Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Review & Giveaway: CUBU: How Well Can Your Eyes Pay Attention?

If I can find something affordable that is also interesting and new and DIRECTLY helping with visual perception, then I’m really happy - Amy Baez, OTR/L Founder, Playapy.  photo: Funnybone Toys

WHAT: Cubu by Funnybone Toys
INVENTOR: Julien Sharp
  Artsy squares entice the eyes to pay attention and sharpen visual perceptual skills that support academic skills; "action cards" in the game encourage strategic planning and taking risks
$14.99 MSRP
AGES: 8 and up 
TOOLS: Lose and Win Gracefully, Flexibility is My Superpower, Remember to Learn
EXPERT OPINION: Amy Baez, OTR/L, Pediatric Occupational Therapist and Founder of Playapy
GIVEAWAY: One Cubu game to one lucky winner. (U.S. only)

Did you ever meet a person who was super smart and super good-looking? I was always intimidated by them... but then... sometimes you get to meet them, and you find them to be a total super-fun cool person that you want to make your new best friend.  If such a person could be a card game, then take comfort in knowing that you can take home your new friend for only $14.99 and its name is Cubu.

Kids deserve to play well-designed games too. "Oh, this is fun!" said Number 5.  Dig her nailpolish!

But First, How Do You Play? 

Funnybone Toys has put up a great instructional video to explain the rules and how to play.  Trust me, that is not easy to do when you have a card game with some extra rules.  If you watch it, you might think it is complicated but I don't think it is.  Both Numbers 1 and 5 (and their parents- sans my color-blind husband) thought it was really fun!  In short, think of the game as a bit like sequencing Uno cards but there is nothing to read but colors on squares.  Here are some pictures to help you understand how to play.

To play, you must know which colors you have in which positions (working memory power!).  This is blue in postion #4.  You put that in the middle pile like Uno.

You have to make a sequence so if you chose to use your blues then you have to find Blue #3 or #5 next.  Here is Blue #5
Here's Blue #6.   Is Cubu intimidating? Yes. Impossible? No.  Hard? Yes, but in a good way.

What's So Important About Visual Perception?

Being able to visually discriminate, a skill within the set of skills known as "visual perception" is quite important.  "It's useful in their education," said Amy. "When you're writing, when you're doing math.. the actual form of the letters and numbers that you are creating requires you to be able to discriminate angles and length of lines."

Hmmm.  That made sense to me but then she said something that I never thought about before. Amy said that it also affects gross motor skills.  For example, if you have difficulty with visual perception, you may have difficulty with walking or balancing.  "Because you have to use your eyes to adjust what you are seeing as you are moving," she said noting that if we are not successful at this then we may fall. 

In Cubu, no two cards are alike.  I also chose Cubu for Best Design in my recent Best Toys and Games List.

"Adjust" What We See? Huh?

Adjust what we are seeing?  I guess we do "adjust" it and I bet some people find the adjustment process really fun, like Number 1 Son.  He loves illusions and the effects of staring at cards full of squares makes this game actually harder but it is the good kind of hard -- the one that makes you do stuff you don't like without realizing it.... ie. paying attention. 

Amy agreed with me about the paying attention part.  In fact, she even taught me a new term: visual attention. "Visual attention is specific to the eyes, it is how long the eyes can pay attention to something," she explained. 

Amy said that visual attention was especially useful in social skills and reading.  In the social realm, I understood that quickly.  If you are not looking at someone, they will feel you are not paying attention to them. (Not cool if that is happening with your teacher)  Amy said, "It’s also important with reading because when your eyes are constantly averting off the page, then you’re going to lose your place."   Okay, now we are just going to have to play Cubu everyday until college!  I can totally see Cubu being played interactively with someone else on two different iPads.  Wouldn't that be cool?  But of course, it's not the same as holding those pretty cards.

I love this picture.  He wants to be exact so he's using his fingers.  He does this when he has to focus on what he's reading.  (So do I)   He is also very key on using the action cards to beat me! 

Stimulating Squares

I find it interesting that a kid (and mom) who has trouble focusing can be so enthralled by a game that really requires a lot of attention.  Amy said something enlightening, "Some kids need their eyes to be overstimulated .. like television."  Thus, when we take away screen-based fun and we put something very still in front of their eyes, then of course, the eyes are going to say, "Hey where's my coffee?"  Visual illusion can be their coffee-alternative.  I think parents would prefer that over the battery-powered varieties.

Like Visual Illusions?  There are so many different kinds.  This is By Joaquim Alves Gaspar (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

I think that is what I love about games like Cubu.  Many kids are using a strengths-based approach to play and learning.  My son may not have a PhD. in attention but when it comes to visual discrimination, he's not bad.  Moreover, Cubu and its two sister games from Funnybone Toys are so pretty, putting them in a drawer is like hair covering up a beautiful face.  We always leave our Funnybone Toys games out so that we can see them.   That not only adds to the decor of the room but more importantly, that makes the game get played with a lot more! 

These three games are sold separately but they look lovely when they're all together.  photo: Funnybone Toys
Giveaway Question: There is a sequence here.  Can you guess it?  Hint, there is a separate orange and a red color. It may be hard to see in this photo but be confident in your estimation. You might think that the colors are too similar but I think it adds to the illusory effect.

Now it's time to win your own Cubu game!!! (Total value $14.99)  Ends 1/29/12   Ships to U.S. addresses only.  Please follow the directions and share your Facebook comments publicly.
Gotta get your own?  We understand!  If you are an Amazonian then, please use my link and place Cubu in your cart today to support thoughtful toy reviewing in 2013 !

Disclosure:  Toys are Tools has not been compensated in any way by the manufacturer of this product.  The product was sent to the tester and the expert in order to facilitate a review. Reviews are never promised.


  1. He rock climbs and uses the skills there.

  2. My child is not so good at 3D visual perception or discrimination, at least when someone else is providing an external command/expectation. She does enjoy 2D seek and find activities like hunting on a book page for a specific thing.

  3. oooh, i must share a new term I learned from Aimee Prainito, another occupational therapist that I work with, she said the hunting activities using a skill called Figure Ground. It's one of the eight categories of visual perceptual skills.

  4. Is the sequence Orange 4 in all three (Orange 4, Orange 4, Orange 4)?

  5. Hi John, Thanks for your question. I will try to get another picture of a sequence as my photos may not be showing the true colors of the lines. Anyway, a sequence would be more like orange1, orange 2, orange 3. Hope you'll give it another shot and I'll try to get a sequence with a different color. Try out the video too. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Am7drYJ2C8&list=PL4802FFFEF3FF5306&index=3

  6. I changed my guess while you were typing that. Did I fix correctly?

  7. oh, sorry, we have to wait a little longer before I spill the beans! sorry!!

  8. My child likes word searches. I wonder if that qualifies. He likes illusion photos. and I think the sequence is what John says below, orange 2, o3, and o4.

  9. Sequence is Orange 2, Orange 3, Orange 4

  10. Funny thing is that I have awesome 'gathering' skills, like seeking stationary objects in 3D space (finding the perfect shirt in a crowded rack whilst shopping) and my husband, though fettered with limited depth perception due to significant strabismus and vision issues, is the king of 'hunting' and spotting crazy animals, even while driving.

  11. Small colored beads.. picking them apart by shade of color.