Friday, January 18, 2013

Think Fun hits One Out of the Park Again!

I'm not usually one to become loyal to one particular company when it comes to kids stuff.  I tend to think each project should be judged based on its own merits, but I have had a few favorites.  One company that I have never been dissatisfied with yet is ThinkFun (By the way, Think Fun has not paid me for writing this article, nor sent any freebies or in any other way "purchased" my endorsement here).

I write in particular today because of their ingenious game, "Solitaire Chess." 

Ever since reading, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - HP and the Philosopher's Stone in the UK, Alice has wanted to learn to play chess.  I taught her the moves, but playing the game with her is painstakingly tedious because she is a beginner and young.  While doing such things anyway is part of the job of being Mom and guide (and even if she had an older sibling to play with, problems would also arise), when I saw "Solitaire Chess" sitting on the shelf at a local bookstore, I thought, "Hmmmm. . . ?"

I'm always on the look out for games she can play that will help her practice her critical thinking skills, games she can play on her own during long car trips or at home while I am doing work that doesn't include her (like writing) or whatever, and things that will intrigue or interest her and build on what she already knows and finds interesting.  This game addressed all three desires.

Think fun games tend to be self contained and well organized, small without being tiny and able to "travel."

Think fun games usually have a critical thinking or at least educational component to them.

This game involved practicing with Chess pieces and becoming more familiar with how those pieces move as well as how they capture other pieces.

The game cost a little more than I'd like to think it had to, but you do get what you pay for and since I've had such good experiences with games like, "Clever Castle" and "Math Dice," I was much more willing to pay just a bit more than I might have otherwise.
So, we brought the game home.

While taking it out of the packaging, I was glad to see that again, the whole thing is self contained in something more durable than a cardboard box filled with loose pieces.  There is a "drawer" for the pieces and a slot for the challenge cards and instruction booklet and the box itself becomes the game board with the challenge card you choose visible through the "board."  The board has little concavities the pieces fit on so they don't easily just slide off the board making the whole thing more feasible to use in environments like the car and on planes.

The directions were clear enough Alice could figure out the game on her own and it has visual charts about how each piece moves for reminders as well as a "When you Get Stuck" checklist of tips to think through.
Alice proceeded to spend the next hour and a half working her way up through most of the "beginner" cards and getting more and more familiar with both how the different pieces move, and the idea that "thinking ahead" (otherwise known as employing strategy) are to her advantage.

The game is definitely a great buy for anyone that might like Chess and is old enough and developed enough to understand the game rules.  If you can find it on discount - even better.  The game is labeled for 8+, but if your kid can manage understanding how the different pieces move, someone younger can play and the pieces are large enough I don't think they would pose a huge safety hazard for most younger siblings.  For little mouthers (kids that still chew on everything), if they can get the pieces inside their mouths, you will want to be careful as you would just about any toy for an 8+ kid.

Link to ThinkFun

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