Sunday, September 4, 2011

Guidecraft Wooden Educational Puzzles

Each month, the Guidecraft Educators will share our honest feelings about a Guidecraft product(s) and how these products would fare in an early childhood classroom. This month's selection is a variety of puzzles from Guidecraft's eco-friendly product line (made with eco-friendly rubberwood and stained with low VOC aniline dyes), all of which are safe and non-toxic for children!

The puzzles, as you will see from the photographs below, focus on a variety of concepts, from the very basic (great for toddlers & preschoolers) to more complex (appropriate for middle elementary schoolers, age 8-11). In any event, chances are, you know someone who would love this product line! All of these puzzles also promote fine motor development and eye-hand coordination.

Unfortunately, I have not yet had the opportunity use these wonderful products with preschoolers, as my Head Start/UPK children do not return to class until the 7th... I do have many plans for their use this year, though (in addition to free exploration by the children during "Work Time!"

One to Four Sorter - $25.00
My Anticipated Use: Counting and Visual Discrimination

While many of the children (ages 3, 4, & 5) enter my room counting, there are still some that struggle with that concept. This simple activity will reinforce counting objects (in this case, the holes on the puzzle pieces) and then matching them to place them correctly on the puzzle board. This puzzle also features 4 basic shapes (circle, diamond, triangle, square) and four basic colors (green, red, yellow, blue) which will prove useful in children who need some practice and reinforcements in both of those cognitive areas. Children could verbally name each shape, color and number of holes on each piece as they correctly place it on the "puzzle board."

Gradient Sorter - $30.00
My Anticipated Use: Sorting Objects in a Graduated Series

I can see this product being used in a variety of different ways in my classroom. 1st and foremost, I see the children taking the pieces apart and stacking them in a variety of ways to see who can created the "tallest" castle. I also see the children sorting the pieces into group (all the small, all the medium and all the big pieces). When dumped into a pile, they'll also likely sort them according to color AND as their sorting skills develop, I'm sure I'll find them sorting them into a graduated series (most likely lining them up horizontally across the table from biggest to smallest or smallest to biggest prior to stacking them vertically from biggest to smallest or smallest to biggest. Needless to say, it will be very interesting to see how the children choose to manipulate the pieces of this puzzle!

Shape and Color Sorter - $25.00
My Anticipated Use: Teaching/Assessing Shapes and Colors

I can definitely see this puzzle being a hit with the children who enjoy doing puzzles but who struggle with putting together the traditional puzzle. The "single" pieces are ideal for little ones just beginning to "match" but also make for a more than ideal assessment of childrens' knowledge of both colors and shapes. We hope that our Head Start/UPK children enter kindergarten knowing 8 basic shapes (square, circle, triangle, rectangle, heart, diamond, oval and star) and 9 basic colors (red, blue, green, orange, brown, black, white, pink, purple). This particular eco-friendly puzzle is near perfect to use as a fun, meaningful assessment of their familiarity with shapes and colors. I only wish more of the basic colors we assess on were incorporated into this puzzle (although, I'm not eliminating the possibility of picking up some low VOC paint in the colors not represented and changing a few of the colors to make is ABSOLUTELY perfect for this use)!

Top Row - Fraction Cups - $25.00
Bottom Left - Fraction Pairs - $25.00
Bottom Right - Fraction Action Board - $25.00
My Anticipated Use - Identifying Parts of a Whole, Sorting/Classifying

These three puzzles in particular will likely be the most difficult for the group of children I work with. Some will likely take on the challenge, while I can see others dumping and becoming frustrated with. I envision children trying to put the puzzles together by sorting the pieces according to their color and since many of them will probably not quite have a handle on the parts of a whole concept, I can really see them struggling. However, there will be those few who surprise me and who really need a challenge and I will keep these in mind for those children! If nothing else, children can take the puzzles (especially the Fraction Action Board) apart and using the pieces to be "creative" and see what they can make!

Sun Sorter - $25.00
My Anticipated Use: Using One Basic Shape to be Creative

Children in my Head Start classroom were fortunate enough to be able to explore and spend some time using the Sun Sorter at the end of last school year. This was a HUGE hit and they had so much fun, challenging themselves to recreate the sun, as well as other "things" with the one basic piece in a variety of colors. As you can sort of see from the picture, they took the activity guide away from me and referred to the pictures to create different things. They had a blast and this is definitely a great way to introduce abstract thinking into creative representation activities! You can see more thoughts on the Sun Sorter here.

What do other 'Guidecraft Educators' have to say about these puzzles?
Maureen at Simply Stacie
Andrea at MommyPR
Deborah at Teach Preschool
Carrie from Huppie Mama
Jody from Mommy Moment
Candace at Mamanista!

For a chance to win ALL 7 of these wonderful Guidecraft puzzles, visit:
Deborah at Teach Preschool,
the host of the September Guidecraft Educators giveaway!

Or... if you just can't wait or really want to get your hands on this wonderful line of products, they can be purchased online at either or on Guidecraft's Website!

One to Four Sorter - or Guidecraft Website
Gradient Sorter - or Guidecraft Website
Shape and Color Sorter - or Guidecraft Website
Fraction Cups - or Guidecraft Website
Fraction Pairs - or Guidecraft Website
Fraction Action Board - or Guidecraft Website
Sun Sorter - or Guidecraft Website

If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to I am an Amazon Affiliate, so any purchases you make after clicking these images will result in my receiving a small percentage of the sale price!


style='clear: both;' Deborah Stewart said...

Great review Katie - Thank you!

style='clear: both;' Jen's OT for Kids said...

Hi Katie!

I just found your blog and it's wonderful! I also work in early childhood as an occupational therapist for the children with special needs. The products you listed here are an OT's dream and help to encourage fine motor development. THANK YOU for sharing! I'll be checking back again :)