Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Review + Giveaway: PicWits! Sharpen Your Social Wits!

Number 1 loves to say "Awkward" as a one-word comment.  I think that's a thing to say these days.

PicWits! from Mindware
INVENTOR: Nicolas Cravotta and Rebecca Bleau (Blue Matter Games)

practice being flexible and fun with language; practice being a better social communicator

INVEST: $24.95
AGES:10 and up (you may be able to go lower with adult guidance)
TOOLS: Flexibility is My Superpower, Foment Love of Language, Lose and Win Gracefully
EXPERT OPINION: Nicole Kolenda, M.S., CCC-SLP, P.C., Speech & Language Pathologist
GIVEAWAY:  Win your own box of PicWits!

I am a huge fan of Howard Gardner and so I believe that humans possess different kinds of smarts.  However, if you asked me which profession has THE SMARTEST PEOPLE, I would take off my HG-groupie uniform for a quick minute and give you an answer. But you may be surprised, I would not say brain surgeon, rocket scientist, or professor of ancient languages.  Actually, I would say that the smartest people in the world are comedians.

Come on. You know who I'm talking about, those people who tell joke after joke after joke? They make it up right there on the spot!  There is no prepping, no memorizing and definitely no cheating.  There is definitely no cheating when a person can make you laugh so hard that you cry... or pee... or both.

I suppose you can train to become a comedian but some people are harder to teach than others.  The good news is this kind of teaching and learning can be done. It really can! So... if you have one of those kids who have a hard time understanding meanings of jokes or really any play on words then you are going to want to invest in PicWits!  This game totally rocks!

I love shocking cards but if this is too strong, you can always leave them out.

Seriously, You Don't Get It?

When I saw PicWits! at the Toy Fair, I knew I was looking at gold.  Why? Because you will find tons of games on the market that challenges you to think strategically, match pictures and shout a word, to do mental flips and twists without ever touching a thing BUT there are VERY few games that will ask you to guess to... uhm.. how to say this....  sort of read people's minds?

Of course, you say there is no such skill but we all know that there are certain kids who are just sooooo literal about words and thoughts. The first thing you want to ask them is "Seriously, you don't know what I mean?" Intelligence may not be an issue at all.  They can create a complex electrical circuit by age 10 but they will never understand any jokes. You keep asking them, "Get it? The chicken didn't really have to cross the...."

Which would your child pick to match this caption?  If it is too weird, you can just take it out of the pile. 

But don't worry, PicWits! a new game by Mindware is here to help.  And so is speech and language pathologist Nicole Kolenda whom I asked to look at this game with me.  Nicole liked PicWits! very much!  "I like that it allows for different perpsectives and that not one answer is right," she said. 

You Win If You Know Someone Well

If there isn't any one particular correct answer, then how to you win?  Basically, the game is simple, the caption is drawn from the deck. Everyone takes turns being a judge.  Players must guess which of the eight pictures they are holding would THE JUDGE PICK as the best caption.  The judge then picks and whoever had their selection picked will keep the caption card.  If you get the most caption cards, you win.   

Nicole and I both wish we could have had a dry-erase card to personalize the game more.  But you can do so much with these cards and pictures. 

But it's not so simple because you look at the captions and then you look at the pictures, you'll see that the combinations may go from making no sense at all to being totally hilarious.  Again, you might be laughing out loud but if the judge isn't as tickled by what you picked, you just can't win.  Thus, this game forces you to be not really a "mind-reader" but rather a "mind-predictor" and the person who "knows" their opponents best wins. 

Hmmm. Which picture will he pick as most fitting the caption? My money is on Baby Cousin It.

There are game shows like this, aren't there?  I think it was called the Newlywed Show? And those games were funny.  You could say it was funniest when players got everything wrong.  In PicWits! you learn something about your friend or family member while laughing really hard and that takes the sting out of "losing."  Another thing you will likely learn is more about how to communicate (there are 504 picture cards and 144 caption cards). "Understand that language isn’t rigid. It’s very flexible," said Nicole. "I think this game illustrates that but in a very fun away."

Idea:  Quick PicWit.  Give this to Mom or Dad as soon as they come back from work.

Which card would they pick? One envelope can work for one or both parents or with any of their friends. You can have a different answer for each person.  Just write your selection in advance!

But the World is Not My Oyster!  It's Not an Oyster at All!

Nicole and I spoke a lot about figurative language.  "It's very difficult to learn figurative language," she said.  And what is figurative language?  They are similes, metaphors, clich├ęs, and hyperboles.   As someone who used to teach English to medical students and doctors in Korea, I can tell you that figurative language is their worse nightmare.  These people could spell words like otorhinolaryngology* without even the slightest pause or write research papers in English to be read by doctors worldwide BUT they could not tell you why the phrase, "I'd see a doctor about that" is funny.**

Part of why figurative language might be so hard is that when you look at a picture, you kind of have to think about how something came to be (sequencing) and what that person might be thinking, (inferencing) and what they might do next (prediction).  These are all skills that are important to reading and writing too.  But what about socially? For example, if those Korean doctors learned that the phrase, "kick the bucket" meant "dying," who is to say they shouldn't use that phrase with one of their patients to be more "friendly"?  (oh, the horror....) 

It's still Better Hearing and Speech Month.  Have you hugged a speech pathologist today? They are amazing people who work on everything from vocal cord paralysis, swallowing, and of course speech and language.

Thus, we must be flexible when we learn and use language.  Different words for different meanings at different times for different people.  Nicole agrees.  I asked her if being flexible with language could help a child with social skills?

"I couldn't even quantify that for you," she said. "Flexibility is VERY important in a social context." 

Remember, they're just cards. You can take it on a trip this summer.  Why not?

Nicole also said that you don't necessarily have to have a particular disorder to need to work on those skills.  "It could be just a personality trait."  I think adult English-language learners could get a lot done with PicWits! too.  My students loved when I mixed it up with fun and games.  Even the docs begged me to get rid of my ExpressWays book. 

But that was the 90s and there were no PicWits! then and Nicole agrees with me that there are still very few games that teach these specific skills explicity as PicWits! does. This game comes at a critical time too.  The new DSM-V came out this month with a host of new pathologies with which we can secretly diagnose our not-so-beloved bosses, coworkers and in-laws.  One issue that comes to mind is Social Communication Disorder which is too big to discuss here but I think enough has been said that social communication is super duper important to everyone.  Thank goodness PicWits! lets us practice this skills with laughter and lots of it too!

Other Favorites from Mindware:

* In case you didn't know, this term means Ears, Nose, and Throat Medicine
** An actual caption from a card in PicWits!
For more information about Social Communication Disorder, click here

And now here's your chance to win your very own game of PicWits!!  Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want to buy on Amazon right now? Use my link to support Toys are Tools.

Disclosure:Toys are Tools has not been compensated by the manufacturer of this game for the publication of this post.  The item was submitted to tester and expert to facilitate a review.  Reviews are never promised.


  1. My fave Mindware game is Line Up- I love the memory aspect with a twist! I know I would have loved that game as a child.

  2. Thank You Magdalena Fitzsimmons, Gifted and Talented Resource Teacher,
    Baltimore County Public Schools who wrote on LinkedIn- "Jennifer, this
    game is very similar to one called Apples to Apples, in which the person
    who is the "judge" draws a card that has an adjective on it, turns it
    over so the other players can see it, and then the other players place
    one of their cards on the table that they guess the judge will think is
    the best "match" for the word. The other cards can have the names of
    famous people, kinds of animals, etc. Like PicWits, the match can make
    sense, or be something off-beat or hilarious. What I love about PicWits
    is that it supports those students who respond to visual images and it
    uses the visual image to support language and communication. After the
    "judge" decides which picture is the best fit, it would be great to ask
    the players to talk about and support their picture choices to each
    I'm going to order it today! " Magdalena, you rock! Love your suggestions and insight! @mindware

  3. Trivial Pursuit. (Gianna)

  4. Rush Hour is a great Mindware game...good for strategy/problem-solving.

  5. Dear Crickey, I agree that Rush Hour is a great mind game but ThinkFun are the makers of Rush Hour. Mindware has their own successive logic puzzles. You can read about a couple of them here including a favorite. Lab Mice and Find Your Way Gnome http://www.toysaretools.com/2012/05/review-and-giveaway-lab-mice-gift-of.html