Posts tagged: educational toys

Layered Life-Cycle Puzzles (Recommended Toy)

By , March 18, 2008 9:03 pm

Since my 2 year-old is obsessed with puzzles at the moment, I am always on the look-out for fun, educational, high quality puzzles that she might be able to do. A recent surfing expedition revealed these totally cool layered, life-cycle puzzles. They are made of wood and feature five separate puzzle pictures to complete. The mini-puzzles fit on top of one another in layers to show the life cycle of a butterfly (or frog, or duck).

The recommended age is 4 and up. As much as I’d like to claim that my genius 2 year-old could do these, she probably could not without assistance.  The big photo makes it look deceptively easy, but there are actually thirty pieces, five puzzles, and five layers.  Her older brother and sister might enjoy them though. Hmm…we’ll see. (It’s times like this that I really wish I homeschooled so that I’d have an excuse to buy these slightly pricey but really amazing-looking puzzles!)

These Beleduc puzzles are made in China of birch wood and meet or exceed “Specifications of European (EN-71) and American (ASTM) Toy Safety Standards:”

This butterfly puzzle is also made of wood, but the description offers less information (it costs less too):

Fun Wooden Math Game (Toy Recommendation)

By , February 26, 2008 5:58 pm

Santa gave the 4 Way Countdown Wooden Game to my 7 year-old daughter because he was hoping it might be a fun way to work on memorizing math facts.

The board consists of a simple square wooden box. Each side has ten wooden numbered bars that flip up and down. The object of the game is to be the first to flip up all your numbers. Players take turns rolling two dice. They can add, subtract, multiply, or divide the two numbers appearing on the dice in order to equal a number on one of their bars. They then flip up that bar. To make things a little more interesting, if you roll and eleven, you can of course flip up the 1 (6-5=1) or, instead, make another player flip all their bars back down. Fun, but beware: if you roll a twelve, then you must flip down all your bars!

This makes for a surprisingly entertaining game. What I like best about the game is how it can grow with your child’s abilities. Younger children can play by simply adding and subtracting. Multiplication and division can be added later as math skills progress.

I must also mention that even I like playing this one. Since many games aimed at children are deadly boring for grownups, I am always excited to find one that is at least tolerable, at best fun.

So, did Santa pick wisely? Yes! This game makes basic math facts easier to memorize and is way more fun than flash cards. Thank you Santa!

4 Way Countdown is also fairly practical as a travel game. The box is about 10.5″ x 10.5″ and 1.5″ thick, doesn’t weigh much, and the only loose pieces are the two dice. Dice are rolled inside the box, so are unlikely to escape during play.

Great math practice for 2 to 4 players (or you could even play alone). It would also be a great addition to a homeschool classroom.

PS. My daughter just saw me writing this post and wants to play 4 Way Countdown now.  I’ve got to go so we can get in a quick game before dinner!

Fun Geography

By , October 29, 2007 5:45 pm

I recently found these sturdy cardboard puzzles at Cosco and they are really great!

Each puzzle represents a continent. At the moment the manufacturer, A Broader View, only makes four (North America, South America, Africa, and Europe) but I believe that more may be in the works. Cosco had them bundled in packs of two, so we ended up buying all four and I am so glad we did!

One of my pet peeves with some geographic puzzles is that often the pieces are cut out in such a way as to bear no relationship to the actual shape of a state or a country. Why? Wouldn’t it be much more useful and educational to follow the natural boundaries?

These puzzle pieces do follow the natural shape of each country or state (except in the case of very small countries and states). This makes total sense to me!

Capitals are labeled, as are other major cities, large bodies of water and even lat / long.

It would be nicer if these were made of wood rather than cardboard, but at least the cardboard is quite sturdy, and feels like it will last a long time. One word of advice though: the first time it is unwrapped, an adult should remove the pieces since they are stuck in there pretty hard.

If you can’t get to Cosco (or they don’t have them any more), then you can get North and South America from Amazon (links below). It seems that as of right now, Europe and Africa are out of stock. Hopefully they will return eventually.

You also can find all of them, plus some interesting-sounding global puzzles (a future post!) at the manufacturer’s store: Geography Zone. Otherwise, search online to check for other stores and pricing. It seems to vary between $7.00 and $10.00.

Shape Sequence Block Board (Melissa & Doug)

By , September 19, 2007 6:04 pm

This is a simple, classic wooden toy that teaches the concepts of size, shape, color, and sequence! I first saw one of these in my children’s Montessori classroom and was pleased to be able to find one to have at home too.

The idea is simple. There are four sets of five blocks. Each set is a different color and shape. The wooden board has a hole for each block. Children must arrange the blocks in the rows of holes sequence from shortest to tallest.

As with all good toys, children can actually play with this multiple ways. Sometimes they simply like to use the twenty colorful shapes as building blocks, other times they sequence them on the board as they are “supposed” to do.

Here’s another idea: Put the blocks in a bag and have your child (by touch alone) pull out all the triangular shaped ones for example. Or just put in one set and have your child try to pull them out from smallest to largest!

This block board is very durable since is ours is now on child number three without so much as a chip in the paint. At $8.99, I personally think the price is great for such a long lasting and educational wooden toy.

Karma Coaching Cards

By , August 3, 2007 10:33 pm

The idea behind these cards is to help kids learn the pleasures of positive actions. I am not a baby flashcard kind of person, but since my 6 year-old daughter is so into the Sweet Dreams Cards, I thought she might like these. She does! We do a Sweet Dreams Card before bed, and a Karma Card in the morning.

The idea is that a child chooses a card and does what the card says. Some examples are: “Choose one of your toys to donate to a charity,” and “find a penny dated the year of your birth and give it away to someone special.”

Most of the cards spread kindness to others, or help you feel better about yourself. Several are merely useful in a more practical sense, such as practicing a family fire drill, or learning the words to your national anthem.

If you are interested, there are also adult Karma Cards with different themes. I have not looked at any of these others, but please check the Karma Coaching Cards website if you want to see what else they offer.

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