Tag Archives: ThinkFun

Rush Hour Featured in Scientific American

Scientific American Mind Magazine is dedicated to innovations in brain science. My geeky heart skipped a beat when I opened the new May/June issue… and saw Rush Hour! This iconic ThinkFun logic puzzle was featured in a piece on brain training games that have a proven effect on improving the way children’s brains work.

ScientificAmericanMIND Rush Hour Featured in Scientific American

This article on brain training games for kids describes several products and programs designed to enhance children’s thinking skills – on page 42, it features an image of Rush Hour and describes the work of our friend Sylvia Bunge at UC Berkeley, who used this game and others (including Chocolate Fix) to improve reasoning IQ of students in a low-income community in Oakland, CA

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We are thrilled to continue our work with the Bunge Lab to truly understand ways in which our games shape and improve brains – it is thrilling to be on the forefront of such innovation! This issue is available on newsstands nationwide.

A preview of the article is available here, and the entire issue can be downloaded for a fee.

The Rubber Chickens have Landed!

If you’ve been following my blog over the years, you may have noticed a trend around this time every year… a yellow, rubber, and VERY noisy trend!

It seems fitting that, on the warmest day we’ve had thus far, these Spring Chickens showed up at my doorstep…

photo 1 The Rubber Chickens have Landed!

Thank you Amazon Prime! Never know when a chicken emergency will strike and 2-day shipping will come in handy!

As background, these rubber chickens are given as awards for Best Team Spirit in the Arlington County 5th Grade Math Dice Tournament that happens in May!  Now in it’s 10th year, we can’t wait to celebrate the brainy 5th graders at this year’s competition!

photo 3 The Rubber Chickens have Landed!

While the quest for Math Dice victory means serious competition, over the years the Rubber Chicken spirit award has taken on a life of its own – and teams have gone wild preparing songs and choreographing performances in hopes of taking home one of these little guys.

Want proof? Check out this amazing performance from last year’s competition – set to the tune of “Proud Mary,” these 5th graders were “Rollin’ On a Math Dice!”

As you can see in year’s past, the arrival of the rubber chickens marks the beginning of an exciting month of preparation.  See these past posts celebrating the rubber chickens’ arrival in 2012, and in 2011!

Pass the Rush Hour, Grandpa!

Just had to share this lovely note that came to our customer support team today from the UK! It’s always wonderful to hear about games supporting inter-generational play – and I’ve shared before how important games are in my family, especially with my Scrabble-master grandma!  I just love the image of grandfather and grandson exercising their brains side by side! 

thinkfun traffic1 Pass the Rush Hour, Grandpa!

Hello Folks,

I have only very recently come across your brilliant game Rush Hour & felt I had to write & compliment you all on such an excellent game for all ages.

My 8 year old grandson & my 66 year old self enjoy it equally!! I especially appreciate the “mind stretching” logic of it, a bit like chess for one! In addition, the simplicity & portability of it make it especially suitable for car journeys etc.

All in all a triumph.

Cheers, R G Bingham

 

FIRST Robotics: Brain Power in Action

logo FIRST Robotics: Brain Power in ActionFIRST Robotics is an amazing organization, founded  in 1989 with a mission to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders.

Founder Dean Kamen articulates his vision for FIRST, “To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.”

For years, ThinkFun’s CEO Bill Ritchie has participated as a guest judge – here’s a fun video he shared of a tournament in action! Recently, ThinkFun was thrilled to support the brilliant local teens of Herndon High School’s FIRST Robotics Team. This team recently wrapped up an amazing season, and their coach shared the following update – enjoy!

 

This past weekend Herndon Robotics participated in the DC Regional FIRST robotics competition!  When we went to Raleigh 2 weeks before, we finished 49th out of 54.  In DC, my team ended up 2nd out of 59!  The finals are best 2 out of 3 matches and we crushed the other alliance in the quarter finals; had a super intense semi-finals where we lost the first match, and thought we lost the second one and were out (unreliable real-time scoring) when we had actually won by 5 points, and won the third match taking us to the finals… Unfortunately, while we won the first round of the finals, one of our alliance partners’ robot died in that round and they were unable to repair it and we lost the next 2 matches.  But by keeping our 2nd place standing, we won a wild-card spot to the Championship in St. Louis.

DC is where our team submits essays for some pretty big awards that are based on what your team does besides build a robot.  We won the Engineering Inspiration Award thanks to our stepping up and adopting a team from Israel by providing batteries and power tools for them to use since they could not bring their own, for our amazing outreach, including taking our interactive SquareBots to the Udvar-Hazy Center’s Halloween event, Air and Scare and to the Moon and Beyond Event, for our Robotics Poetry book, and for our team creating an animation contest for other teams after Autodesk cancelled the animation contest they had run for more than a decade.  The judges we’ve lined up for this contest include judges from Pixar, Autodesk, Disney, and the creator of Pinky and the Brain!

I could go on for hours about this team, so I’ll end it with a few pictures from the event!

Pic 1 FIRST Robotics: Brain Power in ActionPic 1: Our Human Player, Alex, feeding ED 14.0 while our driver, Megan (orange hat), looks on.  The robots can only hold up to 4 discs at a time, and will receive a penalty if carrying more than 4 (this includes any that may bet stuck on any part of the robot).

Pic 2 FIRST Robotics: Brain Power in ActionPic 2: Scoring Frisbees in the top 3 pt goal (other goals are worth 2 pts and 1 pt).

pic 3 FIRST Robotics: Brain Power in ActionPic 3: Our Chairman’s presentation group, Danny, Leah, and Alice. Their presentation was to 3 judges and is what made those judges send other judges to our pit to talk with the team some more and was key to us winning the Engineering Inspiration award.  The students talked to 13 judges total (15 if you count the 2 who ask solely about the robot and it’s abilities).

Again your support for our team this season is truly recognized and appreciated by all our members. The accomplishments listed in this email are just as much yours as they are the team members who were recognized this weekend.

Regards, Matthew L.

Herndon High School FIRST Robotics Team 116
Outreach Captain

Hello Sunshine Shines in Speech Therapy!

The following post is shared by expert Speech Therapist Sherry Artemenko of Play On Words.  Sherry recently awarded Hello Sunshine! the Play Advances Language (PAL) Award in recognition of its uses as a language learning tool!

 Hello Sunshine Shines in Speech Therapy!

“Hello Sunshine,” New PAL Award winner, Shines In Preschool Speech Therapy

Toddlers can be a bit of a challenge in speech therapy because you have to keep them engaged and motivated with great toys and activities while building their language. Sunshine was quite a hit with my little ones as they warmed right up to her and delighted in hiding and finding the furry bit of radiance. 2 year-olds were following directions and learning prepositions, while 3 year-olds decided to play teacher and send me on the hunt. Use Sunshine to teach wh-questions, pronouns,  prepositions and vocabulary as you go on your search around the house.

 Hello Sunshine Shines in Speech Therapy!

Hello Sunshine was recently honored with a Play Advances Language (PAL) Award!

Here is my full review:

Say hello to Sunshine, who joins ThinkFun’s first toddler game, “Roll & Play” which was popular with toddlers and their moms last year. I am more frequently asked for toy suggestions by parents of toddlers than any other age, which might explain why these simple starter games provide more structure for parents and caregivers who appreciate some guidance on where to begin their play.

Hide the plush Sunshine according to picture cards depicting positions such as in a box, next to a chair or on top of your head! Ask your toddler, “Were is Sunshine, can you find her?” The game’s directions offer wonderful language learning tips for toddlers such as modeling questions, greetings, and positional words within the context of a child’s play.

Kids loved playing this game of hide and seek with their furry Sunshine. When my little friend spotted her “on top of a pillow,” he squealed with delight, grabbed her, and leaned in for a squeeze! Three year-olds upped the fun by trading places with me and being the “hider.” I had to follow directions, “Now me hide it, close your eyes” Playing just once, isn’t enough, “”I wanna hide it again!”

Playing Mind Games!

Last summer, ThinkFun donated a shipment of great games to an exciting new after-school enrichment program in Wellington, FL. The “Mind Games” program launched in September, and founder Jenny Levin recently wrote to share an update and some great photos of learners at play!

 

Mind Games is a fun and challenging way for students to increase academic achievement while working cooperatively towards common goals. Our mission is to help students improve academic achievement by expanding their cognitive abilities and to assist them in developing important life skills that will lead to a lifetime of successes.

Mind Games will also create an environment that will help improve students’ self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence as well as provide a setting to develop interpersonal skills such as communication, cooperation, teamwork and leadership.

ThinkFun games play a big role in the Mind Games curriculum. The single player games allow the students the opportunity to compete against themselves, set goals and reach new levels of play. Games such as Rush Hour, Rush Hour Jr., Hot Spot and Tilt are some of our favorites! Thank you to ThinkFun to helping make Mind Games a huge success!

 


 

TEDActive: My Week at Brain Camp

What do you get when you stir together 700+ brilliant minds from 50+ different countries for a week in the desert? You get the amazing brain gumbo that is TEDActive!

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While I thought nothing could top the 2011 Late Night Game Suite experience… only to have the experience exceeded in 2012 with Giant Swish and a wildly creative Game Creation Challenge – this year’s conference managed to be the best by far!

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This year’s many talks flung our brains in just as many different directions – from a former street performing mime to a guerilla gardener in South Central LA – to a giant squid hunter to Shane Koyczan’s moving talk on bullying that brought the room to tears and to their feet – the content was nothing short of awesome, my mind is still buzzing!

In between sessions, attendees had a chance to explore all kinds of fantastic hands-on play experiences…

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Giant Rush Hour soaked up some desert sun!

Artist Kiel Johnson created some incredible giant cacti for the DIY cardboard mini golf course on the putting green!

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What better way to relax between talks than with Giant Jenga!

 TEDActive: My Week at Brain Camp

It’s a bit tough to take in all that’s going on in this photo below – but it’s my absolute favorite – look closely and you’ll see it’s a picture of a camera taking another picture of Giant Rush Hour WITH an iPad featuring the Rush Hour app – holy puzzle mania!

My geeky little heart almost skipped a beat.

 TEDActive: My Week at Brain Camp

Read more about all the fun and learning at TEDActive in this fantastic TED blog post!  For more fun photos from ThinkFun at TEDActive, visit our Facebook Album.

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!

Hello Sunshine!

Guess whose shining face just showed up at ThinkFun HQ?

Meet Sunny!

Hello 1820 PlushWCards 300x300 Hello Sunshine!

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!

Sunny 246x300 Hello Sunshine!

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!

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Introducing… The Asperkids Collection!

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, FacebookPinterest, and Twitter!

AsperKids ThinkFun image Introducing... The Asperkids Collection!

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.

(For more great ideas on how to use ThinkFun Games read my past blog, “Perspective from a Plastic Ice Cream Truck“.)