Friday, August 28, 2009

Product Review: Melissa and Doug puzzles from All Children's Furniture

Our infant bibliophile hasn't given up on his love of books, but he also has a new obsession: puzzles.  We received a stack of hand-me-down wooden puzzles from his cousin last Easter, and he loves them.  So when All Children's Furniture asked us which items we might like to review for our blog, I went straight for the puzzle section.

I was really impressed by the company's website.  The store carries a fantastic range of kids products, and the site is really convenient to browse.  Prices seem very competitive, and each item even has a button to click on and let the company know if you've seen an item priced cheaper elsewhere.
Once our order was placed, we received an email confirmation, then shortly thereafter a message to let us know our item was shipped; our boxes arrived in lightening fast time.  A bonus for crafty moms: I don't know if this is specific to the items we ordered, but our boxes were filled with A LOT of brown packing paper.  I like that this is a little more environmentally friendly than bubble wrap and styrofoam peanuts, and we can use the paper for art crafts.

Here's what we got:

Melissa and Doug Upper and Lower Case Alphabet Puzzle: This is my favorite item we received.  I love this puzzle, and so does the little guy.  My son knows all of his capital letters, but I didn't teach him the lower case first, and sometimes I think he's a bit confused about the whole idea of lower case letters.  This puzzle has upper case and lower case letters next to each other, and beneath each letter, a painting of an appropriate item beginning with that letter.  So, I sit by him as we do the puzzle, and if he gets stuck on where something goes, I say, "that letter is A, it goes on the apple," and he hunts for the item.  Within ONE day, he is getting almost all of the letters by himself!  I think this puzzle will be fun for a long time, because I figure as he gets older we can put it together in combination with word games, like thinking of things to eat that begin with each letter as we place them on the puzzle.  My only pet peeve is that some of the letters that you would expect to be symmetrical -- H and X, for instance, only fit one way, so he often tries to put it in upside down and gets frustrated.  In general, though, the wood is really well sanded and of great quality.  This is my favorite Melissa and Doug puzzle so far, I think. 

Melissa and Doug Construction Site Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle: I knew he'd be ready for the alphabet puzzle above right away, and I knew he'd need a little more time before he was ready for the map puzzle reviewed below.  This construction site puzzle, which features a dump truck, cement mixer, crane, and bulldozer, was our middleground pick -- he can almost do it himself, but still needs a little help.  The base of the puzzle is wooden, like the alphabet puzzle above, but the pieces themselves are cardboard, like puzzles for older kids.  It's a great transitional puzzle for children ready to graduate from the heavy wooden puzzles but not quite ready for floor puzzles.  The quality is excellent, and he enjoys putting it together with help from mom or dad.

Melissa and Doug U.S. Map Floor Puzzle: This is a large, 51-piece floor puzzle (thick cardboard, not wood) featuring all of the U.S. states.  It is meant for children older than mine (21 months), but he enjoys trying to put together the harder ones - hunting for edge pieces, handing them to me, pressing them down when I put them in the right place - so I decided to get this as a puzzle I knew he would grow into.  We had a lot of fun putting it together, and mom realized that she has to revisit her geography studies before she has to start teaching him where all of the states are.  This is a wonderful learning tool and a fun puzzle.  While the edge pieces fit together with traditional puzzle shapes, the center states don't necessarily have the typical "circle fits in hole" style interlock.  I don't think that's a bad thing, though, as the pieces all fit together nicely.

Melissa and Doug Single Wire Storage Rack Unit:  A somewhat handy little contraption to slide the wooden puzzles into for safe (and neat) keeping.  It doesn't fit some of the puzzles we own (which I figured would probably be the case), and the ones it does fit have to be pressed in with a small amount of force -- too much for my son to use to put puzzles away himself, although he can take them out.  When you put a slightly too thick puzzle in the rack, it causes a little bit of give in the rest of the openings in the rack, which helps with the sliding problem.  We usually keep all of our puzzles in a large basket, and that works fine, although it is starting to overflow. I think I'd recommend forgoing this item and buying another puzzle instead.  Soon enough, we'll graduate from the wooden puzzles and the rack won't be very useful after that.

Thank you to All Children's Furniture for the opportunity to review these items, which will be used with great joy over the next few weeks and months.  I'm honestly very happy to have discovered the store, and my only problem now is how to stop myself from emptying my bank account on their amazing line of children's rugs.

Do your kids like puzzles too?  What are their favorites?  Want to buy us one of those large rugs?  (Hey, we tried).

Disclosure: We are not affiliated with All Children's Furniture.  We received the items reviewed in this post free of charge in exchange for this review, which reflects our honest opinion of the products.


MaryAnne said...

Those are some amazing rugs! I really like Melissa & Doug toys, we have a few that I've aquired through yard sales and they seem to hold up really well over time.

I agree that puzzle rack money is better spent on more puzzles. We keep our puzzles in one of those under-bed boxes (underneath Johnny's bed). I leave the lid off the box so the kids can easily slide it out like a drawer and get the puzzles they want.

Christy said...

M&D puzzles are great. WE have quite a few of them. WE have a cabinet for our puzzles. Puzzles that don't come in boxes, go in extra large ziploc bags.

Michelle said...

We love our Melissa and Doug puzzles too!!

Lisa said...

The Bug's favorite toy right now is a M&D puzzle, the one called Magnetic Hide and Seek Doors. He will play for a very long time (for him) before getting distracted.

I admit that the thing I make the Pirate learn is states- some people like to impress you with what their kid knows about ___fill in the blank___ my thing is states. We have at least 4 different states puzzles, and big pretty wall map for kids, and several placemats. I never tire of it and the Pirate will name states for a good while before becoming bored with me, I mean, it.

Henry said...

That looks great! Spacify offers wide range of Childrens Furniture.