Pros: More challenging with 12 shapes, made of wood
Cons: Lid falls off too easily when cube is rotated
There are so many shape sorters out there, but few that offer 12 different shapes. Even better, this Melissa and Doug Shape Sorting Cube is made out of wood and feels much more like a classic children's toy, as compared to those plastic doodads.
The 4-Sided Cube
This is a wooden cube with 3 shape cut-outs per side, except for 2 sides which are solid: one at the very bottom and one at the back side of the cube. The top side lifts out, so one can remove the 12 shapes and start over again.
Of the 12 shapes, there are 3 each in one of 4 colors: green, yellow, blue, and red. The are some challenging ones, like a parallelogram (I think that's the correct name for a shape that looks like a rectangle but whose short sides are angled parallel to each other), an octagon, a pentagon, and some other shapes whose names I just don't know. The easy shapes include a square, triangle, rectangle, star, oval, and diamond.
While this is recommended for 2 years and up, I thought I'd try early with my daughter as she has already grown bored of her simple shape sorter (which just had star, circle, square, triangle, and rectangle).
My daughter needed some guidance at first, but quickly figured out most of the shapes. The hardest one is the parallelogram because it only fits in 1 way, while others can be flipped or rotated and still fit. My daughter also had some trouble differentiating the octagon and the six-sided shape because she would confuse the two similar shapes and try pushing the red six-sided shape into the octagon's slot (leaving some faint traces of red on the wooden shape slot's edges).
At first, I would rotate the cube for her and present the side with the correct shape, so she would only have to figure out which one of the 3 shapes was the correct slot (which she did rather easily). Then I started to let her figure it out herself, which meant rotating it herself to find the right one of the 12 shapes. Sometimes she didn't bother rotating but would just contort her body and slide in shapes sideways (rather than dropping it in from the top). Still, she seemed to prefer to flip the cube so that she could drop in the shapes.
However, it's hard to let her play with this entirely on her own because I have to hold the lid on for her. Otherwise, all the shapes already inside the cube come tumbling out.
Also, when rotating the cube, I can gently shake the shapes so they fall flat and allow room for additional shapes to be inserted. She hasn't yet figured that out yet, so this is not yet a good toy to use for independent play. In their defense, my daughter is below the recommended age so it may be that older children are better at keeping the lid on and knowing to shake it gently so that the shapes settle to the bottom.
I think Melissa and Doug could improve this cube by having some sort of hinge/clasp on the lid, so that it doesn't fall off when you rotate the cube to slide in slots on another side. Other than that, I think it's a solid toy to introduce more complex shape sorting to older toddlers!