Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Review: Shure wooden puzzles

Nico and I were out finishing up our Christmas shopping yesterday and stopped by Menard's to see what their Christmas displays were like. He always asks to look at the trucks at any store we go to, so we ended up window shopping down the toy aisle. We almost never buy anything (despite his best efforts to the contrary) but it's fun to look. He kept asking for different (big, expensive) toys which I was not willing to consider with Christmas a week away and his birthday three weeks after that. But then I saw a box of four wooden construction vehicle puzzles and I only debated for about thirty seconds before I picked it up and handed it to him. My family has always been really into puzzles and I'd love it if Nico turned out to be a puzzle kid. I gambled on the graphics piquing Nico's interest and it paid off big time.

We took the puzzles home and opened them and much to my delight, Nico decided they looked pretty cool and helped me assemble all four. He asked for them again tonight and did quite a bit of the assembly himself. I was impressed and thrilled with his concentration and his patience with them. I'm rather inordinately pleased with the puzzles, so I figured I'd do a review in case anyone else is looking for a gift for a construction-obsessed child (or just a kid who likes puzzles since the company makes them in other themes).

The brand is Shure, which I had never heard of, but the quality is right up there with Melissa and Doug, our go-to educational / wooden toy source. They're available on Amazon, but listed for $20 whereas I paid $10 for our set.

Things I love about the puzzles:

1. The art is really great - kid-friendly yet accurate and detailed enough so as to not be over-simple or cartoony.
2. At 24 pieces each, these seem to be just the right level of challenge for a mid-range toddler. (Nico will be three in January.) The pieces are sized well for little hands and fit together easily enough that Nico can assemble them himself once he gets the alignment right.
3. The pieces are all made of wood and the puzzle graphics seem well-adhered to the backing. I think if I let Nico try to take them apart he'd bend / crack the pegs, but I do that part for him right now anyway. He can work thick cardboard puzzles, too, but I feel like the wood will hold up great over time.
4. The pieces of each puzzle are marked on the back with a shape so you don't have to guess which puzzle each piece goes to if they get mixed up.

5. They came in a sturdy wooden storage box with a slide-on lid. I wish the box was a tiny bit deeper and that the dividers went all the way up to the lid, because the pieces will mix a little bit if the box gets tipped up on its side while closed, but this is a very small inconvenience.

The box was shrink-wrapped with a thick paper label thing that had pictures of the four puzzles and a helpful note that it might be a good idea to cut out and save the pictures to refer to later. I think I would've come up with this idea on my own, but I'm not sure and so it was appreciated. I cut the picture of the four puzzles out and laminated it, and I'm probably going to use super-sticky double stick tape to attach it to the box lid. This way we won't lose it and it'll help remind Nico what's inside the box. I also used a Sharpie to draw the shape in the corner of each picture that corresponds to the shape used to mark the puzzle pieces. This way I don't have to try to figure out which pieces go to which picture when Nico chooses which puzzle he wants to work.

Impulse buys are always a little risky, but I'm so glad I bought these. I predict we'll get a lot of use out of them!

DISCLOSURE: I purchased the product mentioned and received no compensation for writing this post. The words and opinions in this review are my own.