Puzzles are a battle-tested, fun, and often educational way for families to spend time together. This week we review a series of traditional puzzles, one that combines elements of a puzzle and a Rubik’s Cube, and one that tells a story as it’s put together. While they’re all very different, they share a trait that’s an essential part of the Parents@Play mission: They’re a wonderful way for dads and moms to spend time with their kids—boys and girls. Oh, and did we mention that they’re fun?
Pieces of History Puzzles (Find It Games)
If you haven’t seen them, we recommend that you check out some Find-It games, an assortment of transparent canisters containing objects hidden in a sea of plastic pellets (they’re a lot cooler than they sound). Now, the folks at Find It have gone old-school and introduced the “Pieces of History” series of traditional puzzles, which include Pharaoh’s Egypt, Parade of Animals, and Dry Ground. Each has 300 pieces, and within the final image you can search for “hidden” objects that are also found in the border of the puzzle. In Pharaoh’s Egypt, for example, you’ll discover a leopard in a tree, a blue hippo in a market basket, and 38 more hidden objects and animals. Played together, these puzzles can spark wonderful conversations about history, geography, and discovery. Ages 6+. www.finditgames.com
Codee Scorpion (Techno Source)
Okay, take a look at the scorpion. Pretty hard to believe that it’s made from a single strand of 64 small blocks. But it is. Every Codee kit (in addition to the scorpion, there’s a penguin, pig, flamingo, gator, and others) comes with detailed instructions on how to twist, cajole, rotate, and prod the blocks into submission. Assembling it takes a lot of hand-eye coordination and even more patience, since each block has to be turned in exactly the right way. But it’s a ton of fun. The one drawback is that Codee isn’t really something you can do with a child–except to help with the explanations (although when I was giving it a try on my own, my 9-year old stood over my shoulder correcting my every move). The solution is to get two of them and race or build something unique. You can also connect two or more Codees to create bigger and more complicated works. Ages 8 and up. www.technosourceusa.com
The City of New York time puzzle (4D Cityscape)
This is an absolutely masterful puzzle. You start off by putting together the 500+ piece 2D puzzle of the island of Manhattan. Once that’s done–it’s going to take a while–you add the 3D element by inserting over 100 plastic models of actual New York buildings into the 2D puzzle (which, by the way, features glow-in-the-dark streets). Now the 4D part comes in. The buildings range from ones that would have dominated the skyline as far back as 1812 and move forward through time all the way to 2013, when the Freedom Tower (which will replace the World Trade Centers) will be completed. The box itself includes a poster with a brief history of the city peppered with fascinating trivia. An online education feature adds even more education—and entertainment—to the mix. Thirteen other 4D puzzles include London, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Paris, Chicago, and the entire US. An absolute blast for patient dads and kids 9 and up. www.4dcityscape.com