Where was this when I was growing up??

When I was younger, one of my favorite toys was my Barbie Airplane.  Marked out in the colors of United Airlines, I had endless fun imaging Barbie and her pals jet setting across these great United States, having all sorts of immeasurable fun.  Fun that I would have someday to be sure.  T'was a gift from Santa, and fed my imagination for all things glamorous, beautiful, and "girlie".

Yet, my love of all things Barbie, and all things Girlie oh so long ago, left me with a huge void in my own educational process - and I didn't have a clue, nor did my parents, until the later years.  Don't get me wrong, while feeding the imagination is awesome, there are concrete skills that you all know can be built through play - concrete skills that I turned my back on completely back then, but now find myself searching out to provide for my own children.

Had Santa given me blocks or geometrically based items, I would have been 'grateful', but would have shoved them aside in favor of the makeup, the barbies, the clothes, the hairdryers, and such.  I think Mrs. Claus knew that, and as such, didn't provide these more basic learning tools and toys.  My father, smart man that he always has been, realized this gap in my learning process - as I entered more complex mathematics like Algebra, Trigonometry and Geometry (hush big sis - these may not be complex mathematics to you..but for the better part of the world they are far advanced - grin!).  Dad was the one that made the connection between all things girly - and a distinct lack in my left-brain of all things logical and mathematical.

Quite simply, I had no concept of visualization of objects in a 3-D setting.  I had an extremely difficult time with concrete spatial relations and object reorientation.  The world to me was in 2-D, and I had no ability to see how length and width added up to anything other than a bunch of lines on a piece of math homework - and their relationship to each other was not only beyond me, it was inconsequential to me.  Who uses that stuff anyway was my motto - because quite frankly, I just couldn't get my mind around what "that stuff" was, let alone any practical application.  Yeah...rock on Barbie-Girl...rock on.

I digress, but only slightly.

Because my father recognized this failing in me, I vowed that I ensure that my child(ren) would not face the same challenge, and would have various toys that would not only stimulate their imaginations, but also their abilities in the concrete world.  Cooking with mom (Chemistry at its finest my friends, and a bonus to their future wives), blocks, reasoning games, counting games, were added along with books, music, and the "righty brain" type games - they have been important parts of Christmases, Birthdays, and everyday living in Ozland.

And this Christmas was no different.

One of the gifts that Santa so graciously bestowed on the young King is a simple game.  A game that involves no reading for this Kindergartener, yet provides immeasurable learning opportunities. A game that the engineering mind of Capt Oz, the analytical mind of the Cadet, and the still developing mind of the King all find fascinating. a game that I would have found awesome as a  youngster, and would have set aside the barbies for - as it would have been simple (like me - right DF?), challenging and competitive.  And yet, it would have stimulated that part of the brain that seemed to lie dormant during my developing years.

I bring you  Blokus 3D

The game is a seemingly simple form of manual Tetris, played on a 10x10 grid with masks for various shapes - rectangle, l-shaped, pyramid or steps.  The object is to place your colored pieces on the board, without leaving gaps, and touching a face of another one of your pieces - in the prescribed manner.  Size, height, and the like are dictated by the number of players playing.  To win, you must have the majority of your selected color showing on the top of the grid.  (For example, Yellow has five squares showing from overhead, Blue has three squares, and  Green has five - if the game were "complete" above, green and yellow would have tied)

Logic, and spatial relations, as well as being able to visualize the final form are all key.  If you save some of the stranger shapes until near the end, you can find yourself blocked from placing a piece.  If you can visualize the final form, you can place your pieces in a blocking manner so that your opponent can't make moves near the end of the game.  Like I said, Logic, spatial relations and visualization - way important in this one.

After playing this only 5 times with the King, he has become quite adept at manipulating his pieces to make sure "they fit".  He has begun to build towards the end result, and show Mom where she has misplaced pieces (with gaps, overbuilding heights and the like).  I have to admit, it is pretty cool to see his mind working - via his eyes fluttering over the game.  It was also pretty cool to see Capt. Oz's analytical touch coming in when we played a three person game last night.  "Hmmm...the key isn't so much building "early" as it is developing avenues for later in the game" was his declaration upon losing to the King. (I lost to the king too).

Chalk one up for Santa for a game that the whole family can enjoy (even if, at times, I am an epic fail at it!!)

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