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Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Beautiful Way to Challenge Your Brain

Scramble Squares® is a mind-stimulating product I have enthusiastically promoted for more than 10 years. The concept is simple: Take nine 4 X 4-inch squares and form one large square in which the pictures match up on all sides. In other words, if I have a square which has half a yellow tulip on one side, half an orange tulip on a second side, half a red tulip on a third side and half a lavender-striped tulip on the fourth side, I have to be sure that all the pieces it touches in my large square have the appropriate other half.

Simple concepts, however, do not necessarily lead to simple solutions. There are more than 100 variations of these Scramble Squares® puzzles which come from the company b. dazzle (www.b-dazzle.com), and while some are simpler than others to solve, all are challenging. Players often find they can match all but one or two pieces and then have to rethink their strategy from the beginning. Bottom line: Played as intended, this is a challenging brain exercise for anyone of any age.

What I like about Scramble Squares®:
• There are more than 100 variations of flowers, birds, animals, fish and other sea creatures, food and beverages, culture, occupations, cityscapes, cars, sports and other puzzle categories, which means that virtually everyone can find a set of squares to enjoy working on.
• Most of the puzzles feature strong colors so that they are visually appealing and easy for people with less than perfect vision to see clearly.
• Because the puzzle pieces are large (4 x 4 inches), they are easier for arthritic hands to handle, and because they have smooth bottoms, they can be slid around a tabletop without ever having to be picked up.

• Scramble Squares® can be played as a team as well as by an individual. Teams with either the same or different puzzles can compete against one another.
• Scramble Squares® can be played with fewer pieces. Is a 9-piece square too difficult? Try making a square with 4 pieces or a rectangle with 6.
• Scramble Squares® can be played by simply lining up all the pieces in one long row. Then no single piece needs to match more than 2 sides.
• Scramble Squares® can be played like dominoes. Can’t fit the pieces in a square? Then simply place each piece wherever it does match one side.

Adaptations for people with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia:
All of the above variations are simplifications that can help people with dementia feel successful with Scramble Squares®. Go with what works.
• When we talk about matching half a tulip, we are talking about a tulip that has a top half of a blossom and a bottom half that is attached to a stem. Solving the puzzle as it was meant to be solved means that putting two top halves or two bottom halves of a tulip together is “wrong.” When working with people with dementia (or people with vision impairments, or even perhaps young children) it is usually better to go with the flow and view slight mismatches as an acceptable variation rather than pointing out the “mistake.”
• Because most of the puzzles feature strong colors, particularly as background, even when they are put together “wrong” they are visually pleasing so that a person with dementia can still feel accomplished for having created an interesting picture. On the other hand, a few puzzles, such as the one of manatees, have highly blended colors so that “mistakes” are less obvious, and again the overall effect of beauty is enhanced, no matter how the puzzle is put together.
• Because the puzzles come in so many variations, it is easy to use their themes as the basis for reminiscence discussions: Do you like fishing? Did you ever have a rose garden? Are you comfortable around farm animals?

Below are a few of my favorite versions of Scramble Squares®, which you can order by simply clicking where indicated. You can view the complete range of puzzles by going to the b-dazzle website (www.b-dazzle.com) and viewing the alphabetical list.

Let the fun begin!

To order American Native Flowers, click here

To order Australian wildlife, click here

To order Farm Animals, click here

To order Freshwater Fish, click here

To order Hot air balloons, click here

To order Hot tamale, click here

To order North American Birds, click here

To order Pansies, click here

To order Quilts, click here

To order Retro- Rods (cars), click here

To order Roses, click here

To order Sea shells, click here

To order Teapots, click here

To order Tropical Fish, click here

To order Tulips, click here

To order Turtles, click here

To order Wine, click here

Monday, June 16, 2008

To intrigue you...

Here are a few examples of ideas that have appeared in my recent Just a Bite Weekly Digests and/or in Brain Aerobics Weekly. I hope they intrigue you and that you will consider signing up!

June is Learn French Month

In the June 9th Brain Aerobics Weekly, I devised a quiz on French words common to English speech. One place you can learn more is http://french.about.com/library/bl-frenchinenglish-list.htm. We’ve corrupted a lot of meanings along the way. For example, “a la mode” means “in style” in French, not “with ice cream” as children might think, and “hors d'oeuvre” means “outside of work,” but in this case, even the French understand it to mean outside of the main course of food.

Discover art in your parks

June 19 is World Sauntering Day (a time to walk happily and aimlessly) so I also suggested in last week’s Brain Aerobics Weekly that you check out the art in your parks. Outdoor art is a great way to stimulate both mind and body as you enjoy being outdoors while analyzing the art. My inspiration was an article about British artist Anish Kapoor, which reminded me of his delightful “Cloud Gate” (more popularly known as “the Bean,”) in Chicago’s Millennium Park. What art can you admire in parks near you? And don’t forget nature’s art in the form of trees, flowers and wildlife.

Being creatively green

If you don’t have even a park near you, much less art, consider signing on to the “Park(ing) project, which creates mini-parks in parking spaces. I also wrote about this movement in a June Brain Aerobics Weekly. It was started by the folks at
REBAR, a San Francisco collective of artists, designers and activists, (See http://www.rebargroup.org/). Beginning in 2005 they decided to address the issue of a lack of downtown green space by creating these mini-parks in standard parking spaces. They feed the meter for two hours, lay down sod and add a potted tree and a park bench, thereby providing a calm oasis among the congestion and chaos. People enjoyed their creation, kept feeding the meter so others could enjoy the mini-park, too, and started spreading the word so that now urban PARK(ing) has been popping up all over the world — Santa Monica, Glasgow, Sicily . Could you try this in your community?

I learned about REBAR by perusing the website http://www.stickandmove.com/brainpickings/ which is loads of fun in a hundred ways, and highly recommended by me.

Humor happenings

I am an enthusiastic member of AATH – the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (www.AATH.org) and two of my colleagues monthly musings that I recommend subscribing to are Leigh-Anne Jashaway-Bryant’s “Don’t Get Mad, Get Funny”* (Sign up at http://www.accidentalcomic.com/) and Allen Klein’s brief “Mid-Month Mirth Memo” (Scroll down and sign up at http://www.allenklein.com/). A “rival” organization, The Humor Project, is about to put on a fabulous conference June 20 -22 in upstate New York (http://www.humorproject.com/). Check them out!

Quiz mania

Every issue of Brain Aerobics Weekly includes at least one quiz, and while I often make them up myself or glean bits of ideas from multiple sites, as I noted in another issue of my Just a Bite Digest, one of my favorite resources is http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/features/quiz/Default.aspx which provides about 75 ready-made quizzes in one place, along with interesting tidbits supplementing the answers. There are bound to be topics that intrigue virtually everyone.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Brain aerobics resources I recommend

As I have noted in Brain Aerobics Weekly, these resources can be enjoyable ways of stretching your brain, but I suggest two cautions:
1) When playing with older adults, and particularly those with memory loss, throw out the buzzers and timers and play for the simple enjoyment of challenging your mind. How quickly you react really doesn’t matter.
2) Remember that learning new information – that is, looking up the answers – is just as good for your brain as reinforcing existing pathways to what you already know.

Game - Finish Lines To order click here.
Finish the famous quotations from life, literature, TV, music and more

Game- Paired Up To order click here.
The Lone Ranger and.... Corned beef and.... Dungeons and.... Paired Up challenges your knowledge of pairs – words that just seem to go together – whether they're people, places, or just parts of an expression.

Game - Stare (2nd edition) To order click here.
Stare at the image on the card, then answer a series of questions about what you saw – or think you saw. (Wild guesses count). Hundreds of cards to keep your brain challenged.

Game - Visual Brainstorms To order click here.
100 visual puzzles that include logical and abstract thinking, deductive reasoning, twisted mazes, coded messages, 3D befuddlers, and word games

Game - Who Am I? To order click here.
Based on A&E's long-running Biography series, this trivia-style, card-and-board game challenges your knowledge of the famous and the infamous.

Game - Apples to Apples To order click here.
This is a card game of hilarious comparisons. Select the card from your hand that you think is best described by a card played by the judge. If the judge picks your card, you win that round. And everyone gets a chance to be the judge.

Game - Imaginiff To order click here.
Pick on of hundreds of cards that poses a question with six possible answers. ("Imaginiff _____ were an entree. Which would he/she be?"). Fill in the blank with the name of one of the other players, a mutual friend or a famous person in history. In this case, the choices are Big Mac, Duck a l’orange, spaghetti and meatballs, stuffed turkey, canned ham or buffalo wings. Topics are highly imaginative and range from the ridiculous to the provocative.

Game - Judge for Yourself To order click here.
A game of 500 real world court cases for which you get to guess the verdict.

Game - Fact or Crap To order click here.
How much do you know about the world we live in? Using statements from the day to day, to the truly bizarre, what is and isn’t true?

Game - Quiddler To order click here.
118 cards with letters on them. Can you arrange your entire hand into words? Play as a group or as solitaire.

Game - UpWords To order click here.
Here’s an alternative to Scrabble where words can be created vertically and horizontally on the board, or upwards with letters stacked on top of one another.

Game - Batik To order click here.
The Batik board is a vertical, transparent picture frame-like slot, into which opponents take turns dropping either light or dark-colored wooden triangles, rectangles and other polygons. The object is to force your opponent to drop a piece that sticks out above the top of the board. Strategy counts.

Game - Mad Gab To order click here.
Teams or individuals work to decipher groups of unrelated words into real phrases. Example: “Dew Wino Hue?” is “Do I know you?” Includes 1200 phrases for hours of fun.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

It’s Photo Month. Are you a visual thinker?

In a recent issue of Brain Aerobics Weekly, I provided a link to the website, http://www.guessthespot.com/ which offers a fun multiple choice quiz that provides aerial views to identify. The first view is at left. Is it : A) Disneyland’s Tom Sawyer’s island, B) Alcatraz, C) Bermuda or D) the Mediterranean Island of Cypress? Learn the answer and stretch your visual thinking skills by accessing the whole quiz at the above link.