Category: Education

Rocking Horse Toy Company is our October Store of the Month!

Rocking Horse Toy Company is our October Store of the Month!

At Blue Orange Games, we can’t take all the credit for our hot games! We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our fabulous retailers who give us feedback and put energy, passion, and time into their businesses every day. This space is dedicated to a very special retailer each month in order to highlight the stores and individuals that bring Blue Orange games from shelves into homes and that do us the honor of introducing us to families in their area. We are pleased to announce that our Retailer of the Month for October is none other than Rocking Horse Toy Co in Petoskey, MI!

rocking horse toy

Rocking Horse Toy Co started with…you guessed it…a rocking horse!

Owners, Andy and Kathleen Bultman, were originally elementary school teachers. They were on the quest to find their daughter, Sara, the perfect rocking horse for her 1st birthday. No rocking horse on the market fit the requirement. Thus Kathleen asked Andy to make one instead. Andy’s rocking horse creation created a stir and requests were made by the community for other wooden crafts. Andy later added homemade wooden toys to the inventory. The business expanded to other things such as toys and games and Andy eventually stopped making the wooden toys. 34 years later, there are 3 locations throughout Northern Michigan.

The Petoskey Location!
The Petoskey Location!

The buying season at Rocking Horse Toy Co is different from most stores. Whereas most stores experience huge sales in the 4th quarter holiday season, they have Christmas in July! Their store locations are primarily in resort areas so they experience a huge influx of vacationers looking for toys and games during the summer months.

Andy and Kathleen credit their success to their backgrounds as educators. They purchase toys and games they felt their customers could really benefit from and not just what is the most popular. They also take the time to train their employees. Arielle, is the buyer and general manager for Rocking Horse Toy Co and really makes sure their employees are well-trained to talk with the customers.

After 34 years, Andy still loves coming to work. He loves the change of seasons, the change of environments, and even the ups and downs. He still looks forward each year to attending the annual NYC Toy Fair and searching for new trends in toys and games. This love of toys and games definitely translate into their success!

Thank you  Rocking Horse Toy Co for all that you do for your community and for Blue Orange Games!

Marketing and Sales Tips for Small Businesses – Finale

Marketing and Sales Tips for Small Businesses – Finale

October is here and now begins the ramp up for the holiday season. Halloween isn’t until the END of the month but you better believe that kids have been in the planning stages well before October 1. Halloween is such a fun period for kids and is the precursor for the remaining holidays to come (kids weren’t exactly looking forward to the start of the school year)! Kids will be filled with anticipation towards the wonderful Halloween decorations, dressing up, and candy!

Halloween time!!!


Are you prepared for the upcoming shopping rush? This Final Installment of Marketing and Sales Tips for Small Businesses will focus on those special touches that stores do for their customers and local community. Fall is the opportune time for this!



Craft and art classes are a great way to bring people into the store! Don’t forget to promote it for FREE on Social Media, in your online newsletter, and local online communities!

Need an idea? Work with another local entrepreneur such as a photographer and have a parent workshop on how parents can better utilize their smart phones to take better pictures of those special moments. I got this idea from a fellow mom and photographer that does this in my community to raise money and all the spots were sold out! It doesn’t hurt her professional photography services, it only enhances her role to help you capture special moments! Feel free to reach out to your vendors to help support your efforts to increase business!


Parent’s Night Out

What kid wouldn’t want to hang out in a toy store while their parents go out for a romantic dinner? This is a win-win situation for all parties. Charge parents a fee per kid and entertain with pizza and games while their parents enjoy a night on the town.

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Lively Storefront & Special Guests

We are huge fans of working with your local community. Is their a local author in your area that would like to do a speaking and signing engagement? Local artists, local bands, local TALENT! Show your support of all things local. Your customers will appreciate it!

Host Private Parties

Host birthday parties or tea parties. Invitations can include store discount and all presents are wrapped and offered onsite.

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Receipt Auction

I have to admit that I had never heard of this idea until I was at Blue Orange. It’s such a cool idea! Organize a receipt auction after the holidays where customers can use their receipts to bid on prizes. The more a customer buys for two months, the more receipts they collection for the auction!

Q - Fun event - Receipt Auction
Props to Castle Toys and Games for this cool idea to reward loyal customers!


We wish you the best of luck as we enter the final quarter of 2015! We’d love to hear if you utilized any of those tips! Post below and we might have something to help you this holiday period!

Celebrate Summer but don’t Let the Summer Slide. Keep Kids Engaged Through Game Play!

Celebrate Summer but don’t Let the Summer Slide. Keep Kids Engaged Through Game Play!

When I was a kid and summer approached, the song by Alice Cooper played in my mind. “School’s out for summer…” I think most Americans know that song or at least can sing that famous line. So many kids are relieved to have the school year over and that includes my 7 year old. I want my child to enjoy being a kid with everything that summer has to offer. There is endless swimming, hiking, camping, road trips and so much more! I have such fond memories of my summers as a child and I want the same for him.

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 Spot It! Splash being played on a slip n slide.

Being a parent to a school age child, I worry that no school for that long of a period will cause a regression in his learning. Luckily you can make the summer months about playful learning! At Blue Orange we strive to create and publish games that are fun but still provide elements of learning. Whether it’s working on improving processing speed or practicing reading words, we have a wide variety of games to help you and your kids. Last year we wrote a blog about some games that help with preventing summer learning loss. This year, we have NEW games plus some travel favorites.


My son loves the Spot It! games so I usually try to keep a game in the car or in my bag. I love that this game builds his speech and language skills and keeps him sharp. He wins nearly every time! You can even get versions in different languages like Spanish and French that work on simple sight words (match the word to the picture). For those long road trips, I recommend Spot It! On The Road. Not only is it great to play with siblings in the car or during those rest stops but you can play Travel Bingo with the cards. And if your destination is at a campsite, bring along Spot It! Gone Camping.


For those parents that want a little bit more reading and math in their child’s summer time, try Super Genius. There are 5 games. They are stored in a cute magnetic box for easy storage and travel.


First WordsReading 1Reading 2AdditionMultiplication 1

What do you do to prevent the summer slide? Post your comments below!

Why Play is Important in Child Development

Why Play is Important in Child Development

image001 Parents want to give the best opportunities to their children. Music lessons, language lessons, extra tutoring, after school learning programs, the list can go on and on. We all want to give our kids the advantages and opportunities to succeed and/or perhaps we didn’t have as children. All of those activities are wonderful opportunities. However, play sometimes gets a bad reputation as being frivolous. On the contrary, play is very important in child development! If you want to learn more, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a report about the importance of play in promoting healthy child development (read here). Play can reduce stress and anxiety for kids AND adults so make some time to get silly! The National Lekotek Center , a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, provides an array of services to improve the lives of children with special needs through the utilization of toys and play. They have 20 wonderful reasons to encourage play for ALL Children.

Top 20 Reasons to Encourage Play for ALL children

  1. Play advances many cognitive skills like learning to focus and paying attention to details.
  2. Play produces an active, alert, but non-stressed frame of mind that benefits a child greatly.
  3. Play opportunities help a child develop problem-solving, organizational and planning skills.
  4. Play promotes both long-term and short-term memory.
  5. Play stimulates language, negotiation and communication skills.
  6. Play teaches a child how the world works from gravity to how things move, float or fly.
  7. Play experiences allow a child to explore symbolic play, imitation and his own creativity.
  8. Play allows a child to build confidence, one trip down a slide or throw of a ball at a time.
  9. Play provides the feedback a child needs to develop self-knowledge and self-esteem.
  10. Play is an excellent way for a child to connect to nature and to explore its many facets.
  11. Active play can enhance a child’s mood, coping abilities and defuse emotionally charged events.
  12. Play teaches the cornerstones of relationship building, cooperation and compromise.
  13. Leadership along with group skills are learned through team or collective play.
  14. Active play promotes a healthy body for children and lowers their risk of obesity.
  15. Play promotes brain development through the use of both the body and mind.
  16. Play can teach a child the lessons of strengthening and balancing his body and coordinating his hands and eyes.
  17. Play stimulates resiliency by prompting the child to try again and learn patience towards self and others.
  18. Play fosters courage to swing higher and jump farther.
  19. Play teaches empathy by allowing a child to explore the role of both winner and loser.
  20. Play leads to engagement and enjoyment that provides a child with both physical and emotional release.


Occupational Therapy for Kids and the Role of Game Play

Occupational Therapy for Kids and the Role of Game Play

Autism Awareness Month is over but the work for helping those on the autism spectrum continues all year long. At Blue Orange Games, we get a lot of praise on our games from professionals that work with special needs kids. We are absolutely humbled by this. As a mother to a special needs boy with autism and ADHD, this personally touches my heart. We work hard on creating games so that people of ALL skill sets and abilities can play and have fun.

Neal Carlson is an Occupational Therapist in the public school sector. We initially started talking when he reached out to us regarding Spot it! to share how he utilizes this game with his students. Read about his love of games and the lessons that are taught for his own kids and the kids that he works with.

 Why I Love Games

By: Neal Carlson, OT

One of my jobs as a school-based occupational therapist is to analyze the steps of an activity and determine what skills are necessary to complete it. Take copying something from a smart board, for example. A student must be able to see and process the words, replicate it on a notebook and visually return to the correct place on the board. Being successful at this task requires skills such as visual acuity, shifting attention, visual memory, motor coordination, and postural stability, just to name a few. In short, my job is to determine what skills students need to be successful in school.

That is why I love games. My experience as a therapist and a parent has taught me that games have so much to offer. They provide fun and engaging opportunities to develop skills on so many levels. Below are a few reasons why I am such a big supporter of games in my practice:

1. Games are adaptable – A little creative goes a long way. One of my students was having difficulty copying accurately from a board like in the example I provided above. I determined that it was difficult for him to shift from a stimulus that was close (his notebook) to one that was far away (the smart board). I taped a Spot It card to the wall and had my student sit 5-feet away with the remaining cards. By locating the matches, he was able to build skills essential for school success in a fun way.

2. Games are a form of play – Many people underestimate the value of play as it relates to child development. Games teach important social skills such as taking turns, healthy competition and being a good sport. I have seen so many of my students beam with pride after doing well in a game or showing good sportsmanship after losing. These are important in every phase of life. And if I can step up on my soapbox for a minute…with our society so electronics-centric, traditional games are also an awesome way for families to connect.

Players_LowRes3. Games are skill-building – All the best games build skills. Chess is a great example. The reason why it has been around for so long (and why it is taught in many schools), is because it teaches higher-level cognitive skills such as critical thinking, pattern recognition, and planning. Chess has been linked to academic development, but I always say that many other games achieve the same effect. Games help to build so many skills. To name a few: visual-motor processing speed, attention, fine motor coordination, memory, communication, and emotional regulation.

4. Games are fun – The reason why I value games as much as I do is because GAMES ARE FUN! They bring people together. I can still remember the enjoyment I felt as a kid playing Clue with my friends. Now, as a parent and occupational therapist, I get to see the impact games have had on my own children and the children I provide services to at school.


In addition to working as an occupational therapist, Neal also writes music for TV/film and teaches guitar.  He lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and two children.

Neal Carlson, OT


Top Ten Toys – April Store of the Month

Top Ten Toys – April Store of the Month

Blue Orange Games is lucky to partner with a fantastic bunch of retailers who are passionate about their businesses and supportive of our games.  We want to do more to recognize the stores and individuals that make our mission possible.  That’s how our monthly spotlight on an outstanding Blue Orange Games retailer came about! We are pleased to announce that Top Ten Toys in Seattle, Washington is our Store of the Month for April!


Xavier, from our sales team, nominated this store because of their dedication to the local community and their passion for creating fun times with their customers. Xavier also recognized Top Ten Toys because of their loyalty and being one of our oldest customers. Katie, a Top Ten Toys employee, remembers Julien, Blue Orange Owner, coming into the store of Blue Orange’s first big road trip!

Top Ten Toys has been open since 1987 and is the largest toy store in Seattle! Top Ten originally opened as a store for homeschoolers which is why they bring in toys with an educational flare. When speaking with Kristi, Top Ten buyer, she stated “Our mission statement is keeping healthy play alive. I have been working here for over 10 years. I became the game and skill toy buyer shortly after I started working here because I am a board game lover and a skill toy enthusiast!”

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Top Ten Toys is ready to share their secrets to success, “I think the secret to having a successful toy store is knowing your customer base and being part of your community.  We donate to local charities and school auctions.”  There is no doubt that Top Ten Toys puts their community first. With cheerful employees and ready to help at anytime service, customers never leave the store disappointed. Even when visiting the website, the contact button is always available if you have a question when shopping! Their dedication to customer satisfaction is evident when Krista shares “I get the most satisfaction out my job when a customer falls in love with an item we carry.”

It is a joy to have been working with Top Ten Toys for many years. Since Kristi is familiar with our game selection, we thought it would be fun to hear her personal favorites, “Blue Orange has many games I enjoy but my favorite is Flash or Fastrack but I have to say I am really enchanted with Thumbs Up!  That one is lots of fun!!!” It is always great to hear that our current and classic games can be lumped together as someone’s favorites.


While all of the spotlight is on Top Ten Toys, we couldn’t help but to be tickled by Kristi’s comment, “My favorite thing about Blue Orange is how everyone who works for the company is enthusiastic and fun loving. Every employee believes in the products, which is not hard to do since all your games are AWESOME!

And of course, we think that Top Ten Toys is awesome too!

For more information, check out:

April is Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness Month

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I love playing family board games. This isn’t just because I work for Blue Orange. It’s not just because I have fond memories of playing board games as a kid or even as an adult. The simple reason is that it engages my son in a way that other things cannot. My son has autism and ADHD. Board games provide us a way to engage with each other and with friends and family , and work on his social skills. I learned and honed the skills of game play for my son through ABA therapy sessions. We worked with him on turn taking, focus and attention, visual perception, social skills, sportsmanship, etc. He would have so much fun with the games that he never thought he was doing any type of “work”.

He beats me in Gobblet Gobblers (probably his favorite game).He can’t get enough of the multiple Spot It! versions. Sometimes, we don’t play the game the way it’s meant to be played and that’s ok too. I have fond memories of a playdate with him playing “hide and go seek Spot It! cards” at a friend’s house. Not only was the mother ok with our kids running around the house trying to find hidden cards but she encouraged it! He made up a new game using materials from an already beloved game and everyone had fun.

Playing the giant version of Gobblet Gobblers.

April is Autism Awareness Month. I’m so happy to hear about the role that board games contribute to ABA Therapy. I’m a big fan of Sam Blanco, BCBA and her website – Teach Through Games. She’s an ABA therapist that utilizes games in her therapy sessions. She does a great job of modifying games to her students individual skills.

Have fun and learn through playing!