It's no mystery that we are Little Sapling Toys fans here at our house. We adore their alphabet and number blocks, teethers, and peg board puzzle and are always excited when the Tomato enters a new developmental stage and is ready for something else from their creative store. They recently contacted me in order to send us some other toys to review and so today's review will be the first of two.
I received the Organic Block Tray Puzzle and was once again struck by the beautiful simplicity and workmanship that is their trademark. Also, these USA made products are finished with local beeswax and organic jojoba oil, so the eco-friendly factor is high. This fractional puzzle fits together in a variety of ways, so it is a great toy with which to teach your child about problem solving and that there is sometimes more than one right answer.
We are at the stage, with an 18 month old, of talking about comparisons, so the following activities are best for this age group.
|Sort by color|
|Sort by size|
Counting - There are 9 blocks altogether, so count up and down with them or practice numbers in the smaller groups that you sorted by color or size.
Patterning - While these blocks are not as evenly divided in colors as the peg board colors were, you can do some ABAB or ABCABC color patterning with them.
Building - At Tomato's age, we are into stacking and building, so we often take the puzzle apart and have at it in freestyle form. If you want more structured structures, see how high you can get a tower, how long you can make a "block train" (which goes really far when combined with the alphabet and number blocks set) or see how colors can alternate as you build.
As your child grows, you can explore other aspects of math with him/her.
Fractions - As time goes by, you can start to explore the fractional attributes of these blocks. By using the frame, kids can put the pieces in and talk about how they go together. If you use the largest block as one whole, then you can discuss the top row as 1/4 plus 1/2 plus 1/4, the second row as 1/4 plus 1/4 plus 1/2 and the third row as 3/4 plus 1/4. You can even take it further and state the the tray is worth one and move all the way out to sixteenths from there. You can also line them up individually against the whole and talk about adding fractions in that way.
|Two halves equal one whole|
|3/4 plus 1/4 equals 4/4 or one whole|
|2/4 plus 1/2 equals one whole (Hello to working with least common denominator in a visual way!)|
|4/4 equals one whole|
So, is there anything missing? I've been vacillating over the last few weeks as to whether or not I would like to see the tray labeled as 1 and then have one side of each block engraved as 1/4 or 1/8 or 1/16, etc. But, then I go back to liking them plain since it gives you the flexibility of talking about fractions as your child develops his/her number sense. You could always use a small removable sticker to label them in the fractions that you are discussing. If you want the largest piece to be 1, pop a sticker on there and say it is 1 and the smallest piece is 1/4. Take them off and put on new ones with the second largest piece as 1 and compare it to three of the smallest ones so that you can talk about thirds. Take those off when kids are ready to talk about the tray being 1 and so on. So, I think they went with the right design aspect in leaving it blank. Overall, I think the folks at Little Sapling have provided their customers with another toy that is aesthetically simple, but developmentally deep. Hop on over to their store, grab one and have fun filling the hours with it at your house!