Wonderful Collections to Explore
Puzzles are a much loved activity from early childhood through to adulthood. As well as a great play activity, they are an important educational tool for toddlers and children of all ages. Puzzles teach visual spatial awareness, fine motor development, hand-eye coordination and problem solving. As well as this, puzzles for young children are often thematic or topic related, teaching letter, number, shape and colour recognition or subjects such as pets, transport, dinosaurs or space, opening up opportunities for social and language development.
First Puzzles 12 Months:
Puzzles can be introduced as early as 6 months, or when a baby can sit unsupported, transferring puzzle pieces from one hand to another and mouthing. Puzzle pieces need to be large enough not to be a choking hazard for all young children. The earliest puzzles are often timber peg puzzles, with generally three or four simple shapes. Ever Earth have a great range of Peg Puzzles for children aged 12 months. Plan Toy's Shape Matching Puzzle is a classic, teaching shape and colour.
As your child grows they will show you they are ready for a new challenge. Once your child is ready to move on from peg puzzles there are a few different directions you can go in. One option is staying with wooden puzzles with more pieces and without the pegs to hold on to.
These gorgeous animal sets from Plan Toys can be used as a puzzle or as figurines for creative play.
The Four Layered Puzzle from Mudpuppy is a great puzzling challenge with each layer giving a new picture and a different number of pieces. The Wooden Day and Night puzzle from Petit Collage encourages language development with the opportunity to focus on what happens in the day time and at night.
Puzzles from around Two Years Old:
From around two years old early jigsaw puzzles can be introduced. Puzzles with a small number of chunky pieces are a good place to start.
One option is a Petit Collage Beginner Puzzle, these come with four puzzles, one each of 3, 4, 5 and 6 piece puzzles each of a particular theme.
Another Petit Collage option is the Follow and Spot puzzle, these are a 10 piece puzzle, with solid chunky pieces that create a busy scene. The finished picture has a finger maze to follow, encouraging observation skills as children spot the 20 different items along the way.
Mudpuppy offer a great series of beginner puzzles in their Touch & Feel range, also with particular themes. These puzzle packs come with 4 differently shaped puzzles of 3 pieces each that have the added feature of one textured piece per puzzle, allowing for language development and enhancing understanding of different textures.
Three Year Old Options:
At around 3 your child may be ready to move onto jigsaw puzzles with more pieces. One of the best options for this age group is a floor puzzle, named because they generally are quite big, sturdy pieces and the finished puzzle is big enough that the floor can be the best place to do them! They are great for children to work together, and learn early cooperation. You will see that your children come back to these puzzles again and again as they develop their skills. Peaceable Kingdom Floor Puzzles and Petit Collage Floor Puzzles are great examples.
If you are looking for a smaller, more portable option for your 3 to 4 year old Mudpuppy have a great range of 36 piece Puzzle to Go, chunky large pieces in a travel and packing up friendly bag.
Other options include a cute 20 Piece Puzzle, with less chunky pieces, from eeBoo
Puzzles from Four Years Old:
By the time your child is four they may be ready to start a more traditional puzzle. Ravensburger create a huge range of jigsaw puzzles for children, and adults. Their puzzles are age graded to give you guidance in choosing. The difference in age grading relates to puzzle piece size and number of pieces.
Mudpuppy are an alternate puzzle brand with a focus on sustainable production and modern artwork. The 64 piece Search & Find puzzles are a favourite. Suitable from around 4 years these puzzles come with a field guide insert, encouraging observation skills and exploration of a broad range of animals, plants, sea creatures and dinosaurs. 5 year olds will love the 100 piece puzzles, in foil, glitter or glow in the dark finish. In an easily stored box these puzzles are a great gift idea for a 5 or 6 year old. Double-Sided Puzzles are a good choice from around 6. Two puzzles in one, with one side matt and the other gloss finish, this will keep kids coming back again and again.
6 and 7 Year Olds:
These 300 piece Shaped Puzzles from Mudpuppy add another challenge for children at around 7. Having a shaped rather than square border creates interest and these unique puzzles are beautiful pictures as well as great puzzles.
Once your child can master a 300 piece puzzle easily they will soon be ready for the bigger challenge of 500 pieces. there is a huge range of 500 piece puzzle available from Ravensbuger, Mudpuppy and eeBoo. At this stage they are probably less likely to do puzzles again and again as younger children do, but they are able to focus longer and complete a puzzle over a number of days or longer.
There are a huge range of choices for puzzles for children of all ages. The themes vary greatly but they all have one thing in common. They are fabulous educational products that your children will revisit as they develop. Here at The Donkey's Tale we try to focus on providing a quality range supplied to ethical and sustainable standards. We encourage everyone to explore our puzzle range and seek to select puzzles that are both age appropriate and challenging.
Come and see us at The Donkey's Tale, 4 Howe St Daylesford.
When was the last time you played with a bunch of marbles? While marbles were probably a big part of your childhood, they’ve become practically obsolete these days. After all – with the dawn of high-tech gadgets, robotic toys, and the internet, can vintage toys really compete?
The classic game of marbles is one that many of us grew up playing. But if the rules are a little cloudy, don’t sweat it. Here’s a quick rundown of how to play a classic game of marbles so you can get the gang in on the fun.
How to Play:
- Draw a chalk circle at least 2 feet in diameter. If there are more players, draw a bigger circle.
- Arrange several marbles in a circle formation inside the chalk circle.
- Each player needs to have one playing marble to use throughout the game.
- To start, the first player should roll their marble into the playing circle.
- The objective is to knock the other marbles out of the chalk circle.
- Each marble is worth one point.
- If a marble is knocked out of the circle, then the player gets to keep that marble and scores a point.
- Players take turns, rolling their play marble around the circle.
- Play marbles are not allowed to leave the playing circle.
- Players can move their marbles by flicking it with their thumb.
- The player with the most marbles at the end of the game is crowned the winner.
Mini Marble Golf
Best played outdoors, mini marble golf is a great test of accuracy and precision. As one of the best marble games for kids, this easy format is slow-paced, simple, and minimally competitive, making it ideal for smaller kids who are only just starting to learn the ropes of playing with marbles.
How to Play:
- Dig a small hole into the ground, big enough to accommodate a marble.
- If you’re playing indoors, shape a piece of clay into a letter C, and create a cove by shaping the clay onto the floor. Make sure that the opening of the cove is big enough to accommodate the diameter of your marbles.
- Designate a distance from which you will try to roll your marbles into the hole or cove.
- The first player will stand at the starting point and roll their marble towards the hole.
- If their marble makes it to the hole on their first try, then the player can sit out the rest of the round.
- The next player then takes a shot with their own marble.
- The objective of the game is to get the marble into the hole or cove with as few shots as possible.
- If the marble doesn’t make it into the hole on the first try, then it’s played wherever it might stop after being rolled.
- Players can create small obstacles and challenges around their mini marble golf course to up the challenge and make it more exciting!
Eggs In a Basket
Playing with a friend or two? If you’ve got an excess of marbles and an empty egg carton laying around, then Eggs In a Basket can be a great game to play. With minimal effort and a big opportunity to customize the game to your own standards, Eggs In a Basket can be the perfect way to pass the time with a few good pals.
How to Play
- Take an empty egg carton and a black marker
Flip over the carton and write underneath each egg compartment:
“15” under one compartment
“10” under two compartments
“5” under four compartments
“1” under five compartments
- The first player to take a turn will hold five marbles.
- Each marble will represent one chance.
- The player tosses each marble, aiming to land into one of the egg carton’s compartments.
- The egg carton should be at least 2 feet away, and on a flat, level surface.
- When the first player finishes throwing all five marbles, his score is tallied and recorded.
- Then, the next player takes their turn.
- All players get a chance to toss marbles into the carton.
- The player at the end of the game who scores the most points is declared the winner.
- To change things up, players have the option to replace what’s written under the carton.
- In some variations, the egg carton’s compartments are labeled one to twelve. Each of the numbers corresponds to a truth or dare challenge.
- Think up your own variation and tailor this game format to enjoy the fun in your own unique way!
For the more advanced marble player, Booby Trap is a wonderful game that will test your frustration tolerance, your fine motor skills, and your capability to keep your cool even when things get a little tight. Perfect for passing the time at school or in the summer, Booby Trap can become an instant favourite between you and your friends.
How to Play:
- Take a bunch of pens or pencils and position them on a flat surface. The larger the surface the better.
- Try creating a ‘maze’, where the pens and pencils represent the walls of the halls. The spaces between each pen and pencil should be large enough to accommodate two marbles.
- Place a few obstacles in the maze. A pencil sharpener, a bottle cap, double sided tape – whatever you choose! Remember, the objective is to create a feasible maze that will provide just enough of a challenge for a marble passing through.
- One fun way to create a challenging maze would be to shape pieces of clay into obstacles around your maze. Some players even create small tunnels with clay to increase the challenge.
- To start the game, the first player rolls their marble into the entrance of the maze.
- The next player then takes their turn, trying to avoid the first player’s marble.
- The objective is to make it to the end of the maze first.
- Players need to avoid disrupting the walls of the maze.
- Moving any of the pens or pencils that form the maze will result to a default, and will call for the player to move their marble back to the beginning of the maze.
- The beauty of Booby Trap is that you can design the maze however you want! The more complex your maze, the more booby traps you put, the bigger the challenge and the more exciting it becomes!
Test your frustration tolerance and your capability to precisely control a small glass ball with this fun and hair raising game perfect for two or more players. Make sure you’ve got a big enough space and lots of room to move around to properly execute your next move!
How to Play:
- Gather all of your marbles together. Designate one color to each player. For instance, player one gets the red marbles, player two gets blue, and so on.
- Draw a circle where all of the marbles will be placed. All of the marbles in play need to be evenly spaced. Try to allow at least an inch of space between each sphere, creating a ‘marble grid’ in your play area.
- Make sure that the colors of the marbles are placed as randomly as possible.
- The objective of each player is to collect all of the marbles that are their color.
- To collect a marble, players need to use their play marble and hit all of the same colored marbles in the play area.
- A player can enter the play area from any angle, but can only hit marbles that are the same color.
- If the player hits a similar colored marble which consequently rolls and hits another marble of the same color, then he collects both those marbles.
- If the player hits a marble of a different color, he must:
- Return a previously collected marble if he already has one
- Skip a turn if he has yet to collect other marbles
- The first player to collect all marbles of the same color is the winner.
Add a bit of mental exercise to your marble game by trying out What Decade? This fun game combines trivia and marble rolling skills to give you one seriously challenging experience that’s perfect for parties and small get togethers. Plus, it’s fairly simple to set-up, calling for nothing more than a piece of chalk and a few marbles.
How to Play:
- Draw a large circle at least 2 feet in diameter across the floor with a piece of chalk.
- Inside the biggest circle, draw a smaller circle at least 18 inches in diameter. Inside that, draw another slightly smaller circle at least 12 inches in diameter. And finally, draw the smallest circle inside of it at 6 inches in diameter.
- Each of these circles will represent a decade. The innermost circle and the space inside it is 2010 onwards. The 12 inch circle and the space inside it represents 2000 to 2009. The 18 inch circle and the space inside it represents 1990 to 1999. And finally, the outermost circle represents 1980 to 1989.
- The game master has a list of questions that players need to answer by deciding on what decade best fits the question. For instance, the game master might ask, ‘What year was the first smart phone released?’
- Players make their guesses by rolling their marble into the play area and landing within a designated decade.
- It doesn’t matter what the players say – their answers will be where their marbles fall.
- Switch up the mechanics, change the decades, or replace your question theme all together! This fun game format can be extensively changed and adjusted to meet your unique preferences for fun and festivities!
Off the Wall
When the day gets boring and there’s nothing to do, then you might want to consider playing Off the Wall. Perfect for those days when you might feel like you just want a low intensity activity to keep your hands preoccupied, Off the Wall doesn’t call for much – just an empty cup, a marble, and a wall to bounce things off of.
How to Play:
- Find a wall with an empty space in front of it. Make sure there aren’t any breakables near the area! You don’t want to break any decor while you’re playing.
- Place your cup on the floor in front of the wall.
- Your objective is to bounce your marble off of the wall to land inside the cup.
- While it might seem simple, the physics of a marble can be hard to master!
- Move the cup around to change the challenge.
- The farther from the wall the cup is positioned, the stronger you might have to bounce your marble.
- Alternatively, you can also try to bounce your marble off the floor so that it hits the wall and bounces back to your cup.
- Try different styles and trick shots to challenge your marble bouncing techniques.
- If you’re playing with a friend or two, take turns to challenge each others’ skills.
Even with their relatively simple design and shape, marbles can be loads of fun. So before you throw that big marble collection out, take the time to consider these unique games! Share your marbles with the kids and give them a break from the TV and internet so they can enjoy games the same way you used to.
Take a trip down memory lane and remember those carefree times when you would play with marbles endlessly by trying out these unique takes on some of the most common marble games we all used to love!
Extract from Icebreaker Ideas Website
New York Puzzle Company specialises in vintage US magazine covers and are considered to be one the best of the genre.
The Donkey’s Tale stocks a range of New Yorker magazine cover puzzles and we have taken one home to try it out and review.
Puzzle Reviewed: 1000 Piece – City Dogs - 48.9cm x 67.6cm
REVIEW SCORE 8/10
Did we enjoy this puzzle. – Absolutely. A fun image with interesting puzzle pieces. Great fun but not overly difficult.
The puzzles have sturdy space-saving boxes, thick puzzle pieces, a non-grid cut with lots of variety of piece shapes, and good image reproduction.
On the downside the piece cut is quite visible on the final finished puzzle which may limit your desire to keep the finished image.
The New York Puzzle company values environmental responsibility, as we do. The puzzles and boxes are made from recycled chipboard with the the plastic bag made from biodegradable plastic. Protecting is with Soy based inks.
The New York Puzzle company pledges 1% of revenue to not for profit environmental groups.
IMAGE REPRODUCTION QUALITY AND VARIETY: 9/10
If you like vintage magazine imagery then the New York Puzzle Company is the brand for you. Known for their vintage magazine covers, the New Yorker range present a variety of graphic images from the New Yorker Magazine.
Many of the covers reproduced could pass in the Americana, Primitive, and Fine Art categories with magazine lettering added.
The image reproduction is soft reflecting the vintage style. The image has a good level of detail however the images are not as high-res as some modern images. The colours are great with good image alignment.
The puzzle finish is a soft matt which reduces reflective glare whilst puzzling.
We would give the current range a score of 9 with lots of images on our “To Do” list.
BOX QUALITY - 7/10
The New York Puzzle Company boxes are attractive and quite sturdy. They are smaller than many puzzle boxes, taking up less shelf space. This does make for a smaller reference picture since the puzzle doesn’t include a poster. The 1000 piece box below is 8″ x 10″ x 2 1/4″.
The back of the box is provides information on the New York Puzzle Company.
QUALITY, FIT AND SHAPE OF PIECES – 8/10
In the puzzle bag, the pieces were completely separated, with no hanging chads or need to rip pieces apart. The image top is firmly adhered to the pieces with no lifting and no damage. The puzzle pieces were in good condition and there were no missing or extra pieces.
The puzzle pieces are a good thickness, comparable to any quality brand. The pieces also feel quite dense and had nice clean edges with no fraying.
The New York Puzzle Company, like many American manufacturers, use a variable, non-grid cut that produces a large variety of shapes and piece corners don’t necessarily line-up. We enjoyed the unique shapes which do help out on areas of the picture that have no distinct imagery (Skies and Oceans).
The piece size is standard, neither too small nor oversized. Since the cut is variable there are smaller pieces, but none of the pieces are too small.
The piece fit is good, neither too loose or excessively tight. The highly variable piece cut means you won’t place a piece where it doesn’t belong.