Wednesday 13 March 2013

Our choice of games, puzzles and toys for learning

Learning using toys, games and puzzles is fun and generally the younger children don't realise that they have been learning. 

I wanted to highlight some of our favourites.

Foam bath letters
 These are some of the best, and cheapest, home education investments that we have made. Younger Son has learnt his letters using these whilst having his bath. It has been a painless and easy process. He is now asking for words.

Only word of warning: store these so the water drains out otherwise they are prone to mildew.

Ten green bottles game (Orchard Toys)
This teaches numerals and number correspondence up to ten. The fact that this game is fast to play also helps! The spotty dog game is not dissimilar but only uses numbers to six.

Pop to the shops (Orchard Toys)
Uses the concept of buying goods using play money and is helpful practice for using coins and identifying their value. I couldn't find a US/EU version of this game which uses UK pounds.
Giant Globetrotter game by Hazel Mill Games

This sends the players around a giant world map via different routes and in different transport. We've had this for years and used this over and over again.

We use puzzles for various reasons: the children do puzzles for fun; we have some that re-enforce concepts such as months of the year and some map puzzles. My husband recently pulled out an old puzzle of the British Isles which he and Younger Daughter have been tackling on and off.

Youngest daughter has been learning about knights and castles so we pulled out our castle puzzle for her and her little brother.

An old Usborne puzzle book of the world is loved by the children and brought out when we want to talk about a different country.


When we first started home education, Middle Son had a scrabble session at the end of the week as a reward for good work. Initially, I helped him until he started beating me! Now, Younger Daughter occasionally asks for Junior Scrabble. I wasn't keen at first due to the upper case letters and the fact the some of the words are distinctly irregular but now that she is a little older, I accept this as useful practice.


The younger children play with various toys. I often think that they get much better use out of their toys than their school educated older siblings did. Many of the toys lead to their own complex games.

Duplo, in addition, to its role in houses, farms, spaceships and so on, is also used as a maths manipulative and to model historical structures.

model of a ziggurat

Youngest Son loves construction and will spend ages using Duplo, building wooden train tracks and using a "new" acquisition-plastic Meccano. I remember this from my childhood but it doesn't seem to be made anymore. I was pleased to find some second hand and this is certainly getting a fair amount of use. The model here is of Youngest Son's own devising. The instructions, of which Youngest Son is rather fond, do show how to make some amazing models but the parts are such that he can just get on and make his own inventions. 

For other ideas on using puzzles, toys and games do look at the other blogs in this Schoolhouse Review Cruise blog hop.


  1. Some fun games here!! We have the old Scrabble game, too.

  2. Ah, if only all schooling could be done with games, puzzles, lego and play mobil! My closest friend is a school teacher and she always says if she could teach maths with just games she would have more success than with traditional methods!

    1. So true! I find that it is more difficult to find interesting maths games for older children although there must be some out there.