This week on the blog we’re putting the spotlight on the Hot Dots Jr. product line from Educational Insights. And better yet, we’re giving away a set for FREE! (See below for details.) Hot Dots Jr. harnesses the power of easy-to-use technology to engage kids in independent learning. Keep reading to find out how it shakes out in my 3F’s of toy quality—form, function and fun!
Hot Dots Jr. has two essential components—“Ace,” the talking, teaching dog, and the individual activity card sets. Ace is a chunky, 6" long electronic pen (3 AAA batteries required, not included), which is designed for little hands. He doubles as part learning companion and part magic wand, as I’ll explain in the “function” section. The Hot Dots Jr. activity cards come in sets of 36. They are double-sided with bright illustrations, which provide 72 early learning activities suitable for preschoolers, and come in a cute little box with a convenient handle for carrying. The different card set themes are The Alphabet, Patterns & Sequencing, Beginning Phonics, Colors, Shapes, and Numbers.
As with all of Educational Insights’ specialty products, Hot Dots Jr. is made with high quality materials and sturdy construction. This toy, including the heavy-stock cards, is designed to hold up to wear and tear. Ace and the card sets are packaged individually so more than one child can play at once.
Here are some early sketches by Riley Wilkinson, the Creative Director at Educational Insights, showing how Ace was developed!
The magic behind Hot Dots Jr. is that when Ace is pressed to an answer dot on the card, he gives immediate feedback. Ace laughs, lights up, buzzes with excitement, and either cheers for a correct answer or gently redirects an incorrect answer. It’s interactive, self-paced, and allows for independent discovery. The activities reinforce essential early learning topics and are great for helping kids get ready for school or catch up where they need support. Here are some examples of the activity cards:
You can also watch Ace in action in this video!
Hot Dots Jr. is completely addictive, and that’s because it’s just plain old fun. I think we often associate electronic technology with screen time, but this is a perfect example of how technology can be applied in a way that is both engaging and active. It’s the perfect balance between learning and play, which “aces” (see what I did there?) the Learning Express challenge.
Thanks for reading, and don’t miss the chance to win a free Hot Dots Jr. giveaway below!
Thanks to Educational Insights, we have a FREE “Ace” (the talking, teaching dog pen) and Hot Dots Jr. card set to give away this week! Leave a comment on this post with your first name, your email address (so we can contact you if you’re the lucky winner), and the name of your favorite school subject. Entries will be accepted now through Wednesday, June 1. A random winner will be selected and announced Thursday, June 2. Thanks for playing along!
Rapid word recall! This week we’re testing out a great family game called Blurt!, which challenges your vocabulary and cognitive reflexes. And better yet, we’re giving one away for FREE! (See below for details.) Keep reading to find out how Blurt! was invented, and how it shakes out in my 3F’s of toy quality—form, function and fun!
The game of Blurt! was spontaneously invented by a man named Tim Walsh. One day, Tim needed to entertain a group of restless students. He opened up a dictionary and started calling out definitions. The kids enthusiastically “blurted” out their guesses for the matching word, and a new game was born.
Blurt! comes in a classic, sturdy box and includes a colorful jumbo game board, 6 game pieces, die, 300 playing cards, and instructions. The playing cards are kept in a box, which is labeled “Draw” and “Discard.” I found this very helpful (having gotten my Trivial Pursuit cards completely mixed up on more than one occasion).
There are three definitions (“clues”) and their corresponding words on each side of the playing card. The side with the stars has an easier set of words, so you can decide how much of a challenge you’re up for. All of these game pieces are made from high quality materials and will stand the test of time.
Blurt! game play is very straightforward. Here are the basic rules:
1. One player begins as the Reader. The Reader rolls the die and reads the corresponding clue on the card.
2. All the other players blurt out word guesses.
3. The first player to blurt the correct word moves ahead on the game board.
4. The card box is passed clockwise to the next player (the Reader for the next round).
5. First player to return to start, wins!
Pretty simple, huh? I love games that are easy to understand so you can start playing right away. The beauty of Blurt! is that it’s pretty flexible as well. You can play individually, or as teams, and there are “Bonus,” “Advanced,” and “Junior” play options described in the instructions.
The play is pretty fast-paced and entertaining, so even little ones will like being involved. Those of you who have played Balderdash will recognize that Blurt! focuses on a similar word/definition concept, but makes it infinitely more kid-friendly. This is a fantastic way to build cognitive recall reflexes and develop vocabulary.
Blurt! will have you laughing in no time. It’s amazing how quickly your tongue gets tied as you try to spit out the right word. Within the first couple minutes of playing it, we had a pretty funny moment. A player was trying to answer the “kitchen in a ship or plane” clue and ended up very enthusiastically shouting “poopdeck!” instead of “galley.” Priceless. Watch this video to see Blurt! in action.
Thanks for reading, and don’t miss your chance to win the free Blurt! giveaway below!
Thanks to Educational Insights, we have a FREE Blurt! game to give away this week! Leave a comment on this post with your first name, your email address (so we can contact you if you’re the lucky winner), and the name of your favorite childhood game. Entries will be accepted now through Wednesday, May 25. A random winner will be selected and announced Thursday, May 26. Thanks for playing along!
Squish, squash, and sculpt! This week we’re pulling apart a unique “creativity substance” called Playfoam. And better yet, we’re giving one Playfoam 8-Pack away for FREE! (See below for details.) Playfoam was created by Educational Insights, the sponsor of the first-ever Teachers Tournament on Jeopardy!® which aired earlier this month. Keep reading to see how it shakes out in my 3F’s of toy quality—form, function and fun!
Playfoam is an interactive modeling compound made from a top secret recipe. Under close examination it looks like a whole bunch of little pellets, which are magically held together by something that sticks to itself but not to you. (I was almost reminded of Dippin’ Dots ice cream, especially since each pack comes with different colored scoops of the Playfoam.) It’s surprisingly light in terms of weight, but can be tightly compacted in terms of volume.
The whole line of Playfoam was recently repackaged and the result is very attractive and inviting. I for one couldn’t wait to open it up and start playing, especially when I realized there was a sparkle pack!
Here are some sketches by the Riley Wilkinson, the Creative Director at Educational Insights, showing the development of the repackaging.
In my day, the go-to modeling compound was Play-Doh, but oh my, how the times have changed! There has been a HUGE amount of innovation and expansion in this particular market. Playfoam is part of this new generation of creativity substances, and when it comes to its functionality there are two major perks:
1. Playfoam has zero mess. You can play with this stuff on carpet and it won’t leave anything behind. You can feel the stickyness that keeps it all together while you’re playing with, but it doesn’t leave any trace on your hands when you put it down.
2. It’s infinitely reusable. Playfoam will never dry out. Ever.
Now that’s what I call mom-friendly magic! This is perfect for preschoolers who are developing their creativity and fine motor skills. It’s malleable and easy to shape, but there’s nothing delicate about it. It’s robust and substantive, so kids can really roll up their sleeves and go to town.
Playfoam taps into both the creativity and construction play patterns. It’s completely open-ended, which means the possibilities for fun are limitless. Check out this video to see it in action!
Thanks for reading, and don’t miss your chance to win the free Playfoam giveaway below!
Thanks to Educational Insights, we have a FREE Playfoam 8-Pack to give away this week! Leave a comment on this post with your first name, your email address (so we can contact you if you’re the lucky winner), and the name of your favorite artist. Entries will be accepted now through Wednesday, May 18. A random winner will be selected and announced Thursday, May 19. Thanks for playing along!