|Can you keep a secret? Think Fun is code for Sneak Skills. Shhh... photo courtesy: Think Fun|
WHAT: Snack Attack by Think Fun
DOES: Excellent introduction for preschoolers and young elementary students to encourage game playing; appeals to kids who like bells and whistles but are interested in trying out structured games; sneaks in some fine tuning of "precision skills"
INVEST: $19.99 or less depending on retailer
TOOLS: Foment Love of Language (you must see and say- FAST!); Lose and Win Gracefully; My Body Needs to Move (arms sometimes but fingers and eyes are moving all the time); Remember to Learn
Do you remember the first time you ever played a board game? I think mine was Trouble. That popper was irresistible. Years later, after I had children, I found myself buying it for my kids and again I found that popper to be super fun.
This feature of need-to-touch-it-and-touch-it-now is something fun and worth exploring. The question is: what can you do with "irresistible"? How can you make it work for you to assist your child's growth? Can irresistible toy and developmental growth even be in the same sentence?
I suppose that is a hallmark feature of any well-known and successful game. Irresistibility features can keep them motivated while you sneak some skills into them... like those brownies made of spinach.
I suppose that is why Think Fun calls themselves "Think Fun" rather than "Think Skills." They are good at reeling kids in with nifty contraptions that have some sort of sensory appeal about them. It's something very basic but a game like Zingo or Zingo 1-2-3 where you slide little chips out with a swift swish (think ancient credit card roll-stampers*) and gives you that instant audio with push-n-pull feedback to which kids become slightly addicted. Zingo 1-2-3 even has little slit openings to let kids shove the chips back in. These are not just open holes either, they also have a push mechanism too and kids love it.
These contraptions are very significant but don't just take my word for it, ask Emily Andrews, Preschool Director at the Quad Manhattan. Does she use toys as tools? Oh yes, and not only that but this inclusion preschool uses the Tools of the Mind curriculum.
Sneak Skills Tactic #1: Nifty Contraptions Reel Them In
Emily's first impressions of Snack Attack tells me that there is something to be said about contraptions as a game feature because she was drawn to the game's unique spinner.
"I love games with spinners. Kids love that!" Emily exclaimed. "The movable parts are always an added benefit."
I wonder if they set all the preschool majors aside in teacher school and say "Buy the games with movable parts! Shhhh... it's just for us teachers to know." Seriously, I really had no clue but now that she said it, I can look at the successful games at home for my preschooler and see that many of the winners invite some sort of movement even though the main position of every player is to be seated.
To be sure, it's easier to achieve this goal if you have a game that spins. Emily described why she thought kids liked the spinner in Snack Attack, "It's appealing because it's different in the way it drops the circles down and it's sort of like magic. They are appearing from nowhere." Emily also noted that you don't have to press any buttons to release the pieces. I would bet that the builder-kids out there would notice for sure and will probably grab the spinner, turn it upside down and try to figure out how it works.
|In our house, Number 2 has figured out that saying "I'm the youngest" might help increase his chances of becoming "The Spinner."|
Sneak Skills Tactic #2: Keep the Content Fun
Emily told me that her students liked food-themed games. "It's always a good way to engage kids as opposed to letters or numbers or something more academic." Emily continued, "this allows them to work on matching skills without putting that added pressure on them, so it keeps it fun."
So wait a minute, are numbers and letters not OK? Emily said that she liked to use letters and numbers and embed them into actual make-believe play but for the board games, she sought "fun content."
"It's good to have something that kind of hooks them and engages them when they see the box [game].
'Oh, it's pieces of cake and cupcakes,' and 'oh, it's chicken and asparagus,'" she described what the kids would be saying to themselves. "That's not threatening to them but it they open a box and see a bunch of flashcards and numbers on it. They might be like, 'you know what? I'd rather go play with my trains.'"
'"ou're already asking them to sit down, listen, follow directions, and take turns. You need to offer them something in the way of...'this is going to be really cool, you're gonna spin this spinner and these circles are going to magically appear. And you're going to get to match foods and try and make high stacks of food on your plate!"
Emily also liked how the game asked children to match by putting food onto your plate. "It adds an element of dramatic play to it and it can be a little bit more fun and play-like as opposed to sitting and doing an alphabet bingo where they're just covering up a letter that they have present on their board. That doesn't have any kind of play built into it," she said.
|In the background, you'll see No. 3's pile waiting to be counted but Number 2 wants to do more. He needs to hold all of them. It's very cute.|
The Emily Andrews' Guide to Kiddo Game Success (Part 1 of 1,000)
"At four years of age, kids can sit for a long time, but it's typical for self-directed activities (translation: something they would do by themselves ie. cars and a garage)," Emily clarified. "That kind of play can last an hour, but when you are playing an interactive board game you really need to make sure that the child wants to be there and doing that."
Once you are sure that the child wants to be there, you can give that game a go. I have compiled a fun list of ideas that I extracted from my conversation with Emily. She didn't really make a "guide" but if you know her and see all the different things she does with games and their components, you could say she is one gifted funmaker.
- Play with them: Don't just facilitate. Model it for them.
- If you feel it's necessary, play with a child one-on-one first
before introducing as group play. (This worked very successfully for Numbers 1 and 2 who can play with Big Kid Number 3 without me as referee.)
- Establish the language in advance: Emily noted that in this game
you are needing to not only make a match but also to verbalize the match.
"That's a harder skill," she said. So if you think your child might not
know the word then go through the snack chips and make sure she knows
them all. Number 2 calls the drumstick "chicken feet." I have a feeling
he saw it on a dim sum cart but he has never had one so I don't know
why he keeps saying "chicken feet," but it's so cute.
- Decide who gets to spin: You might have to take turns or maybe
one child really wants to do it and the other doesn't care but decide in
- Decide how to approach winning: Emily said that at the age of
five, it's okay to introduce the concept of "finishing first." ("winning" can be a little different in concept) Even in Snack Attack, you can literally present it
as a shared goal to "get rid of all the circles," rather than who got
the most circles. In fact, the game's design sort of leads players to
not think about how much more they need to win. The game moves fast.
You figure out who you snagged the most circles only at the end so the
focus during play is on playing and not just merely winning.
- Use the pieces for other games: Emily said you can place 7 different food circles and place them under a handkerchief. Then have the children say, "ABBRA-CA-DABBRA!" and then you whisk a chip away and lift the handkerchief. The kids have to tell you which one is missing. "I do games like that with the kids all the time. That works on how to remember names," said Emily.
|Fast flippin' fun is the sneak tactic for working on the "mature neat pincer grasp."|
Sneak Skills Tactic #3: Don't Let Them Know They are Getting a Workout!
Number 3, a thirteen-year old who plays Snack Attack often with my kids once talked to me about having to get used to flipping over the circles (it's part of the game). Since I've had my share of trouble picking up coins off a table, I thought I'd ask a pediatric occupational therapist about the whole act of flipping a circle like the circles in Snack Attack.
I remember working in a hospital and first hearing of occupational therapy and thinking, "What the heck is that?!" In short, these therapists help folks use their bodies to execute all that they have to do in the business of living (eating, typing, washing dishes...). For kids, the special humans who learn best through play, pediatric occupational therapists like Aimee Prainito of Prainito Pediatric Therapy is an expert in helping kids do exactly that: play.
Aimee told me that this flipping motion is basically working on reinforcing the "mature neat pincer grasp" (pad of index finger to pad of thumb). "This is the grasp that is required for all of a child's precision skills," Aimee advised. The business of play can be so technical, eh? Well, it sounds so useful that I just had to ask her- Aimee, what exactly are PRECISION SKILLS?
"Precision Skills are basically all your very controlled fine-motor skills that you need to function in life..holding pencil to write, holding a toothbrush to brush your teeth, holding a fork to eat, holding a piece of thread to thread a needle.." Say no more Aimee, you had me at "pencil!"
Oh wait, I have to remember here that not only do kids have to do this action repeatedly during a game of Snack Attack but they have to be flipping those circles over fast!?! That's a whole lotta fast flippin' fun! Could this be another Think Fun = Sneak Skills approach? That's very sneaky indeed. I think I'll keep the secret to myself for now, just like those brownies with spinach.
Now Win Your Own Snack Attack! Remember to follow the rules! The winning game can only be shipped to the U.S. Ends: April 20, 2012 12:01 AM EST
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* I don't know what you call those things. Remember the big piece of metal-something where you put your credit card on it and a piece of mimeograph-like paper over it and then you roll and clunky metal handle forward and back to make an imprint? It's so ancient but us old folks know what that is.... If you think about it, why do we even have raised numbers on those cards now? You practically never see those sliders anywhere but if kids saw it, they would probably roll it 100 times before they got tired.
Disclosure statement: Toys are Tools has not been compensated in any fashion by the manufacturer of any of the mentioned products for the publication of this post. The product was given to Toys are Tools and to the experts to facilitate a review. Reviews are never promised. Video embedded with the permission of Think Fun.