Category: Play Therapy

Gameschooling with Blue Orange games!

Gameschooling with Blue Orange games!

We love hearing and reading about our games being used for a purpose that goes beyond playing and having fun! Over the years we have observed teachers and therapists using many of our games as educational tools and we thrive in knowing that with good mechanics and quality components our games are very versatile. We invited Juliet Smith, a mother and gamescooling supporter, on our blog to talk about how she uses our games for gameschooling. She selected our classic Tell Tale and our original Once Upon a Castle to illustrate her passion. We invite you to visit her blog through the links below for more game reviews!

Hello! My name is Juliet Smith, Julie for short. I am 27 years old and married, and we have two beautiful children. I am here today to talk to you about Gameschooling. Let’s start with what that is. Gameschooling is simply using board and card games in a way that utilizes the various academic and social/emotional benefits that they have to offer. Research shows that children learn and retain information best through play. Let me give you an example of Gameschooling in action.

Tell Tale is a great story-telling game. It is fun and the children really enjoy playing it. I typically pass a number of cards to each child and myself, and we take turns adding one of our picture cards to the center of the table, continuing the story that we are creating together. It is usually silly and there is much laughter and excitement involved. We also enjoy switching it up by taking turns telling our own individual stories using all of our cards.

Now, take a step back and look at this with me for a moment. Tell Tale, in and of itself, is wonderful for language arts! It gets you noticing details, listening, connecting ideas together, and sharing them with others. What you will see is a group of people practicing public speaking skills, working together, using their imaginations, opening up the avenue for great conversations, lowering walls, and breaking past mental blocks.

Want to take it a step further? Have the child retell the story you have all just finished creating together. Have them write it down in a special notebook. End the story with a cliffhanger and have them finish the story in that notebook and then share it with you. Turn it into an art project and create your own cards to add to the deck. Act out the story. The possibilities are endless.

Let’s look at another game: Once Upon A Castle. Is this an “educational game”? No. Does it have great educational value? Absolutely! Once Upon A Castle covers the subjects of math and art. It is a strategic game where you are trying to gain the most points. You roll the dice to gain materials, which are then used to construct bits of your castle. How you spend these materials is where the strategy really comes into play. The bits you construct earn you points. You keep track of all this on your player board and your score sheet.

The game end scoring in Once Upon A Castle (and many others) is a wonderful opportunity to practice mental math skills. To utilize this opportunity, do not use a calculator. Let me say that again, Do NOT use a calculator to add up your score. As an adult playing games with kids and following this simple rule for their sakes, my own mental math has improved significantly. It feels good to not have to pull out my phone and open my calculator app all the time. It feels good to get faster at performing the calculations in my head. It’s a skill that requires practice and frequent use.

The greatest value, from a Gameschooling standpoint, in Once Upon A Castle is this: the opportunity to experiment with and gain confidence in your artistic abilities. This is not a requirement to play the game. Your score has nothing to do with your artistic ability. The beauty lies in the open, unspoken, invitation to be artistic.

A child may start by just tracing or coloring pieces of their castle. This may then lead to adding a little bit of creative design to their walls or towers. As they grow in confidence, they will begin applying more and more artistic touches and may eventually want to use the backside of the score sheet for complete artistic freedom in designing their own castles. To allow for this growth, it is best not to rush the game. Don’t pass the dice until you are done (or almost done) adding a piece to your castle.

There are so many great games out there now, each with its own hidden (or not so hidden) benefits. I have created a website to tell you about them, reveal their benefits, and share any rule changes I have found helpful. The games are organized by grade and subject. It is

Disclaimer: I do not make any money off this website. Instead, I put time and money into it. Why? Because I believe in the power of Gameschooling, and it doesn’t stop at the academic subjects. Please enjoy it, share it with others, and reach out to me any time.

Do you want to talk more about Gameschooling? Want to try some of these great games for yourself? Julie’s Game School with have a booth in the exhibit hall at the Rocky Mountain Homeschool Conference this summer (June 2021). I would love to see you there and share more with you. Until then, please check out the posts I have written about these Blue Orange Games:

Tell Tale:

Keekee the Rocking Monkey:

Piece of Pie:

Once Upon A Castle:

Dr. Eureka:


Why You Should Tease Your Brain

Why You Should Tease Your Brain

[box]What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three legs in the evening?

Spoiler alert: The answer is mankind.[/box]This riddle is centuries old and dates back to the Ancient Grecian legend of Oedipus Rex, who rescues the city of Thebes from the Sphynx by answering this riddle. Riddles and brain teasers such as this have always been around, varying between culture and country. In his article, Marcel Danesi mentions how the brainteasers we are familiar with have universal trends. The concept of the riddle is the same, but the subjects and the narrative change.

Still this begs the questions: why are brainteasers so attractive universally? What possible benefit could people have from teasing their mind?

Actually, teasing your brain is great for long term mental health. Danesi describes brain teasers as an opportunity to expand problem solving skills and think outside of the box. Riddles and brain teasers compel the solver to creatively work through the problem and think of novel solutions. In an article from The Washington Post, Shanker Vedantam reported a study in which researchers took four groups of participants and trained three of them in different fields of mental cognition: memory, reasoning, speed. The remaining group was left as a control and was not trained. There were ten training sessions for each group. Each session lasted 75 minutes. The study found that the groups trained in those skills performed significantly better than those in the control group when tested five years after the training. After half a decade, memory-trained participants showed better memory capabilities, speed-trained participants showed faster thinking skills, and those trained in higher reasoning tested better in solving logic puzzles. Training and teasing the human brain in this way can result in similar, if not greater, long term benefits (especially if training starts at a younger age). It’s even fun to tease your brain with puzzles, riddles, and games! Blue Orange has five games with roots in brain twisting riddles.

Color ClashColor Clash

This game is a perceptual psychologist’s dream! This game thrives off the stroop effect: a psychological phenomenon in brain flexibility. The stroop effect happens when reading colored words. Look at the row below call out the color of the font of each word:


That wasn’t too hard, was it? Now do the same thing with this next row:


Color Clash PiecesI bet that last one was a little trickier; that’s the stroop effect. It’s hard for our brains to separate the color of the font from what the word says. This is how Color Clash works. You have many tiles with different colored chameleons surrounded by a written color written in colored font.  Triple the confusion! The game is played in multiple variations, but the objective is to match tiles by color (be that the color of the chameleon, color of the font, or the written color). This challenge in mental flexibility will boggle your brain with tricky colors.

Pixy Cubes and Crazy Cheese Puzzle

Pixy CubesPixy Cubes and Crazy Cheese Puzzle work similar to jigsaw puzzles, another mind jumbling mystery in the gaming world.

Pixy Cubes require players to recognize patterns and piece them together with patterned dice. There are three ways to play: memory, speed, and design. In the speed version of the game, players flip challenge cards and try to replicate them as fast as they can with their four colored dice. In memory, players take ten seconds to memorize a challenge card before trying to replicate it. Finally in design, players use all the dice to piece together a design card,or they make up their own designs.

Crazy Cheese Puzzle works in similarly, only there’s no image and the player has to piece together identical looking wood cheese slices to complete the cheese. While the holes look identical, the end result is tricky to achieve without a good eye to spot where the parts match.

Crazy Cheese PuzzleMuch like jigsaw puzzles, both of these games require the player to piece different parts together. Also like jigsaw puzzles, both of these games work both hemispheres of the brain. The right hemisphere of the brain is known for creative and comprehensive thinking, while the left hemisphere is more logically driven and thinks sequentially. According to Monica Dennis in “Jigsaw Puzzles Benefit the Brain”, piecing together these big pictures can stimulate both halves of the brain: one being holistically creative and the other being sequentially logical. This is little wonder since you have to logically put together a picture or art piece. “Finding the Missing Piece” by Researchers Verdine, Golinkoff, Hirsh-Pasek, and Newcombe also seems to imply that jigsaw puzzles promote spatial understanding in younger children.

So whether you want to mingle with colors in Pixy Cubes or twist your mind around confusing cheese slices in Crazy Cheese, your brain is bound to grow.

Pin Point!

Pin Point! is a spot the difference puzzle with a twist. Instead of spotting the difference between two images, the player must compare all the images and eliminate the objects and characters that have a variation. After eliminating all the variations, the player calls out the color of the original object. Here’s an example:

Can you find the original?
Can you find the original?

On this card we are trying to find the original headphones. We do that by eliminating differences in the other headphones. For example, the red headphones are the only headphones that don’t have the music symbol, so we eliminate those. The green headphones are the only ones missing part of the headset.  Eliminate green. The yellow is missing the sound bubble, and the pink is missing the inside of the earmuffs. Get rid of those and that leaves blue as the original!

Pinpoint!Now, what part of the brain does this game develop? As a matter of fact, the find the difference games strengthen the brain on a cumulative level. According to Dr. Pascale Michelon in her article “Brain Games: Spot the Difference” these games stimulate all the lobes of the brain. First, when you analyze the image your are working occipital lobe, the part of your brain responsible for processing images. Second, understanding spatially where those images are triggers both the occipital lobe and parietal lobe, the lobe responsible for spatial understanding. Finally, your frontal and temporal lobes exercise working memory, a function of the brain which allows an individual to retain temporary information, when the player looks between the images and tries to remember where the potential differences are.

Pin Point! does this on a bigger scale with 72 challenge cards and multiple ways to exercise that big brain.

Dr. EurekaDr. Eureka

Finally, our very own Best Toys for Kids 2016 winner is quite the mental trainer as well. Game reviewers have also remarked how Robert Fraga’s award-winning Dr. Eureka plays a lot like the fabled Tower of Hanoi. When we looked deeper into this age-old conundrum, we learned that the puzzle originates from an Eastern apocalyptic legend. According to this legend, when the world was created, God made a temple that housed three pegs. On one of the pegs are 64 golden discs stacked from largest to smallest. The priests in the temple must take each disc one at a time (gold is very heavy!) and re-stack the discs on the last peg. However, the priests can’t place a larger disc on top of a smaller disc. When the priests complete this task, it’s said that the world will end. Fun fact: it’ll take 18,446,744,073,709,551,615 moves to complete this puzzle, and they have to lug around gold discs. I don’t think that apocalypse is happening any time soon.

A Tower of Hanoi Puzzle.


However, the puzzle makes for a fantastic math problem and an excellent mind bending game. Dr. Eureka functions along similar sequential rules as the fabled Tower of Hanoi. In the game you have to match the colored balls to the card in front of you, without dropping or touching a ball. Unlike the original puzzle, in Dr. Eureka you can flip your test tube over to match the card combination and it won’t take you eternity to complete. However, it’s not a simple drop-them-in and match-them-up challenge. Like what Danesi said, you can’t attack the problem head on. You have to think around the formula and pour your molecules in a different order from what you’d expect.

Dr. Eureka Contents
How fast can you find the formula?

So yes! Your brain appreciates all the love and brain teasing you give it. Whether it’s the growing brain of an 8-year old-child or the mature brain of a gaming parent, riddles and puzzles will work to stimulating and strengthening the mind in the best way possible.

[box]Now here’s a riddle for you: Why did riddle pick on brain?

He was teasing![/box]

Global Educator Institute has awarded Super Genius it’s Seal of Endorsement

Global Educator Institute has awarded Super Genius it’s Seal of Endorsement

GEI LogoSuper Genius has just earned the Global Educator Institute (GEI) Seal of Endorsement! This Seal of Endorsement is an outstanding honor for Blue Orange. We are thrilled to be recognized and supported by an organization so passionate about classroom education.

What is the GEI?

GEI is an organization of educators who joins with teachers and companies to review classroom products. GEI sends new education tools to teachers for them test in the classroom. If the item gets outstanding reviews it earns the GEI Seal of Endorsement! In doing this, teachers can better understand the product they are trying to buy.  It’s a great process that encourages innovative ways to educate future generations.

Playing Super GeniusWhat it means to win the Seal of Endorsement

The Seal of Endorsement places Super Genius among the best tools used in a classroom. It has passed the reviewers tests with flying colors, proving to be an educational hit in the classroom. As GEI puts it, products awarded the Seal of Endorsement are “the best-designed, most effective classroom products in the world.” We are very honored to be recognized by this highly esteemed organization.

Testimonials from the GEI Reviewers

“Super Genius would be an asset to any educational institution.”
— Cherie K., DE, GEI Reviewer and Teacher

“I would recommend this to anyone that has struggling students and limited time. There is a lot of self-checking that the children can do. Super Genius increases independence, awareness, and confidence.”
— Lisa W., NC, GEI Reviewer and Teacher

Super Genius Collection“I loved using these in my classroom! My students couldn’t get enough of them — a product that is helping students learn and making them eager to play.”
— Erika B., MI, GEI Reviewer and Teacher

“There are so many interactive games and ways to use these tools to review and teach basic fact fluency as well as high frequency and new vocabulary words. The Super Genius games are colorful, sturdy, and more current and fun than basic flashcards. Knowing this, I would definitely buy these if I saw them in a store.”
— Laura G., OH, GEI Reviewer and Teacher

“Super Genius is worthy of the GEI Seal of Endorsement. This is a product that gets children of every level of reading engaged. Students lose inhibition when using it and begin to take learning risks they never would have before. They make an effort to keep trying and, therefore, are constantly increasing their growth mindset.”
— Lisa W., NC, GEI Reviewer and Teacher

Products bearing the GEI Seal of Endorsement have earned the distinction for improving learning and the learning environment. We look forward to bringing you more fun and educational games to help your Super Geniuses grow and learn!

Identity Through Play

Identity Through Play

[box]Blue Orange co-founder, Thierry Denoual, asked Sophie About, Clinical Psychologist, to offer some wisdom about how play impacts child development. About has spent ten years working with orphanages in Cambodia and has accumulated a significant amount of insight regarding healthy child development over that time period. She was generous to share that insight with Blue Orange in the article she sent us.[/box]

Sophie About“Children’s purpose is to play” -Henri Wallon

When Playing is Finding Identity

Playing is primarily a means for a child to relax and feel good. It allows small children to develop their imagination, their ability to concentrate, and the body language which comes before speech (facial expressions, gestures, body language and sensorial activities). Play is an important way in which a child builds their own identity. An infant can only play with an adult they have a trusted relationship with that goes beyond the basic care.

Indeed, in order to play well, children need to be surrounded by the close and physical presence of caring parents. It is also while playing that children construct their identity through role playing which enables more and more complex interactions with their community. Playing allows a child to measure up his/her abilities and feel confident.

Child Playing ZimbbosFrom 0 to 2 years old: children undergo a sensory-motor phase. During his first months of life, a child becomes aware of their body (especially hands and feet), as well as their close surroundings (movements, sounds, contacts with an object, encounter with adults). As the children grow, they progress from being horizontal to vertical through experimenting with a variety of movements and intermediate postures. A child will repeat something that happened accidentally if he enjoyed it. She learns to watch and feel her surroundings (objects, environment). She explores her skills and abilities. What used to be mere reflexes becomes deliberate actions, and thus starts a phase Jean Piaget named Object Permanence, which is when the child understands that an object still exists outside his field of vision (the “pickaboo” or “hide and seek”). This allows him to better handle separation since the child knows that his relatives exist, even if he cannot see them.

Around two years old: The symbolism phase, during which the child sorts out, orders and uses logic to solve specific problems. This is the time of cognitive development, intelligence and creativity.

Child Playing with ParentPlaying is a constructive activity:

  • Initiative and creativity=self-confidence
  • He improves his thinking while discovering
  • He starts interacting with other children and discovers social rules = sociability
  • The “power to act” and “power to experiment” brings satisfaction to the child, which helps him realize the extent of his competences “I did it by myself!”
  • Playing is an effective way to make the child feel safe when he lives in a stable environment and if the adult is concerned with his interests and emotions
  • Playing shows the way to ”identity” and self-discovery



Playing enables the child to explore multiple areas, such as:

  • expressing desires
  • expressing emotions
  • expressing thoughts
  • expressing wonders
  • Controlling anxiety
  • developing abilities
  • establishing social links
  • assimilating different sides of personality

By Sophie About: Clinical Psychologist. Coordinator for the Organization Parents First, working for and with parents with regards to parenting.

10 Fantastic Holiday Crafts Kids of All Ages Will Love

10 Fantastic Holiday Crafts Kids of All Ages Will Love

Schools out, the air is chilly, and the Holidays are here again! Make this time of year extra special with these 10 fun DIY crafts kids and their parents will enjoy! Here in San Francisco, snow is a scarcity, so many of these crafts involve turning your home into an artificial winter wonderland. All of these amazing crafts foster sensory development and encourage creativity—something your child won’t even notice amidst all the fun they’ll be having.

1. Snow Dough

This incredible recipe creates “snow” that crunches in your hands—just like the real deal! Recipe here.

imagination tree


2. Christmas Crackers

Fill these with candy, small toys, and other goodies for a fun and interactive stocking stuffer. Instructions here.



3. Crayon Drip Holiday Ornaments

These adorable ornaments are so easy to make but look like professional abstract pieces of art! Find out how here.



4. Yarn Wrapped Winter Wreath

This festive wreath is fun and easy to make! Instructions here.


5. Felt Houses

Turn your home into a Christmas village with this display of tiny homes. Put LED lights in them for a cute and festive night light! Instructions here.

felt house


6. Tissue Paper Tree

Douglas Firs are nice, but this tissue paper tree is just as impressive and takes up virtually none of the space! Have fun making it using the instructions here.

paper tree



7. Tabletop Holiday Village

This printable village will make any tiny space festive! Print it out here.



8. Mason Jar Winter Scene

Make your own tiny winter wonderland with just a few materials and a mason jar. Add lights for an adorable holiday effect. Get the instructions here.



9. Winter Rhyming Activity

Just because school’s out doesn’t mean the learning fun has to stop! This fun rhyming activity can be customized for a range of activities, from vocab to addition and multiplication! Instructions here.



10. Winter Photo Backdrop

Just because you don’t live in a snowy city doesn’t mean you have to forsake gorgeous winter photos! This snowy backdrop is perfect for winter family photos. Get the instructions here.



We hope you have fun making these fun and easy crafts! Have a wonderful Holiday Season!


Your friends,

The Blue Orange Team


****This lovely blog post was put together by our intern, Gina Campanelli!


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