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Like every other type of toy, my boys seem to have mountains of puzzles. These puzzles are spread between my house and my parents' house as these are the two places where my boys spend most of the time. I tend not to buy two of the same thing and although my boys have farm puzzles at my parents' house they did not have any for our house. So when browsing my local Mothercare store and there was discounts on their wooden puzzles I decided to purchase the Mothercare Touch and Feel Farm Puzzle.
*** Mothercare Touch and Feel Farm Puzzle ***
The Mothercare Touch and Feel Farm Puzzle is a wooden play tray puzzle. The puzzle board is 30 cm wide by around 20cm high and there are 6 puzzle pieces to lift out. Each of the wooden puzzle pieces does not have a handle they simply require picking up to lift out. The six pieces are a duck, a cow, a pig, a horse, a sheep and a farmer and each of the pieces has a soft textured section on the puzzle piece. Each of the wooden puzzle pieces is a different shape and has a brightly coloured image painted on it. Inside of the puzzle tray where the piece slots in is the same image for a baby to match the piece with.
Mothercare state this puzzle is suitable for children aged 12 months and over.
The puzzle is available from Mothercare stores and online with an RRP for £6.00. Mothercare often have discounts on this puzzle, I managed to purchase during a 50% discount event, and therefore for only £3.00 I think this was excellent value for money.
I bought the Mothercare Touch and Feel Farm Puzzle when my boys were 12 months old and it was given to them as a 1st birthday present. At this age they already had a lot of wooden puzzle board style puzzles and could sit for long periods totally unaided. Immediately when I gave them this puzzle they could recognise the brightly coloured farm themed pieces lifted out so immediately attempted to pick the pieces up when the puzzle was put down in front of them.
Although I feel this puzzle is fine for a child under 12 months to play with and there would be no safety risks for a child of 9 months playing with this puzzle, after watching my boys play with this puzzle at 12 months old made me realise why this puzzle was better for children of over 1 year old. Because the puzzle does not have pegs to lift the puzzle piece up with a child has to grab the puzzle shape. This is not difficult to do and my boys soon figured this out but because the pieces are quite large a 9 month old child would find it harder to do because their motor skills and hand eye coordination is not so developed.
The puzzle pieces on the Mothercare Touch and Feel Farm Puzzle do not have a peg to lift them from the correct puzzle slot but the piece that is just under 1cm thick does not fully sit flush in the correct slot when it is in place. Instead only half the piece fits into the slot depth wise which means a child can lift the puzzle piece out by grabbing their hands around the shape. The puzzle pieces therefore are very easy to lift out of the slots despite not have a handle to lift them out. In my experience the puzzle pieces come out of the slots a little too easy and the slightest lift of the puzzle board from the horizontal position sends them crashing onto the floor. With two toddlers trying to grab puzzles off each other this can become quite annoying as I constantly hear the noise of the puzzle pieces falling onto our wooden floor. Or when my boys find it an amusing game to tip the puzzle to cascade all of the pieces onto the floor.
As younger toddlers of 12 months old the brightly coloured farm animals and the textured sections were the real attraction and my boys like to pick up the brightly coloured pieces and feel the textured sections (i.e. the soft fluffy sheep) but did not at all understand the concept of a puzzle and matching up the pieces to the correct slot. I felt at such a young age my boys were really interested in this puzzle because of the textured sections and explored the puzzle pieces with their hands, whereas with other lift out puzzles at this age the puzzle and puzzle pieces did not hold their attention for very long.
Once my boys got to around 14 months they "played" with puzzles in a more conventional way. They were not only lifting the puzzle pieces out of the slots and then attempting to place the pieces back into the correct slots although at this age they did require some guidance and I would tell them what animal they were holding and what. The pieces are well finished off so that the pieces slot in and out of the correct slot very easy and a young toddler can do this on their own.
Because the puzzle pieces fall out of the puzzle very easily you do need to ensure the pieces are kept completely horizontal.
By 18 months both my boys were able to slot the puzzle pieces in the correct slots and I feel 6 pieces is just the right amount of pieces to keep them entertained but still be challenging. They were still entertained by this puzzle and the textured sections on each of the pieces. I feel not only does this help a child developmentally with motor skills and their hand eye coordination there are the benefits of problem solving skills getting a child to match up the puzzle piece with the same image inside of the correct slot.
There are also educational benefits and I feel my boys have helped learn animal names and sounds by playing with this puzzle. By 18 months both my boys would point to the correct animal when asked where it was (i.e. "where is the cow") and could make all five of the animal noises. At 22 months they are now clearly able to name each of the five animals on the puzzle and shout farmer so I feel this has helped encourage and develop their speech. With only 6 shapes that fit into the puzzle slots so easily I do feel it is slightly basic and by 2 years old I feel my boys will probably benefit more from more complex puzzles with more pieces and shapes.
I feel the Mothercare Touch and Feel Farm Puzzle is a very durable toy. The wooden puzzle board is thick and durable and has survived many tantrums and has been thrown from tables and highchair trays onto wooden and tiled floors without any damage. The puzzle pieces are also durable and have survived almost a year of rough play and have been chewed on regularly. There are no visible teeth marks and there colourful images on the front of the puzzle pieces have no scratches on them or have started to wear off.
For £3.00 the Mothercare Touch and Feel Farm Puzzle has been an excellent purchase and I would definitely recommend it to other parents with toddler aged between 1 and 2 years old. The colourful farm themed puzzle is bright and attractive and the pieces are easy for a young toddler to pick up and the textured sections on each piece gives a child further entertainment and allows them to use their sense of touch to explore the different textures.
I also feel the farm themed puzzle has a lot of learning benefits as not only is a child matching the piece into the correct slot and developing problem solving skills. The farm themed shapes are also great for teaching children new words and my boys at 22 months old can now name the different animals and imitate the noises that they make.
Although the puzzle and wooden board are very well made and durable and have survived almost 1 year of being thrown and dropped the pieces of the puzzle fall out of the try very easily. The puzzle pieces don't slot flat into the holes when in place so as a result the slightest tilt of the puzzle board and all of the pieces end up on the floor. Fun for a child but the noise of the puzzle pieces crashing onto the floor repeatedly does get very annoying.