- User Rating: Excellent
Pros:Sturdy, creative, wooden, smart, helps children learn a lot of skills...
Cons:Pieces end up everywhere despite good organization system...
The Bottom Line: Looking for an educational but fun toy for your toddler? Melissa & Doug's Beginner Pattern Blocks may be the right choice.
I'd like to think my son is a creative, intelligent thinker. Of course he is only 22 months old so that really remains to be seen. I do want to nurture his problem solving skills so the fact that he so enjoys puzzles is helpful. He's got a variety (over 10) Melissa & Doug simple wooden puzzles. All but one have held up beautifully. One puzzle set that sets itself apart from the rest is this Beginner Pattern Blocks box.
As with all Melissa & Doug puzzles, the concept is simple. Simple is good and refreshing in this case. A 11" x 11" x 3" wooden box holds five double-sided boards. Each board has one painted subject on each side. There are a total of ten patterns. Each pattern puzzle requires between two and about five pieces to complete. The concept is that children must pick the proper shape to fit into the proper position. Images include a fish, flowers, dog, fire truck, butterfly, bird, kite, train engine, house, and boat. In addition to the boards there are plenty of shapes - 30 total - to fill the pattern puzzles.
Zack received this gift for Christmas from a friend and immediately understood the concept. He tends to get frustrated if he has to flip puzzle pieces around, so imagine my surprise when he was able to complete each of the puzzles in a few minutes. The manufacturer rates the toy for children over two years old, but clearly it is suitable for younger kids too. Zack easily picks up the proper shape (a yellow triangle, a blue square, a purple circle, a green oval, or a red rectangle). He does sometimes get his squares and rectangles mixed up but because the colors are so different it isn't such an issue as it is with other toys. The Beginner Pattern Blocks also facilitate educational play. I sit with my son and ask him to choose the red rectangle or yellow triangle. While he doesn't yet know shape names he is learning colors and this kind of play can only help. It also helps hand-eye coordination, problem solving skills, mathematical skills, planning, and shape recognition.
As for the construction, I am pleased. Melissa & Doug have a reputation for manufacturing high quality educational toys. They are also wood. In this case, the box is raw sanded wood while the pieces and pattern boards are all painted wood. All the pieces have an appropriate location and can be put away with ease (and occasionally a little help from Zack). My one qualm is that the pieces end up everywhere but this is more a reflection of my toddler than the toy itself. I also appreciate that the Beginner Pattern Blocks box stacks nicely only the shelf. This is a high-quality toy in every sense of the phrase.
Melissa & Doug's Beginner Pattern Blocks cost just under $20. I've never seen them in stores, but I assume that retailers who specialize in the toy line would have it available for purchase. I don't think this is my favorite toy from the company, but it is still very excellent. Parents with older children are advised to check out the more detailed Melissa & Doug Pattern Blocks and Boards set. This is a highly recommended and "smart" toy.
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Amount Paid (US$): 19.99
Type of Toy: Educational
Age Range of Child: 12 to 36 Months