Showing posts with label gift ideas for children. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gift ideas for children. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Puzzles for Puzzle Day or Any Day: A Review

Puzzles for Puzzle Day or Any Day: A Review
Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay 


I love puzzles. I especially love jigsaw puzzles. It satisfies me to find the exact puzzle piece to fit into the space designed for it. I'm delighted when I finally finish a puzzle -- especially if it's a large one. Are you a puzzle fan, too?


Puzzle Day is January 29


If you didn't plan ahead or don't have time to work a puzzle on January 29, why not celebrate by buying a new puzzle you love, instead. Then enjoy it on any convenient day. Or have a puzzle party with your family or invite a friend or two to help you work your new puzzle. There are many excellent reasons to spend some of your leisure time working jigsaw puzzles.

Here's What Working Puzzles Can Do for You

  • Working puzzles can help you relax. When we work puzzles, we focus on our process instead of on our problems and the things that add stress to our lives.
  • Working a puzzle offers a welcome break from electronics and media. It lets us work at a slower pace and really focus instead of having our attention constantly refocused.
  • If you live alone, working a puzzle can keep you so absorbed you may forget you are lonely. Put on your favorite music and have a party for one. It beats television.
  • Working puzzles helps keep your brain working well. It keeps both sides of your brain busy and since both sides need to work together to complete a puzzle, the connections between the right and left sides of your brain grow stronger. The left side helps you sort pieces and figure out where to put them. The more creative right side uses your intuition as you consider where pieces may fit into the big picture or the individual section you are working on. Exercising your brain with puzzles may delay the onset of dementia or slow it down. The brain also produces dopamine when it's helping you work jigsaw puzzles.
  • Working puzzles together can foster closeness in families and between friends. Working a puzzle together is a social activity that puts people together who have a common purpose – working the puzzle – for an extended time. They may start by planning how to work the puzzle, deciding who will do what, but later they will naturally move on to subjects they probably wouldn't usually have time to discuss. Contributor  Dawn Rae has also written about her experience with puzzles paving the way for quality time. 
  • When children begin working jigsaw puzzles, it helps them develop many important skills. Among these are fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, problem solving skills, color awareness, spatial relations, concentration, and working towards a goal.

Jigsaw Puzzle Strategy


Like most jigsaw fans, I have a strategy. Mine is pretty common.
  • Turn over all the pieces first so you know what you have to work with.
  • Find the pieces with straight edges and make the frame by forming and  connecting the edges.
  • Make sure everyone working on the puzzle can see the cover on the box as they work.
  • Try to complete one section of the puzzle at a time until it comes together to complete the picture.
Do you also use that strategy?

Finding the Right Puzzle

For the happiest puzzle working experience, you need to choose the right puzzle for your time, your skill level, and your interests. You will be looking at that puzzle for a long time. If you're a beginner, choose a smaller puzzle of about 200-300 pieces to develop your skills before moving on. Chose a puzzle with smaller blocks of color and many shapes instead of a puzzle with lots of sky or water that's the same color. That makes it easier to figure out which pieces fit.

I like nature. I created this puzzle from one of my photos of the sunset at Larry Moore Park. It comes in many sizes, but for a beginner I'd choose the 252-piece size. There is enough  variation in color and the tree branch shapes to make it easy to see how pieces may fit together. (Check out some of the other California places I made into puzzles.)




As you become more proficient, choose more challenging puzzles with more areas the same color or less pronounced subjects or designs. Or choose a larger puzzle of 750 pieces or more with a design you love and may want to frame afterwards. (Contributor Bev Owens reviews a great way to preserve puzzles you want to frame.) I love books and cats. This 750-piece puzzle by Buffalo Games is one I'd love to have on my wall. Buffalo Games makes quality puzzles. If you click through, you will see what makes them so special.





If you want to get your preschooler off to a good start, you can't go wrong with a Melissa and Doug puzzle. I used to sell these at homeschool conventions and there is a wooden puzzle to fit every interest and ability level. I like these sets for children 3-5 years old. Children this age love color and animals. The puzzles in the first set have both. These puzzles come packed in convenient wooden trays. But if you want something more educational, the pegged set has puzzles that teach the alphabet, numbers, and shapes. The pieces in this set have pegs to make them easy to lift out so that children can find the attractive pictures underneath each puzzle piece.







Puzzles Make Great Gifts

When you gift someone with a puzzle, consider the receiver's age, interests, and previous experience. You can even use a special photo to make a personalized puzzle at Zazzle, such as the one I made of the tree in the sunset I showed you above. Just click that puzzle. It will take you to the product page. Click “customize” on the top right of the page under “Designed for You.” It will show you many options. The first allows you to substitute your own photo. You can also add text if you wish.

Puzzles make great gifts for grandparents and older friends who live alone. It will help them keep their thinking sharp and give them something fun to do by themselves or with a friend.

Give a young child a puzzle and you will be helping to develop that child's brain. Give a puzzle with a related book for a double treat that will let the child be thinking of the book as they work the puzzle.

Maybe you should also gift your own family with a new puzzle to work together.
Whatever day it is, happy Puzzle Day.







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Saturday, March 10, 2018

Reviewing 2004 Lego X Pods

Reviewing the 2004 Lego X-Pods
Available on Amazon
The first of the range of Lego X-Pods were released in 2004, in total Lego released 5 different sets of X-pods during this year. The premise behind this Lego range was that the Lego came inside of a pod, essentially this was 'Lego on the go.'

The pods that these small Lego kits came in were designed to fit in a pocket so that no matter where you were you could pull out your Lego pod and start to build.

This Lego X-Pod range was like a sub-range of the Lego Creator series and each kit could create a number of different things limited only by your child'simagination.

The X-Pods released in 2004 were -
  • Black Robot Pod
  • Robo Pod
  • Auto Pod
  • Aero Pod
  • Wild Pod

Black Robot Pod - 4335

Black Robot Pod - Lego 4335
As you can see from the picture the Black Robot Pod comes in a clear container with two black lids. This set contains 50 pieces and is recommended for the age 6+.

This is a hard to find Lego product with the following features -

* Idea Book with instructions and inspiration for 6 robot models — quick to build and rebuild for           hours of fun!
* Handy carry case with studs — build it right into your models!
* Unique assortment of LEGO elements — great shapes and awesome colors!
* Fits into backpacks, pockets and more for on-the-go play!
* Combine with other X-Pods to build cool combo models!

An interesting snippet for you is that this Black Robot Pod was released for Halloween which might explain the color scheme of black and orange!

Robo Pod - 4346

Robo Pod - Lego 4346
This Lego set contains 65 pieces as well as step by step instructions to build 3 models.

Of course, as with all of the Lego x-pods there is no limit to the number of different models you can actually build!

This green set comes in a clear ‘pod’ with green lids to match the robots you can make with the set.

Auto Pod - 4347

Auto Pod 4347
This 67 piece x-pod set comes in a clear ‘pod’ with blue lids.

There are also instructions for building different Lego models – a bulldozer, truck, and rolling robot.

These models however are only for inspiration because the key to all of the x-pod sets is that your imagination is the only thing that will stop the number of different models you’ll be able to create.

Aero Pod - 4348

Aero Pod 4348
This 36 piece Lego X-Pod set is sometimes referred to as the X-Pod Planes as there is a later model also called X-Pod Aero so be aware that this is the 2004 set, model number 4348.

The pod as you can see is one of the transparent ones and comes with yellow lids, the bricks inside are also predominately yellow as you can see from the picture.

I actually can’t tell you much about this particular set as I haven’t seen it myself and there aren’t as many reviews available as I would like, but if it’s like the other X-Pod sets then I’m sure it’s fantastic and no doubt will come with instructions for a few models.

Lego Wild Pod - 4349

Lego Wild Pod
The Lego Wild Pod set contains 44 pieces and comes in a transparent pod with red lids.

The instuctions that come with this Lego pod show you how to make seven different creatures from a crawling bug to a flying dragonfly, but as with all of these sets the instructions are only the start.

I haven’t actually seen the instruction book or played with this pod, but I have seen a dragon made from just this set and I was very impressed!

Lego X-Pods Are An Awesome Idea!

When I was a child I absolutely loved Lego and assumed that when I had kids there would be Legos strewn across the house.  Of course life never works out quite as you imagine and when I had my only child she didn't like Lego so I never got to purchase these X-Pods for her.

I have been lucky to have a goddaughter who is Lego mad and plenty of friend's children to give me an excuse to 'hang out' in the Lego section of department stores and I still think that these X-Pods are an inspired idea.

They are an ideal size to fit in a child's pocket and perfect to take on road trips, plane trips etc to keep your child happy when they have to stay in one place.

Not only are they ideal for your child to carry they are also a perfect size to pop into your handbag.  Hands up moms who have bulging bags trying to be Mary Poppins when they go out with their children!  I used to have snacks stowed away, along with things to entertain my daughter in case we were stuck waiting somewhere - these Lego X-pods don't take up much room so can be a godsend for moms.

Even though they weren't something I used I wholeheartedly recommend them for anyone with a Lego loving child (I'd even love them for myself now!).

Most of this particular range are unavailable through many outlets so I recommend looking on ebay for them, if there's a particular one you're after be sure to search with the set number.





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