Category Archives: Games

A List of More Lists You Just Can’t Resist

It is, of course, impossible to review all of the amazing educational toys out there.  My Gifts for the Gifted series is not nearly as expansive as some of the other lists that you can find this time of year.  Just in case you don’t find something that you think your child/student/niece/nephew/ would like on my list, here are some others that I plan to use for my own shopping ideas:

Stay tuned on Friday for another installment of this year’s Gifts for the Gifted!

Design Your Own Marble Maze
Design Your Own Marble Maze

Gifts for the Gifted 2016 – Osmo Coding

A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page.

gifts

Osmo first made the “Gifts for the Gifted” list in 2014.  Since then, the company has continued to push the envelope as it produces more interactive, educational games for children that combine physical pieces with the digital interface of an iPad.  Here is what I wrote about Osmo’s “Coding” game this summer:

It seems like just yesterday when our class was asked to beta test a new product from a company called Tangible Play.  It was a tangram game that integrated physical pieces with an app on your iPad using a special base and mirror.  Our students even got to teleconference with the developers to give feedback on their experience.

Since then, the un-named set we tested has become Osmo, and there have been many evolutions of the tangram game as well as new additions to the suite of games available.  It has been gratifying to see a company that is so interested in education to grow and continue to contribute to educational technology in such a positive way.

The latest Osmo set is, “Coding.”  My students have been trying it out this summer during our robot camp, and I have been watching their play with interest.  The set includes magnetics blocks that look similar to the coding blocks you might see in Scratch or Blockly.  You can move them around and snap them together.  My students particularly like the “play” block with an arrow button to press whenever they are ready to start the program.

On the iPad screen, players have a friendly looking creature named Awbie, who they can direct to move toward different objects in the app while using the physical blocks on the table.

One thing I love about all of the Osmo apps is that they include practically no instructions.  There are some on-screen gestures showing where to move blocks at the beginning, but that’s about it.  The students figure out on their own where Awbie needs to go, and quickly deduce which blocks to use as the game slowly becomes more challenging.

Students from 6-11 have enjoyed the Coding game from Osmo and there is often a crowd gathered around it as the students encourage players to try certain blocks.  It has been a great warm-up activity as kids arrive for our camp each day.

Like all Tangible Play apps for Osmo, Coding is free.  However, you do need to purchase the physical pieces and the set that includes the base and mirror piece if you don’t already have it.  Coding is another great resource to introduce programming to young students.

Osmo Coding
Osmo Coding

GoNoodle Has an App!

My students, particularly those in the K-3 grade levels, have really enjoyed using GoNoodle for brain breaks in our classroom.  The kids enjoy the music, the great variety of videos, and the movement.

Now students can log in to their own iOS devices at home to jump, dance, and sing with their favorite GoNoodle tunes. The iOS app is free, but students will need a parent to sign up and log them in the first time.  Make sure the child has a good place to set up his or her device for viewing while participating (an Apple TV is great for this!) so he or she can have hands-free fun!

GoNoodle is a great way to get the family moving before or after a heavy holiday meal, or after a long car trip to grandma’s house🙂

Download the free GoNoodle app now!
Download the free GoNoodle app for iOS now!

Gifts for the Gifted 2016 – Clue Master

A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page.

gifts

My annual “Gifts for the Gifted” lists wouldn’t be complete without at least one game from ThinkFun.  This company is one of my favorite sources for entertaining educational games and my students always enjoy reviewing new ones as well as playing the classics.

Clue Master is one of ThinkFun’s newer products.  It’s a “logical deduction” game that is somewhat like Sudoku.  Although it is labeled as a single-player game, my students and I like to play in pairs, alternating puzzles.  Designed for ages 8 and up, it does one of the things that ThinkFun does best with games like this – scaffolding. The challenges slowly increase in difficulty so that anyone can work through them at their own pace without feeling bored or frustrated.

The game puzzles and solutions are contained in a sturdy book, and you will also find 9 magnetic tokens, a game grid, and instructions in the box.  Each challenge gives you a picture of the grid with some clues to the locations of each of the tokens.  The player’s job is to use the clues to deduce where all of the tokens should be placed.

The graphics have the pixelated look of Minecraft, which immediately draws the attention of young people.  Don’t be fooled, however.  Adults will have just as much fun trying to solve the challenges once they skip through the beginning puzzles.  Spatial reasoning is definitely a requirement in addition to logic, and many of us can use a bit more practice in both.

With these types of games, I’ve found that part of the appeal to my young partners is for them to see me struggle through it.  I also enjoy when they verbalize their thought processes and come to the realization that all of these can be solved through reasoning – not guess & check.  This is why I would recommend that, if you purchase Clue Master as a gift, you make plans to enjoy it with the recipient instead of expecting him or her to go off an play it alone.  Both of you will find the experience much more rewarding.

For more game recommendations, check out my Pinterest Board, which includes more products from ThinkFun as well as other great companies.

Clue Master from ThinkFun
Clue Master from ThinkFun

Gifts for the Gifted 2016 – Anaxi

A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page.

gifts

I found Anaxi at Marbles: the Brain Store when I was hunting for a gift for my 13-year-old daughter.  We both love word games, so Anaxi caught my eye with its, “Connecting Words in Surprising Ways” subtitle.

Anaxi is for 2-6 players, ages 8-99.  I could actually see it being played in the classroom, especially with my gifted students, with some minor rule adjustments (particularly the time limit).

In the box you will find a 1-minute-timer, instructions, and round, translucent cards in 3 different colors.  There are also 2 “base” cards to help you place the colored cards in the correct positions for each round of play.

A round consists of choosing a card of each color, placing them on the base card so they form a Venn diagram, and then trying to name as many people, places, or things that you can which connect overlapping cards.  After a minute is up (which I recommend changing to longer time periods if the players are elementary school age), you receive a point for each answer that connects 2 overlapping cards, and 4 points for the ones that connect all 3 cards – but you only receive points for unique answers.  If anyone else has the same answer, it is eliminated.  You can see a more detailed explanation in the video below.

Anaxi slightly reminds me of Apples to Apples as both games require the players to make connections, and there is opportunity for a lot of creativity.  There is also opportunity for a lot of arguing, which you might want to address before you begin a game.

Anaxi would be fun for a family game night – maybe giving adults a one-minute time limit and giving children 5 minutes to level the playing field.

You can find Anaxi at Marbles: the Brain Store
You can find Anaxi at Marbles: the Brain Store

The River Crossing Riddle

TED Ed recently featured this “River Crossing Riddle” in its weekly newsletter.  It is similar to the “Bridge Riddle” I recommended on this blog last May.  I think it might be fun to act out the riddle in class to help students try to solve it.  When the video is finished, there are some other riddle suggestions that you may want to investigate as well.

River Crossing Riddle from TED Ed
River Crossing Riddle from TED Ed

If you enjoy River Crossing puzzles, here is a link to an online interactive one – and another one here from PBS Kids.

Halloween Treats That Won’t Give You Cavities

As if American politics aren’t scary enough, the United States celebrates Halloween next Monday, which is all kind of wrong – because spending a day with students who can’t wait to trick-or-treat plus 4 more days after they fill up on sugary candy should not be required of any teacher if you are at all interested in helping him or her maintain a semblance of sanity.

The president I would vote for would resolve to make Halloween on a Saturday for the rest of eternity, but so far I haven’t seen that mentioned in anyone’s campaign.

For those of you who are in the same boat (or should I say, riding the same broom?), here are some resources I’ve collected in the past that might help to briefly engage your students in something other than daydreaming about all of the candy they will need to confess to eating at their next dental appointment:

Check back tomorrow for another virtual pumpkin carving idea!

Click her to get to the free QuiverVision Augmented Reality Pumpkin download
Click here to get to the free QuiverVision Augmented Reality Pumpkin download