Learning Preschool Math Through Play with Zorbit

My kids love broccoli. I don't say that to brag. They just do. I think it's because we used to play with broccoli, calling the little pieces trees and making food forests on our plates. When the question "What's for dinner" was answered with "Trees," I knew I'd hear cheering.

Getting kids to do things for their development stretches the imaginations of parents. We are forever trying to find ways to entertain, cajole, and trick our kids into doing what's best for them. Sometimes, it's easy to get kids to accept lessons. Other times, not so much. It might be the kid resisting, but I think, more often than not, it's us as parents that might have just run out of steam trying to come up with new material. So when something comes along that makes it even easier for us to prepare kids for life, we're pretty much stoked.

Here's one thing preschool parents will definitely be stoked about.

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Zorbit's Math Adventure  is a game that covers all the skills a preschooler needs to be prepared for first-year school math. Through play, kids learn counting and numbers, shapes, sizing, comparing, separating and matching, and more skills that will give them a boost when entering their first class room. All this is done through the story of Zorbit who needs to build a rocket and solve a few situational problems with the help of friends that come along as they level up. Along the way, the player will get to collect and play with virtual stickers. And we all know how much kids love stickers!

I got to play with Zorbit's Math Adventure at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles last week. What I liked about the game was the simplicity in both the graphics and the actual game itself. Another great feature is that a child is able to play this game on own. There are no words to read and the levels are very intuitive. Leaving a child alone to play might make the teaching parent feel guilty, but more likely, they're feeling relief at not being needed for a few minutes.

Teaching a preschooler may become frustrating for both parent and child. There are a few concepts that tend to trip preschoolers up that seem so simple to us as adults. We don't realize that it's not something that comes naturally because we've understood those early concepts for so long, we may not remember how we learned it. You sort of look at the kid and think "How are you not getting this?" And the kid looks back at you with big doe eyes and says "I don't know, Mommy." And then your heart breaks and you start to feel like a failure at teaching your own kids the simplest things.

Letting the child "play" at learning on their own builds confidence while also building basic understanding of those math concepts that are needed to succeed in the early years of school. Kids think they're playing a video game, but they're really absorbing the core skills that will give them a boost when they enter school.

As a mom who taught my younger two kids at home for several years (and will be returning to doing so during our upcoming year in Mexico), I can appreciate games that teach. The kids are entertained and can learn/play on their own, and I'm not going nuts trying to come up with fun ways to teach simple mathematical concepts.  The trick is to find a game they will actually want to play. The bright colors and story line, as well as the stickers and other positive reinforcements rewarding accomplishments are just the things a game needs to keep kids coming back for more learning. Although I was able to find some good math manipulatives to teach them early concepts with, I really wish I would have had something as simple and fun as Zorbit's Math Adventure for them to "play" with on their own.

Zorbit will not help make your kids love broccoli, but it'll definitely get them excited about core math concepts. Just don't let them know they're not just playing a video game.

And here's a great article from the creators of Zorbit's Math Adventure on the importance of absorbing math concepts at an early age:  

Why Are Preschool Math Skills So Important? 

 *Thanks to the staff of Zorbit's Math Adventures for having me at E3 this year!

I'm Game

As a typical teen of the 80's, you could usually find me at the roller rink, the movie theater watching the latest John Hughes flick, or... at the arcade.

I spent too many hours and quarters playing Ms. Pac Man, Asteroids, and my personal fave, Centipede. I'm proud to say, you could almost always find my initials on the leader boards. If someone knocked it off, I'd spend my whole role of quarters trying to get back on. In our little world, it was like being famous. Sort of.

At home, my sister and I spent hours playing Pong, later graduating to Donkey Kong, Frogger, and Tetris. Most of the time, I played with other guys. Not too many of my girlfriends wanted to spend a lot of time at the arcade or in front of the TV playing video games. They preferred to slap on some Bonne Bell lip gloss and Maybelline mascara and head to the mall to check out the boys. They didn't seem to get that the boys were at the arcade. Duh! Not wanting to be left out, I gooped on the gloss and followed them to the mall.

But I really wanted to be at the arcade.

Then I grew up and had kids. No more arcade days for me. But after paying my dues with years of having The Elmo Song stuck in my head, the kids finally grew up and got into gaming. I was so excited!!! Except for the fact that most of my favorite games were "retro" when retro wasn't cool, it was nice to have an excuse to play again.

But these days, we don't need an excuse.

Gaming has become a regular part of life for everyone. When we were kids, adults would laugh off our video games. But adults of our generation will push their own kids aside to rock out to Rock Band or kick some ass on Street Fighter. Unlike our parents, we get gaming, even if they still don't get us still playing. Just the other day, I was showing my mom Draw Something on my iPhone. She thought it was interesting, but before I could finish demo'ing it to her, she asked, "Doesn't this just waste time?"

"Yes, it wastes time," I told her. "That's kind of the point."

I love tuning out with a game. A few of my favorites to tune out with come from PopCap. I have Bejewelled Blitz on my iPhone, Solitaire Blitz on Facebook, and Plants vs. Zombies on my Nintendo 3DS. With all that playing, you'd think there wasn't time to get anything done. Actually, gaming is helping me cope. It's like Zoloft but without the whole losing-interest-in-sex thing.

Picking up a device or flipping over to another window to play a quick "casual game" between answering emails and working on articles or posts is a fun reward for getting my work done. Plus, it's a simple little pleasure that helps me get through the day. And I'm not alone.

More and more women are jumping into gaming. With the popularity of "casual games" on our mobile devices and the ease of connecting with friends with a quick game on Facebook, women are finding gaming a nice escape from our routines and responsibilities. But us girls are attracted to gaming for different reasons than the guys. Men mostly want to compete. Not that women don't want to compete, but as Melanie Morris of Ireland's Image Magazine found out, "Females seek something different in gaming to men. They're looking for coping methods, and they like the positive affirmations. It transports them to a safe environment where they can go into their own world." That's not to say that women aren't competitive. We just like the warm fuzzies of gaming, too!

I recently co-hosted a PopCap sponsored roundtable discussion at Splashes in Laguna with a group of female bloggers that enjoy a good game. Pop Cap is best known for Plants vs. Zombies (which I recently downloaded onto my Nintendo 3DS). We were talking about some of our favorite games and why. One feature we all agreed on some games is a chat feature. Being able to flip behind the game to chat with our friend/opponent is part of the fun. Most everyone at the table was only slightly familiar with Solitaire Blitz, but by the next morning, we were all tearing it up to the top of the leader board. Two weeks later, we are sharing virtual silver and bottles of rum with each other. We also have a private Facebook group where we're goading each other on for high scores. We're not a competitive bunch at all. ;)

One thing we all agreed on at the PopCap luncheon:

Recharging with a little play time is a really good thing.

So what games are you hooked on?

Disclosure: I'm one of the #PopCapMoms Group and a #NintendoEnthused Brand Ambassador. That means I get paid with cash and/or games. My mom STILL doesn't get it.