The Advantages of Puzzles

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When I hear the word ‘puzzle’ I immediately think of a picture in pieces that needs putting back together. Then I think about logic puzzles, word problems, tangrams….there are lots of different puzzle types I have used with students in the classroom and many I enjoy doing myself. According to Wikipedia, ‘A puzzle is a game, problem, or toy that tests a person’s ingenuity or knowledge.’

Traditional wooden puzzles are a common sight in most homes with small children and for good reason; they are a great toy to engage young children in play. There are many, MANY more advantages to puzzles and, many different types of puzzles that are equally as engaging as those first wooden ones. Here are a few (all listed puzzle types are clickable links):

There are many advantages to puzzles and, many different types that are as engaging as those first wooden puzzles. Here is a list of puzzle types and advantages.
Different puzzle types

To see more great examples, head over to the Flying Sprout Pinterest page.

The Advantages of Puzzles

Some puzzles are great fun, others can be immensely frustrating but they all have their benefits. Here are a few:

Satisfaction of achievement

Completing a task is satisfying and often, the more challenging the task, the greater the feeling of achievement once it is completed. This sense of satisfaction is a great way for children to build an understanding that hard work pays off and brings its own reward.

Patience and persistence

Persisting and having patience when faced with a challenge is not always easy but, as mentioned above, it brings great satisfaction when approaching tasks with a level head and having success.

There are many advantages to puzzles and, many different types that are as engaging as those first wooden puzzles. Here is a list of puzzle types and advantages.

Problem solving strategies

Different puzzles require different approaches in order to solve them. When completing maths, word and logic problems at school children are often encouraged to think carefully about the right strategy to use. These include acting out the problem, drawing a picture, writing a list, looking for a pattern, simplifying the problem, creating a table, working backwards, guess and checking, writing a number sentence or using and using objects.

Hand eye coordination and fine motor skills

Physical puzzles are a great way for children to practise their hand eye coordination and develop those all important fine motor skills.

Fun and rewarding

Puzzles can be used to reinforce learning or they can be used as a fun, rewarding activity. Great satisfaction comes from completing puzzles and this is lots of fun.

Building dept of knowledge on a subject

Whether learning new skills, practising, revising or consolidating understandings, there is a place for puzzles.

Quiet concentration

Some children are naturally quiet, while others take a little more encouragement. Puzzles give all children an opportunity to work with quiet concentration, either on their own or cooperatively with others, to complete tasks.

There are many advantages to puzzles and, many different types that are as engaging as those first wooden puzzles. Here is a list of puzzle types and advantages.

Goal setting

Setting and achieving small goals is rewarding and reinforces the idea that, with hard work and focus, you can achieve your larger goals.

Self correction

Many puzzles are, particularly physical ones, are self correcting. They are either right or they aren’t, so children can work out immediately if they have solved the puzzle.

Skill development

Many puzzles encourage the use of skills that children aren’t necessarily using everyday, skills that are very important such as critical thinking, logical thinking and spatial reasoning.

 

If you have a few spare minutes and enjoy a challenge, have a go at this collection of puzzles.

For more like this, head over to: https://www.puzzles-to-print.com/rebus-puzzles/rebus-puzzles-page-1.shtml
For more like this, head over to: http://www.free-for-kids.com/brain-teasers.shtml
For more like this, head over to: http://www.free-for-kids.com/brain-teasers.shtml
For more puzzles head on over here: http://www.mathinenglish.com/PagePL2P26to30.php
For more puzzles head on over here: http://www.mathinenglish.com/PagePL2P26to30.php

The Benefits of Playing with Play Dough

Playing with play dough is a wonderful tactile experience that is a treasured part of childhood. Manipulating, moulding, rolling out and cutting the colourful dough is not only fun and relaxing, it is assists with building vital life skills too!

Playing with play dough is a wonderful tactile experience that is a treasured part of childhood. Manipulating, moulding, rolling out and cutting the colourful dough is not only fun and relaxing, it is assists with building vital life skills too!

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Manipulating play dough strengthens those all important fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are those that involve the use of small muscles in hands, fingers and thumbs. By strengthening these motor skills children are then more able to hold a pencil and write, cut with scissors, do up buttons, tie shoelaces and correctly use a knife and fork….all fundamental skills they’ll use throughout their lives.

 

As well as being a fabulous material for building fine motor skills, play dough play allows, even encourages, freedom of expression and imagination. Children can create anything they like when playing with the mouldable dough. There are no rules when it comes playing with play dough (except maybe keep it off the carpet!).

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Image from Freepik

Play dough is also a great activity to have on hand for times when your child might be getting tired, frustrated or just generally in need of some quiet time. It is a safe way for them to express them selves and take out frustration in a productive, harm-free way. Tactile stimulation with play dough can be calming and has great benefits for children with hyposensitivity.

 

Children are able to engage all their five senses when playing with play dough. They can see the different colours and creations, feel the play dough change shape as it is moulded, smell the unique fragrance, hear what it does when squeezed or thumped and…lets be honest, as kids most of us had a taste of that salty home made play dough when we were little! Sensory play encourages curiosity as children explore the world through their five senses. Investigating and exploring what play dough can do is, in some ways, even an early scientific investigation.

 

Having play dough available is great when it comes to building numeracy and literacy skills in a fun way. Children can represent different numbers, letters and make sums by using number stamps, forming small balls or rolling out long, thin snakes which can be twisted to form the desired shape. Play dough is also handy for alphabet and spelling activities with letter stamps.

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Play dough is also useful as a tool when learning about colours and shapes. It comes in a huge range of colours so can be helpful when your little one is learning to identify different colours. Primary colours can be mixed to create secondary colours too. Children can make shapes, either flat or 3D, easily with the use of play dough. Flying Sprout’s Tomato Busy Bag uses plasticine, rather than play dough, to build colour and shape skills.

tomato bb pic

Play dough play lets adults be kids too. Playing freely with your child is a wonderful bonding activity and play dough allows you to be working on the same level. Unlike Lego for example, there are no ‘right ways’ of connecting pieces together and any play dough creations made by you are likely to still have a child-like quality to them.

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Image from Freepik

This simple product makes a wonderful gift! Of course there is the popular brand we all know, Play Doh, but I have recently come across a glorious small business which creates beautiful smelling play dough, Happy Hands, Happy Heart. If you’re on Instagram, be sure to check out Emma from Happy Hands, Happy Hearts, she has an amazing Instagram feed featuring very clever play dough art!

 

If you’d prefer to make your own at home, here is a great play dough recipe that doesn’t require cooking!

 

As you can see, I’m a big fan of play dough and believe it definitely offers your child more than a few minutes of quiet play time!

Screen Free Activities To Keep Kids Cool On A Hot Day

I love the idea of sitting under the air conditioner all day and watching movies but that’s just not possible in my house with a toddler and well, lets be honest, it's not ideal. So….here’s a list of simple activities to keep your children entertained while keeping cool on those scorching Summer days.

Australian Summers can be HOT so keeping cool and calm is a priority, especially when the school holidays are stretching on and you’re running out of ideas for how to entertain the kids.

I love the idea of sitting under the air conditioner all day and watching movies but that’s just not possible in my house with a toddler and well, lets be honest, it’s not ideal. So….here’s a list of simple activities to keep your children entertained while keeping cool on those scorching Summer days.

 

Sensory Play

Quiet activities are a great option when the weather is really hot (or wet, or cold). Activities that allow your child to use their hands to manipulate materials are great for the development of fine motor skills, encourage imaginative play and are wonderfully calming.

*Play dough – play dough can be made at home or bought. It can be moulded with the hands, flattened, rolled, cut or stamped.

*Water beads – these tiny little balls absorb water and grow. They are soft, colourful and fantastic to play with.

*Coloured spaghetti – cook a few batches of spaghetti with a little food dye, let it cool and play away.

*Rainbow rice – rice can be dyed a rainbow of different colours with some food dye and a little vinegar.

*Bubbles – watching bubbles floating through the air is simple but always special.

play dough hot day

Bring The Outdoors In

When the outdoor environment isn’t welcoming, just bring the fun inside!

*Indoor forts – build a cubby inside using sheets draped over clothes horses, chairs or tables then make it cozy with cushions and soft toys.

*Inside picnic – pack a picnic basket full of goodies, set up a rug on the floor and have a special picnic in the living room.

*Treasure hunt – write clues and hide objects around the house for your children to find.

 

Water Play

Playing with cool water is the best way to escape the Summer heat but there are many more options than visiting a public pool.

*Paddling pools – set up a small pool, clam shell, tub or even bucket at home for your children to splash in.

*Washing dishes – washing dishes with cool water and plenty of bubbles can be fun on a hot day.

*Playing in the bath – having a long, cool bath is a great way to pass time.

*Floating/sinking – encourage your child to explore the concept of floating and sinking by making boats and testing the properties of different objects.

*Bath crayons – drawing in the bath tub or on their bodies with special bath crayons and soaps is a great way for your children to get clean and be creative.

*Paint the house/fence – give your child a bucket of water and a paintbrush, set them up in a shaded area and encourage them to ‘paint’ the fence or house.

*Wash  a car – using water from the hose and bubbles from a bucket to wash the car is cooling and helpful.

baby hot day activity water bucket

Cooking

If you cant stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. Right? Or maybe not. If you choose simple foods that don’t require heat, the kitchen can be a great place to pass the time on a hot day. Think non-bake slices, icy poles, dips, smoothies or cheesecakes. Yum!

 

Out of the house

Sometimes the heat is just too much and a change of scene is needed so a trip out of the house is needed.

*Drive – if your car has air conditioner sometimes being stuck in traffic is the coolest place to be.

*Forest walk – head up into the hills and go for a walk in some well shaded forests, the temperature is sure to be much more bearable.

*Shopping centre – shopping centres are temperature controlled and will always be cool on a hot day.

*Gallery – visit a gallery and immerse your children in the arts.

*Museum – spend some time learning new and interesting facts in a lovely cool museum.

*Library – local libraries have fabulous kids sections, take some time to browse the shelves before borrowing some books to enjoy at home.

*All you can eat lunch – spend a hot afternoon in a cool restaurant grazing on the delicious foods, all you can eat style restaurants are perfect for this.

museum kids activity

More suggestions…

*Busy bags – these are a great way to learn while having fun and keeping cool.

*Stories – grab a few favourite books and enjoy reading them as a family.

*Performance – encourage your children to put on a performance; sing, dance or act out a favourite book

*Board games – pull a classic game out of the cupboard and play together.

*Card games – teach your children a new game or play an old favourite.

*Arts, craft, painting & drawing – the possibilities are endless.

*Stickers – peeling stickers off a page and sorting them or sticking them down to form an image can take a while to do and is often very satisfying.

*Lego – build a big tower, a house or other design. Lego is fantastic for imaginative play and motor skill development.

keep cool art

Dolls, cars, dress ups…..the list goes on. For more great ideas head on over to Flying Sprout’s Pinterest page and look at all the clever options to keep your little ones cool and calm on those hot Summer days.

 

Toys, Activities and Books for Travelling Toddlers

Travel is fun…but not always with a toddler, especially a bored, restless one. Keep your little one entertained and engaged with this list of tried and tested toys, activities and books for travelling toddlers.

Travel is fun…but not always with a toddler, especially a bored, restless one. Keeping your little one entertained and engaged will make travelling more relaxed for you and more fun for your child.

It is super important to keep your child amused and entertained while flying, or on long journeys by road, rail or sea, but it also pays to think about what they’ll need when you reach your destination. You might plan to be on-the-go most of the day but in those moments when you need some quiet time or your child needs to wind down before a sleep, having a quiet, independent activity on hand can be invaluable.

You want to choose a range of activities and toys that will hold your child’s interest, are age appropriate, versatile, are lightweight and also compact so they don’t take up too much room in your travel bag.

Here’s a selection of great toys, books and activities to give you inspiration when it comes to screen-free travel entertainment for your child.

 

Educational Busy Bags

Busy Bags are the perfect way to keep your child engaged and learning while travelling. These Toddler Busy Bags are colourful, compact and provide different task options in one little bag. You can select activity bags to target specific skills and concepts such as numbers 1-10, making patterns, colour awareness and threading.

Flying Sprout’s Carrot Busy Bag

Stickers

Keeping little hands and minds active is made easy with stickers. Peeling the stickers builds fine motor skills. If you choose reusable stickers with background scenes, like these offered by Tiger Tribe, they can engage your child’s imagination and be used as inspiration for story telling.

Tiger tribe sticker book My little town
Tiger Tribe Sticker Activity Set – My Little Town

Finger Puppets

Puppets are a wonderful way to encourage your child to tell (or listen to) stories. They can be used to perform puppet shows or as little companions that can easily fit in a pocket. This set of 6 finger puppets come in a handy storage bag.

Flying Sprout puppet busy bag
Puppet Busy Bag – Watermelon 2

Puzzle Books

Activity pads and colouring pages are an easy way to occupy your child’s concentration. If they have the dexterity; colouring within the lines, tracing and completing mazes are small, satisfying challenges they can work on. This activity book is made especially for younger children.

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The Usborne Little Childrens Travel Activity Book

Magnetic Drawing Pads

These are a fantastic, clean, all-in-one way of drawing. Magnetic sketching pads can be used for drawing or playing games like tic-tac-toe. Having the drawing instrument attached means there is no risk of misplacing a lid or even a whole pencil or texta, plus they won’t mark the furniture! Quack makes this compact magnetic drawing pad.

Quack Magnasketch Art Board
Quack Magnasketch Art Board

Lift-the-Flap Books

Interactive books are always popular with little ones. The joy of lifting a flap, opening a door or peeking behind a window means they are likely to want to read one book over and over again. Spot is a classic lift-the-flap series. Spot Goes on Holiday is perfect to take traveling.

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Spot Goes on Holiday Book

Quiet Books

These are not traditional books in the sense that they don’t tell a story, rather each page has a simple activity to entertain and build fine motor skills. Quiet books are fabric, often felt, and stitched to include things like buttons, laces and velcro shapes. A great deal of work goes into the creation of these books so they are not cheap but are a worthwhile purchase. This one is made in the Philippines and money raised from it’s sales helps the local women.

Quiet Book for Toddler travel
Quiet Book by Story Time

Look and Find Books

Exploring all the details in a densely illustrated book is like a visual treasure hunt. Collections like Where’s Wally and Seek and Find are full of amusing and surprising illustrations while books in the I Spy collection contain photographs of many items on each page.

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I Spy 4 Picture Riddle Book

A Favourite Story

Having a favourite book on hand can provide your child with a familiar comfort when their surroundings are not so familiar. Reading a story can have an instant calming effect and help transition your child to sleep time. The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a favourite of many children and parents alike.

ERIC CARLE
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Drawing

If you’re not sure about letting your toddler loose with pencils or crayons, drawing with water is a fantastic idea. Add a little magic into the mix with these mess free water pictures by Melissa & Doug.

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Melissa Doug Water Wow!

A Favourite Toy

Taking a favourite toy along while travelling can be really reassuring for your child and can providing them with entertainment as well as comfort. Just don’t lose it!

mini diggers set of 5
Mini Diggers Set of 5
Ragtales - Tilly Rag Doll
Ragtales – Tilly Rag Doll

Wearable Toys

Often when travelling there are unexpected delays or unavoidable queues. In these situations it is not always convenient to search through your bag for something to entertain your child. Here’s a great idea from @critterz_, a wearable toy! The necklaces each include a toy figure so your child can wear their entertainment.

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Critter Necklaces by @critterz_

There are many, many great toys and activities to keep toddlers entertained while travelling. When shopping for items to pack on your next adventure make sure your choices are appropriate to your child’s age, will hold their interest for more than a few minutes, are lightweight and compact and will also provide them with entertainment once you reach the destination.