This week I visited the Toy Fair 2012 within the Grand Hall at Olympia, which is the only dedicated toy, game and hobby exhibition in the UK. Needless to say, it was a lot of fun!
I have come away with a wealth of product news and toy trends to share with you over coming weeks and months, but one product that I am able to talk about now is a lovely new range of phonics puzzles.
We have been testing the ‘My First Phonics Sound Puzzle’, which is beautifully crafted in solid wood. The concept was developed by Mum-of-three, Farzana Rahman, who spotted a genuine gap in the market for educational, phonics puzzles designed for the pre-school age range. Children who learn to read using synthetic phonics, are taught to decode words by breaking them down into individual sounds. Most schools use phonic methods to teach children to read.
The puzzle is extremely multi-functional and has been so well thought out. Each alphabet piece is nice and chunky, and decorated with sensory, glittery paint, which of course Little I was drawn to immediately. The holes within the puzzle are light-sensitive, and so when they are covered with a piece, it triggers a pure phonic sound of the letter, which relates to an object/animal beginning with that sound and a related fun sound effect. The sound quality is crisp and clear, and so perfect for a child to learn from and imitate.
Yesterday I shared with you how Little I is becoming increasingly fascinated with ‘mark making’ and emergent writing, and this phonics puzzle is encouraging that interest in an informal and engaging way. So far it has been absorbing her attention for very long stretches of time as it is clearly meeting a development craving, while also satisfying her love of puzzles. Her face literally lights up every time the puzzle makes a sound. I asked her what she liked best about it, and without any hesitation she replied the ‘music’ piece, which is in the shape of a music notation, and when fitted into the puzzle sings the phonetic ‘abc’ song.
At a later stage, the puzzle pieces can be taken out of the puzzle and used to spell short words. Additionally, each puzzle piece is designed to help with letter formation – children can trace the textured glitter letters, starting at the dot and moving in the direction of the arrow given.
One small drawback of the puzzle is that because the pieces are light-sensitive, the sound is activated by any puzzle piece, regardless of whether it is the correct letter or not. But since the puzzle is recommended for 3+, I am sure the child will be able to see whether the piece fits the shape correctly or not, to know whether they have got the puzzle element right.
The puzzle retails at £19, and further information is available from the ‘desi doll’ website. If you happen to be at the Toy Fair today, they are at stand GH17.