|These are most of the ThinkFun games we bought before Toys are Tools was launched. Rush Hour Traffic Jam Jr. and Zingo are with other families now. Hoppers and TipOver are at school.|
WHAT: ThinkFun's New Special Needs Section
DOES: Allows you to easily to find a game that offers the skills/features you seek (Speech and Language, Numbers, Memory, etc.)
INVEST: Only your time
TOOLS: Family Fix-its, I Can Take Care of Myself
EXPERT OPINION: Susan Schwartz, MAEd, Director, Learning and Diagnostics Center, Child Mind Institute
PICK-Your-Own-Prize Giveaway: Details Below
When you talk about skills the way it's done at here at Toys are Tools, it is natural to think that we are all about special needs. However, I like to think that this is a space where we can talk about special toys, games, and gadgets that meet special goals. For me, identifying the skills featured in a toy is an important part of the mission because the more we know what it does for us, the more we are going to like it, use it, and as a result, be helped by it.
|Love that you can click onto it from the homepage. They are serious about this page. They want it to be used!|
By the way, when I say "special needs," I am not just talking about "challenges." In fact, I think some of the most "able" kids will really require these "special toys" because highly-intelligent children have their own unique "special need." If anything, these children have the least patience for toys that do not challenge the mind.
Have a Special Agenda?
Here is some good news for those parents and actually all parents who want to know more about what's so educational about their educational toy. ThinkFun, one of my favorite toy companies, just put up a special needs section but to me, they might as well call it a "Special Needs and Special Talents" or "Special Agendas" section because they chart all their games by the skills that will be practiced when playing it. It's a great resource.
|How easy is this to use?|
Three more reasons why it's great:
- It is extremely simple. You don't have to be in the teaching or psychology biz to understand it.
- With a little bit of help, your child can use it too.
- If you already have a ThinkFun game you love, look at their chart and see if another game has similar skills checked off. That could be the predictor of another hit at home.
How Adaptive are ThinkFun Games and Directions?
Understanding directions without reading? Oh yes, this is one of the reasons why I love ThinkFun! There are video directions for many of their games! Some have QR Codes that you can scan with your smartphone and you can play it just before starting. And I know that some of our favorite games like Snack Attack and Zingo 1,2,3 have double-sided "game boards" (one board per person) which means that a person could play with an easier game board in the same game as a person who is playing with a harder game board. (See picture below) Thank you Susan for this great question!
|Number 2 LOVES this game! And we definitely mixed it up with harder or easier sides when playing. That way, it was challenging and fun for everyone and most importantly we were together.|
To be sure, not all special needs are created equal and so there are some children living with challenges that will find it hard to play with any or most of the games here as it is originally intended to be played. But I think this attempt can still serve many many people. I will certainly be using it to see which toys I want for the Toys are Tools' Squadron of Testers next. I may even model my upcoming "Find A Toy" section in the same fashion as this chart! So what should I do to see how effective this chart can be? I thought I'd ask Number 1 Son to use it. He is aware of his skills and his needed areas of improvement.
Kids Can Use the Chart Too? Why Not?
I asked him if he knew what "Special Needs" meant and he said that he thought it meant "extra help if you need it." I love those words! Then, I covered the column listing the names of the games (because he knows a lot of them) and told him to look at only the skills columns. I then told him to find a game that had a skill in which he might want to practice more but to make sure that the game also had features that he found easy or fun. (Because it's supposed to be fun!) He picked one pretty quickly and we both laughed out loud when we uncovered the name.
It was a game that we already have, one that is still in our Busy Box: the Fifteen Puzzle!
|Don't let him get distracted by the graphics. Cover it up and let him choose by the skills he wants to improve and the talents he already has.|
In fact, with the names still covered, he kept picking games that we already had including Cartoon It!, Rush Hour Traffic Jam, Snack Attack, and Brick by Brick. (We actually do not have Brick by Brick but this is a game that he had asked me for a long time ago- wow!) Isn't that just crazy? I wonder what this says about both of us.
You Decide What is Fun
I think what is most important about this chart is that you can see it all in one view. All the games are there. None are chosen for you. You do the choosing. It's all there in one happy chart and while you are thinking about skills, the goal is to make sure that it's fun because it's supposed to be play. "Just the simple act of opening a box and talking with a play partner requires fine motor control, focus, and language development - that is the whole point of play," said Susan. "Any kind of play whether toys, games, puzzles, dolls, dress up - all of a child's skills and abilities are engaged when a child is busy and playing."
Susan always has a wonderful way of reminding me of what's really important. After looking at this chart, my son was having a lot of fun just thinking about playing and trying new things. Then, my son asked me to buy him Pathwords (not the Jr. version, which we reviewed). I told him that I could but only if he finished the Junior version. And even though he had 10 more puzzles to go before finishing all of them, he made up his mind and announced that he would get it done. The time passed by quickly even though he was there in that one spot for much of the morning and then he finished! He was so happy with himself. I gave him a gift card and let him buy it by himself online (while I sat next to him). *
There is something very special about ThinkFun's puzzles. Number 6, who did not often play with puzzles at home, got Pathwords Jr. for her birthday and after finishing it, her parents bought her Pathwords-Original. I am told by her mom that Number 6 can occasionally be found avoiding her homework or chores and sneaking off to a corner to play Pathwords.
|Number 6 wasn't all that into puzzles until she started playing with Pathwords Jr.! Her mom would also like a Pathwords Intermediate. Like Number 1, Number 6 is eight years old too.|
Number 6 does not have any particular special need but I asked her mom to look at the chart. She did and said it felt like it gave a nice overview and it also made her wonder about how these skills are worked through the game. If that is naturally the next question after folks see this chart then they are in luck! That's why Toys are Tools is here! We dig deeper for parents who want to know more!
The bottomline: this new Special Needs section is special because anyone can use it to do special things. ThinkFun, thank you! This section is so respectful. Instead of sending a message of:
Here are the things we have that you should be able to do.
you sent a different message:
Here is everything we have, come see what might be great for you.
|Amaze can be a great stand-alone puzzle and also a great Busy Box item for older elementary kids. Number 1 Son was playing this before we headed out to the mall where there was not one single toy store! What happened to all the toy stores? This is a problem!|
OKAY..... this might be THE COOLEST GIVEAWAY EVER!
ThinkFun is giving away one game of the winner's choice - Any one game on their website, www.ThinkFun.com, can be yours if you are declared the winner!!!! Just follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter widget. The winning prize can only be shipped to the U.S. Ends 7/28/12 12:01 AM
a Rafflecopter giveaway
*My friend M.M. gave me this suggestion of giving him a gift card because I love when he can go up to the counter and buy something especially if he earned it on a star chart. However, since there is nothing awesome to buy in our neighborhood, he gets a gift card to an online store that has "the good stuff."
In case you are wondering..... There has been absolutely no payment involved for the writing of this review. Almost every item shown here was purchased by me or given to me by a friend way before Toys are Tools became Toys are Tools! A couple of items discussed or displayed were submitted to Toys are Tools for review. (Pathwords Jr. and Snack Attack) Reviews are never promised.