Thursday, July 5, 2012

Review and Giveaway: Felt Mosaics: How Art Can Build Brains

Beautiful design can be as simple as shifting triangles.   photo: eeBoo

WHAT: Felt Mosaic by eeBoo
DOES:  provides multiple opportunities to learn about different elements of design; high-quality felt has magical powers; allow for practice of abstract thinking
TOOLS: Express Yourself, Think Like a Scientist/Engineer
EXPERT OPINION: Petra Pankow, Museum Arts Educator, MoMA, Guggenheim, & Museum of Art and Design
Giveaway Details Below

I remember seeing this box at the Toy Fair.  I mistakenly thought it was a puzzle.  A puzzle made out of felt? How is that fun?  But then I felt the box.  It was fuzzy and light in weight.  And then I really felt the felt pieces, each of them made of stiff high quality wool and dyed in wondrously rich colors and then I understood the quiet power that this box contained.

Inside this box are many teachers teaching children about what shapes can do.   After one session, they'll walk away knowing that it can do a lot.   There are 100 images to be copied by using felt pieces on a flocked board (surface is a texture that makes the felt stay put).  By copying the images, it is hoped that the children will learn ten different important concepts including: Perspective, Representational Imagery, Negative Space, and Color and Translucency.

These cards teach all sorts of lessons including representation, light, patterns, illusion- all with just simple triangles.  Brilliant!  photo: eeBoo

Thinking About Fractions Through Art?

Petra Pankow, an arts educator who teaches in globally-recognized museums such as the Museum of Modern Art , the Guggenheim, and the Museum of Art and Design, honored Toys are Tools with yet another interview.    Petra felt that the concepts presented in Felt Mosaic was taught well.   She remarked how all the images were made of triangles. There are no circles, diamonds, or squares.

None of these images are hard to copy except for maybe this one.  I spent 15 minutes on it.   This one had a tangrams-style puzzle feel to it. 

Petra said that geometric shapes are made up of other geometric shapes.  "It’s really kind of taking the smallest common denominator in the form of a triangle." Petra felt that skills were definitely being worked on here, "It's almost of kind of like you see a little bit of the key to the world and you, in a way, often go backwards and you can look at the cube, Oh, this is made out of these triangles oriented in this direction in one color and another direction in another color and so that is definitely present there."

Wow, it's kind of amazing but I feel like the kids are learning a lot of math here.  There are many patterns cards in this box.  And to be able to think in patterns and play with patterns WITH YOUR HANDS and with excellent material is an awesome way to execute hands-on math learning.  

This is a simple design.
This is a more complex design that has been built on top of design above.   These are all  just triangles! 

Abstract Thinking Through Triangles

There are also figures on the image cards.  Petra said they were a little bit more abstract.  This might be harder for children to understand initially.  "A thing that should be gleaned from that is that they do somehow get a sense for the world being made up out of different elements or components," said Petra.  "Once they get that concept, they can use that.  If they want to draw a house, then they know that  they can use a triangle for the roof and a rectangle for the chimney."

Another important thing that Petra mentioned is that triangles teach us about movement.  Wow!  I never thought this way.  My kid is a huge mover!  I love bringing this to him.  I think kids who can draw movement are happier kids.  I honestly think my kid's first word was "GO."   According to Petra, we could teach our children that if you angled a triangle in a certain way, the figure is standing. But if you moved the triangle a little bit, then they figure is running and if you move it again, the figure could be dancing.

Number 5 showed this to her friend and the two of them started making their designs together, taking turns to use the flocked board. 

High-Quality Felt is Great For Boys and Girls of All Ages

While you can see felt in other eeBoo products, it would be hard to find it anywhere else.  Good felt doesn't seem to be so prevalent anymore.  I don't think my kids have actually touched real felt until they opened this Felt Mosaic box.  "I have a huge thing for felt," Petra told me. "It’s nice to have something with an organic feel .  It’s nice to have a different surface that is not smooth but not cold, maybe a little bit warmer."  

Cameras do not do justice to these colors.  They are really beautiful. 

And warmer, it definitely is, Number 5, whose family is an avid lover of eeBoo products has definitely felt real felt before and it was no surprise that she and her friend loved replicating the design cards.   Her mom couldn't get her to stop playing with it when she tried it that first day.

Find Calm in a Box

But what about boys and even grown-ups?   Number 1 and 2's grandmother loved Felt Mosaics.  I noticed her mood change as we were on a road trip.  Recently retired, she is a bit antsy these days.  I handed her the Felt Mosaics and saw her need-to-be-busy-anxiety fade away.   Thus now, I like to play with Felt Mosaics when I get the chance.  I think it is kind of lovely to do with another person and I wish there were four flocked boards in the box!

As for my son, he told me that he did not think that Felt Mosaics was only for girls and he is the kind of kid that now says, "Ew, that's for girls!"   However, he likes designing very much and the greatest part about Felt Mosaics is how easy it is to make your own designs.  The board is a square shape and you basically lay the felt there as you like it and easily shift the pieces around when you need to move them.  Until you move them, the pieces stay in place and that prevents frustration.  Once, while on a family trip, it was slightly tricky but my mother actually managed to do about 30 image cards in a moving car without losing any pieces! 

Number 5 is the coolest!  She made a transformer.  How awesome is she? 

All in all, I have to say that this is a very fine learning kit.  I have seen shapes kits before but I love how thoughtful this kit is presented.  It doesn't cost much but when you touch it, you feel like you have something precious in your hands.  The product itself is very bold.  It is beauty, inspiration, and calm - all in one gorgeous box.  I originally got this for my son but Number 5 loved it so much, what can you do?  How can you take this away from her after she made this Transformer?  It's simply marvelous!

Now it's time to win your own!  Winning prizes can only be shipped to the U.S., so sorry to Canada, you are always on my mind!  I will keep trying for you!  Giveaway ends 7/20/12

Can't Wait to See Who Won?  Buy it now through my Amazon link:

In case you're wondering.... Toys are Tools is not compensated in any fashion by the manufacturer of the toy that is being reviewed.  To facilitate the review, both the reviewer and the expert were given the product by the company.  Reviews are never promised.


  1. those look really cool! I always loved Tangrams as a child.

  2. The question is: HAVE I ever bought felt for my son? He has a felt Jungle Book play board that my mom bought him (probably too young for him now). Not sure that I ever bought him felt!

  3. I love this idea! Can see it entertaining all 3 of my kids.

  4. i used felt for crafts all the time as a kid. i have not bought any yet for my child -he's still a baby- but i certainly will when the time comes.

  5. I bought felt for the kids about a year ago, but that is not to say we have not used it more often than that. I keep meaning to amke them a gian felt board, but int he emantime, we use a small one we have.

  6. I bought felt for the kids about a year ago, but that is not to say we have not used it more often than that. I keep meaning to make them a gian felt board, but int he emantime, we use a small one we have.

  7. I had a chance to play with the felt mosaic, and I have to say, I fell absolutely in love. I found it relaxing and extremely fun because some of the mosaics require an amount of time to figure out and make! It is challenging!