Tag Archives: What’s Gnu

Build Early Reading Skills through Play!

The following post is shared by Malia, a former teacher and founder of the early literacy company Playdough to Plato!  Malia reached out to ThinkFun after finding our games to be fantastic language tools, and she was eager to share them with her readers!  In this post she shares her experience with Zingo! and What’s GNU?

Small Logo Banner Build Early Reading Skills through Play!

Several weeks ago, my boys and I had a play date with one of my supermom friends and her children. I casually mentioned how excited I was to start playing games together when the children were a little bit older. Sportsmanship, perseverance, teamwork… There were so many healthy life skills that games help develop.

 

As soon as the words “kid-friendly games” left my mouth, my friend jumped up and walked over to a large shelf filled with activities for her children. She took down a medium-sized royal blue box and asked, “Have you played Zingo!?”

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“No,” I said. I’d never even heard of it before. Hmm…  My curiosity was piqued.

 

Just as my friend placed the box on the table, her four year old son noticed the flash of blue out of the corner of his eye.  “Zingo!” he shouted as he ran over to join us.

 

My friend opened the box and pulled out a bright red thingy-majig and a set of game boards filled with pictures and matching labels.

 

“The rules are simple,” she explained. “It’s just like Bingo but with a twist.  It motivates children to practice reading. I promise it’s addictively fun.”  It sounded like a dream come true. But I was still skeptical. Could it really live up to her rave reviews? Zingo Collage1 Build Early Reading Skills through Play!

We invited her 2.5 year old daughter and my 2.5 year old son to join us. This would be a great test. Could young children actually play the game on their own? To my surprise, her daughter jumped right in.  “I LOVE Zingo!” she said. I mentally added another tally to the list of Zingo Fan Club members.

 

My friend invited my son to slide the red tile dispenser forward and back, revealing two bright yellow tiles: an owl and a bat. She asked him to “read” the words on the tiles. “Owl and bat,” he said. Then she asked him to look at his game card and check for matches. He had an owl. “Owl!” he shouted.

 

“I have an owl too,” the little girl said. My friend explained that the first player to say the name of their match could take it. She invited my son to grab the tile and add it to his board. Then he slid the dispenser again dropping two new tiles.

 

The game continued for several minutes until my friend’s four year old son filled his board first. He was crowned as the official winner, creating a perfect opportunity for us to model how to be good losers and offer a heartfelt “congratulations”.

 

Without a second thought, the three children jumped right into playing round two.  As parents of 2.5 year olds understand, there are few things that occupy my son’s attention for more than a minute and a half. I was blown away!!

 

The moment my boys fell asleep that night I hopped onto the computer and ordered our own Zingo set.  We could finally enjoy a family game night!

 

In addition to Zingo, ThinkFun also offers another early literacy game called “What’s Gnu” that I couldn’t resist adding to our Amazon cart.  To play, you spread out cards showing two letters and a blank.  One player slides the tile dispenser to drop two tiles.

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Players must race to use the letters that are revealed to make a word on one of the cards.

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The player who has made the most  words when the tiles run out wins the game.  I can’t wait to try this with my oldest son in a year or two. It’s a motivating, entertaining way to practice sounding out words and is PERFECT for beginning readers.

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

Looking for a GNU Way to Play an Old Favorite?!

In a recent post on her family’s love of games, a mom of twins and former teacher shares the powerful ways games have integrated into her family’s lives.  From brain games that give mom and dad a mental workout when the kids go to bed to the apps that allow them to take their favorites with them on the go, this is a family who knows the value of play – and play they do!

Whats 7760 HiResSpill 300x300 Looking for a GNU Way to Play an Old Favorite?!As a former teacher, I most appreciated the ideas she shared with ways to modify the ThinkFun game What’s GNU? to make game play a truly intensive lesson in early word-building.  These little tweaks she added were all done organically to preserve the fun of play, and her daughter loved every minute!  As a parent and educator, she delighted in the fact that, due to the game setting and fun of play, her daughter “has no clue that she is practicing reading/spelling skills!”

Here is an excerpt from her post with some fantastic ideas to try at home:

Then I played their online version of What’s Gnu, which teaches reading/spelling skills and added that to the shopping list.  We don’t play it right now as they list in the rules.  Here’s how we use it:

  • Find the 14 word-ending cards.  If you’ve ever taught phonics, these are the word family cards (ig, an, at, ow, etc).
  • Sit across from one another and spread out your 7 cards in front of you.
  • Click the machine to spit out two letters.  The one closest to you is “your” letter.
  • Use it to form a word… if you can.  For the first round or two, you can usually use any letter.  But it gets harder once you have fewer cards.  For instance, let’s say that you’re down to “an” and “at” and the letter you get is “J” — that can’t be used to form a common word.  So you lose that turn.
  • Whoever fills all 7 cards first wins.
  • I have lost consistently every single time we’ve played.

Looking for more ideas for ways to use What’s GNU? to build your child’s skills?  Check out this fantastic post on ways a creative homeschooling mom uses What’s GNU as a fun learning tool!

Have you taken a game and changed the rules to build more fun and/or learning into your play?  Please share your ideas!

Language Games Build Speech Skills and Family Bonds!

The following post is by Laura Dodson, a mom to five wonderful boys.  Last year, Laura, her husband, and their 2 sons adopted three boys from Uganda, and she shares their remarkable journey in her blog! Here Laura describes how language games have been tremendous tools in helping her boys in speech therapy!

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The Dodson Family

In the fall of 2008, our family embarked on a new journey: adoption.  We were matched with 2 little boys ages 3 and 4.  We were informed the youngest, Daniel, was hearing impaired and the oldest, Jeremiah, had some speech issues.  After much prayer, we decided these boys were to be our new sons–4 sons in all!

After several months of filling out paperwork [5 inches thick. yes, i measured.] and obtaining clearance from the US government, a little surprise package was added to the mix. A 5 year old package! We were flabbergasted to say the least, but overjoyed at the addition of a third boy, Alan.  (Yes, we thought we were a little crazy but a little crazy is good. right? right!)

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Daniel Dodson

The summer of 2009 was a whir lwind. We made two trips to Uganda totaling 7 weeks in country.  On the last trip, our homegrown sons Joshua and Caleb, were able to come with us. We were blessed beyond measure they could see where their new brothers were born and the caring home where they spent the first years of their lives.  We landed on US soil September 24, 2009.

During our first year home, it was discovered that Daniel’s hearing impairment was due 4 years worth of thick, gluey fluid in his ears. A gracious doctor in our hometown donated her services and performed the surgery free of charge. [due to our sagging economy, Jeff had lost his job duri ng our first trip to Uganda]. We were ecstatic to learn that his hearing was fully restored.

Over the last several months, Daniel and Jeremiah have begun speech therapy. We have a wonderful therapist who comes to our home twice a week helping the boys learn various sounds, conversational language, and master other goals like categorizing, and responding to questions appropriately.  I have learned volumes from her.  Therapy is game based and that is where I learned about Zingo! and S’Match.

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Jeremiah Dodson

Our homegrown boys, Joshua and Caleb, are teens. We had very little in the preschooler game department J Our therapist gave us materials to practice with Daniel and Jeremiah on the days she wasn’t here.  You know what that means!  Shopping!

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Alan Dodson

We purchased Zingo! and What’s Gnu?  As we play Zingo!, the boys must answer questions in complete sentences such as, “Do you have the house?”  “No. I do not have the house.”  or “Who has the tree?”  Daniel answers, “Jeremiah has the tree.”

If they draw a tile they have on their card they say, “I have the heart.”  I must confess, that I’ve never really liked playing games.  However, Zingo! has become a favorite of mine and the boys like it, too.

In S’Match, the therapist is teaching the boys about categories and same or different. She asks questions like, “Are these the same?” Depending on what they’ve spun, and subsequently drawn, their answer takes some brain power.  They are developing good thinking skills as they observe their cards.  The colors may match, but if the spinner says ‘category’ they need to look past the matching colors and focus on the pictures. It’s a challenge. We plan on acquiring this game so we can reinforce what they’re learning from her.

We are more than pleased with the pr ogress our two youngest sons are making with their speech, thinking and language skills.  Playing games like Zingo! makes learning tough skills enjoyable for all!  Just last weekend, I caught our teens playing Zingo! with their little brothers.  My heart spilled over with joy.  This first year has been a toughie in so many ways, but we’re on the upswing.  And if a game like Zingo! can not only help with language, but build familial bonds as well, then I say money well spent!

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Learning to Lose

No one likes to lose, but even fewer people like a sore loser!  While we all want our children to experience success, it is equally important to prepare them to handle defeat… and game play provides a safe and natural arena in which to practice this important life skill!

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In a friendly game of Zingo!, for example, it can be tempting to simply let your child win every time.  This can actually do more harm than good, effectively teaching the inability to celebrate others’ success and making it more difficult down to road to cope with losing.  While I’m certainly not suggesting you play ruthlessly and crush your young opponent each time, gently competitive games provide a great opportunity to prepare your child for inevitable ups and downs in all arenas of life!

So how do we help kids deal with defeat?  In a recent article, Joy Berry, a child-development specialist and author of more than 250 children’s books, shares some dos and don’ts for turning losses into learning experiences:

  • Do let her feel disappointed. “Some parents are consumed with trying to avoid their child having any kind of disappointment, to the point of everyone on a team getting trophies or certificates so nobody feels bad,” Berry says. “It’s very noble, but disappointment prepares children for bigger disappointments later in life. You don’t want to raise a child who tears down the tents and goes home every time they’re disappointed.”
  • Don’t set your child up to fail. “Life is going to deal you enough blows,” Berry says. “We don’t need to set up failures for kids so they learn a lesson.” Choose age-appropriate activities for your child that he or she has a fair shot at winning. “Games that don’t take certain skills but are left to chance are a good way to level the playing field.”
  • Do have a post-game chat. “It’s important to say, ‘There is no way anyone wins all the time, and there are going to be some times when you lose. When you do, it’s important that you’re gracious. When you win, it’s important that you’re a gracious winner too.”
  • Don’t model sore loser-dom. “When your child beats you at a game, you can demonstrate how to be a good sport. ‘Congratulations for winning! Let’s play again!’ Tell them they did a great job and show them how to be a gracious loser.” Shake hands with, give a thumbs up to or high-five the loser
  • Do focus on the positive. “After a loss, say, ‘Great game. I really like the way you did this and this.’ Try to get them to focus on the things that did go right and emphasize the importance of doing that in every phase of life.”

Read the complete article Turn a sore loser into a good sport.

As the Education Specialist at ThinkFun, I write Parent’s Guides for our early learning games  (here’s the guide for S’Match!).  These guides help adults use games not only as fun and engaging activities, but also help them draw out learning opportunities and use games as teaching tools.  These guides share tips for supporting not only cognitive skills such as pattern recognition, word building, and number sense, but also for building critical social skills, like learning to win and lose graciously, through game play!

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An excerpt from the What's GNU? Parent's Guide

How can parents and teachers turn a defeat into an opportunity for growth and learning? Please share YOUR tips and strategies for helping children cope with losing!

Tell Us How You REALLY Feel!

Zingo 7700 lores 300x300 Tell Us How You REALLY Feel!One thing we love, love, LOVE here at ThinkFun is hearing real, constructive feedback from players – kids, parents, grandparents, teachers… all thoughts are welcome!  And the thing I love love LOVE about the work I do with our Product Development team is the opportunity to take that feedback and use it to genuinely improve our products!

Recently we did a major revamp of 2 of our best-selling games, Zingo! and What’s GNU?, and customer suggestions were the first place we started!  After extensive testing and loads of revisions (Hello 2-sided tiles!), we released these updated games, and the response has been phenomenal!  Check out the improvements here!

Always eager to read reviews and hear the word on the street, I was thrilled to stumble across this blog that compiles loads of Zingo! feedback from Amazon.com customers… some highlights that made me smile:

  • My husband calls Zingo! “crack for kids.” Fun for the whole family.
  • This kept my twins busy for years and saved many a playdate as everyone has fun!
  • Surprisingly addicting!
  • Delighted grandkids, delighted grandma!
  • I don’t know what it is about Zingo, but it appears to be one of those games that kids just can’t stop playing.
  • Great Inter-generational Bingo Game!! (do I smell a new tagline?!)

For those Zingo! fans out there, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the game!  Anything to add to the comments here?

Play Games to Feed your Brain… and the World!

Are you a fellow word lover?  Growing up with a grandma who kept an Official Scrabble Dictionary in her trunk at all times, I think it’s in my blood!  Still today I get a Word of the Day email and do my crosswords in pen (ok just early in the week– by Thursday I usually switch to pencil!), and editing ThinkFun’s What’s GNU? online dictionary was no small thrill icon smile Play Games to Feed your Brain... and the World!

freeRiceLogo2 Play Games to Feed your Brain... and the World!As a self-professed word nerd, I was thrilled to learn about the Free Rice initiative!  If you are looking for a fun way to beef up your vocabulary… and do some good for the world while you play, check out www.freerice.com. Take a vocabulary quiz (no need to sign up/register), and for every answer you get right, FreeRice donates ten grains of rice to the World Food Programme!

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Feed your brain and the planet– what could be better!?

Take a moment to play a quick round… and leave a comment using your new word in a sentence (I know… once an elementary school teacher…) icon smile Play Games to Feed your Brain... and the World!

Games bring GNU learning opportunities to homeschoolers!

I’ve recently had the pleasure of working with Angie Knutson, whose My Four Monkeys blog reviews products through her unique lens as both mom and homeschool educator.  Angie’s support of ThinkFun games as teaching tools and eagerness to explore  new education initiatives led to her oldest daughter participating in a test of our yet-unreleased Brain Lab program! Caitlyn proved a fierce competitor, beating over 400 entries to win the Rush Hour Tournament 2 weeks in a row!  Below, Angie shares the creative ways she’s used the updated What’s GNU? game in her homeschool curriculum to build language skills. ENJOY!

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Learning with What’s Gnu? from ThinkFun

Homeschooling and educational games go hand in hand. It can be quite the challenge to make learning fun when the teacher is also the mom. To be honest, the kids get tired of listening to you day after day, all day long. So to make our school time less monotonous, we interject educational games and field trips to do the trick. Since we can’t afford to go on field trips everyday or even every week, educational games have become a very important resource in my bag of tricks.

Probably our favorite site for educational games, ThinkFun has become a household name here and we have such favorites as Rush Hour, Zingo! 1-2-3, and Clever Castle. We recently received a copy of What’s Gnu? to review, and I discovered just how helpful this game is for kindergarten aged children. What’s Gnu? is played similar to the Zingo line of games, and consists of 36 Word Starter Cards, 72 Letter Tiles (vowels are colored red), and a Letter Getter. The game is geared toward ages 5 and up, and you can play with as many people as you’d like. What’s Gnu? was created to develop skills including spelling patterns, reading, word recognition, focus, and concentration. The game was recently redesigned to better meet the needs of the parents and educators using it, and they did a fabulous job! The game now includes two sided cards that allow for two difficulty levels, and the three letter words are perfect for beginning readers.

Over the course of the last several weeks, I have played this game with my Kindergartner and my First Grader several times and have created several different ways to use What’s Gnu? as a learning tool. Playing by the rules is great of you have two children to play, but what if it’s just you and your child? Here’s some ideas for how to use What’s Gnu? in a fun and new way: Games bring GNU learning opportunities to homeschoolers!

Rhyme Time: Lay out all the letter tiles in front of the child. Pick one card at a time and see how many rhyming words they can create with that one card using the different letter tiles. When they run out of ideas, move onto another card. The green side of the Word Starter Cards(with one missing letter) works great for my 5 year old, and the Orange side (missing two letters) works perfectly for my 7 year old. Word Starter Cards without a missing first letter don’t work well with this exercise of course.

Hurry and Spell: My kindergartner loves to play this version of What’s Gnu?! I stack the cards in a pile and then lay all the letter tiles out on the floor. I give him a certain amount of time and he sees how many words he can create in that amount of time. How much time you give them should depend on their ability, but 2 to 3 minutes usually works well for us. When we’re finished, he often wants to play again and see if he can break his record!

Read To Me: Spelling is fun, but reading the words is important too. Sometimes we just sit down with the game and do some reading practice. The Word Starter Cards are great for creating multiple words to have your child read. Kind of like flashcards, but a little more fun. Just use the Letter Tiles and the Word Starter Cards to create a word and see if your child can sound it out. If they do, reward them with a small treat. We use fruit snacks for this exercise and it’s like a snack and lesson all in one!

Casual Learning Time: It doesn’t always have to be about a game. My kids can often be caught just playing around with the Word Starter Cards and Letter Tiles creating words and trying to read them. Sometimes they will create words that aren’t real words and try to figure out how to pronounce them. This process is educational for them and relaxing. There is no pressure to perform, and they can go at their own pace. Don’t forget that a game doesn’t have to be played at a table or desk to be educational. We often play the games on the floor. The kids are more relaxed and comfortable, it seems more like playtime rather than school time, and it allows me to give some attention to my energetic toddler at the same time.

Want more?  Angie has also reviewed Zingo 1-2-3, Clever Castle, and Rush Hour!

How have YOU used games to enrich your homeschool instruction?  Please share your ideas!

So who buys these games anyway?!

Toy Fair was particularly fun as I had a chance to step out of my education/product development bubble and see the real impact of the games I help create through the eyes of the people who buy and sell them!

As the bulk of my communication is with educators, the only regular interactions I have with buyers come during my own “reconnaissance missions.”  As my very patient husband will attest, regardless of where we are or what we’re late for, it’s impossible for me to walk by a toy store without stopping to ask how ThinkFun is selling, jot down feedback, requests, critiques, etc., share new developments– and more often than not end up playing a few challenges!

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For me, Toy Fair was a rare opportunity to connect with hundreds of our retailers from all over the world (without a tired, hungry husband in tow)!  I’d expected to meet almost exclusively with buyers purely interested in stocking their shops with ThinkFun product, and I was pleasantly surprised to be completely wrong!  I met so many people who know our products inside and out and have identified all sorts of new uses and populations to target with them!

A sampling of the various buyers and fans who visited our booth these last 4 days…

  • A non-profit that donates games to sick children at NY hospitals.  I learned that the 40 challenges in games like Rush Hour and Hoppers make them well suited for these kids who often tire quickly or are interrupted frequently.  This progression allows kids to complete as few or as many challenges as they can handle at a time and feel a sense of accomplishment, tackling the next when they’re ready.
  • A reporter who downloaded our new Rush Hour Android app in the booth was so engrossed he took a seat and played challenges on his phone until forced to leave for his next appointment!
  • A Temple bookstore that can’t keep bilingual Hebrew Zingo on the shelf!
  • A speech and language pathologist who reviews games for a blog!  She lit up on the improvements to our What’s GNU? game and gave me new insight on new ways to use this in a theraputic setting!
  • A consultant who uses our games as adult team building exercises
  • A hobby shop in Pennsylvania that hosts the Pinewood Derby event each year for local boy scout troops was thrilled to see Knot So Fast! He felt this competitive knot tying game would be a perfect challenge for these scouts!
  • The Director of a summer camp program looking for new enrichment activities and interested in using ThinkFun games as part of a game invention unit.
  • The developer of a new web site interested in linking ThinkFun games to specific types of learners and their strengths based on Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory.
  • A buyer looking for products suited for children with autism.  She really lit up on our new Zingo To Go, explaining that the push-to-flip action on the playing boards is a manageable, non-overwhelming task that provides appropriate tactile and visual stimulation.
  • A retailer searching for games for a nursing home community that would to keep older adults’ minds sharp with fun, appropriate challenges.  He felt the leveled challenges and chunky pieces in many of our spatial games like Brick by Brick made these a good fit.

Returning from Toy Fair I’m even more energized to continue doing everything I can to make our games the kinds of products that make our customers and buyers stretch their own thinking and see the potential that these games have for use in a huge range of settings!

Before closing down the booth, a few of my ThinkFun buddies and I couldn’t resist seeing how we measure up on the ThinkFun Games to Grow with display… I came up a bit short icon smile So who buys these games anyway?!

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I just made it past the line!

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ThinkFun Designer Josh is all grown up!

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Here's Edoardo from Marketing! Was he stooping to make me feel better?!

Extreme Makeover… ThinkFun Edition!

Two ThinkFun Favorites Get “Gnu” Updates Based on Player Feedback!

Over the years we’ve gotten LOADS of fabulous suggestions from parents, teachers, and kids for ways to improve our Zingo! and What’s GNU? games, and we’ve listened! Last year, we went through massive amounts of player feedback, including online reviews, customer emails, and letters from kids, and we found several recurring themes! To share a few:

“Make Zingo! tiles double-sided!”

“Loading the tiles back into the Zinger is a pain”

“What’s GNU? is too tough for the youngest players”
“There is often no way to make a word in What’s GNU?”
“What’s GNU? Cards scattered everywhere make it way too overwhelming for my 5 year old!”

Using these suggestions and more for guidance, the product development team explored all possible updates, and, having tested countless prototypes and ideas firsthand, I can confidently say that the refreshed versions of these two games are greatly improved as a result!

Updates include:
Zingo!

  • Double-sided tiles!
  • Zingo! Zinger now features easy reload slots that let players pop tiles back in as they play! No more tiles littering the floor means fewer missing pieces… and makes clean up a snap!
  • New tile and image distribution means a winner every time!
  • Instructions feature new options for game play!
  • 2-sided cards offer 2 distinct levels of play. For beginners, the green side is less competitive. If all tiles are used, every player will fill his/her board. The image distribution on the red cards brings a much more competitive element to game play, and players must be quick to call for tiles to have a shot at victory!

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What’s GNU?

  • Now features 2 levels of play! For beginning readers, green cards feature 2 printed letters, meaning they must only fill one missing sound to complete a word. Advanced players can flip to the red side and play with 1 printed letter.
  • New letter distribution on the Word Cards and tiles for maximum word building opportunities!
  • New rules for younger players make the game less overwhelming, and instructions offer loads of play variations!
  • Red vowels highlight spelling patterns and help young readers learn word-building conventions
  • More word learning opportunities than ever with a new online 3-Letter dictionary (see the link below)!

*See some of these “GNU” updates for yourself in our online What’s GNU? game!*

What Gnu cards 300x300 Extreme Makeover… ThinkFun Edition!

"Gnu" word cards and red vowels help early readers build words and learn spelling patterns

For these and all products, making sure we get things exactly right before launching them is about the truth of the game play itself. Obviously packaging, graphics, color scheme, etc. are vital to a product’s success, but the most stunning box in the world means nothing if the game inside doesn’t inspire players to stretch their thinking and grow as they play! It is this commitment to ensuring every game is not only as fun as possible, but also genuinely fosters the development of critical thinking and social skills, that drives our rigorous testing process conducted “in the field” (aka classroom!) by yours truly!

What makes me so proud of the games we produce is the incredible amount of research and testing that go into each product, particularly games targeted at the very youngest players. As you can see, feedback from our teacher partners and their students drives the development (and re-development) of everything we do, so your ideas and comments are ALWAYS welcome – please feel free to email me anytime!

And finally… a HUGE thank you to the many teachers and parents who tested these new games!