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)

If you had a chance to play Lab Mice ever or maybe to play it with your mind's eye in yesterday's review, then you may have an inkling as to how difficult #99 (out of 100) would be in Find Your Way Gnome or Lab Mice.

I am only in the teens.  I may stay there forever.  The first time I tried this game was at Number 5's house and I stared and I stared at Gnomes' Puzzle #4 for the longest time.  I was unable to solve it but this is before I tried Lab Mice at home with Number 1 as my tutor.   As the sequel, I am wondering if Find Your Way Gnome is supposed to be slightly harder.  In the beginning stages, it does start out with more gnomes and homes to match than Lab Mice as I later found out.   I am not sure but I am imagining that as you get to the higher numbers, there can't be much of a difference but alas, no one from the Toys are Tools squadron of testers will be able to tell you right now that one is harder than the other unless we sat there and finished them all.

This still bugs me out!  Whoa.

Got Questions about Mr. 99? 

Additionally, if you were wondering how someone can do #99 so swiftly, listen to  Dr. Gayle Hermann, our master child psychologist.  She really knows about different strengths.  She's met so many kids as a child psychologist assessing a child's abilities in memory, language, visual-spatial skills, etc...  If she hasn't seen it all, she's seen almost all of it.

Since we've established that this game requires planning and self-monitoring and does not reward impulsivity, I asked Gayle why Number 1 Son might be doing well here (because Number 1 needs to practice those things).   Then she asked me if he learned how to avoid tricky spots or if he naturally just saw it and I thought the former was likely correct.

Then Gayle said that this was the great part of Lab Mice and Find Your Way Gnome because of the trial and error learning component. Well this makes sense!  I think he does have good visual-spatial skills but I did see him struggle a bit at one point.  Luckily, he's moved on since then.

Still what about Number 5's dad?  Maybe we should call him Mr. 99?  How can he do that puzzle in five minutes (probably less) with no real visible erasures!?!?!?!

"Some people just see it.  They see the whole.  They can analyze and synthesize the pieces and they put each piece exactly where it goes.  Other people take a more trial and error approach until they figure out how it should look. It's a different style of thinking. "

Synthesize? I used this word in Friday Mindfeed last week.  Brian Grazer, the Oscar winning producer who struggled in school as a kid with dyslexia actually used the word "synthesizer" to describe himself when he realized what he was good at and started to get straight A's in college.  Maybe he could be Mr. 99 too.

Gayle said that planning is problem-solving in advance.  That's cool.  photo: Mindware

About Mr. 99, Gayle said, "Well that clearly shows that he has high level skills in those areas [visual analysis, planning] but the fact that he had no erasures means that he could mentally manipulate that information and hold onto it before he made the line."

I don't know how much Numbers 1 and 5 can mentally manipulate information yet but I am hopeful that these games are going to help in some way.  What's important to me is that these games bring out that discussion.  I don't recall anyone ever talking to me when I was a kid about moving things in my mind first.  I would have thought they were talking about telekinesis.

Most Noteworthy Skill of Lab Mice and Find Your Way Gnome?

While Gayle did mention that since you have to pay attention to multiple things, there is definitely a working memory component here.  However, to Gayle, the most notable skill exercised here is planning.

"Everything is about planning," she said.   Gayle is great at giving examples and gave me a simple one about how a child is required to plan in their everyday life. 

This is a video about Lab Mice but you can see the many similarities in this Mindware video. 

A child may not be able to fit everything into his backpack.  He might put his binder in before putting in his lunchbox.  When it gets jammed, he might keep pushing and shoving things in and just get stuck.

Gayle said, "A child needs to be able to say, 'this is not working, what else can I do?'"   In such a situation, Gayle thought she would say, "Well how else can you make it work?  Which is what happens when you are doing these mice and you say 'Uh-Oh, I don't have anyway for the orange mice to get to the cheese, so that didn't work. What else can I do to make this connection?'"

In Find Your Way Gnome- Puzzle #3 has seven matches to make.  That's more than Lab Mice's #3 puzzle.   The Gnomes are very cute.    I used to think they were more for girls but I don't think so anymore.  Gayle thinks both boys and girls will like either puzzle.

Embrace 100 Choices Not 100 Steps

I needed to ask Gayle this question because it has been bothering me as a mom of a logic game lover for a long time.

Do you have to finish these puzzles?  I do feel guilty when I buy a logic game for my son when he didn't finish the last one that I bought for him.  So I asked Gayle, "Is it important to go from 1 to 100?"

"In order?" Gayle asked. "No."

What a relief!  Now I can admit it.  I think I have had over 20 logic games in my house, a few are not yet opened because they are up for review but either way, of the many that have been opened and played with, only a few have actually been completed  at the highest level available.

Gayle was very relaxed about it all.  She said that a child might feel that certain numbers are not challenging enough and may want to skip a bunch to feel the challenge.  However, she did say, "There is nothing wrong with going in order and being able to say, 'well I did every one.'"  She also added, "But there is nothing to say that you really have to."  

In Lab Mice, Puzzle #3 has only five matches to make.  You can also see that Lab Mice uses single colors for mice and cheese whereas Find Your Way Gnome uses additional colors for both gnomes and homes.

She and I agree that even if a child is not finishing a particular number, they are still working on the skill.  I think that is more important in the long run.    I didn't think so before but now I think it is kind of cute when Number 1 goes to the very last puzzle of any of his logic games and tries to solve it.  I used to get mad at him about that but now I see it as just his way of doing things like getting to know how "serious" his puzzle is.

"I can definitely see taking something like this and having it in my office," Gayle said because there are certain games that she keeps around when she's doing an assessment just to see what kids do during a break.  Gayle loves having games around, just to see how kids play. 

Of course my son tried #100.  I now believe he does this at the beginning of starting a new game set like the way someone might ask, "How serious are you?"

Keyword: Play

I guess that is the big point here and that is probably why the figures in these games are playful and cheerful. 

I really believe that it will be better for learning if they are really playing, smiling, and having fun. I think that kids as little as four or five are so very much aware that these games require their brain power to solve it and so I must remember to be sensitive to their sense of ability and self here.  With that said, if they have trouble, I will employ Gayle's methods and try to be more like Number 5's mom and help my child start that self-talk process. 

Number 5's mom actually sits besides her daughter and they trade cards as they play.  She actually wished out loud for it to be spiral bound so that it could be more travel friendly.   Travel Mice and Travel Gnomes!  Oh, that sounds so cool!  And what if there were an app???  Either way, I am content following her advice as I have solved these puzzles alongside him.  I also threaten to beat him even though I am twenty puzzles behind.  He loves it and I believe it is just a natural incentive to kick my butt some more. Go ahead little man, kick as much as you can.

Time to Win Your Own Find Your Way Gnome or Lab Mice- Your Choice!  Sorry for asking you to enter twice but your displayed interest helps me figure out what to review next!

Remember to follow the rules!   The winning game can only be shipped to the U.S.  Ends: June 12, 2012 12:01 AM EST

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Can't wait to see who wins Lab Mice or Find Your Way Gnome?  Click on the photos to purchase through my Amazon link.

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.  The product was given to Toys are Tools to facilitate a review.  Reviews are never promised.   


  1. These look Awesome!!!

    Jenny H

  2. I like games that promote critical thinking in children.

  3. I love games that help my kids plan ahead! It's such a useful skill for 'real' life!

  4. I love that these games are FUN as well as educational.

  5. These gnomes look really cute. 

  6. JeannemillermeltonMay 28, 2012 at 3:40 PM

    both my son and daughter love logic games.  Traffic Jam has been a favorite at our house.  They zip through the cards, and I am stuck in the teens.  Both games look like a lot of fun!