Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Review: Smart Car: Seeing All the Cues

The wood is cool to the touch.  It's heavy but not clunky.  It feels special.

WHAT:  Smart Car by Smart Toys and Games
DOES:   practice sequencing and sharpen your visual perception: both are helpful in supporting reading skills, moving cars around is a great exercise to support core trunk stability
TOOLS:  Flexibility is My Superpower, Think Like a Scientist/Engineer
Expert Opinion: Aimee Prainito, Occupational Therapist, Prainito Pediatric Therapy

The first time I opened the Smart Car box and saw what was inside, I gasped.

Sure I had seen wooden toys before but a wooden logic puzzle?  I know they exist but not so much in our home.  I have nothing against plastic but Smart Car's design really does stand out.  It doesn't even have to be a puzzle.  As a toy car, it's beautiful all by itself.

Puzzle or a toy?  Like Trucky 3, also from Smart Toys and Games, it's BOTH!!  I love it!

But it is a puzzle and like its predecessor from the same company, Trucky 3, Smart Car is one of the few single-player logic games available for preschoolers (for ages 3+).  Like Trucky 3, there are faces involved which supports a friendlier and less serious mood.  That definitely helps since any logic game can get tricky and frustrating after a while.

Smart Car offers a diverse array of challenges in its 48 puzzles.  At first, the puzzles sort of show you how the blocks work together to form the two eyes that belong in front of the car.  However, as your child progresses, he needs to learn how to position the blocks based on clues left in the puzzles.

Since this involved a lot of turning and manipulating, I thought I'd ask veteran Occupational Therapist Aimee Prainito of Prainito Pediatric Therapy in Snellville, Georgia about Smart Car.  She always manages to blow me away with her insight.

You have to make sure a pair of eyes is facing the front.
Aimee Prainito says that the kids must pay attention and mind these cues to solve the problem

"I like it!" Aimee said about Smart Car. "I like it for the little kids.  It's chunky," she said cheerfully.  She also felt it was great for big kids too and I agree.  Once, in a doctor's office waiting area,  our Smart Car caught the attention of an 11-year-old boy who loved it and wrote down the name of the toy and asked his mother to buy it for him before he left to go home.

"It's sequencing and motor planning," Aimee said, regarding Smart Car's skill offerings.  I always thought that motor planning was about things like brushing your teeth or getting dressed in the morning but not solving any logic puzzle.  But Aimee broadened my viewpoint saying, "You can motor plan and sequence and you have to strategize how you are going to do this.  Those are all higher functioning skills."

But is this really important to us?  Aimee told me that sequencing and motor planning are big life skills. "You need to be able to sequence in order to read and write," she stated.  Really???   I guess I'm so used to reading and writing, I don't think about things like this anymore but I do know of kids who struggle and do see them have a hard time with the sequential act of reading and writing.

Grown-ups, do not worry!  You can solve these.   I think these puzzles are great for understand what is visual closure. 

Smart Car offers an opportunity to a child to work on his visual perceptual skills.  Aimee specifically named a concept called Visual Closure, a term which I had never heard of before.   "When you see half a circle, you know it's a circle because in your mind, you can visually close the circle.  The game is the same thing," she said pointing out that we are figuring out how the piece looks and the position that it is in but all in our minds.

Wow, I had no idea.  Like I said, Aimee always blows me away.  If you saw this car, you might think it is good for brain-building but who would specifically associate this with reading and writing?  Seriously, reading and writing?

I love this box!  Eco-friendly and great for storing.   photo: Smart Toys and Games

An example of visual closure?  You're able to understand because you see the cues.  It can be found on this page.

"Sure, if you think about it, think about when you are reading a sentence, you know you're not reading every word and every letter,"  Aimee said referring to those snippets that you might see on Facebook where you look at a bunch of sentences and all the words are spelled incorrectly however, most folks are able to understand all of it because, as Aimee says, you are pulling out certain cues from it.

Cues?  I have certainly heard that when it comes to reading and even in social skills where kids who miss those social cues end up getting in trouble with friends and teachers.  Cues or no cues, the puzzles are challenging to the little ones but they are not so hard that even grown-ups can't solve them.  More importantly, I would encourage anyone who is introducing a logic game to a preschooler to sit with the child and understand that kids will have a hard time without some moral support.  I believe they are fully aware that they are working on their brain power and some kids get stressed out at the idea that if they can't do it then they are not smart.

Core trunk stability is exercised in this hands and knees position.  Aimee says she'll definitely be using this in therapy.
Core trunk stability is associated with strength required in paying attention in class and writing as well.

Lastly, I was so glad to speak with Aimee because like Trucky 3, both cars are both puzzle and toy.   Smart Car is a very sturdy wooden car with wooden wheels.  Number 2 Son likes to just wheel it around the living room sometimes.   Aimee told me that the position he was using (which is likely what other kids would use) where they roll the car on the floor in a hands and knees position and work on weight bearing and weight shifting.  In essence, they are building their stability, "We need that core trunk stability," she said.

This refers to the middle region of the body where kids can become a little floppy.  When the floppiness gets out of hand, it can affect handwriting and even paying attention in class.   This is what I love about some of the games from Smart Toys and Games.  The design is very smart.  It's multi-functional for both play and building skills.  What else is there to say?  Smart Car is a smart buy! 

Want to get Smart Car right now?  Put it in your Amazon Shopping Cart thru my link today!

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. A review copy was submitted to Toys are Tools' testers and the expert to facilitate the review.


  1. this is amazing! i was impressed by the cuteness, then the puzzle solving, then the core building - now I want to buy only these for my preschool classroom! Thanks for the review!