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TOYplay Tips: Sea Life Jigsaw Puzzles In a Box

In lieu of letting my daughter watch a show while I was folding clothes one morning, I pulled out Melissa & Doug’s Sea Life Jigsaw Puzzles In a Box. She loves dolphins, so the dolphin puzzle immediately caught her interest and she was excited to get started.

There are four puzzles total, each contain 12 pieces. What makes these puzzles a little more challenging are the details – the images are very bright, colorful, and sometimes the colors and details blend together.

She was able to put the dolphin puzzle back together pretty quickly. Then she moved onto the shark puzzle. This one was a little more difficult because there were not a lot of contrasting colors, so she had to pay closer attention to the details. This puzzle took her a little longer, and she became a little frustrated at times. As a parent, my instinct (when I noticed her getting frustrated) was to step in and give her a hint or help her. But, I went against my instincts and did not interfere. I was thrilled to see her figure it out all on her own without my assistance!

While putting the puzzle pieces together, she noticed the difference in the shade of the water. The lighter water was on top and the darker water was on the bottom. This opened up the door for a great teaching opportunity, so I asked her why she thought the water was darker on the bottom. She thought about it, and her conclusion was, “that’s where the fish live.” I confirmed her answer that some fish do live at the bottom and then I explained that the water on the bottom of the ocean is dark because the sunlight can’t reach that deep into the ocean. Just asking simple questions and seeing what kind of answers she came up with was a fun activity!

There are many conversations we could have had about the sea life in each of these four puzzles – I look forward to doing it with her again. Maybe next time we’ll talk more about the dolphins and why they need to come up to the surface for air!

Developmental areas: Spatial reasoning, critical thinking skills, motor development.

Recommended ages: 3-5 years

Play time: 20-30 minutes

Extension activities:

1. Go to the library and find books about sea life – specifically dolphins, sharks, sea horses, and tropical fish.

2. Make up a story using the sea animals in each puzzle. Write it down and draw pictures to illustrate the story.

Tested and review written by:

Shannon McAfee (Founder/Owner of TOYconomy), 3-year-old daughter


Fun With Playdough!

If you’re ever looking for a fun indoor activity with your kids, try making your own playdough! This is a great activity that touches on so many different developmental areas – science, math, fine motor development, and creativity.

This playdough recipe is so easy to make, and it smells much better than the traditional playdough because you’re using Kool-Aid. I was nervous at first because I thought our hands would be stained the same color as the Kool-Aid, but I was pleasantly surprised about how easy it washed off. I would recommend wearing an apron, especially for the kids. The quality of this play dough is also wonderful.

If you try this recipe, we’d love to see what kind of creations you make! Feel free to send pictures to info@toyconomy.com.

Enjoy your play time!

Playdough Recipe

Mix in a bowl:

2 ½ cups flour

2 pkgs. Kool-Aid

1 TB cream of tartar or alum

Heat in microwave for 3 minutes:

1 ½ cups water

Add water to flour mixture along with:

3 TBS. oil

Mix, knead well and store in a plastic bag or Tupperware. If your playdough is too sticky just put the playdough in the microwave for 1 minute at a time. Then knead it when it comes out. Eventually, it will pull from the bowl and be really great playdough. The alum or cream of tartar keeps this playdough from spoiling or getting too sticky. Store in the refrigerator if you aren’t going to use it again right away.

About TOYconomy

TOYconomy is an award-winning toy rental service for kids of all ages. Our mission is to help families maximize play time with their kids! Play more to bond, teach, communicate, and build relationships.


TOYplay Tip: Crosswise by Mindware

Friday night is the perfect time for family game night. This past week we decided to try out a new game called Crosswise. The box says that “Crosswise is the game that has players thinking in all different directions.”

Thinking in different directions is exactly what it did. Crosswise is a fast paced game that uses a mixture of shape tiles and action tiles to create high-scoring color combinations in horizontal or vertical rows. You must think ahead as every tile that you play might score points for the other team. My kids picked the concept up very quickly, however my husband was a bit frustrated, in the beginning, as you definitely have to remember which axis your team is playing on (horizontal or vertical).

As the game progressed, we were able to invent new strategies to win. It was fun to see new ideas develop, and hear a little table talk, as every move can take your team in an entirely new direction. Different combinations of multiple shapes can earn you points, but watch out as your opponent might play an action tile which lets them move tiles around the board unexpectedly. Crosswise only takes about 20 minutes to play, which is great, as the attention span of my younger children is often short.

There are 6 different colored shape tiles, so the next day I used them with my 5-year-old for patterning and sequencing exercises.

This game is perfect for 2 – 4 players and leaves everyone thinking about their opponent’s strategy.

Developmental areas: Strategic thinking, patterning, sequencing.

Recommended ages: 4 and up

Playing Time per Game: Less than 20 minutes

Extension Activities: use the game pieces to work on patterning and sequencing skills

Tested and review written by:

Jeanne Brooksbank, and 5, 8 and 11-year-old children