Momma Told Me: If it was easy it wouldn't be a puzzle.
As a young girl I didn't have much social game.
Momma was disabled, and home full time. She was what would be identified as a helicopter parent today. Wherever she went, I went. Whatever she did, I did. And that included a full homeschooling regimen in addition to my ongoing public school attendance and education. As a result I became socially awkward, yet intellectually advanced, for my age.
In grade school my the teacher would often announce 'free play' time for kids to unwind between lunch and the end of the day. There were shelves full of board games and building blocks, toys. The kids would split into groups and excitedly dive into various forms of creative and collaborative play. I would hunt for my favorite, solo, activity- the Tangrams.
Of course, today, it's much less unusual for young minds to seek out challenges through puzzles and creative building, over frivolous activities and games. STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math) learning is not only commonplace, but often a group activity. Gone is the stigma of problem solving and innovating being 'nerdy,' and in is the mindset that honing these skills is actually cool. Skills that begin earlier than ever, in the educational path of a modern child- problem solving tools can begin to excite young minds as early as 3 and 4. Even better, brands like Smart Games are innovating puzzle games that appeal to a wide age range, so your child can grow with them, or even work to problem solve with older siblings.
When Smart Games sent us a selection of their newest problem solving puzzle games I was immediately excited. Sure, I really wanted to just sit down with one and work my way through the puzzle book from front to end, but I was particularly excited about the potential to build pattern recognition in the littles, and spacial solving skills in the oldest.
Each game presents it's own new set of learning challenges through colorful, hands on, 3-dimensional characters and real moveable puzzle pieces. The basic concepts start out at their simplest, and each tier of difficulty (there are 3 tiers) either adds additional variables, or removes visual keys, further pushing the depth of visualization required to see the end puzzle.
That particular game works by placing a number of penguins on the game board, as specified by the layout image in the companion puzzle/solution book. Players are then challenged to fit all of the iceberg pieces on the board, the penguins serving as UN-moveable roadblocks to an otherwise easy solution.
When working with kids as young as 4 and 5 in our play group we often let the oldest child place the first block. On the Beginner puzzles many of the initial pieces are quite obvious. This left the youngest player with the last piece to place. This may seem easy- but at 4 and 5 there's still a bit of special recognition to work out when deciding how the pieces fits exactly into the remaining cavity.
Personally, I found this game challenged myself to think in a pattern I normally wouldn't, and felt it was much more strategic than the other games we'd received. It's precisely the game I, even as an adult, would tuck myself in a comfy chair with and play for a few hours.
Smart Games really help encourage the problem solving process by offering hands on, real time puzzle manipulation and visualization. And the satisfaction of snapping that last piece into place is almost as fulfilling as my beloved Tangrams. Even better, the 3D hands on puzzles encourage team-work and appeal to multiple ages, no matter the difficulty bracket. These definitely are must have games for the STEM kid of today.
What Daughter Says: Problem Solving is more fun with friends.