Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Birthday TAT: Think of Fun When You Think of Me

I am so grateful to ThinkFun for their cutting edge approach to play and learning. Thank you for recognizing the importance of Executive Functioning.

WHAT: 2nd Annual Thank You Note
INVENTOR: Jenn Choi (me!)

Much like my usual modus operandi, I am late.  Toys Are Tools' "birthday" is actually November 1st.  That is the day this website became 2, a toddler!  Hurrah!

At this time, I would like to say thank you to everyone for giving this odd website a chance and appreciating the approach that I take on toys, games, and productivity/therapeutic "things."  That last section of "things" is something for which I have a real passion and in a sense, at least for me, all the toys and games are just as educational and therapeutic as the peapods, timers, fidgets, and MotivAiders of which I have reported. It's all about how we use them and I am eternally grateful for all the experts who have graced us with their time to teach us how and why we should be working on these skills.

I am so grateful to all the readers who have shown me that you care about those "things" too. I feel a little less crazy and a little less lonely. I am not the only one who looks at a game and has a dream of what I can accomplish with it. I am not the only one who understands the impact that high quality materials and thoughtful design have on our psyche. They may be immeasurable but they're still very real and I think that this 2-year birthday is evidence of that.

I get a little weepy when I see the game in the middle: Rush Hour.  The JR. version of this game is the first ThinkFun game my son played. Coincidentally (or not), it's the first game that #1, then preschooler, played with such determination and skill. Until that day, he was just a kid who was driving me crazy but after Rush Hour JR., I started to appreciate just how good his thinking skills really were!  Good games can do that. You can learn new things about you and the people with whom you play!

That said, I'd like to say thanks especially to ThinkFun who didn't get to see me drop to the floor when they asked me to curate their Executive Function Bundle.  The fact that they believe that executive functioning is important tells me just how forward thinking they are. Science doesn't stand still there.  As parents and educators, we are still just learning what executive functioning is all about but ThinkFun has already joined the growing group of thought leaders who have recognized how important growing these skills are in our children (and us grown-ups too).  It's no wonder I love the games they invent year after year.

Stay Tuned for More Reviews and My Holiday Shopping List!

Here are some other things that we have loved this year that I haven't gotten a chance to write about.  And I'm so sorry about that. There is a reason why I can write about thinking and emotional skills... psst.. the learning moments sometimes suck my energy.  However, the forecast ahead looks brighter and I plan on bringing you more news, better and faster than ever before.

You have to be grateful to Fat Brain Toys for their aesthetic choice of colors.  These are two different toys but the colors match! It gives kids options for more creative play and these look so great just hanging out in your living room!  Arx and Reptangles
Everyday, Tester 5 wears the wristband of Evee, one of the Zeenie Dollz with a message teaching young girls about our responsibility to the earth. Click here for my Amazon link
I've been able to take my box of Crayon Rocks and turn them into mini gifts for teachers and toddlers.  All have given rave reviews.  Here is my ARK Therapeutic Link.   My Amazon Link

Was Connect 4 one of your favorite games? I loved it but outgrew it but I don't think I'll ever outgrow Kyro 5 by Educational Insights.
From the "Disruptive" Game Inventors at Funnybone Toys: Arrazzles are gorgeous and so open-ended.  We can do anything with them.

What a excellent visual rendition of the game Telephone.  It's brings a whole new dimension to this very popular camp game. My testers loved Telestrations by USAopoly. I find it a fun exercise in demonstrating how point of views and interepretations can change with each person. For example, is this a picture of the word "Disco" or "Dancing"?

Do you see this amazing amazing.... wait what is it?  It's a big tool that does huge things for a group that wants to improve reading skills.

I think we can influence our kids' wish list by eye-shopping catalogs from good toy retailers like Fat Brain Toys whose selection is totally awesome. It's not like going to a big box store where you end up having a fight because you don't want to buy junk and they won't listen to reason. I look through their catalog about five times a week- for fun.  Folks, Fat Brain Toys even sell Jeliku! We loved Jeliku here!  An excellent stocking stuffer!

This set of utensils and this very specially designed plate is masterful at improving meals and mealtime graces. Simply miraculous.   My ARK Link and My Amazon Link

MeCorder Video Recorder! I love that you are in my life now! I am going to reach amazing speech goals with you! And I'm going to protect you with Sugru because I only hack the things I truly love.

Feel the spelling.... brilliant! Brilliant!  Blind Spell by Mindware.  Learning Specialist Susan Schwartz thinks it's fab too!

eeBoo's Pom Pom Maker led me to spend over $50 in yarn.  Look at the fine motor gains here! Oh, and they make beautiful pom poms too. Love eeBoo!

Squigz are awesome. David Wells from NYSCI thought so too and Susan Roberts, OT Extraordinaire (pictured here) gave me some great tips! This creative toy has a lot of therapeutic potential!

If you want to keep all your games in boxes ... even the little ones, then try these index card boxes from Staples.  I bought them for a dollar each.
Who said all books have to come in a rectangle with binding? Who said they even have to be made of paper? Try these cube books from Geared For Imagination.
My tester thought this book was awesome and very user-friendly.  Great for beginner parents and great for people who want to get started on work right away!

Raccoon Rumpus is adorable. Tester #8 thinks so too!

Fat Brain Toys' Tobbles Neo is totally amazing. It did an awesome job representing America on the international toy scene too!  But here's a little known secret: it can serve as a challenge to children to not run in your home! Yes, it can. And it serves as a beautiful living room centerpiece.  Oh it's also an awesome development toy for babies.  Our baby tester thinks so too.  But I think our 9 year old loved it the most!

Hope to write about the awesome experience of shopping for games on Goodwill - ONLINE!

Okay, so I made the "R" with my dry erase marker but isn't this the coolest thing ever?   Letter Blocks by Laser Pegs are awesome.

The QBA Maze 2.0 Mega Stunt Set  by MindWare is totally bad ass! And if you are thinking is it worth the money! Well, if you want to encourage creativity with a one-of-a-kind amazing toy then I say this is quite a worthy investment.

Little games like Patch Products' Basketball game are be affordable AND high quality!  This could be a stocking stuffer.  Patch has lots of cool things!

A less expensive alternative if you really want to get a beanbag but strapped for cash.

Spirograph Original- We bought ours at Additions, the store at the National Museum of Mathematics!  They have a new online store too! Woo Hoo! ooh gift idea for the math geek in your life: a gift certificate so he/she can buy something that focuses on his/her kind of math (since not all math is the same - just don't ask me to elaborate on that.)

Twiddler- The simplest things can drive you crazy. But we love it!  Love Hape Toys!

This is one of those games that just blow your mind.  It's got everything! Logic, Mental Gymnastics, Lasers, and Mazes. What else could you ask for? Laser Maze is AWESOME!
Is it more math or more fidget?  This is the OSM by Hopson Kinetic.  We love these! I literally feel smarter just by holding them.  (wishful thinking but still....)
Tangle Jr. Fuzzy is super cool.  I love it.  I'm sure we'll be rubbing off the fuzz eventually but I don't care.  We have three of them!
You can't see it so well in this photo but you can see just what my kid is doing with the Moo Cow Popper!  Why are boys always like this?  Friends are the best target. Hog Wild stuff is fun.
My testers and I love these Tell Me A Story Volcano Island cards.  They are so awesome with gallons of skill-building potential. The secret weapon? Silliness but in the classy eeBoo way.
We squeezed the last of our Scribbles 3D Fabric Paint to make more pajamas.  Thanks everyone for your money-saving pajama ideas.  This summer we did boxer shorts and black Old Navy t-shirts.  The kids loved them. I always have fun with I Love To Create Products!

eeBoo's Butterfly Matching Game is no ordinary matching game. You almost want to hang up all the cards when you're done playing. It's so beautiful! What a motivator!  Thanks eeBoo!

Maybe this will be your holiday gift to yourself.  Right now it's going for $30 and I must say that I have spent WAY more than this over the last few years, I have bought failure pencil sharpeners because I didn't want to buy the heavy duty ones.  From now on my answer to cheap pencil sharpeners? Just say NO.
Thanks again to all who read my article on ADDitude Magazine and!  You're the best!

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This post is dedicated to Mr. Toys Are Tools who for years has put up with my cockamamie ideas. I think it's a good thing that he never listened to me when I told him to give up his Wall Street job and make toys instead. He is better at "catching bad guys with numbers" now. Pictured here is his first work at making a toy for my son who loved loved loved to stand while playing. I couldn't find or afford a toy for him to put up on the wall like the ones at the doctors' offices so my husband just made something for him instead. Also pictured are some popular wooden puzzles that are more fun when you drill them into the wall!

Disclosure:  Toys are Tools was not compensated by the manufacturer for the publication of this review.  The reviewed items were provided to Toys are Tools to facilitate a review.  Reviews are never promised. 


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