Tag Archives: thinking skills


Colorku Game

ColorkuA different, ‘right-brained’ take on the addictive Japanese game of Sudoku. A strategy game  for kids age 8 and up, and their parents, using colors instead of numbers. And unlike Sudoku, Colorku can be played by 2 working to solve the puzzle together.

104 different puzzle cards provide 5 levels of difficulty. The object of the game is to fill the game board grid and the 9 small grids within it with colored balls such that no column or row within any grid contains a repeat. It’s a brain challenge of the best kind teaching thinking, problem solving and logic skills.

Keep this stimulating game on your list for great gifts– for the Holidays or Birthdays.


Roller Coaster

Roller Coaster App

Roller CoasterThis sounds like a really fun way to learn some physics at a way younger age than high school for just $0.99 at the iTunes store:

Physics of Roller Coaster for Kids

They get to build it and ride it virtually and along the way learn about acceleration, g-forces at different points along their track, all pretty sophisticated stuff and way more fun learn playing around with roller coasters than from a textbook.

pragmaticmom.com is also sponsoring a contest to win a K’nex Atomic Coaster to build a real -world 4′ tall coaster. How cool would that be!

Ping Pong Ball Advent Calendar

Ping Pong Ball Run

Ping Pong Ball Advent CalendarA marvelous and fun advent calendar to make on the order of a marble run, but using toilet and paper towel tubes and ping pong balls.

Ping Pong Ball Advent Calendar

This is too much fun to limit to December. A little tweaking and it’s a great game for a kids party where they can construct, figure out what works as well as play and compete.

Where this advent calendar ‘game’ is a giant refrigerator magnet, the party game can be made and played by using paint-safe stickies to attach the tubes to a wall. Your choice whether they decorate the tubes or not. Give them a set amount of time to complete the job, perhaps 15 minutes, and count off the minutes so they know where they stand and get moving.

Divide your party kids into groups, probably not to exceed 5 in each, and provide the raw materials and the wall space for them to create their tracks. Give them this picture to get them started. Don’t let them know ahead of time it will be a team competition- just challenge them to build so all the ping pong balls get from the top to the bottom with X number of drops (X determined by how many tubes you’ve given each team).

When complete, have each team demonstrate their creation, and time how long it takes for the balls to get through. The longest time wins – since long here equates to the more complicated structure.

Learning through Collages

The seemingly simple pastime of making collages is a far more powerful form of learning than perhaps meets the eye, and maybe should be more encouraged on those long afternoons when the kids are looking for something to do. My thanks to Rashmie for her insightful analysis.

Beyond the pleasure of finding pleasing images in magazines, cutting them out and pasting it all up, these actions combined provide a kind of learning that’s pretty much lacking in a standard school curriculum. School is topic or subject based; all focused on that one topic for a certain length of time. It’s linear.

Unfortunately, this is not the only way that people, both kids and adults,learn. We learn a lot of what we know by making connections between one thing and another. Just as a certain word or phrase will bring to mind something entirely different, connecting the dots between one subject and another in a free-form manner takes the mind, and the child, on a journey of exploration.

To use a familiar phrase, such journeys build the ‘enquiring mind’– something I dare say any parent would want for their child. It’s a bridge to the wanting to learn, to be open to the learning of new things.

So save those magazines– even ask your neighbors to give you their old ones if, like me, you’ve cut back on the paper subscriptions. With scissors, glue and paper at the ready, send your kids off on a mind journey of their own making and a type of learning they get very little of in school.



After blogging yesterday about craft projects leading to researching topics of interest, this is a natural continuation, and a brilliant idea for capturing that wonderful childhood sense of wonder as they learn all about the world around them. Thanks to nurturestore.co.uk for sharing their ideas for this Wonder Wall.

Young children are constantly asking questions about what they see around them. Parents try to answer as best they can, but we don’t always know or remember the correct answer, or the time just isn’t right, or there’s only time for the abbreviated answer that doesn’t really do the job. As a result, many of these questions just go by the boards.

This Wonder Wall is a way to capture all those wonderings for future answering. Just by giving the questions a ‘home’, the process of questioning and learning becomes more important. Maybe becomes a good habit?

And just like a craft project can lead to research, the Wonder Wall does exactly the same. Either at the library or on the Internet, finding the answers teaches perseverance and research skills that are valuable. Online, it also teaches search and keyboard skills that your children will need.

Don’t be surprised if the research causes a cascade, with one question leading to another and yet another. And really, what more could you want from one piece of painted butcher paper and a bunch of post-it notes?

Research and Art Fun

What’s starts as a fun art project can become a whole new learning experience and begin the kind of skill building they’ll need as they get older. And all of it can be fun and nice together time with your young child. I call this a win-win! And I thank Quirky Momma’s for putting this out there to help all parents work constructively with their kids.

In this example, a marvelous Chinese Fireworks art piece using red card stock and gold paint and glitter started a whole journey into Chinese culture.Chinese Fireworks Art They used the computer to look up and print photos of things related to China, and created a home-made book out of it all using the art piece as the cover.

In today’s world it’s almost never to early to begin using the computer and the internet as a source of information, research and learning, and this project gently begins that process. With a subject that has already engaged the child with the related art or craft, it’s a natural extension to want to learn more, so the motivation is already there. The computer research also exposes the child to search and the keyboard, all stuff they’ve got to get good at anyways.

The subject matter can be as varied as your imagination or the childs interests:

  • space- stars, planets, the solar system, Nasa and Hubbell photos from the web
  • cultures such as this China exercise, and can include food, geography, natural beauty, people…
  • sports- thinks stars, stats, venues, photos
  • the natural world- either places or things such as plants (which might even lead to eating green food?) or animals

This will work, on different levels, with both preschool kids and early elementary school children that aren’t yet into the mandatory homework, which sadly can take some of the fun out of learning. And you’ll enjoy spending this quality time with your child and watching the learning lights go on.

Building With Cards

Building With Cards

Building With CardsI remember doing this as a child, with playing cards, but forgot about it when my own kids were young, so here’s a reminder for you. And a thank you to artfulparent.com for reminding me.

As you can see, these aren’t playing cards but rather greeting cards– bigger and easier to handle. Pick up a box or two of pretty colorful ones at the dollar store just for this purpose.

Depending on age and ability, you might consider giving your child both the cards and a roll of tape, and let him or her figure out how to add stability to their building with the tape. An exercise in problem solving right along with the fun of building.

If sufficiently stable with the tape, the building can then double as a doll house for polly pocket people, or pebbles with faces painted on or little plastic superheroes- whatever. All in all, an entertaining and educational play activity.

Maia’s Dollhouse of Cards & a Question – The Artful Parent.


E-Tools for Parents


I hadn’t thought of this, but today’s kids will be the first generation to have been digital from birth. Today’s parents aren’t too far behind that curve, but they need be ready with all the digital tools that can help these kids in their digital world. And it starts early. Here’s some suggestions for ‘playful learning’ websites for this digital generation.

Rob Furman: E-Tools for Parents.

Wonderful Wooden Puzzles

Puzzles are great fun and great learning all rolled into one, so they make a terrific plaything and terrific gifts. Cool Mom Picks found these 1/4″ thick wooden puzzles from Artifact Puzzles, and I’m so glad to be able to pass them along to you.

Do follow this link through to Artifact Puzzles as there are many to choose from- animals, fantasy like the Alice in Wonderland pictured here, Asian art, knights and warriors, famous paintings, landscapes, monsters, and lots more.

These aren’t the cheap and cheesy cardboard kids puzzles, and the price tag reflects their quality. That and the artwork justifies the price. These would make a great grandparent birthday gift where the price fits the budget.

Bigger kids need bigger puzzles. We always had one going on a towel (so it could be moved) in some accessible yet out of the way spot. The kids and us grown-ups would go sit for a few minutes and put in a couple of pieces. Kind of a break in the day or evening. We’d even chat a couple of minutes. All good stuff. Check out the big 1000 piece puzzles for your family here.

Magna Tiles

Magna Tiles

Magna TilesCreative play that builds math, logic and spatial problem solving skills is a three way winner. These Magna Tiles do all of that, and more and are getting rave reviews from parents over at Amazon and elsewhere.

These magnetized shapes come in both translucent and opaque colors (different sets) that attract on all sides (edges) for building 3D shapes. The 32 shapes in this particular set are equally divided between different sized squares and rectangles and different triangles- adding an angled dimension to the building that works on those math (geometry) and spatial skills. The translucent tiles also teach about color mixing- an added bonus.  An ideas guide is included in the set, but they may totally ignore it as their own imagination and exploration take over.

Magna Tiles are recommended for age three and up, and from what parents have written they continue to provide hours of entertainment well into elementary school age, like 7, which is a good long lifespan for a ‘toy’. Many parents talk about buying more than one set, often several- that’s how much they get used!

These are a bit on the expensive side, so getting together with another family to give as a party present might be the way to go. Or, suggest this edu-toy as a grandparent or other relatives gift.