WHAT: Distraction by ThinkFun
DOES: work on and play around with your working memory using laughter as the motivator to challenge you and your family; discover how you best memorize things
TOOLS: Remember to Learn, Lose and Win Gracefully
EXPERT OPINION: Karen Hopkins, MD, Developmental Pediatrics, NYU School of Medicine
GIVEAWAY: Details Below
Working memory is a bit of a problem for kids with ADHD. Actually, it’s a bit of a problem for lots of folks. However, as kids get older, there are less and less memory-only games made available to them. I think I know why. Memory is like your weight or your IQ score. You can’t completely hide your shortcomings in these areas and yet it’s not something you talk about.
But you know what? We should talk about it. Weight is changeable and so are intelligence scores – that’s right, they are. And can memory be improved? Researchers are saying yes and so talking about it is the first step in the right direction.
A great way to start this conversation is through game playing. But there is a lack of age-appropriate memory games out there for elementary age kids, right? There are tons of apps but rarely are they group-based and of course, you are stuck to a screen. However, there are a few gems. Cartoon It!, which I discussed here last month is a great working memory game and this year, the same makers of Cartoon It! released Distraction.
Gosh, isn’t that word one of your least favorite words in the English vocabulary? I know I can say this here. You all know what I mean but the good news is that this game lets you take that word, encase it in a ball, and says, “bounce it around for a bit… see how you do.”
Why Test Your Memory? What’s the Point?
When you test it out through something like a game, you are putting your brain out there. Everytime you challenge your memory through the same game, you learn a little bit more about yourself and which tactics work best for you. Some people take mental pictures, some people put it in a melody, some people tap their fingers on a desk, some people remember things by writing it out or whispering it to themselves while closing their eyes.
You may also learn that you absorb better if you have a sip of water or do push-ups before you start. How about some mid-game jumping jacks? That is what I love most about games that heavily rely on your working memory. You get to know how your brain works best! This information is gold.
And do I encourage my son to apply those newfound strategies to homework and for studying for spelling tests? Are you kidding me? How could I not?
Distraction’s Edge is Laughter
But one thing I’ve learned about memory outside of the game world is that working out your memory and stretching it to its limits can be really hard. Just think about all those tests that you studied for like crazy and you were still disappointed with the grade. Memorizing is hard stuff.
However, Distraction is not only fun, it’s also fun–ny. But can memorizing something, just memorizing numbers as in the case of this new game really be funny?
I know one veteran child development expert that thought it was not only fun but funny too. Dr. Karen Hopkins, Clinical Associate Professor of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics at the NYU School of Medicine gave me her insights on Distraction, “This was a fun game because people mess up and they laugh at each other.”
What is Working Memory?
For those of you who are familiar with only a few of all the different types of memories that a person uses, you are not alone. (It goes way beyond short and long term) I am only familiar with just a few myself but working memory is still a new concept to me. Karen says that working memory is used when you have something in your mind but you are doing something else. But working memory requires that you can come back to the first thing and use it in the process of doing something else.
“For example working memory is important with reading and reading comprehension,” said Karen. “As you read you have to remember rules of reading – so you have to remember when you see a comma, when you see a period… Sometimes when you change punctuation, you change the meaning of a sentence.” Karen continued, “You have to remember those kinds of things and that you have to keep in your mind as you’re reading it and you’re able to get the full meaning of the passage.”
ThinkFun, where were you when I was in the fourth grade and I failed EVERY single one of my reading comprehension tests? (Don’t tell my mom, she still doesn’t know. I had ways….)
Leave it to the Toys are Tools family to play things backwards. We didn’t even know that we were playing it backwards until a friend told us. But you can watch the ThinkFun video right before you play if you don’t like reading directions.
To be sure, Distraction looks nothing like a reading passage. Rather, players are given a stack of cards, each with a single-digit number. As each player gets a turn, you must flip over your card, say the number and then keep a sequence going as others put down their cards in the middle, “9,8,4,2…” That sounds a little hard but then throw in a random question by the un-luck of the draw like, “What’s your favorite dessert?” and your brain takes a trip to another place and then you come back and you wonder, was it “9,8,4,2” or ” 8,9,4,2″?
I know that sounds like fun but does that resemble the working memory process and how it is challenging?
“I think it does. It’s a fun way to test it and play around with working memory,” said Karen.
|These questions certainly distract me. Some distraction cards ask you to do things instead of answering questions. It’s all really funny.|
Memory- It’s Not Just For School
All fun aside, I asked Karen about the importance of working memory because despite my failure in reading comprehension, I did finish college and feel kind of functional sometimes.
“Of course. Working memory is really important,” she said noting that we need to keep salient things in our mind while we’re doing other tasks. “That’s also such an important thing in terms of executive functioning and being able to function independently as an adult.”
“It just causes people to appear irresponsible,” she said of people whose working memories may not be so great. “Also, when you’re learning something in school, it can really affect it because if a teacher is speaking to you, you may need to remember what they said a few sentences ago, in order for something to make sense.”
Hmmm, not being able to remember what a teacher said? Uh, I bet some of these kids can get in trouble a lot!
“Yep,” Karen agreed instantly. Oh dear! I was one of those kids. It still happens to me at social events but I have learned to sort of smack myself on the head and say “Oh, not enough coffee today, sorry.” But, I don’t think kids have anything like that to say.
Humor and Brain Play
I have been teaching my kid how he can respond when his working memory is clearly annoying someone. I never thought I’d be having this kind of conversation with a child but it feels refreshing to do so. Moreover, here at home we have games that do require a significant amount of working memory and directed attention but they are also fun. Basically, they build skills but are nothing like a worksheet. Moreover, I believe they’re much more effective than your standard drill.
Last week, Toys are Tools, my toy review website was informed that ThinkFun, the makers of Distraction and Cartoon It! and many other super fantastic games for the brain came up with a special needs section that to me looked more like a Special Skills Menu.
I love it. It’s is EXACTLY how I look at toys and games. When we are conscious about the skills we are working on, we feel accomplished. We are totally aware of our progress. We need that. When we make purposeful choices in what we learn, there is more investment and hence, more return.
This new information also lets you “pick” the skills on the menu, practically à la carte! Since our kids have strengths too and ThinkFun lists all the skills that each game requires, our kids can work on problem areas by using their strengths! “Waiter, I’d like a sandwich of Focus & Attention with plenty of Numbers and Visuals on the side!”
Visit Toys are Tools because I’ll be talking about this topic more in depth! But before you go, enter to win your own game of Distraction and then come to my site because there is a “Pick Your Own Prize” giveaway in store for you!
Time to Win Your Own Distraction Game! Remember to follow the rules! The winning game can only be shipped to the U.S. Ends: July 25, 2012 12:01 AM EST
Extra Distraction tip: The fact that Distraction is all about numbers is fabulous. That means you can do so many things! Spice up your game by requiring folks to not go by the sequence shown or the backwards sequence that we did but RATHER…. by repeating the numbers by ascending or even descending numerical order.
Number 1’s Tip to Kids: Teach how tone can change the meaning. If you say your number sequence with a questioning tone then you are possibly setting up a trap to be challenged. Oh, that is just bad!
This post is dedicated to dear sweet Penny Williams, the leader of this circle of parents who want to help other parents of children living with ADHD. Penny, you’ve been such a good friend and mentor. You work so hard and give so much of yourself. If it wasn’t for you, I don’t know if I would still have Toys are Tools but thanks to you and support from Kay and Adrienne and all the other parents out there, the way we view toys is spreading. Parents of ADHD children have always been turning over every stone to find things that will stimulate these brains that need to be CONSTANTLY stimulated. If you think about it, our children are most discriminating toy testers in the world! And parents like my dear friend Penny Williams have been leading the way, sharing the good news as soon as she discovers them. I am so sorry I can’t be at the Happy Mama conference but I’ll be with you in spirit!
Disclosure statement: Toys are Tools has not been compensated in any fashion by the manufacturer of any of the mentioned products for the publication of this post. Distraction was given to Toys are Tools’ testers and Dr. Hopkins to facilitate a review. Reviews are never promised.