When I tried out the ThinkFun Square by Square game, I played it with my four year old daughter. Because I had previously taught in a four year old classroom, I considered how the game improved my daughter’s cognitive skills as well as her motor skills. Games can be a great strategy to teach children. Playing isn’t always an effective strategy, but when an instructor gives effective feedback and clear instructions, kids can learn a lot from games. ThinkFun, a children’s game company, does a good job of integrating educational material with fun. While my daughter was truly excited to play, I was happy that I didn’t have to nag her to do her learning because the game was so fun and new to her.
Review of the Game
Even though the game was for children ages five and up, my daughter had a blast and understood the game well. Being a little younger than the average player, my daughter needed very clear instructions. Because of my background as a teacher, I knew to model the game before showing my daughter how to play independently. Part of being a good teacher involves scaffolding, which means: I do, we do, you do. Slowly, the child learns to perform tasks independently after seeing someone else do it first. I practiced playing the game at least three times by myself before I asked my daughter to help me. As I played, I learned the instructions so I could better explain them to my daughter.
Playing the game was simple. I purposefully chose cards with images that would appeal to my daughter. Some images were more simple to create, such as the chair or simple designs. Some images were of things that my daughter liked, including animals. How the game worked was that after I chose a card, I created the same images with small cubes. On the back of the card, there were very helpful hints about how to make the image.
My daughter became really good at the game as she learned to use the hints. Impressed, I watched her learn to play independently. Because the hints on the card were small, initially I wasn’t sure if I would need to explain each hint. I was relieved that my daughter was able to visualize which shape and size blocks to put in the game without my help. While playing the game, I analyzed how the game helped children to work on many skills and develop problem solving strategies.
As I examined the game, I noticed that it helped develop visual discrimination. When children match the blocks to the pictures of the blocks, they learn to distinguish the shape of items visually. Visual discrimination is a skill that children need for academic work in preschool and kindergarten. My daughter also worked to improve her vocabulary as she learned to vocalize her thoughts about which shape would fit where. Describing how items look helps children communicate better and learn new language skills.
Another skill that children develop with the game would be fine motor skills. Manipulating small items can be good for young children who are working on hand muscles so they can eventually learn to hold a pencil correctly. Working with the blocks also teaches math skills. Because children must analyze how shapes fill a surface, they are learning the basic principles of surface area. Plus, children can examine how three small blocks can be the same size of one larger block, which lays a basic foundation for children to learn about place value. Later in school, children would be able to connect the knowledge they gained from playing the game in many content areas.
To purchase the game, visit the company’s website.