Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Puzzles Help to Make Learning Fun


(MS) - More than ever before, kids today seem to have the world at their fingertips. Over the last decade, innovations such as the Internet, On Demand programming and DVDs have become an integral part of everyday life for kids across the country.

For parents and teachers, finding something to compete with such technologies is no small task. As any parent or teacher knows, not everything on TV or the Internet is beneficial to kids, making it imperative that parents and teachers find valuable alternatives that will both keep kids' attention while encouraging their mental growth as well.

Such was the dilemma faced by Jill Stiger, an elementary school teacher in Michigan. Knowing full well her students were faced with the daily distractions of the Internet and television, Stiger sought out a fun and challenging alternative that her students could enjoy and learn from.

Fortunately, Stiger soon discovered Scramble Squares®, a 12-by-12 inch puzzle made of nine 4-by-4 inch square pieces that might seem as though it's easy to solve, but as anyone who has tried it can attest, is much more than meets the eye. For Stiger's students, the puzzles were an instant hit.

"I am always looking for meaningful activities for children who finish their work early," says Stiger. "So I put out the Scramble Squares® puzzle which I found several years ago in a local gift shop. When the first student solved it, I took her picture and posted it on my Web site. And that's all it took!"

Stiger's students quickly took to the puzzles, which are designed to keep participants occupied, and often take long periods of time to solve. The very essence of a brain teaser, the puzzles leave most players, adults and children alike, spending hours twisting and turning pieces that deceptively look similar in pattern, oftentimes only to find they need to begin anew.

The Scramble Squares® line of puzzles feature over 120 exquisite styles of original art on nature, sports, history and the new "American Cultural Diversity" series. With "Irish Heritage," the first puzzle in the new series, kids can learn about one of the many groups that contributed to making America what it is today. Each puzzle package includes an interpretive panel of fascinating facts on the the subject of the puzzle, as well as a trivia question and hidden answer. Those extra features, Stiger has found, have proven especially valuable when putting together a lesson plan.

"I put out a new puzzle or two as it relates to what we are learning about," Stiger says. "The children love to solve them, especially when their parents can't!"

According to childhood development specialist Stevanne Auerbach, that supplementary material, coupled with the puzzle's difficulty, is one of the things that makes Scramble Squares® puzzles such a valuable learning tool.

"Parents must plan, prepare and shop ahead for their children's leisure time," says Auerbach, who's also known as "Dr. Toy." "These great products will help all parents and teachers to overcome the challenge of finding innovative, fun and interesting things for their kids and students to do."

Packaged in a heavy-duty resealable see-through vinyl pouch, Scramble Squares® puzzles can work well both in the classroom and at home. For more information or to find your nearest retailer, visit www.b-dazzle.com.

CAPTION: With their completed puzzle in tow, these Michigan students found Scramble Squares® to be both challenging and fun.



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