This time of year is very present-heavy for our family, with Hanukkah at home, Christmas with extended family, and then the boys’ birthdays following in January and February.  I like to keep Hanukkah simple with a focus on family togetherness time.  I love how the many days of the holiday allows for time to actually focus on the present received before moving on to the next.

I thought that a few games would be great for the occasion.  I started looking for some games for my soon-to-be 5 year old son.  He’s already a huge fan of Zingo and Hoppers Jr., so I thought I’d see if there were any other games of the same quality.  I came across the Hebrew version of Zingo and couldn’t resist – how appropriate.  Then I saw so many other fun-looking games that I couldn’t stop there.  It turned into an 8 Nights of ThinkFun holiday!  The whole family managed to get in on the fun!

Night 1:

We played with the ThinkFun Sliding Puzzle on the way to downtown DC for the lighting of the National Menorah on the Ellipse.  Grandma had some skills that Spencer was most impressed with!

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Grandma shows off her Slide Puzzle skills!

Later at home, that first night, we played Ducks in a Row.  You can see that Sam (our ten month old) is still working on good sportsmanship : )

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4 Ducks in a Row - high five!

Night 2:

Trango came next.  Sorry to say it was a bit of a bust, but we still had fun making patterns out of the pieces.

Night 3:

Next night was Swish.  What an awesome game! We adapted the rules slightly – taking turns looking for “swishes” until my older son caught on.  Then it was a free for all.  This game has come out every day since it was given.

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Swish in action

Sometimes to play by the actual game and sometimes to just study the cards and see what kinds of patterns we can make.  Spencer likes trying to make “letter swishes”, like – I,T, L, and O as well as shapes – squares, triangles, and diamonds.  We worked together to design a full 12 card swish.  I am overjoyed to see how much thinking and exploring he’s doing while playing.

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Getting silly with Swish!

Night 4:

We moved on to a double game night on the fourth night – my husband got River Crossing, and my son got River Crossing Jr.

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Learning to play River Crossing Jr.

After playing together for a bit to get the hang of the game, we moved on to Head-to-Head challenges.  Gelt comes in handy for more than just Dreidel!  With the stakes high, the boys were focused, but in the end Spencer was victorious!

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A River Crossing face-off!

His triumphant joy is pure beauty!  Better luck next time, Dad!

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VICTORY!

Night 5:

Rush Hour took the stage the next night.  A bit too challenging for the boys – but those cars sure were fun anyway.  We’re waiting on a Rush Hour Jr. to arrive so that the Head-to-Head challenges can continue.  Spencer is determined to successfully solve one of the challenges.

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The faily explores Rush Hour

Night 6:

What’s Gnu? came next. Fantastic game for my emergent reader of a son. He was so proud of himself for actually making his own words.

Night 7:

The seventh night was a Zingo extravaganza. The Hebrew version was a huge hit. We eventually moved into combining the original, number, and Hebrew versions for a very fun, if mindboggling, game. This mama’s brain was getting tired! Thankfully, Sam brought the craziness to a close by crawling across the mayhem.

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Night 8:

We ended our celebration quietly with Amaze.  Again – huge hit. As you can see, my son had to bring it to bed with him.  And as an added bonus it kept my 10 month old completely entertained on a half-hour car ride . I wish he could have told me what he was thinking!  Truly fun for the whole family.

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Snuggled up with Amaze!

I can’t thank ThinkFun enough for providing such wonderfully fun and challenging games.  They helped to make our holiday so joyous.  It was so nice to spend such quality time together – learning and enjoying each other’s company.  And it seems we’ve barely scratched the surface of your catalog of games.  Good thing Spencer’s birthday is just a week away! : )

Thanks!
Hilary, Jerry, Spencer, and Sam

Singapore Teachers Arrive Home Bearing Gifts!

I had to share part of this fantastic email that made my day yesterday!

One of the amazing teachers from Singapore who was part of last week’s delegation visit to ThinkFun sent me some great photos of her son sorting through the bounty of new games that returned home with his mom!

Dominique writes:

This learning journey of mine has been most memorable – not just in terms of how much we have learned from your expertise in educational toys, but your generosity and kindness are what made the trip most memorable.  I remembered a quote “You may not remember what people have done for you, but you will remember how they made you feel.”

You must visit us in Singapore so we can return your kindness. I would love you to see how excited the whole school is during our MBA (Mass Brain Activities) days!  You certainly have given us insight the clearer direction where our MBA programme should be headed and how we could promote to the ‘next level’.  I know our pupils will benefit from the trip of ours.

If the we were not restricted by the size of the package and our conscience, we would really have grabbed everything off your shelves on the last day!  I have attached pictures of my 5 year old son, Matteo,The first picture showed how excited he was to see the toys.  Like most children, he was attracted by the colours and the items he could identify with. He liked Chocolate Fix design most, followed by River Crossing – but he could play S’Match best.  I refused to let him open the rest, so the night ended with him fuming away!

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The next picture shows him playing with the box in which we packed our games – he played in it the longest – we converted to a car and he drew passengers  in them and drove them around.  That’s how easily a child can be satisfied!

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I love this message – and the way Dominique’s son shows that you simply can’t engineer play!  Despite the oodles and oodles of shiny new toys surrounding him, what most captured his imagination was the cardboard box in which they arrived… this is great!

We are so looking forward to continuing this wonderful relationship with our new friends in Singapore – they are doing really exciting work that we’re eager to support and learn from!