Tag Archives: rush hour

Destination ImagiNation: Where Human Frogs, Duct Tape Princesses, & Creative Problem Solving Unite!

Holy Smokes!  I’ve just returned from an incredible week in Knoxville, TN at the Destination ImagiNation Global Finals!  This massive celebration showcased creative problem solving at its finest, bringing together over 20,000 kids and adults from 1,276 teams – 45 states, 7 Canadian provinces, and 13 countries!

The Opening Ceremony featured indoor fireworks - the kids' energy shook the arena! Click here to see a complete video of the light show!

The DI Global Finals brings together top teams from all over the world whose participants have made it through many rounds of competition to get here.  We met teams who had driven over 20 hours to get there, (and from their energy upon arrival we are guessing this was a very spirited ride!), and we met kids in the US for the very first time who had flown in from China, Korea, Guatemala, and Poland!

This Korean team pooled their brainpower to solve Chocolate Fix challenge #40!

Throughout the week, teams present their unique challenge (chosen from the 6 options provided at the start of the year) and also showcase their think-on-your-toes problem-solving skills in an Instant Challenge.  Hats off to the master scheduler who was able to slot in 2,552 unique performance times for all the participating teams, an amazing feat of problem solving if I’ve ever seen one!

An "Assembly Required" challenge in action

When teams weren’t presenting, there was LOADS of fun to be had all over the University of Tennessee Campus, with activities that included outdoor concerts, family camps, a Duct Tape Costume Ball (yes, you read that right!), a Glo Ball (featuring enough neon body paint and glow sticks to light a stadium!), the Improv Fiesta, and so much more!

These ladies arrive to the duct tape ball in style!

Duct Tape Couture!

ThinkFun was thrilled to be featured in the EXPO Hall, where we set up a booth dedicated to PLAY!  Luckily, these kids are experts in the field, and we had a blast playing with thousands of kids from all over the world throughout the week.

A team from Arkansas shows of a 12-CARD SWISH!

Problem solving is sweeter with ice cream (9am, by the way!)

Love the hair! This kid had a special kinship with the red Hoppers frog!

We set up dozens of hands-on games, presented giant brainteasers, challenged teams to step into human-sized versions of classic ThinkFun games, and featured team versions of classics like Rush Hour.  Want more?  Here’s a quick video of our booth in action!

Pooling brainpower to tackle tough giant matchstick puzzles!

Kids transformed into frogs to play Giant Hoppers!

A team collaborates to solve 4 Rush Hour games at once!

ThinkFun was thrilled to partner with Destination ImagiNation to support this year’s Global Finals, and we are very excited to continue working with this incredible network of innovative kids all over the world!  One thing’s for sure – I’ll never look at a roll of duct tape quite the same again!

4 rolls, endless wardrobe possibilities...

 

“More!” you say?! Here’s a great collection of photos from the week!

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?!

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!

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 !

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.

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!

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!

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!?

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

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

 

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!

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!

Using Games to Treat Traumatic Brain Injury

An incredible letter recently made its way to my desk.  A woman in Alaska wrote to share a remarkable story, one that reaffirms the brain building (and in some ways even life-saving!) power of play and reminds us that the games we create can do powerful things.

Her letter gave me chills!This isn’t the first we’ve heard about our games, particularly Rush Hour, being used to treat patients with brain injuries.  Over the years we have heard from many therapists who use our games to help patients rebuild cognitive and fine motor skills, and Rush Hour was recently featured in an NBC Nightly News segment on treating returning veterans with brain injuries.  We are eager to explore how we can continue to create games that support the incredible work these doctors are doing!

(Check out Rush Hour’s cameo at 00:38)

Are you a therapist or patient who has used games as part of your treatment?  Please share your story!

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 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!

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 : )

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.

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.

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.

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!

A River Crossing face-off!

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

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.

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.


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.

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

A Holiday Treat for Your Brain!

Guess who got a festive makeover?!  Introducing… holiday Rush Hour!

ThinkFun's Rush Hour: Holiday Edition app puts a seasonal spin on the award-winning Rush Hour game

We are so excited to share the Rush Hour: Holiday Edition app, available for a limited time for both Apple and Android devices!

Rush Hour: Holiday Edition gives ThinkFun’s classic brain game Rush Hour a complete redesign with seasonal graphics, 400 never-released challenges, four levels of play from Easy to Expert, and a whimsical holiday theme.  A perfect way to feed your brain – not your belly – this holiday season!

Your goal is simple, help Peppy the Penguin slide his red toboggan through the pile of presents. As you get better, the maze of presents gets more and more complex, and you’ll have to plan your moves carefully to break the little penguin free.

Rush Hour: Holiday Edition is available for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch as well as Android. It contains 400 all new challenges from Easy to Expert – and we’ve just lowered the price to $0.99!

Download from the Apple App Store, Android Marketplace, or Amazon’s App Store – your brain will thank you!

Can Games Make Kids Eat Their Broccoli?!

Sometimes it’s hard to give a quick, concise answer when I try and explain why I do what I do… which is why I’m grateful to little Joey R. at Pelican Elementary, whose letter I opened today.

What do our games actually DO?! I  couldn’t have said it better myself!

 

Our company is called ThinkFun for a reason – and both words are equally critical in guiding the games we produce.  Sometimes the “thinking” piece comes so naturally that kids aren’t even aware how hard they’re working as they play… think of us as the parent who hides the ground-up broccoli in the hamburger patties, making a yummy treat secretly more nutritious!

If kids are only aware of the FUN, that’s certainly not a bad thing, but this letter stood out because this  student actually recognized all the ways his brain was working as he played Rush Hour – and STILL he reported that this game was his favorite!

Encouraging kids to enjoy stretching their brains and the challenge of a great thinking game is a wonderful thing – So maybe ThinkFun can’t get your kids to eat more broccoli, but brain games are a step in a healthy direction!

Games Ignite Minds in the Classroom

Another great note from the ThinkFun mailbag – this one from a school that received a donation from our company and is using games to inspire and motivate!

Dear ThinkFun,

Thank you for donating your educational games to our classrooms!

Our students love your hands on and interactive games… Our teachers do, too!  Since receiving the games and incorporating them into our academic classes, we have seen a spark in student’s motivation to apply their logic, reading, spelling, and teamwork skills.  Working with children in an alternative school placement setting often presents teachers with the challenge of making the classroom a “fun” place to be.  Your games have ignited our student’s interest in learning and have allowed classroom teachers to use the games as a motivational activities.  We often hear students saying, “Once I am finished with my classwork, can I play a game of Rush Hour?”.

As any teacher can attest, seeing students excited about learning and actively engaged in their academics is a successful day in the classroom.  Thank you for generosity!

Sincerely,
Caroline Walsh, Special Education Teacher
Granite Academy, Braintree, MA


Resource: Students benefit from teachers who build off their early childhood education degree and think outside the box to bring fun and engaging activities into the classroom.

A Homeschooling Mama on a Mission!

I am thrilled to feature the following guest post written by Amy, a missionary and homeschooling mom of 3 who uses games to enhance her curriculum.  Amy is the fantastic mom behind the Missional Mama blog which I encourage you to check out – and you can follow her tweets here!

Here Amy shares the many benefits of game play:

It all started with Rush Hour Junior!

Another family, who was years ahead of us in the homeschooling endeavor, mentioned that Rush Hour was their family favorite.  We were convinced to give it a try.

My oldest was around six at that time and he would spend hours setting up the cars just so and working his way toward the conclusion of the puzzle.  It was mind work and he enjoyed every minute of it. Once the levels were completed, he moved on to Rush Hour leaving Junior behind for the siblings.

After this experience, we found ourselves drawn to the ThinkFun displays at educational stores to see what else could help us along in our learning. ThinkFun games are highly motivational and enjoyable for our multi-aged homeschooling classroom not to mention useful towards our educational goals.  Here are a few reasons we like ThinkFun…

  • Critical Thinking Skills – Forget the workbooks, my children enjoy the hands on mental and visual skills required by ThinkFun. It does not even feel like learning!
  • Competition with Yourself – Because most of the games we have are one player, they can work towards harder cards and skills trying to exceed themselves.
  • Math – Many of these games sneak in Mathematical Skills. Try the Math Dice game which promotes mental math, for example.
  • Creative Thinking Skills – We found that ThinkFun can be enjoyed “outside the box” for those children who are wired that way. My oldest likes creating new patterns and sometimes new games with ThinkFun products.
  • Working Together – The older kids enjoy sitting with the younger ones occasionally and showing them how a game works.  They become the teachers and learners.
  • Playing Together – It is just fun!

We keep our ThinkFun games in our homeschooling basket to be pulled out during learning time, down time, or when we need a break. It also has been used as part of the curriculum when we are working on a skill such as mental math. So whether you use the games for homeschooling, quiet time, or family game night, you cannot help but have fun while learning along the way.

Our favorites are Zingo and Rush Hour, what are you family favorites?

Obama’s Elementary School in Indonesia Uses ThinkFun to Develop Creativity

This recent report from Fransiskus Asisi Elementary School in Jakarta, Indonesia (where President Obama spent 3 years as a student!) shares the school’s Math Club initiative, using brain games like ThinkFun’s Rush Hour to encourage creative thinking and problem solving among students!

Math Club (Creative Laboratory)
Fransiskus Asisi Elementary School, Jakarta, Indonesia

Fransiskus Asisi Menteng Dalam Elementary School (Asisi), has become famous lately.  Besides having good achievement, Asisi was one of Barack Obama’s elementary schools where the US president studied for 3 years.

Asisi has been building and preparing their program to be the best.  Since more global competition has come, the school realizes that it is very important to produce creative students ready to compete.  For that reason, Asisi has been  renewing their method to make students more creative, and a varied program is important so that it will not make students bored.  This creative method will make them enjoy their lessons and develop to be creative people.

Ms. Natalia Chandra Triwinaris is a math teacher and realizes that children nowadays are different from children 50 years ago.  In this era, children are dynamic, so schools need to improve their method to educate them.  Because of this, Asisi created the Math Club for grade 1 to 6.  Ms. Natalia said that most students at Asisi Elementary School don’t like math and think math is difficult.

Students play Rush Hour in Math Club

Math Club is aimed to train students to practice math.  Math club has its own method to teach students not only learn from books, but also from toys.  The toys in this club are creative toys aimed to practice logic and creativity.  Ms. Natalia said these creative toys help students to think systematically which connects to solving math problems.  Besides that, these creative toys are aimed to increase concentration, imagination, patience, self confidence, and much more.  The toys used in this club are Rush Hour, Shape by Shape, Brick by Brick and Logix.  Rush Hour is aimed to increase the skill of systematic thinking and logic.  Shape by Shape is aimed to teach patterns, Brick by Brick is aimed to increase spatial thinking, and Logix is aimed to increase logic and judgement skill.

Asisi has also made a competition from these creative toys.  With this competition, teachers and parents expect students to become more creative and ready to compete in this changing world.  Now, creative toys are used by Asisi to explore creativity – not only for students but also for teachers and parents!