It's crunch time for Christmas shopping. Are any of you feeling the pressure?
We know what to get for our own kids (we've been listening to the list for months). But then, because none of us are in fact Santa Claus, we rack our brains over what to get for those nieces and nephews we love and don't see enough of, or a good friend's child, or so-and-so's four-year-old who is coming to Christmas lunch this year.
And it's not just at during the holidays -- all the school year long, preschool friends have their birthday parties, and presents must be proffered.
The answer, very simply, is puzzles.
We've written about the educational value of puzzles before, so we won't repeat ourselves here. But suffice to say that kids of all ages enjoy puzzles, and they especially enjoy trying out new puzzles. So it's hard to go wrong.
Here are a few that we love:
For toddler types, you can't beat Melissa and Doug's line of wooden chunky puzzles. They're well made, the designs are bright, and the puzzle pieces can double as toys for pretend play. We're fans of the Pets, Insects and Construction puzzles, not to mention the Dinosaur and Alphabet editions. (The line covers pretty much all of the typical toddler obsessions.)
Leaping ahead, developmentally speaking, we can't resist cube puzzles. Sixteen cubes can be rearranged into six different puzzle pictures - enough to keep any child well occupied. The pieces can also be incorporated into block play for extra fun. This Farm Cube Puzzle is sweet, and for a classic look, we're very taken with this fairytale Cube Puzzle by Elsa Beskow, the great Swedish illustrator. Perfect for three- to five-year-olds.
Moving on to jigsaw puzzles, as kids are apt to do, we want to put in a plug for Ravensburger puzzles. So many cardboard puzzles start to bend and tear moments after they are out of the box, but not these. You'll be happily surprised at how durable and easy to manipulate the pieces are. And the company makes the full range or puzzles with all sorts of attractive designs. A two- or three-year-old could get started on the beautiful African Animals puzzle. This Busy Airport scene would be great for a four- or five-year-old, while any six-year-old twinkle-toes would love the Fairytale Ballet jigsaw.
Another fun idea for young puzzle-lovers is a Create Your Own Puzzle kit. Best for children who are moving beyond the scribbling stage, this is a wonderful way to make something lasting out of their artwork. Works with crayons, markers or paint, so the artist can choose his medium.
For even more puzzle ideas, see our Savvy guide to puzzles. We keep adding to it, so let us know about your favorites. As you can see, we can't get enough of puzzles.
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