Creative expression, learning, and focusing are some of the most important activities which children should be encouraged to do from an early age. Driven by this idea, Elizabeth Carpenter has published several oversized books, which give kids the opportunity to solve beautifully drawn line mazes, color them, and learn interesting trivia all at once. The Mummy Mazes Monumental Book contains 28 poster-size mazes based on Ancient Egypt themes, along with explanations about each of the included objects. The Dino Mazes Colossal Fossil Book contains 31 poster-size mazes, depicting various dinosaurs, accompanied by descriptions and quick facts about them. Recently, Elizabeth also published a Mandala Mazes book, which can be popular among older people looking for fun, relaxing activities as well. In terms of difficulty, the Dino and the Mummy mazes seem to fall on the easier side, while the Mandala mazes are a bit more challenging. After being completed, the mazes can be detached and used as posters, even though we think they look best organized together. All three books offer great quality and we would highly recommend them to any maze enthusiast.
Kaleidoscope is a new puzzle by ThinkFun based on the concept of color mixing. It comes in a small box which contains 6 transparent tiles and 40 challenge cards, split into 4 difficulties. The tiles have beautiful snowflake design and are colored in yellow, blue, and red. By placing them on top of each other, you can create three additional colors - green, purple, and orange. The goal is by overlapping 2 or 3 of the tiles, to reproduce each of the 40 patterns depicted on the cards. Even though most of the challenges are on the easier side, they still provide a good mental exercise and are lots of fun to solve. The best feature of Kaleidoscope is the way it masterfully combines attractive design and interesting gameplay. It is also very compact, which makes it easy to store and carry around. Considering its low price, I find the puzzle to be of great value. Highly recommended!
Moving Room is one of the easier disassembly wooden puzzles offered by Siam Mandalay. It consists of three pieces which must be arranged into a cube frame. Moving Room has the usual high quality of all products made by Siam Mandalay, featuring well-polished hardwood and a stylish engraved logo. Just like the previously reviewed Hoopla Cube, Moving Room's pieces are a bit thinner than optimal, which slightly compromises their fit. However, this does not create any unintended solutions and therefore does not impact the solving experience. I enjoyed a lot this product and think that it is a great introductory puzzle for people interested in this type of toys. It is highly recommended, especially for children and for beginners!
Cat Crimes is a logic game by ThinkFun inspired by classic deduction puzzles. It consists of 40 challenges split in four difficulty groups. Each challenge presents the player with a cat crime which they must solve. One of six items on a carpet has been ruined, and several clues written on a card point towards the cat which is responsible. The player must analyze each of the clues, as well as the models of the cats and the carpet (included in the box), and find the perpetrator. Even though the puzzles can be completed just as easily with pen and paper only, the inclusion of cardboard models makes the solving process much more fun. The beautiful artwork of the set and the sturdy cardboard additionally improve the experience. In terms of pure logic, the puzzles are best suited for students in primary and middle schools, but older people can enjoy them as well. Overall, Cat Crimes is a wonderful twist on a traditional type of puzzle, which I highly recommend.
Gravity Maze is one of the most famous and accoladed products by Thinkfun. The premise of this unique puzzle/game is to create a 3D structure of blocks and tunnels which allows a small marble to travel the distance between a designated start and end points. Gravity Maze comes in a large box and includes a plastic 5x5 grid, 11 colorful blocks of varying sizes, 3 marbles, and 60 challenge cards. The blocks are composed of small cubes and contain short tunnels passing through them. They can be placed on the grid either horizontally or vertically, and can also fit each other, just like LEGO blocks. This allows the solver to design an extended system of tunnels, essentially creating a maze for the marbles to travel through. The challenge cards are split into 5 groups by difficulty, ranging from simple beginner puzzles (involving just a few blocks) to expert puzzles (involving up to ten blocks). Solving each of the puzzles requires careful analysis of the given pieces and all the possible ways in which they can be combined. When the structure is completed, the solver must drop a marble into one of the pieces and watch it find its way to the destination. Testing the final solution is arguably the best part of the puzzles, and it is probably what makes Gravity Maze such a fun game. Even though the recommended age is 8 years and up, many of my academic friends enjoyed spending time with it as well. I am sure that middle and high schoolers will like it even more.
Hoopla Cube is one of the many wooden puzzles offered by Siam Mandalay. It consists of 3 pieces which need to be maneuvered around each other until they create a cubic shape. The task requires strong imagination, focus, and patience. In order to get a sense of what to expect from this type of puzzles, you can try the online game Interlocked. However, no video game can replicate the experience from solving a puzzle toy in real life, especially when it is well made. Siam Mandalay’s products in particular seem to offer very high quality. The wood is well-polished and pleasant to touch. There is a subtle logo of the company, engraved on one of the pieces, which enhances the look of the toy. One major remark which I have is related to the fit of the pieces. I feel that the space between some of them is a millimeter or two larger than optimal. This allows the pieces to jiggle around and makes it possible to solve the puzzle in unintended ways*. However, despite this flow, Hoopla Cube is still an entertaining and challenging puzzle. Its cost is a bit higher than the cost of comparable products from other manufacturers, but for me the premium look and feel justify the price difference.
* - This puzzle is meant to be solved using only horizontal and vertical moves, i.e. without rotating the pieces.
Follow Finn is a large format, hardcover activity book, targeted towards very young children. The story follows the adventures of Finn who travels through a world of various mystical places with his companion dog Sep. Each illustration is drawn in a specific color theme - purple, red, blue, etc., and filled with intricate details. There are two basic tasks for the child to complete on every page - go through a maze which is incorporated into the picture and/or find several hidden objects in it. To get an idea of the overall difficulty of the tasks, you can see one of the mazes in our Casual Puzzles section. If your child likes this book, we also recommend you to check Peter Goes' other bestseller "Timeline", which has both a regular and an activity book edition. We personally love all of them and think they are great reads for children in pre-school and primary school.
Usually, mazes are split into two categories - easy, colorful, targeted towards younger children, and complex, with little to no art, targeted towards older people. In that case, what do you do when you have a gifted child which enjoys cute art but also is looking for some real challenge? Well, you could introduce them to Joe Wos' popular MazeToons series which the artist regularly updates on his website. After receiving lots of recognition and accolades for his work over the years, Joe finally decided to publish some books, starting with "A-maze-ing Animals" and "Myths and Monsters". Both books are medium size, have high-quality paper, and vibrant colors. Each of them includes 50 mazes sorted in increasing difficulty with solutions provided at the end. We like them so much, we even asked the artist to create one special maze for Puzzle Prime which you can find in our Casual Puzzles section. Joe Wos' books are highly recommended, especially for kids in primary and middle school.