Tag Archives: Swish

Reflections on: ThinkFun and Robot Turtles in the Media

wired pic 300x148 Reflections on: ThinkFun and Robot Turtles in the Media

I’m extremely excited to share that we’ve been popping up a lot in the media lately, so things have been kind of hectic—but in the best way possible. So without seeming overly self involved (*ahem*), I would like to share a few of the more interesting news items here, and then add some supplemental info about one of the articles. I can’t help it– I’m proud of our games! And I’m thrilled that they all seem to touch on the theme of igniting the mind through play. Sound familiar? It should—it’s our mission.

Swish in The Atlantic

On July 16, The Atlantic published the article How Family Game Night Makes Kids Into Better Students. The author, Jessica Lahey spotlighted our game Swish, and its benefits for kids with impulse control and working memory deficits.

Within the article, Lahey consulted with Dr. Bill Hudenko, child psychologist and assistant professor of psychiatry at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, who elaborated on which executive function skills Swish can most benefit:

Children with executive functioning deficits often struggle with the heavy working memory demands of mentally rotating the cards and sequentially identifying additional card matches. This game also is particularly helpful for developing an appropriate balance between impulse control and increasing processing speed as the child is trying to be the first to identify a “swish.”

Robot Turtles (and the history of ThinkFun) in Wired
Then, last week on Thursday, the Twittersphere really blew up with mentions of ThinkFun when Wired published this article, The 75-Year Saga Behind a Game That Teaches Preschoolers to Code, by Cade Metz. The title does a fantastic job of surfacing the major themes of the article: My family’s tech-centric lineage, and our vision of Robot Turtles as the hero product in the evolution of gameplay as a technique for teaching the fundamentals of code. I touched on what Robot Turtles can teach children in my first post on this blog. If I’ve piqued your interest at all so far, please do take a minute to read the Wired article. It’s very thorough and entertaining.

How we’ve changed the game
As Cade Metz points out in the Wired article, we acquired Robot Turtles from Dan Shapiro. But we didn’t stop evolving the product, and this is where the supplemental info I alluded to in the intro begins…I’d like to unbox this topic a bit further.

Of course, once we acquired Robot Turtles we made changes to enhance game play with new instructions, clearer graphics, more durable cards, bug tiles instead of cards, and a sturdy box for better storage. But that was just the beginning. ThinkFun has made Robot Turtles a flagship product in its support for Kids and Coding. We’ve added several dimensions to the game and our thinking. I want to touch on some of these upgrades:

• Programming as Storytelling: Using our “Adventure Quest” generator, parents and kids can submit board presets and stories that make being a Turtle Master kid more fun than ever. We also include some board presets to spark your imagination.
• Using Programming To Model Parent-Child Interaction: In our instruction manual, we use our teaching experience to help families make the most of time together with Robot Turtles by providing kids instructions about programming and parents instructions on how to execute their kids commands in a fun, engaging way.
• Community Interaction: We evaluate submissions and post the best for use to the Quest Library.
• Kids & Coding Resource: We’ve aggregated an amazing list of people with products, programs, gatherings and more to make sure that Robot Turtles is just the beginning of your child’s introduction to coding.
• Partnership program: Recognizing that the employers of tomorrow want the children of today to have these skills, ThinkFun is actively donating games and activities to partners. Contact us if you’re interested.
So now I’ll put the question to you, our community: Where would you like to see game enhancements and extensions? Please tweet us @Thinkfun or email us at Info@thinkfun.com with your feedback. We’re listening!

ThinkFun Games in Nigeria!

When traveling, I have an endearing habit (in my opinion, my husband may disagree!) of stopping in every single toy store we pass in search of our games. It is always a thrill to see ThinkFun games all over the world, and I always stop to take photographs and connect with a store employee.

This doesn’t always go over well, particularly the time I spotted some awful Rush Hour knockoffs in Hanoi Vietnam and tried very unsuccessfully to communicate. The message I finally got across was crystal clear, “I am a crazy woman who speaks no Vietnamese and loves hand gestures.”

Far MORE rewarding than seeing our games on shelves overseas are the photos of our games in the hands of kids all over the world! Our distributor in Nigeria recently shared some fantastic photos of Rush Hour, Swish, and Zingo! being played by students!

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2 young problem solvers take on Rush Hour Jr.

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Students playing Swish

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Zingo!

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

Toy Fair 2013: Toy of the Year Awards

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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!

1TOTY 2013 194x109px Toy Fair 2013: Toy of the Year AwardsThe 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:

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Zingo! Sight Words and Roll & Play pose with their fellow nominees for Educational Toy of the Year!

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The ThinkFun team awaits the start of the show!

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Sweet! Hosts passed around popcorn and cotton candy to up the excitement

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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.

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Andrea Barthello accepts the Play Connects Award

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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!

ThinkFun Celebrates FOUR Toy of the Year Nominations – Vote Now!

Yesterday was a VERY exciting day for ThinkFun!  I flew up to NY for the Toy Industry Association press conference to announce the nominees for the 2013 Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards.

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After being treated to a performance on the Bryant Park skating rink (by a professional, me on ice would not be a treat!), attendees gathered to hear the nominees revealed…

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This year there were a record number of submissions (nearly 650!) for the 11 award categories… so you can imagine my delight to learn ThinkFun received a record FOUR nominations for Toy of the Year Awards!

The Nominees are (drum roll please…)

Roll & Play - Infant/Toddler Toy of theYear
Roll & Play – Educational Toy of the Year
Swish - Innovative Toy of the Year
Zingo! Sight Words – Educational Toy of the Year

1TOTY 2013 194x109px ThinkFun Celebrates FOUR Toy of the Year Nominations   Vote Now!

After the nominees were announced (I refrained from inappropriate hooting and hollering!), I spent time checking out the competition, oogling the light-up Cinderella dress (so perfect for the TOTY Awards dinner!) and showing off my sub-par Nerf-catching skills
photo 2 ThinkFun Celebrates FOUR Toy of the Year Nominations   Vote Now!

Hooray for Roll & Play! Celebrating the nomination with the wonderful Sherry Artemenko of www.playonwords.com

The best thing about the TOTY Awards is that they are decided to a large extent by YOU!  Vote now by clicking the games listed above or visiting www.toyawards.org and you could win a fabulous prize pack! (Voting ends Jan. 13th.)

TOTY 2013 ThinkFun Celebrates FOUR Toy of the Year Nominations   Vote Now!

THANK YOU for voting and for spreading the word, fingers crossed this will be ThinkFun’s year to take home the statue(s) at the TOTY Awards… I am reserving my fiber-optic Cinderella dress just in case icon smile ThinkFun Celebrates FOUR Toy of the Year Nominations   Vote Now!

Halloween… ThinkFun-style!

Happy Halloween!  As you can imagine, a fun day filled with candy and dress-up is right up our alley here at ThinkFun!  We’ve set the costume bar pretty high in year’s past, and this year’s celebration did not disappoint!

Check out some of the amazing ThinkFun-inspired costume creations in our office today…

Roll and play Halloween... ThinkFun style!It’s Roll & Play! Kirsten and Josh act out ThinkFun’s first toddler game!
zingo Halloween... ThinkFun style!
Alicia proves once and for all that the Zingo! Zinger is truly irresistible to children!

 

 

 

yackety smack Halloween... ThinkFun style!

Juan gets into character as the Yackety Smack "Hi-YAH!" karate chop!

 

Smatch Halloween... ThinkFun style!

Jodi is stunning as the S'Match Spinner!

Swish Halloween... ThinkFun style!
Greg gets so in-character as Swish he’s nearly transparent!
izzi Halloween... ThinkFun style!

Ashley's got the Izzi color palette just right!

rush hour Halloween... ThinkFun style!

Tania models a Rush Hour-inspired ensemble!

Bagged games1 Halloween... ThinkFun style!

Bill and Andrea get cozy as ThinkFun bagged games!

Pinterest Halloween... ThinkFun style!

I came as a ThinkFun Pinterest board!

 

2013 Halloween... ThinkFun style!

2013 Games Sneak Preview! Nic shows off the awesome superpower of the new Word-A-Round game, while Katie came as Sunny from our upcoming Hello Sunshine toddler game! Watch for these and more great games early 2013!

Team Photo Halloween... ThinkFun style!

Happy Halloween from ThinkFun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swish Inventor challenges students at an Israeli summer camp!

Last year, I introduced the amazing inventors of Swish in this post.  Zvi and Gali both continue to teach in Israel, and Gali Shimoni recently shared this fantastic story of their experience using Swish at a local summer camp!

Swish 1512 HiResSpill 150x150 Swish Inventor challenges students at an Israeli summer camp!

I have a very good friend that every summer runs 2 camps for excellent students (each camp is for 7 days and 6 nights). One camp is for students who finished grade 7, and the other is for those who finished grade 8.

A couple of months ago he called me and said, “I want to use the game you and Zvi invented in my camps.”  The interesting thing is that this friend had never played Swish.

He added, “every day I ask my students a daily riddle. The one who solves each riddle gets a prize. This year I want the prize to be Swish.  I think about it as a test for your game – will students put the game away, or will they play it during their spare time?

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So, my friend bought 6 games for each camp, and I gave him 2 more just for his counselors.  In the beginning of camp, my friend called and said his counselors were addicted to the game!  On the second day, my friend called and said I must quickly come to see what was happening in his camp.  When I got there, I saw groups of students all over the place sitting and playing the game!

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When I looked at the game of one of the groups, I immediately saw 3 cards that made a Swish.  I told the student that I found a Swish, and they said I could show it to them.  When I pointed at the 3 cards, the students told me that they were sorry, but they were looking just for Swishes made of 5 cards or more – as I mentioned, excellent students!

My friend summarized the experience: “Now I know that all what you said about the game you invented is true!”

Wake Up Your Brain with Swish!

Another lovely message from the ThinkFun Mailbag!  This mom in Michigan shares how her family uses our Swish game as a daily brain warm-up!

 

Hi there,

I just wanted to send a quick “thank you” for the hours of entertainment your games and puzzles have provided our family — kids and adults alike!

Your company is so aptly named — it’s great to be able to show kids that you can have a blast and give your brain a workout at the same time! Any frustration from not solving a puzzle right away quickly shifts to determination, because the fun is in the figuring!

We love the fact that so many of your games can be played in different ways. I’m attaching a photo of my 6 year old daughter, Anna, and the activity we came up with after we played a couple of rounds of Swish using the traditional rules.

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Swishes of up to 10 cards! Anna, we're impressed!

 

We decided to spread all of the cards out, cooperate, and see if we could create Swishes with increasing numbers of cards. We had a blast — what a fun way to get our brains working for the day icon smile Wake Up Your Brain with Swish!

So again, thank you for your clever and well-made games and puzzles! We are huge fans, and our big bin of your games will certainly be handed down to our children’s children, because this type of fun never gets old!

Sincerely,

Louise

Canton, MI

Big Thinkers Need Big Games… Giant Swish is a Hit at TEDActive!

I’ve just returned from an incredible week at the TEDActive Conference in Palm Springs, CA… an idea-packed week that I spent learning, listening, exploring, and of course – playing!  This year’s talks were as mind blowing as ever, and I’ll look forward to sharing my favorites as they are posted.  In the meantime, I’m super excited to share the fun way one of our games joined in on the fun and provided a brain workout to some of tomorrow’s greatest thinkers!

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TED 2012: Full Spectrum

You may remember photos from last years TEDActive where I hosted a late-night game party for attendees.  This year we upped our game (sorry, couldn’t resist!) and brought the fun to Palm Springs in a big new way!

The incredible company Event Artistry took ThinkFun’s transparent card game Swish and supersized it, creating a 9 foot tall wall with humongous cards each 2 feet tall!  Unlike the regular game which is played with a 4×4 array, this board was designed for a special type of new Swish challenge involving only 12 cards.

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A little perspective... these cards are HUGE!

We wanted to challenge players not only to find Swishes of 2-5 cards, but also to find multiple Swishes in order to completely clear the board!  In case you’ve never played before, here’s a quick intro to the game play with an example of a 3-card Swish:swish howtoPlay Big Thinkers Need Big Games… Giant Swish is a Hit at TEDActive!

To create this new challenge, we went straight to the game’s inventors, a brilliant pair of teachers in Israel (read more about Zvi and Gali here!).  They developed a program to generate a selection of 12 cards that contain a specified number of 2, 3, 4, and 5 card Swishes!  Once the cards are laid out, players are challenged to “Swish” all the cards until none remain.   This new Swish Generator program is incredibly cool – and opens up a whole new world of possible ways to play this game as a solo challenge.  I played so much Swish leading up to the conference I may need to add it to my resume!  Click here for more photos of the giant game!

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The Giant Swish was installed in a poolside cabana – and attendees stopped in to play and stretch their brains in between the incredible talks all week!

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A 3-Card Swish emerges!

Think you’re up for the challenge?  Here’s one for YOU to try!  The 12 cards below are numbered in the corners.

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Take on the Swish Challenge!

In case it’s difficult to read, the numbers are:

9    13   18   11

22   21   23   14

5     17    4     1

 

Can you figure out how to group all 12 cards into Swishes of either 2, 3, 4, or 5 cards in such a way that none are left over?  Please share your number groups in the comments please and I’ll reveal the solution shortly!

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