We gave Taylor a game called Mighty Mind for Christmas. I found it at TJ Maxx. The box promised to keep “kids busy for hours” and to make them smarter. I knew that it couldn’t be all that fabulous, but for around 6 bucks, it seemed like a neat puzzle game for a kid. Basically, there is a set of plastic shapes – rectangles and half circles – that the player is supposed to lay on top of grayed out shapes to fill them. The gray shapes are on 16 cards, which get increasingly more difficult.
The Mighty Mind game – at least this version for ages 3-8 – was too easy for my 5 year old to play more than once. I found myself wishing that it at least had triangles in it to increase the difficulty.
I started researching the game online, seeing if I could buy an expander set. But then I realized that what I really wanted to give her were tangrams. And this Mighty Mind game was a very simplified version of tangrams.
So why spend money when tangrams aren’t that difficult to make? I found a piece of cardboard and some images of tangrams on Google, and pretty soon I had a decent cardboard play set.
There’s really no end to the puzzles you can solve with this simple set of shapes. Depending on how you play it, and the complexity of the shapes you attempt to build, tangrams can be a fun kids game, or a very challenging puzzle for adults.
Tangrams are much, much easier if you have a shape to lay them onto. That’s how I’ve played them on my iPhone. Then my sister bought a set that had the shapes drawn on cards, and you were supposed to lay the shapes out on the table to match, but not on top of the card. That’s apparently the “right” way to play them. It’s a lot harder! But if there’s a physical shape to lay the pieces on top of, it’s something a kindergartner can do.
Want to make your own? I’ve created a printable sheet for you. Click here to download it. Here’s what it will look like (but don’t print the image below – the downloadable pdf will print a lot better for you)
See how all of the pieces come from one square? Simply trying to get them back into that shape once they’re all scattered is quite a fun challenge for a kid.
Print out the page you downloaded onto heavy card stock. For a longer lasting set, trace the shapes onto something thicker, like mat board from the frame section of the craft shop. Once they’re cut apart, color or paint the shapes different colors. Be sure to color both sides, as you’ll be flipping them to solve various puzzles.
Next, it’s time to use your imagination. Grab some large index cards or card stock. I actually used 4×6 photo paper, but it’s a bit small and limits the shapes you can create. Then lay the tangram shapes out to create larger shapes. Once you have a fun shape, trace around the outer edges of it. Repeat until you have a set of game cards.
So far, I’ve left out the slanty rectangle (pardon me, I don’t know what it’s called). It does increase the difficulty of solving puzzles once it’s included.
Once your kids tire of the game cards you’ve created, you (or they) can simply draw more. Keep it all in a bag, and this simple game should help busy their minds on dreary winter days. Have fun!