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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Puzzle play

Puzzles are such a staple toy in any kids life, I dare say nearly every child is likely to play with a puzzle at some point throughout their childhood. We started off with really simple peg puzzles here and have progressed our way through letter puzzles, number puzzles, colour matching puzzles, shape puzzles, animal puzzles, chunky puzzles, floor puzzles and now more intricate smaller puzzles. 

I love how they challenge her cognitively, helping increase her concentration skills, each time she plays for a bit longer before getting frustrated. She's also practicing her problem solving skills as she works out where each piece should go while simultaneously developing her hand/eye co-ordination and fine motor skills as she places each piece into the correct spot. The best part is she's doing this all while she's playing without even realising she's actually learning at the same time. They really are a great resource for learning through play.

At four years old bub's mastered many different types of puzzles, but by far her favourite ones are still chunky puzzles with a 3d element. However, she quickly gets bored playing with them traditionally, especially once she's put them together a few times and has memorised where all of the pieces go. Did you know there are many other ways to play with puzzles other than just putting the pieces into the correct spot?

Once bub gets bored with doing puzzles the conventional way we think outside the box and come up with other ways to make them interesting again. In the past we've wrapped pieces in alfoil, searched for pieces in sensory tubs and made our own DIY puzzles by tracing the outlines on a piece of paper and matching them up. She loves all of these activities and especially loves the open ended play experiences where we're not strictly matching the pieces onto the puzzle.

We've recently taken our puzzle play a step further again thanks to the most awesome open ended puzzle I've ever come across from Happy Go Ducky.

Happy Go Ducky is a unique online toy shop run by a husband and wife team stocking quality traditional wooden, tin and crochet toys. They have puzzles, animal stackers, wooden vehicles, tin vehicles, crochet animals and many other items available for babies through to young children. All of the unique European brands they stock are ethically designed and handmade in the Czech Republic using sustainable, non-toxic materials by artisans who've been designing toys for decades. 

Happy Go Ducky stock toys that are likely to be held onto and passed down through generations as family heirlooms. Think push along wooden elephants, wooden trains and retro tin cars. They're bringing the nostalgia of yesteryear to modern day children and helping to keep traditional toy making alive. I'm so thrilled that we get to have one of their beautiful Playful Wood puzzles in our home which I'll most definitely be holding onto and passing down to bub for her children in the future.
The extra large wooden 3D spiral puzzle includes 16 different coloured wedges and a wooden circle that together create a large multicoloured circle. It also comes with wooden dowel pieces and a wooden ball which help bring the puzzle to life in so many fun ways. It's no secret that I have an enormous love of wooden educational toys, you only have to take a quick look around our play area to see that. I love the tactile experience that comes with wooden toys and I love thinking out of the box when it comes to playing with toys, so when a toy hits the trifecta and is educational, wooden and versatile I get a little bit excited.

When we first opened the puzzle bub immediately declared it was her "pizza puzzle" because of its circle shape and wedged pieces. It may not look like much to the untrained eye, but this puzzle is a colour wheel come 3D puzzle come building blocks come marble run marvel. Basically every kids {big kids included} dream puzzle. Let me show you all the different ways we've been playing with our pizza puzzle over the last few weeks.

Colour Wheel 

The most obvious and basic way to use it is as a colour wheel. Kids can arrange the colours in any order they like as there's no colour guide on the base plate, which means they're only limited by their imagination {and best of all there's no right or wrong way to put it together}. Being extremely OCD I prefer it to be arranged in colour order from light to dark {purely because it makes my heart happy}, but it's become apparent my child isn't always bound by the same logic. Even though it hurts my brain a little when she places the colours haphazardly, it's fun for her knowing there's endless ways to arrange all the pieces.

Making Pictures

The pieces can also be arranged to create different shapes and items. We've used ours to copy some of the images on the puzzle product page as a guide, her favourite one to make is the man, but there are so many more possibilities. I plan on drawing some coloured images and laminating them as guide cards for her to use.

Building Blocks

With chunky pieces the puzzle easily doubles as a set of coloured building blocks. She's stacked them on top of each other to make towers, laid them flat to make pathways and balanced them to create bridges and doors.

Ball run {straight or curved}

We quickly discovered that the dowel and ball can be used in many different ways to make our pizza puzzle even more awesome. When the wedges are placed upside down {so they have 2 holes in each piece showing} they can be placed either straight or curved to make a pathway. We then add dowel into all the outside holes and it transforms the pathway into a ball run. This one keeps her entertained for quite a while as she has to think strategically about how and where to lay the pieces in order to make the pathway. It also works her fine motor skills pushing the dowel pieces into place.

Wheel Of Fortune

Normally the puzzle pieces sit on the base plate with only the middle holes visible {as in the first picture above}, but she worked out if we put them in upside down so both holes are to the top and the dowel is in it creates a circular ball rink. She loves spinning the ball around and around the circle and trying to get it to run out the gaps. I affectionately call this set up the wheel of fortune because it's all I can think of when I look at it. I just want to spin it around, take off a piece and reveal the $ value underneath {yes I'm that old, I still miss that show!}. She likes to call it a skating rink because the ball goes round and round like ice skating.

Staircase Drop

Without a doubt our most favourite way to play with the pizza puzzle is to turn it into a staircase ball drop. Stacking the pieces around the central pole and using the little dowel pieces on the outside edges transforms the puzzle into a spiral staircase. The dowel pieces also make it the ultimate ball run allowing the ball to drop down each step without falling off {although if your child is a little over zealous like mine it can still bounce off when pushed too hard}. I can seriously play with it like this just as long as she can, it's so much fun. She's also now able to set it up and put all the pieces in place herself because we've done it so often.

As you can see this puzzle can be played with a multitude of different ways on top of being a traditional colour wheel puzzle and I'm sure there's even more ways we're yet to discover. I love that there are so many open ended ways to play with it and that also means bub never gets bored of it, which is exactly what you want when buying toys. I can see this puzzle is going to be a family favourite for many years to come.

Toni x

Disclosure - We were gifted a wooden spiral puzzle for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed in this post are based on our experience using the puzzle. I did not receive payment for this post.

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Would you like to comment?

  1. looks like tonnes of fun for the kids!

    1. It's so much fun, even I love playing with it as a marble drop.

  2. Wow that puzzle looks absolutely AMAZING! I'd love this for my son, my students and myself!

    1. It's definitely the most awesome puzzle we've ever owned!

  3. Wow that pizza puzzle is awesome. It's not you get a puzzle you can do so much with. This would be a winner for keeping the kids occupied. #teamIBOT

    1. Yep I love that it's so so versatile. She never gets bored with it.

  4. I love these kind of toys too. I really like that they are pretty to display as well. Recently I actually got a job working in a wooden toy store so I am surrounded by these sort of things! which is good and bad. (I am trying not to spend my money!). These Castle Logix puzzles are a favorite of mine