Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Guidecraft 3D Feel & Find: Practice Making the Right Decision

If these went into an opaque sac, would you be able to discern which fits in each puzzle plate? In your first try?  If so, I want video proof.
DOES: children place their hands into an opaque sac to find and match 3D shapes to a single wooden puzzle plate; keyword: they must "feel" it to find it and no peeking!
INVEST: $18-30 (we saw it on Amazon today at around $18)
TOOLS:  Lose and Win Gracefully, Remember to Learn

Toy Fair coverage is pretty much over but I could never forget to include Guidecraft.  This toy above is one of the reasons why I created this website.

One day we met a preschool teacher who brought out this toy.  Number 2 was not yet three but he was very intrigued.  He loved playing with shape sorters or stackers.... if we could have purchased every shape puzzle in the world, we would have.

photo courtesy: Guidecraft

And then I saw Guidecraft's 3D Feel & Find and my eyes popped.  Why? Each plate only takes ONE shape.  The teacher would set a couple of shapes in front of my child and he would choose the shape and fit it into the puzzle.  It was just adorable.


She said she bought it at a teacher's supply store. That was years ago and at the time, I had never set foot in a teacher's supply store.   I'm not a teacher so why would I shop there?  I can buy workbooks at Staples.  What else could I possibly need from there?

We went to the store she mentioned and as soon as we walked in, I got very serious and told my husband to take the kids away because they were distracting me.  Sure there were textbooks, pencils, flashcards, dry-erase markers, posters featuring money, presidents, the world... etc..  but what do you see just as you walk in?

There are simple shapes too.

TOYS!!!!!!!!!  TOYS!!!!!!!!!   TOYS!!!!!!!!!

They were so beautiful and at that store, I found the 3D Feel and Find right in that front section.  On that day, I actually ended up getting just one (last one in the stockroom and wasn't even on the shelf) and giving it to my friend for her child's 2nd birthday.  Yes, I know it says 3+ on the box but that is the beauty of this toy.  You can do just about anything you want with it.

Some differences are more subtle than others

 You Can Make Up Your Own Game

We have had our own set for a while now and that is exactly what we do.  There are 20 shapes and 20 little puzzle plates that fit the shapes.  Depending on who is playing, we can lay all the shapes and plates out and just take turns making a match.  (That's actually good so your child can see which shapes there are).  We have also just gotten silly and just stacked them on top of each other.

We also play by what I suppose is the traditional way and just dump all the shapes in the sac.  Then I'd take out a plate and say, "Okay, go find it."  Obviously, it's harder when there are twenty in the sac. You can "deal" out the plates if you want to play it that way too. Number 2 practices shuffling with them.

Oh, by the way, there are some shapes that have only subtle differences.  You have to feel it and really look at the plate and then use a different sense to obtain the information you need to make the correct decision.  I would give the easier shapes to Number 2 and the shapes with more features to Number 1.

Believe it or not, I didn't realize just how significant that "feeling" aspect was until I literally put my hand in there and did it myself for the first time.  For a minute, I felt nervous.  Isn't that weird?  It's not because I thought I'd "lose" the game but putting my hand into the "unknown" and then making a commitment before I pull it out to reveal it?  Well that would mean that I have to make something I hate making: decisions.  I can make them but sometimes I really avoid this task.

Being Flexible and Seeing Things from Another Perspective

Being able to decide something is clearly a valuable trait especially if you are in an anxiety-producing situation.  Do they still list this skill in job ads anymore? ("Must work well under pressure")  Maybe.  Some of us don't like to make decisions. You can tell if you are this kind of person if you are constantly leaving yourself with options even if such non-decisions have a large cost in itself.  For example, I walk out of my house with multiple toys AND a Nintendo DS AND an iPad or an iPod Touch just for a trip to the doctor's office.  Sometimes, I don't use any of these things.  All I get is a backache and some minor self-loathing because I was a bag lady again.  I never truly decided what I wanted.

But this game, I really believe is so great for that kid who could use some practice in decision-making skills (hint: everyone).  When you see something so easy to match but then you must TOTALLY change the rules to reach the same goal, you might see a little frustration on the part of the child.  And in this case, I bet that is a good thing because you just found a way to help your kid practice being flexible and see things (or feel things) from a different perspective.   I think the kids who know shapes really well visually are very surprised themselves when they pull out shapes that have no business being pulled out.  And then you can do something else: LAUGH.  (hence the tool: Lose and Win Gracefully) Because it is funny that you couldn't do it even though, if you used your sense of sight, you could complete the game in a minute.

To me, decision-making means assessing your needs and then assessing what is indeed the right course of action.  I have often been so terrible at this.   In middle school science lab, I couldn't read a thermometer. I was so afraid.  I would make my lab partner read it for me and he/she would look at me like I was useless. But honestly, I could see just fine, I just couldn't decide what I was seeing.  You could say that I couldn't trust myself.  Maybe that was it.  Darn it, I wish I had time to ask an expert for all my reviews.  I could have gotten a mini-psychoanalysis!

I didn't get to post some of the snapshots I took yet from Guidecraft's booth at Toy Fair 2012 so here is one pic.  They are beautiful, aren't they?  I think this is not out yet. 
Oh to be a toy designer and have your art played with by little ones!  That must be a dream job! 

I hated that feeling of not being able to decide and if I have an inkling that my kids are feeling this way, then I will do what I can to help them overcome it.   Even with something so simple as a shapes feel and find puzzle, you can help them create some early memories of when they made great decisions despite the factors not being wholly clear.  I suppose that could be one criteria of what makes a great decision.  If everything was laid out for you, the decision wouldn't be "great," rather it would just be "easy."

Bottomline: this puzzle/game rocks.  When you get to the subtle differences, I really believe you are tapping into your working memory* to make sure you are getting the right pieces (hence the tool here is: Remember to Learn) Number 1 is 8 years old and despite it being listed for 3+, he still messes up.  

Look at this one for 18+ months.  Come on, why now?  Why not 3-4 years ago? Even though Toys are Tools focuses on ages 3-12, how can you not take a look at this toy?  Our family used to drill puzzles like this onto our wall - just like at a doctor's office.  It really facilitates exploration for those active little guys!

A memory game that I saw at the Toy Fair.  Can you imagine the possibilities? You could make it very sophisticated.  This product isn't new but I had never seen it before.  Love those cups.

Last minute tip: Want to make it harder?  Ask them to pull out something by color.   Also, if you purchase this for a little one, you need to know that it is good to have one hand holding the plate while the other hand is holding the 3D shape.  Otherwise it might slip if you are on a smooth surface.  Find a different surface if your child wants to be independent but doesn't want to use two hands. (but it's good to use two hands so they can practice!)

* Take a look at our series on working memory.  Click HERE.

Want it right now? Try the Toys are Tools' link below:

Disclosure statement: Toys are Tools has not been compensated in any fashion by the manufacturer or retailer of any of the mentioned products for the publication of this post. 


  1. I have spied a take off version of this at Oriental trading company for a long time and keep telling myself my kids don't "need" it, but I really *want* it. It is such a cool toy with so many applications. You described it so well.

  2. Its great to teach kinesthetic skills..like knowing when you put your hand into your pocket full of change, that you will get just the one quarter that you want. This too is a precursor for handwriting.