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My daughter loves playing with puzzles, she has done ever since she received her very first wooden lift out puzzle board. As her birthday is in November, I usually buy her some toys for Christmas which are suitable for a slightly older age so I don't have to buy different toys throughout the year. One of the things she received for Christmas when she was 13 months old was this puzzle from Early Learning Centre. I purchased this puzzle online when ELC had a half price sale, it often features in the half price sale so if you are thinking of buying it I would definitely wait! It's also available in Mothercare too. It's normal price is £6 but obviously at half price it is only £3. The puzzle comes inside a tough cardboard box that also acts as storage when the puzzle isn't in use as it has a carry handle. The box is quite hardwearing, we've had this for around 18 months now and the box still does its job, it is starting to look a little tatty but it's not too bad considering how old it is and with a toddler playing with it! There are six puzzles inside this box. They are very basic, beginners puzzles with two pieces of jigsaw slotting together to make one whole puzzle. Each puzzle has a cartoon like farm animal on the front, each of these animals is easy to identify and my daughter tells me which animal is which and what noises they make. The puzzles are made from quite a thick cardboard, definitely thicker than older childrens puzzles. They have a wipe over material on the top which features the picture. I always played with this puzzle with my daughter when she was younger as she had a tendency to put everything in her mouth and I suspect these puzzles would have been ruined had she got the pieces in her mouth. Since my daughter received these at only 13 months old, she didn't really take much interest in these for a few months, she would sit and hand me the pieces so that I could put the different pieces together. At around 15/16 months she displayed an interest and tried fitting the pieces together herself, it took her a couple of weeks to master it, but once she started she couldn't be stopped and was playing with these puzzles daily for about a month! Now she's 32 months old, my daughter doesn't really play with these anymore. They do get dragged out of the cupboard every so often, but they are only played with for a few minutes as she masters the puzzles quickly. They are too basic and boring for her now. I definitely think these are a perfect way of introducing children to puzzles. The fun, cartoon like animals add another educational dimension and children like learning how to do the puzzles themselves. Although Early Learning Centre have given these puzzles a recommend age of 18 months, I personally feel they should be introduced a little earlier otherwise they could lose their appeal. I think these puzzles are great value for money at the full price of £6 so if you can find these for half price, snap them up, they are definitely worth it!
My eldest daughter has always loved doing jigsaw puzzles, when she finished with the usual baby lift out puzzles we wanted something a little more like a real jigsaw for her and came across these puzzle from Early Learning Centre. The puzzles cost about £5 at the time we bought them although they are now on sale at £6 so they have gone up a little in price. The puzzles comes in a pretty tough cardboard box, I say it is pretty tough as after lots of play and I do mean almost every day for a couple of months the box does have some damage but is still perfectly strong enough to hold onto the pieces, the box also has a carry handle which my daughter loved using to carry allsorts of things around. Inside the box there are 12 pieces of jigsaw puzzle which make up 6 different jigsaw puzzles of two pieces each. The jigsaws are of farm animals and you get a sheep, goat, hen, duck, horse and cow. The jigsaw puzzles like most are made of many sheets of cardboard compacted together making them nice and strong, the pieces of these jigsaws are very durable and they still fit together perfectly even after so much playing with. We bought these puzzles for my daughter when she was about 16 months old although the puzzles are supposed to be for children 18 months and up however I think this is probably more for the fact of a younger child may chew the pieces rather than capability as at 16 months old my daughter was more than ready for them. My daughter took a little while to get to grips with these puzzles and we did find it much better to play with them on a hard surface such as a table as we struggled to get them to stay together when she played on the floor with them. The pictures on the jigsaws are bright and bold with little detailing on them which makes them suitable for younger children to concentrate on. After a few goes with our support we found that our daughter could generally manage them on her own although she would mix up the pieces of similar colours but she was always very independent and would insist that we didn't help her. After a couple of months she was able to do each jigsaw perfectly every time so we ended up passing these jigsaws down to my cousin and they were still in pretty perfect condition even after the length of time she has been playing with them too. I would recommend these jigsaws as would my daughter, she got many hours of play from these puzzles and they were of brilliant quality and a great price and of course there is the added bonus of using them to teach your child about animals.
My twin boys love playing with puzzles and like everything else we seem to own, our collection of puzzles is ever growing. My boys have a lot of wooden puzzle board type puzzles from ELC however these cause many arguments as they both want the same puzzle so I went in search of including some mini puzzles into our collection so I could encourage the concept of "sharing" a little easier. During the October half term ELC sale the ELC Farm Animal Puzzles caught my eye not only because they were reduced to half price but they looked like puzzles that could be shared by my boys. ***ELC Farm Animal Puzzles*** The ELC Farm Animal Puzzles are basically a boxed collection of six two piece farm animal puzzles. Each of the mini puzzles is made from two puzzle pieces that slot together and make up a brightly coloured illustrated farm animal. The farm animals include a cow, sheep, horse, goat, hen and a duck. Each of the six mini puzzles is a rounded farm animal shape. The puzzles vary in shape but are around 8cm by 8cm and made from a hard durable cardboard with a wipe-able coating. The mini puzzles come in a square cardboard storage box which has a string carry handle. ELC state the farm animal puzzles are suitable for children from 18 months. The ELC farm animal puzzles are available from ELC and Mothercare stores and online from both retailers. The RRP of these puzzles is £6.00 which I do feel is reasonable however I think these puzzles are extremely good value when purchased during frequent ELC toy sales. I purchased these puzzles in October 2011 during a half price half term event and paid £3.00 from ELC. ***Our Experience*** The ELC Farm Animal puzzles come in a small rectangular cardboard box which also acts as a storage box as the box comes with a string handle so a child can carry the box around. To open the box you simply remove three small stickers and the lid of the box opens. The lid can then be opened and shut by pushing the slots of the lid down into the box so it stays shut. I would say that you do need to take care with the box however as although it is made from quite hard durable cardboard if your child tries to sit on the box (like my boys have) they will bend out of shape and this could ruin the box. My boys were around 19 months old when they were first given the ELC Farm Animal puzzles to play with and at this age I feel the puzzles were perfect for them to play with. I would always try and start with putting the puzzles together first to show them what each of the six mini puzzles looked like and then break them up and let them slot the mini puzzles together. My boys fully understood the concept of matching the puzzle pieces together and only really needed a little bit of guidance. Because of the design of the puzzles they are very easy for a young child to hold and pick up the puzzle pieces but also place the two correct pieces together. When we play with puzzles I tend to play alongside my boys however I do feel at 19 months old my boys could have played with these puzzles independently without needing guidance or me helping them slot the puzzle pieces together. What I really liked about the ELC Farm Animal puzzles is because there were six mini puzzles both my boys could play with these and we could try and share by giving them three puzzles to complete and then swapping. It was usually the case that they wanted what the other sibling had but I do think for those that want to encourage their child to share or play alongside other children these are good puzzles to help with this. Developmentally I feel these are very good puzzles for encouraging a child's motor skills alongside their problem solving skills. The two piece puzzles require a child to find the correct two pieces to slot together and then they need to actually develop the ability to slot the two pieces together. My boys seem to get a lot more enjoyment and satisfaction out of these types of puzzles as opposed to the lift out puzzle board type puzzles and I feel this is because they are challenged a lot more by the ELC Farm Animal Puzzles. I also feel the farm animal puzzles have learning benefits and you can encourage your child to say new words by asking them to name the different farm animals that they make and then attempt to make the noise that the particular animal makes. My boys by 21 months old could both clearly identify and say each of the animal's names when prompted and make the correct noise. Personally if I was to buy these puzzles again I would probably have bought them a little sooner for my boys despite the ELC guidelines saying that these puzzles were suitable from 18 months old. Both my boys enjoyed playing with puzzles and had developed reasonable coordination and motor skills so they could lift puzzle pieces together and fully understood the concept of puzzles by around 15 months old. At 15 months old these puzzles probably would have been a little more complex than other puzzles they owned (which were mainly lift out wooden puzzle boards) but I feel they would have provided a lot of entertainment and educational benefit. My boys are now 2 years old and still enjoy playing with the two piece farm puzzles but I do feel for children who are particularly accomplished at puzzles by 2 years old these puzzles can be a little basic because they only have two pieces. Based on our experience I would say a child would enjoy these puzzles up until the age of around 2 and a half but I personally would not buy for a child of over 2 years old because I do not feel the puzzles are challenging enough. Durability wise I would say that the ELC Farm Animal puzzles are very good however you do need to take slightly more care of these puzzles than you would with wooden puzzles. Each of the puzzle pieces is made from a hard durable cardboard with a wipe-able coating. The puzzle pieces could bend but a child would need to use considerable force to do so therefore this is not such and issue and my boys have not attempted to do so. The wipe-able coating is great as if you do get marks on the puzzle pieces you can just wipe over with a damp cloth. My boys have attempted to chew these and although they have not bitten pieces out of the puzzle pieces because the puzzles are made from cardboard they have left some teeth marks. ***Overall*** I would definitely recommend the ELC farm animal puzzles to parents of children under the age of two and a half. The six brightly coloured puzzles are fun to play with and are well made and easy to slot together for small hands. The farm animal puzzles have developmental benefits helping with a child's hand eye coordination but also speech development as you can encourage your child to name the animal once they have slotted the puzzle pieces together and then ask them what noise that particular animal makes. The puzzles also come in a small square rectangular cardboard storage box which are great for ensuring you do not lose puzzles pieces. I also find the storage box is a great way to encourage my boys to tidy up as once they have put all of the puzzle pieces away they are very keen to shut the lid of the box and then carry the box by its string handle to the cupboard. The advantage of there being six mini puzzles rather than one large puzzle is that children can play alongside other children and therefore as a parent you can encourage your child to share. I do feel because each of the puzzles only consist of 2 pieces they are quite basic, especially for children who are more accomplished at putting puzzles together. ELC state from 18 months however I would say in my experience from ages 15 months to around 2 years is most suitable however this will depend on the individual child. At £6.00 I think the puzzles are great value but for £3.00 these make a great stocking filler or little gift to brighten up rainy days. Another not so puzzling purchase from ELC!