As Toddler L gets older, we’re noticing a change in what she plays with and how she plays. Over the last few months, there’s been a definite tendency towards (1) imaginative play, (2) creative / craft stuff and (3) solving problems. So, for example, she’s using her imagination to cook in her kitchen or play doctors, she’s wanting to paint and draw (all the bloody time!), and she’s more intrigued by puzzles.
To be honest, she’s not really had any problem solving toys apart from the odd shape sorter or jigsaw. Having watched her easily figure out the baby puzzles she’s recently rediscovered, we felt sorry for her and decided it was time to upgrade. We therefore bought her a couple of jigsaws, but as luck would have it, SmartGames got in touch to see if we wanted to review any of their preschool puzzle games.
Having not heard of SmartGames before, I was intrigued. It turns out that they create multi-level logic games for all ages – the kid ones looked particularly interesting as a fun way of teaching and challenging, which used concepts that I expected Toddler L would understand.
We were therefore sent two of these preschooler brainteasers from SmartGames for review – Bunny Boo and Little Red Riding Hood. Below, you’ll see how Toddler L has got on as she’s tested her brain power and pitted her wits against the challenges:
Bunny Boo is a cute game where your little one attempts to recreate in real-life what is shown on a card. For ages two and up, the box comes with 60 challenge cards, a wooden rabbit and three wooden blocks of different colours / shapes. For what is a really simple idea, the game is a lot of fun and Toddler L has enjoyed getting to grips with the concept.
The 60 challenge cards are broken up into different colours to represent difficulty. This ranges from ‘easy’ (green) which makes use of the rabbit and one block, through to ‘Stephen Hawking as a toddler’ level (blue) which incorporates the rabbit with all three blocks in a tough layout.
I wasn’t sure how she’d get on with it, but it didn’t take her long to suss out what she was doing. The only trouble she had was figuring out that it was in 3D. By this, I mean she wanted to lay down the pieces on the table in a 2D way which literally reflected the card, rather than standing them up on the table. After explaining and showing it to her though, she soon got the hang of it.
At two and a bit years old, we focused on the simpler challenges to start with as her age was at the lower end of the target audience. There was no point crushing her self esteem and confidence straight away – to be frank, life will do that to her at some point! Doing it this way was a great introduction to the game as it meant she wasn’t overwhelmed by all of the cards, shapes and colours.
However, she’s really surprised me with her abilities – yesterday, for example, we skipped the easier green and yellow ones and went straight to the more difficult red cards with all of the blocks. I needed to assist her at times, but there were a few which she did on her own. This just goes to show how puzzle games like this can accelerate skills such as logic and awareness.
What I particularly like is that SmartGames has created this with young kids in mind. This might be an obvious thing to say, but the colours are bright and appealing, the objects are suitable for small hands, all pieces are sturdy and it can grow with your child as they develop.
It’s also something that she can play on her own as she figures stuff out, or with me as more of a ‘teaching’ experience. By this, I mean that it can be the basis for conversation and questions, such as “can you find the red block”, “what shape is that” and “is the rabbit inside or outside”. All in all, it’s been a fab little puzzle game.
Little Red Riding Hood
As the name suggests, this game is based around the classic fairy tale of the girl in the red coat and the cross-dressing wolf. For ages 4 and up, this SmartGames puzzle comes with a board, five road puzzle pieces, 2 figurines, 3 trees, 1 house a booklet with 48 challenges and a bonus picture book. Again, the concept is pretty simple – you need to figure out how to get Little Red Riding Hood (LRRH for short) and/or the Wolf to Grandma’s house by creating a path with the puzzle pieces.
Using the challenge booklet, you set up the board as per the challenge – so, for instance, you place the trees, house, LRRH and the Wolf on the associated squares. Here’s how ‘Expert 17’ looks when set up based on what’s in the booklet.
You’re then required to figure out how to get LRRH and the Wolf to Grandma’s house using one or more of the rectangle path puzzle pieces. Each piece has a different shape of path and can be laid horizontally or vertically on the board around the figurines, trees and house.
You’ve solved that particular puzzle when you have created a path which connects LRRH / the Wolf to one of the doors on the house. Supposedly, there’s only one solution per puzzle, which is shown on the subsequent page of the booklet.
Now, I’m not going to lie, this can be a tricky game. As a 31 and a bit year old, I’d expect to whizz through the book, however I have come unstuck once or twice when playing with Toddler L. Luckily, I’ve saved face by taking a peak of the answers and then claiming that “I was just about to do that”. She’s still young enough to take what I say as gospel.
With an age range of 4 upwards, it’s no surprise that Toddler L hasn’t quite got the brain capacity to grasp this game yet. She’s shown interest, but she doesn’t have the strategic or logical know how to decide what should go where. She has enjoyed it though by playing with it in her own way – rules are meant to be broken after all.
For instance, she has learnt the basics of putting the pieces onto the board and moving them around. In addition, she has even begun to incorporate the bits into her other play. The other day, for example, I saw that she was playing with them on her road play mat which I thought was pretty ingenious. Her town planning skills could do with a bit of work though considering the house and tree placement…
Although she’s a little young to play ‘properly’, I’ve been impressed with the LRRH game. It’s well made, nicely thought through and appeals to kids with the fairy tale aspect, particularly when combined with the story book that comes with it. It can also grow with your kid as the challenges get more difficult – 24 are with the Wolf and 24 are without. The only thing to be conscious of is losing the pieces due to size – LRRH disappeared for a week or so until we found her hiding down the back of the sofa! Again, another fab puzzle from SmartGames which I can see us playing for the next few years.
I’ve been really impressed with the two SmartGames puzzles we’ve been playing – Bunny Boo and Little Red Riding Hood. Rather than ‘normal’ toys, these are probably best described as brainteasers which are designed to develop your kid’s skills. This includes things like logic, problem solving and decision making, along with more basic things like colours, numbers and shapes.
Toddler L has enjoyed playing with them both, although Little Red Riding Hood is a bit too old for her to play properly. Bunny Boo is definitely more her age range and it’s been awesome seeing her tackle more complex challenges every time she plays.
At £22.99 for Bunny Boo and £19.99 for Little Red Riding Hood, they’re a little more expensive than I’d have imagined. However, for this, you do get something different to the normal jigsaw puzzles or shape sorters which, importantly, grow with your child in a way that other things don’t.
I’d have no qualms in recommending SmartGames and I can see us purchasing more in the future, be it for Toddler L or as a gift.
N.B. This review was written by me (Dave) and represents my honest opinion of the products. The preschool puzzle games were sent to me by SmartGames with the purpose of writing an honest product review in exchange for the products.
N.B. This post includes an affiliate link(s). For more info, read my Disclosure policy.