Review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2014
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Thinking Time Pro - Cognitive Skills for Early Learning

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Challenging games stress memory, logic, impulse control, flexibility

Subjects & skills

  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Thoughtful, well-researched games explore important, but not commonly addressed, cognitive skills.

Cons: Purposeful lack of scaffolding could make play frustrating for some kids.

Bottom Line: Effective and engaging way to address foundational cognitive skills; most kids will need adult support.

Create up to four accounts to allow individual kids to progress at their own pace. Even strong learners may need extra scaffolding; slower learners definitely will, especially at the beginning, so play with kids at first to make sure they get it, and then let them move ahead on their own. Extend learning in the classroom: Play games that require taking turns, remembering, or following rules; tackle logic puzzles that have more than one solution; challenge kids' ability to wait and control their initial impulses to act. Scoring can give teachers some idea of how well kids are progressing and which areas may be strong or weak. Be aware, however, that games haven't been evaluated to see if assessments of executive-function skills are accurate, so a high or low score doesn't necessarily point to any particular genius or learning delay.

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Thinking Time Pro - Cognitive Skills for Early Learning is an app for preschool and kindergarten that focuses on improving kids' cognitive ability. Kids journey through four games that tap into such executive function tasks as working memory, logical reasoning, flexible thinking, attention, and inhibitory control. Games ask kids to repeat sequences, continue patterns, and sort by changing rules as tasks get more challenging. For example, kids begin with sorting by either color or shape, and then sorting rules change mid-game; kids must inhibit their initial impulse to sort according to the old rules. When kids successfully complete all four tasks, they earn a fish to add to their aquarium. The parents' section includes a progress tracker that scores overall performance, gives sub scores in the four skills (memory, reasoning, inhibition, flexibility), compares performance to that of other kids of the same age, and details progress of the preceding four weeks. 

Thinking Time Pro gets top marks for attempting to get at very important, but not quite so salient, cognitive skills. A strong research base supports and informs the structure of the games, which increase in difficulty as kids progress. In fact, games can get quite challenging -- kids really need to pay attention! Minimal instruction is provided, which may simply be an extra challenge for some kids. Most will need more explicit help, however, especially at early levels of the game.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Games are fun, and increasing difficulty keeps kids on their toes. Childlike graphics appeal to kids.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Four tasks let kids exercise such executive-function skills as working memory, inhibition control, flexible thinking, and reasoning. Tasks get more challenging as kids progress. Kids must pay close attention and follow game rules.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Kids track their progress through a growing collection of fish; teachers track progress with detailed reports. Play instructions are purposefully sparse, sometimes overly so. An extension guide would help translate skills offscreen.

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