Puzzles & Games

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Everyone loves to challenge themselves with a puzzle – and babies and toddlers are no different. During the first week of the UK’s 2020 lockdown, games & puzzles was the biggest selling toy category, showing growth of a massive 240%.* Jigsaw puzzles were flying out of toy stores up and down the country, as retailers organised home deliveries while their shops were shut. Shape sorters are, of course, just jigsaw puzzles in 3D, designed to help little ones learn to recognise their shapes.

One of the best things about the Baby Brands Direct’s selection of shape sorters, puzzles & games is that they are all screen-free. They will appeal to any family that wants to get back to traditional values and encourage their children to get their brains into gear.

One of the most unusual puzzle toys in our selection is the Fisher-Price Hedgehog Ball. Shape or roll this cute character and he will reward you with puzzles that help preschoolers learn and keep active at the same time!

*NPD Group

Puzzles & Games

Why are shape sorters, puzzles and games so popular?

Parents gravitate towards toys that have an obvious educational benefit, and never more so than now. The great thing about shape sorters and puzzles in particular is that it is very easy to see the developmental benefits – little ones can learn shapes, learn to manipulate small objects, problem solve and work out problems. They also tap into the US Toy Association’s trend for 2020. “Kid Powered” toys are those where the power of play is put into kids’ hands.

The joy of games

Games, especially those designed to be played by children and adults, such as Pictionary and the 2019 sellout Christmas game Pictionary Air, tap into another trend identified by the US Toy Association – Generations of Play. These experts in toys and play believe there are some astounding benefits when different generations play together. Parents and grandparents are provided with the chance to reminisce about their own childhoods and enjoy play’s many benefits, too. According to mental health and wellness website Help Guide, playing helps us forget about the stress of work and adult life for a while, improves brain function, stimulates the mind and boosts creativity, improves your relationships and connectivity with others and keeps you feeling young. It sounds like more adults should certainly be playing games! Children who play games with adults also improve their language skills, as playing with adults introduces them to a wider vocabulary and exposes them to more mature ways of problem solving and cognitive skills.

Playing games teaches a number of useful social skills, from learning to wait your turn, to following the rules. Fun card games such as Uno can help maths skills, dexterity, and confidence. Board games can also help to improve ‘school’ skills without sitting at a table with a book. Reluctant readers might enjoy a game of Scrabble, which will be improving their vocabulary and spelling skills without them realising, while a game of Pictionary can boost confidence and encourages creative thinking while having fun. Shouting out the answers is good practice for a child who finds it hard to make their voice heard in class. Playing games can also help to lengthen the attention span – important for a generation used to instant gratification and the quick fix of YouTube and TikTok videos. Finally, they can encourage teamwork, a skill that is vital at school and in the work place.

Shape sorters for younger ones can aid development in a number of ways. They encourage motor skills, as little ones have to manipulate the shapes to go through the correct holes, improve hand-eye coordination, and sharpen problem-solving skills. They also teach cause and effect, help with counting, and identifying shapes and colours, and increase self-esteem, when they finally get the puzzle right. Once they have mastered the shapes, an older child can be challenged to finish the puzzle faster, so the puzzle grows as the child’s skills grow, so a simple shape sorter can last a child from the age of six months or so, right up to pre-school age. What a great-value toy! Puzzles challenge small children and help to exercise the mind. Completing puzzles can help develop visual spatial awareness, improve memory skills and encourage the identification of shapes, colours and themes. Puzzles can also help to teach other concepts – for instance Janod has a wonderful Magnetic World Map Puzzle that can help teach small ones about geography and different countries, as well as the I Learn The Alphabet and I learn to Count puzzles, which help with early literacy and maths skills.