Just before the Christmas holiday, I received two products for review. The first that we opened was the Cranium Bloom Seek & Find Let's Go To The Zoo Puzzle, rated for children ages 3+. It happens that zoos reside in the forefront of our minds lately as we now have access to a zoo whenever we want. Before, we had to travel a considerable distance for a kid to see animals in a zoo. Now, 10 minutes and a short walk. The kids comment frequently how easy it is to reach the zoo.
Back to the Seek & Find puzzle. The 24 pieces are easy to handle and are substantial. I suspect they will withstand plenty of grubby handling. I see no wear on our pieces after three weeks of nearly daily use. The edges are ringed with a bright orange band making it easier for children to identify the edge pieces. We all know that is the only way to put together a puzzle--edges first, right? I have noticed with other puzzles that my children show difficulty finding the edge pieces. With this puzzle that issue fades. My two year old understands that the orange stripe should align.
Once the puzzle is assembled, the bright, whimsical graphics (a penguin in a stroller?) beckon the child and parent to do more. Two flip books, one basic and one advanced, help the child explore the puzzle by directing the child to find something orange or tigers or dolphins. An erasable pen (shown above in my son's hand) allows the child to circle or scribble on top of the object. As with all dry erase markers, you do have to rub with some force, but the pen is truly erasable. All my children (ages 2, 4, and 6) enjoy playing with this puzzle. The two eldest quiz each other to find certain objects.
What I like about this puzzle is how I discovered more that could be done with this puzzle and others. Instead of relying on the flip books of directions, I now ask my 6 year old to find objects that begin with a certain letter. My four year old likes to find the animals that are alike (say lions and tigers or penguins and ostriches). While we don't use the dry erase marker on other puzzles, we have begun to quiz each other on those. This Cranium toy truly captivates the children. Writing on a puzzle is part of the attraction. Laughing at the macaw on a patron's head or the penguin washing an elephant is an added attraction. We use this puzzle to count, play pre-reading games, and to talk about different animals. A pretty good toy all around.
The second product, a game entitled Let's Play Count & Cook Game, has my children happy and my husband and I a tad bit bored. The premise of the game is understanding that foods have different ingredients. A player wins when all of the ingredients are found by the adorable (honestly, tres cute) chefs. The die only rolls to three, so even the most challenged counter can play this game. The rules are simple; my children had mastered the procedure for playing after just one game. And, if you are an enterprising parent, you can build on the game--making the chosen recipe for lunch or dinner, act out making the recipe after the ingredients have been found, and other such extensions.
I cook with my children quite a bit. They have, from infancy, sat on the counter watching, then adding, then stirring, our concoctions. Pretending to cook isn't much of a draw to them. Or, so I thought. My two daughters bring out this game, along with play pots, pans, and plates, to entertain themselves on rainy days. Because it is easily mastered, they don't need my help officiating or even playing with them. I have sat to play with them, but I like that they don't need me. You can't say that with their Junior Monopoly game.
In the end, I would recommend getting the puzzle for anyone. It can be adapted to many age levels. The cooking game is worthwhile if your child wants to cook, but you don't want to let them help you ( A position I completely understand. You should have seen the pizza my children made last week. Ugly. Good, but ugly.). I don't think you, as a parent, will enjoy the cooking game, but I bet your kids will.
Thanks to Mom Central for offering me the product for review.