Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Last Minute Gift Idea - Brain Sharpening Games: Part 2

Being able to shuffle cubes is surprisingly more fun than just pressing buttons
DOES:  features 4 games including a visual memory game played by pressing buttons to repeat a sequence a player sees on the cubes; another memory game asks you to line up cubes to show the sequence of colors given to you, the other 2 games are more puzzle-like and require shuffling too.
INVEST: $17- $30 (last minute gift? see idea for how to get it fast by mail)*
TOOLS:  Remember to Learn, Social Scene Helper, Lose and Win Gracefully

If you read yesterday's post about Cartoon It!, I hope you were able to guess that the game I was talking was Simon Flash.  This remake of the classic game seems to be a big hit and I was quite happy that it came out. 

Before I knew it was coming out, I had been thinking of building memory skills for awhile and so I had wanted to get the original Simon if I could. I have the apps on my iPod Touch but I just felt like it would be more fun if we could hold the game in our hands.  However, the old edition and the later released versions including Simon Trickster, Super Simon, Simon 2, and Simon Clear are all out there on eBay and Amazon, but I just didn't want to pay those huge collector prices!  I am not a collector!  I just want my kids to have fun while building their minds.

So of course, I bought Simon Flash when it came out this year and I was a good girl and waited until it was on sale.  But after it came home, it just sat there for a while.  I guess I got tired because sometimes my motivation starts to wane and I end up getting a little lost.  I mention this now because I have this feeling that I'm projecting an image of "Edu-Mom."  I am not Edu-Mom.  am just interested in a lot of things and so prioritizing is hard for me.

Thus I like to ask for advice to help me figure out what to spend my time on.   Since I have this neat game in my hands, should I just leave it around so that my kids can fiddle with it or should I really focus on it and use it to work on working memory?   And more importantly, do I really need to work on working memory?  I get frustrated that Number 1 forgets to do things that I tell him to do but how much of a problem is this?  Even my husband doesn't listen to me.  Before we had kids, I asked him to get his hearing checked because he wasn't responding when I called him!  (Since he has a family member with hearing loss, he actually did get it checked and nothing was wrong! But that was sort of not good news!)

Hey, they can play in the dark! Cool!
Why Should Any Parent Care About Working Memory?

In yesterday's post, I described Queens College's psychology expert, Dr. Anil Chacko's analogy of comparing a physical workout schedule and a memory workout schedule.   He makes sense.  If you practice for just a couple of minutes a month, you are not going to see an impact.  But unfortunately, he said that the science is not there about how much these games need to be played to make a difference. DARN!  So now what? Maybe I shouldn't even bother! So then my question becomes:

Why are we working on this anyway?  Does it really affect Number 1's overall life?  Because he studies for his spelling tests and he does okay and sometimes he remembers a minute detail from a movie he watched a year ago and just wows me.  Maybe it's just with me, maybe it's just at home, maybe I'm just annoying (that's not a maybe)...  so then maybe I should ask, how much does a child's working memory affect the his day at school?

"It affects the day entirely," said Dr. Chacko. "Any adult-child contact typically revolves around adults telling kids what to do. So whenever adults tell kids what to do, it's usually not a one-step command."  And then I recall why I am always yelling at Number 1 because I say he is not "listening" to me.  I definitely don't give him one-step commands.  He's not a toddler anymore!

Dr. Chacko added that it's usually a multiple-step command given at school.  (And then I'm thinking Simon's multiple steps like... Red, Blue, Yellow, Green, Yellow, Green, Blue - Now Repeat!  Red, Blue, Yellow, Green, Red - BONK!..... oh, I think I'm getting this...)   "If you cannot hold all those steps in your mind at the same time, you are not going to be able to execute it."    So then I think for those kids who don't do so well with "listening," maybe they hear the loud "BONK" of Simon a lot faster than others....  But what are the other ways working memory plays into my kid's day?

"(For) things like reading comprehension which is a big part of a kid's schoolday," Dr. Chacko used as an example, "a lot of it has to do with working memory."  Dr. Chacko also explained that if a child can't remember the first two sentences of just a three-paragraph passage, then the child is really going to struggle to answer questions since those two sentences will obviously be related to the very end of the story. 

This reminded me of how I always tell Number 1 to read the directions and please if you ever meet him, do not tell him how his mother said in the last post about ThinkFun's Cartoon It!' about just how grateful she was for the video instructions because she hates reading directions - just like him.  SSSSHHHHH!

But it is true, he hates reading directions too but you know what? I make him do it even if it is super obvious what it is you have to do.  I once missed out on a job opportunity at a big PR agency because I didn't follow the directions.  As part of an interview process, I was supposed to write a press release about a headache medication and instead wrote an "really great" press release (their words) about gastrointestinal medication.  So I didn't get the job.  They said had I not made that mistake, things would have been different.   So I know what Dr. Chacko means about the first two sentences.  I don't want Number 1 to miss out on any opportunities when he can do the work but just forgot what the directions were.  It's very painful when that happens.

Dr. Chacko further added, "So much of what a child learns in school is by written text and written text is is a lot of what education is about."  This makes lots of sense to me.  I know many schools are trying to be more experiential in learning and I love it but truth be told, we all face limits here.  Experiential learning is probably more expensive in many cases. Thus, if our working memory is in need of improvement and those 3-paragraph passages are turning into 3-page articles....  then we are in need of a serious memory workout routine.  

Tomorrow or early Thursday morning, I will talk about how you may be able to attempt making a memory game work on your child's working memory.  Even though the science isn't here yet, that doesn't mean we can't try.  You can be sure to hear more from Dr. Chacko about this as well.

The case is sturdy but not stiff but I don't think there is a key lock.

Simon Flash at Home and Outside

For now, know that we like Simon Flash. I am not using it to conquer any memory mishaps but perhaps someday I may.  My favorite game is Simon Shuffle because you get to move things around and still works on my ability to repeat sequences and makes me think faster. Number 1 likes it too.  I actually have figured out that I do not like pressing buttons so much as is required with the Classic game. It makes me slightly anxious.  So if your little one is an anxious type, try the Shuffle game first.  

Number 1 likes the puzzle-like qualities of Simon Secret Color and Simon Lights Off but I have no clue how to play them. However, just like yesterday's ThinkFun game, you can watch the video and learn how to play instantly!  Number 2 likes Simon Classic.  He likes pressing buttons very much.  He's still just four.  I'm just happy he can play this game with me.  

By the way, we have apps for Simon-like games but I still prefer the game because it produces a more enjoyable family experience in my book.  Additionally, this game is quite portable, but it does make noise and so I can't play it everywhere.  I think you might be able to mute the sound but at least for us, I don't think they'd play with it silently for very long.  However, I do think that one strength an app has over a physical game is that you can easily start over and that is good for kids who get frustrated easily.  But here is a video from Hasbro that helps with troubleshooting.  Yeah!

Additionally, this game can be played with multiple players but I think adults need to be present a bit when younger children are playing because there are no written instructions attached to any of the buttons themselves so at times, a child might have pressed the wrong button and had the cubes do something unexpected and may not know how to go back to the game he wanted to play.

Also, one thing I have noticed about this game is that because it is fast-paced, there seems to be less frustration when losing.  Additionally, at least for me, when you mess up, the tones don't sound so ominous.  Number 2 who dislikes losing a lot doesn't seem to mind coming in last with Simon Flash. Phew!

Again, if your child is a shy type but is really great at this game, then this could be a quick way to insert him within a small group of kids.  This game also doesn't require much chatting but natural chatting and laughter may occur anyway.  Everyone likes that "BONK" buzzer sound.

Here's another plus: you cannot cheat with this game.  It's impossible.  There is NO grey area. While I don't think it is great not to have to talk or discuss rules, for some kids, a game like this might help with social scene entry just because you don't have to talk so much and all eyes are focused down on this game and not each other just like Beyblades.  Additionally, if your child is impatient, you might be happy to know that waiting turns with this game may not be so painful because your child will likely enjoy watching and waiting for his mom or his friend to mess up.  BONK!

*If you are reading this today 12/20/11, and need a last minute gift, then you can sign up for Amazon Mom, to get 2-day shipping on some products.  (Amazon doesn't pay me to say this- I swear - I just love FREE SHIPPING)  I'm pretty sure that you can get the Prime membership for free for at least a month if you are a parent or a grandparent of a small child (not sure how small they have to be).  With any luck you'll get it by Friday the 23rd!

Click Here: Brain Sharpening Series Part 1
Click Here: Brain Sharpening Series Part 3

Disclosure statement: Toys are Tools has not been compensated in any fashion by the manufacturer or retailer of any of the mentioned products for the publication of this post.  

1 comment:

  1. Since our OT mentioned our son's visual processing issues (which I was hitherto unaware of) I have been trying to get more and more into light stiff - lava lamp, moving lights, etc. This would be a cool game to try! Thanks for introducing it to me.