Friday, January 5th, 2007
Review: Brain Quest Cards for Toddlers
Brain Quest cards are an excellent tool to connect you with their toddler at a time when personal interaction is of paramount importance. Plus, the cards are just plain fun.
I dutifully ignored a row of Brain Quest boxes at Costco these past several months. I am skeptical any time a baby company uses the word "brain" or "smart" or "Einstein" in its name.
The packaging for the 2-year-old product touts "400 questions to build your toddler’s word skills." The 3-year-old cards offer "300 questions to get a smart start." The backside of the box proclaims, "curriculum-based!" and "Teacher approved by the Brain Quest Panel of Award Winning Educators." A different set of cards is sold for each age, from 2- to 12-years-old.
I expected to find more marketing fluff than substance, but was surprised and pleased by what I found in Brain Quest.
These cards contain cartoon drawings, and questions for you to ask your child about the drawings. The purpose is to build vocabulary and your child’s ability to recognize objects. A 3-inch foam monkey named Max is included for your toddler to hold in order to relate to the cartoon monkey shown on the cards. We haven’t needed to use it.
A sample card depicts a farmers’ market. You ask, "What can you buy here? Who is selling Max some fruit? What do you see on the scale?" On the next two cards you ask your child to identify the names, colors or quantity of six fruits and vegetables.
Three included decks cover these topics:
- Max’s activities over the course of a day.
- Seasonal activities, holidays and events.
- Animals, plants and places around town.
My 2.5-year-old daughter whipped through these cards, knowing 90 percent of the answers. The questions she missed were for obvious reasons. For example, we own an upright vacuum, and she couldn’t identify a canister vacuum depicted on the card. She also didn’t know the names of certain musical instruments, such as the flute or trumpet, simply from lack of exposure. Now she does.
These cards differ in that questions and answers are displayed on separate, consecutive cards. The answers are indicated with the correct object shown in color while incorrect objects are relegated to black outlines. A child who can read could quiz herself, although that would negate a fundamental point of the activityâ€”interaction with a parent.
The decks follow the activities of Molly the Mouse, covering skills such as pair matching, size comparison, counting, shape recognition and visual puzzles.
Sample questions include:
- What do you see on the bottom shelf (of a dresser cabinet)? Slippers or shoes.
- Which two candles look just the same?
- What is this man doing? He’s shaving.
- Three things were put in the closet by mistake. Can you find them?
- Let’s find all the fruit in this refrigerator.
My daughter knew about 75 percent of the answers. Missed questions were again obvious. For no particular reason, we don’t read her nursery rhymes. She couldn’t tell me what was wrong with the statement, "Little Bo Peep has lost her cows."
A deck can fit in your back pocket for use in a doctor’s waiting room, in the car or just about anywhere. Each is 2.5" x 7" and bound with a plastic rivet, allowing you to spread cards out like a fan. The decks are three-eighths and three-fourths of an inch thick respectively.
The point of the toddler-age decks is to learn vocabulary and other basic skills through direct parental interaction. This isn’t about fast order quizzing. Each question is a jumping off point to discuss an object or scene or even a memory of a related experience.
Many of today’s toys isolate children (such as educational videos) or provide isolation when parents don’t follow instructions (like when a child is handed a LeapPad electronic book and left to use it alone). A 2-year-old would be hard pressed to play with these cards alone. Parents must be involved with this game, period.
The questions in the 2-year-old deck are a good example of the type of questioning parents can conduct when reading any book. In that way, Brain Quest has the opportunity to train less observant parents in how to view the world as one huge learning opportunity, with no end to what can be observed and discussed.