Work What You’ve Got: Clunky Wooden Puzzles


I’m starting a series of posts on how to add value back to the toys, activities, and props that we’ve all come to take for granted. If you have children in your life, chances are that you have some old standbys lying around, and if you’re anything like the librarians, teachers, and parents I know, you’d rather use what you have than spend more money and take up more storage space with new items.

Allow me to demonstrate.

This Christmas, a well-meaning relative gifted some puzzles to my library, and being that our library system as a whole is not lacking in these chunky, wooden puzzles, I was a little underwhelmed.

farm puzzle

I have a very real lack of storage space at my library, so I decided that I needed to find a use for these puzzles. I swapped out older ones and placed others near the adult computers as boredom busters for little ones, but it wasn’t too long before I got an idea to use the farm set for an early literacy station.

I thought, “Lots of parents have these. Why don’t I extend this simple activity into a rich, early literacy experience?”

So a teammate and I got cracking on making it into a full-fledged station. Here’s what we came up with.

farm match

At the end of our picture books aisles, you’ll find this display. The photos are attached to a picture frame (the size of a poster board) by velcro and can be flipped over to reveal which puzzle piece goes with the photos.

This activity begs for conversation that will help children gain practical knowledge about where food comes from, where animals live, what baby animals are called, and more. Meaningful conversation between adults and little ones will almost always include new and diverse vocabulary. Can you imagine a dad explaining to his toddler how a horse’s hooves need to be cleaned? Or that some chickens lay white eggs and others lay brown?

So take those puzzle pieces out of their boxes or shapes and re-use them for play!

Have you beefed up any of your standbys in your library, center, or home?

2 thoughts on “Work What You’ve Got: Clunky Wooden Puzzles

  1. Oh, I love this idea! I have some peg puzzles that are no longer complete and I’ve been putting magnets on the back of the pieces so they become play things on our magnet board, but this is taking it to the next level. I will definitely be borrowing this idea! 🙂

  2. Pingback: The Coolest Thing I Saw on the Internet this Valentine’s Day | Storytime Underground

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