Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Review and Giveaway: Distraction Game: Discover Yourself Through Laughter

Play Distraction with Toys are Tools to find out how to really stretch your working memory! photo: ThinkFun

Distraction by ThinkFun
DOES:  work on and play around with your working memory using laughter as the motivator to challenge you and your family
INVEST: $12.99
TOOLS: Remember to Learn, Lose and Win Gracefully

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review and Giveaway: Find Your Way Gnome: Be A Great Synthesizer

"The tin is adorable," said Number 5's mom.  It also gets an A+ for storage support!  This tin holds all 100 puzzles and two markers perfectly- each in its own pocket. No swishing around in the box!  Yeah!  photo: Mindware

Find Your Way Gnome
DOES:  just like Lab Mice, this game also encourages practice in planning, self-monitoring, and looking at "the big picture"
INVEST: $ 17.95
TOOLS: Remember to Learn, Flexibility is My Superpower, Think Like a Scientist/Engineer
All new giveaway today.  Enter to win your choice of Find Your Way Gnome or Lab Mice
See review first part of this review here (for both Lab Mice and Find Your Way Gnome)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Review and Giveaway: Lab Mice: The Gift of A Clean Slate

It's not easy to encourage children to "see the big picture" but it's easier to make analogies to that if you are using Lab Mice and Find Your Way Gnome.  photo: Mindware

WHAT: Lab Mice
DOES: encourages practice in planning, self-monitoring, and looking at "the big picture"
INVEST: $17.95
TOOLS:  Think Like a Scientist/Engineer, Remember to Learn, Flexibility is My Superpower

Monday, May 21, 2012

Review and Giveaway: AquaNotes: It's the Thought That Wows

Yes, it really exists and it really does work.  photo: Calmar Consulting Corporation

WHAT: AquaNotes  (Waterproof Paper Pad Set)
DOES:  you can write in the shower, you can write underwater- yes, completely underwater
INVEST: $7.00 per set includes pad of 40 waterproof sheets (write on either side) that comes with suction cups for pad and 1 waterproof pencil with suction pencil holder  (I bought mine on sale- 5 pad sets for $28 thus buy 4 get 1 free)
TOOLS: Family Fix-its, I Can Take Care of Myself, Remember to Learn 
Note: Aqua FunNotes Review (separate from this) has also been published now.  Remember to click there to ensure your chance at winning all three AquaNotes pads. http://www.toysaretools.com/2012/05/review-and-giveaway-aqua-funnotes-mazes.html

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Mindfeed: Brian Grazer: From All F's to Best Picture Oscar

"I got all F's" said Brian Grazer who lives with Dyslexia.  Among his many accolades, he was awarded Best Picture Oscar for A Beautiful Mindphoto: Child Mind Institute

Today I'm introducing Friday Mindfeed again, the 2nd story in this new column because I want to be able to offer stories that help us and our children see the big picture.  I was fortunate enough to attend a discussion between Brian Grazer and President of the Child Mind Institute Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz at the 10th Annual Adam Jeffrey Katz Memorial Lecture, a two-part program designed to raise awareness and educate the public about ADHD and dyslexia.  The name "Child Mind Institute" might ring a bell to you because veteran learning specialist Susan Schwartz who is also the Director of the  Learning and Diagnostics Center there has offered her insights here for Pathwords Jr. and the Mensa Award-winning game Mine Shift.

Sometimes, when my kids are not doing what they are asked to do, I reprimand them.  But then I look at what they are doing and see that I probably might not have gotten annoyed or even angry at them if only they had just told me, "Mom. It's not what you asked me to do but you're going to like it. Just give me a chance." 

But they don't know how to do that yet.  So I yell at them and then I see they've made something really great and want to crawl into a hole and eat my words.  If I was a better parent, I would figure out how to foster that in them and how to "stop with the yelling," as my kids like to say.

From All F's to Best Picture Oscar®

Stories about successful grown-ups who got yelled at A LOT when they were kids always inspire me.  For one, the story in itself is interesting because I love underdog success stories.  Moreover, if you happen to have a kid whose creativity might get him into trouble or whose gifts are not exercised enough throughout his everyday life then stories like Brian Grazer's is perfect food for the parental mind hungry for some hope and good news.

As both a writer and producer, Brian Grazer has been personally nominated for four Academy Awards, and in 2002 he won the Best Picture Oscar® for A Beautiful Mind.

Who did not love A Beautiful Mind?  If I am watching a movie like that then usually, by the time it ends and the credits start rolling, I start to realize that I have my body back because my mind had been totally into the movie.  All you can say is "Wow......" 

Among his other films, which have earned a total of 43 Oscar nominations, are Apollo 13, Frost/Nixon, J. Edgar, and Splash.   Brian Grazer's television productions, which have earned 138 Emmy® nominations, include Parenthood, Friday Night Lights, 24, Arrested Development, Felicity, and SportsNight. He and his longtime friend and business partner Ron Howard began their collaboration in 1985 with the hit comedies Night Shift and Splash, and in 1986 they founded Imagine Entertainment, which they continue to run together as chairmen.

What's with the hair?  Brian Grazer was asked.   At first he did it to please his daughter but then he saw that it was something he could use to learn about new people he met based on how they reacted to his hair.  I love that.  Brian Grazer is also wearing the Speak Up for Kids wristbandphoto: Child Mind Institute

How Did He Do It? 

The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College in New York City was packed with many attendees interested in hearing of his struggles and how he was able to move not only forward but become enormously successful.  I met a woman who even brought her son.  Go Mom!

The discussion was lively and many personal questions were asked and answered.  But two answers that really resonated with me are these:

What was it like going to school?
It was horrible. From the very beginning. Because I couldn't read, and at that time they didn't classify it as dyslexia, it was just that you couldn't read. I was always being reprimanded. And not being able to read also disables you from answering questions, so you're hiding when the teacher's looking around to say, "show of hands." There'd never be a show of my hand. I would act out in different ways—not horribly, but I was mischievous. It was a way to find my way through the embarrassment of not being able to read.

Did school ever get easier?
Finally in college I figured out how to study. In the last part of my career in college I got straight A's. I learned that I was a good synthesizer—I'm actually pretty good at understanding what's important. Like the big picture of things. So I was able to highlight what was actually important, identify central ideas, and umbrella ideas that would lead into questions that are subsets. I realized that I had that gift or trait where I could highlight things and then look at that highlighted material just before going to bed and wake up with pretty much total understanding. Not total memory, but complete understanding of all of the implications of the big ideas. So I could take tests, and do well at them.

The very next day after the lecture, I had an interview with a psychologist about a logical reasoning/visual spatial game and how certain people who did well at this game must be able to see the big picture and know where everything is and what fits with what and what doesn't go with what and what will create a problem... etc...   The people who do well at such games amaze me.  I can't ruin the surprise yet but this whole idea of being able to see the big picture really is a talent worth cultivating, isn't it? 

This is a great game for future synthesizers and big picture thinkers.  Here is a giant version of Swish by ThinkFun that was played at the TEDActive Conference this year.  Swish was invented by two math teachers in Israelphoto: Thinkfun

Does Dyslexia Come with a Bonus Gift? 

Toys are Tools endeavors to not only show that toys can be used as tools to build skills but that they can also be used to feed a child's natural talent.  Feeding talents is very important to me and that was exactly why I bought Swish.  It's not like Number 1 Son plays it in the most easiest way possible.  But to him, this kind of difficulty is as exhilarating.

I still think he misses the big picture a lot but he's only eight so we have time to work on it some more.  Regardless, it's very clear to me that Swish is a game that promotes big picture thinking.  You do have to rely on your memory to remember where everything is and what the needs are in each section but at the same time I believe that if you have a talent in this area then, it's easier to remember it.  I  also have a feeling that if you put Swish in front of Brian Grazer, he would make so many Swishes so fast that you would be lucky if you get one two-card Swish.

In ThinkFun's SmartPlay Blog written by Charlotte Fixler, a special twelve card Swish puzzle is presented.  This is a bit different from the way the game is played.  Basically, you are asked to make 2,3,4, 5-card Swishes without any cards left over.  We have not achieved this here.   photo: ThinkFun

My son had a swim instructor who lives with Dyslexia.  Coach Michael Jackson (for real, that's his name) is one of the best teachers I have ever met in my life.  For one full year, every week, he would come back with something new to teach Number 1 Son how to swim better.  Every week, my son got closer and closer to his goal.   How many teachers bring books, computers, orange juice cartons, funny face glasses with light-up noses to the pool to help a kid learn how to swim?  I think Coach Mike is gifted and he helps me make the connection between dyslexia and creative thinking so easily.  At Yale University, there is an institution called the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity.  What an awesome name.

I'm very grateful to have attended this discussion between Dr. Harold Koplewicz and Brian Grazer.  It was enriching and hearing stories like Brian Grazer's always help me come one step closer to parenting from a big picture perspective.   I can't wait to see who'll be honored at the Adam Jeffrey Katz Memorial Lecture next year.  


To read highlights of the discussion between Brian Grazer and Dr. Harold Koplewicz click HERE

To read an excerpt from the lecture by Stephen P. Hinshaw entitled "ADHD: Causes, Policy, Stigma, and Medication," click HERE

If you missed my review of ThinkFun's game Swish, click HERE   NYSCI's David Wells loved it so much, right after we finished his interview, he hung up and went to the Toy Industry Association website to vote for it because it was a nominated for Educational Toy of the Year.

Friday Mindfeed: TEDxTEEN: Tavi Gevinson: A teen just trying to figure it out

WHAT: NEW!!!!!!  "Friday Mindfeed"- first story from TEDxTeen: Tavi Gevinson: A teen just trying to figure it out

DOES: Since the birth of my first child, I am no longer able to read the Sunday paper anymore.  If you make time to still do this then I applaud you.  Me? I really miss those Sunday mindfeasts where the paper was the main course and the coffee and doughnut were just the dressing on the side.  Those stories really allowed me to stop, think, and look at everything in perspective.   Friday Mindfeed at Toys are Tools will attempt to provide these servings big and small.
INVEST: Your time is the most expensive of all.  It's up to you to take a bite.
TOOLS: Family Fix-it (take a moment to look at the big picture, your big picture), Social Scene Helper (here's something to talk about with your kids or friends or yet another fun witticism for Pinterest or Facebook)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Review: Tegu Pocket Pouch Prism: Surrendering is Winning

You can take them anywhere.  Tegu's Pocket Pouch Prism (Jungle)   photo: Tegu

WHAT:  Tegu Pocket Pouch Prism Jungle
DOES:  Shows a child that a little can do a lot; allows you to create things by accident; supports fluidity in the thinking process of creating something; superb grown-up's toy (you will "borrow" for sure)
INVEST: $30.00
TOOLS: Express Yourself, More Make-Believe Please, My Body Needs to Move, Social Scene Helper, Think Like a Scientist/Engineer (creative process), Flexibility is My Superpower, Fertilize Responsibility and Courtesy

Monday, May 14, 2012

Review and Giveaway: Imaginets: Funk is the New Competitive Edge in Education

Imaginets has won some impressive awards.  photo: Mindware

WHAT: Imaginets
DOES:  gives a child an opportunity to look closely and see things differently; great for trying to build creativity in a child.
INVEST: $29.95  (other retailers may differ)
TOOLS: Express Yourself, More Make-Believe Please, Flexibility is My Superpower (new)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Review: STACK-A-DOODLE Crayon Set: Good Ideas are Simple and Familiar

photo: Fred and Friends

Stack-A-Doodle: Building-Block Crayon Set
DOES:  it's toy art; it's also a functional crayon and functional building block
INVEST: $7.50 Suggested Retail Price (other retailers may differ- I bought it for less!)
TOOLS: Think Like A Scientist/Engineer (good creations inspire this thinking), Express Yourself

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Review and Giveaway: Wind-Up Workshop Robot: Good Kits Keep Creativity Flowing

Wind-Up Workshop Robots  photo: Creativity for Kids

WHAT: Wind-Up Workshop Robots
DOES:  provides basic parts to build decorate outsides of simple wind-up robots.  you can be really creative and kind of funny!
INVEST: $15.99 MSRP  (differs depending on retailer)
TOOLS: Express Yourself, More Make Believe Please

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Review & Giveaway: Trucky 3: He Said, "My Brain is Good"

photo courtesy: Smart/Tangoes USA

Trucky 3 by Smart/Tangoes USA
DOES:  Allows you to take different shaped blocks and make it fit into transparent truck containers;  Unfinished or finished, the three puzzleboards (trucks) are excellent toys
TOOLS: Remember to Learn, Think Like a Scientist/Engineer, More Make-Believe Please, My Body Needs to Move (manual dexterity, move around to play)