Being able to find associations between things is an important perceptual skill for pre-schoolers to develop. Associations involve thinking, problem solving and matching while also increasing a child’s vocabulary. Children learn to connect the dots between things.

The Smart Play range of durable, wooden two-piece, interlocking and self-correcting puzzles touches on a wide variety of approved topics within the early learning curriculum. They also have great instructions which contain lots of fun extension activities you might never have thought of. See the video here or scroll down to the bottom of this blog.

About the range

Colour Fun is about colour matching. Extend this activity with the memory game where you turn pieces upside down and shuffle them.  Players take turns to find a match. If they don’t succeed they turn the pieces back over where they found them and play moves on to the next player. Start with a handful of pairs to begin with, eventually building up to using all the pairs in the box.

Who is my mother? is about matching baby animals to their mothers such as cow and calf, sheep and lamb. Play the game Who am I? as an extension activity. One player chooses a picture such as a duck without showing it to the other players. The players now ask questions trying to guess what it is.  Can it swim? Does it sleep in a basket?  It? Does it have feathers? Etc. The person who guesses correctly wins the card.

Associations Match It is about matching common objects eg. Clouds bring rain, we put toothpaste on a toothbrush. The idea is to engage your child in discussion encouraging them to come up with alternative associations such as how the toothbrush and dust pan brush are both brushes and fish and milk are both things we eat. Extend the learning by playing the Clue Spy Game. A player chooses a picture card and provides clues such as, I come from a cow and you drink me. What am I?

Count to Ten is about number recognition and matching number to quantities of objects. Young children need to touch objects to understand quantity. Then they can then show you how many fingers make up the number or get them to clap for the number of objects that they see. This is concrete learning that creates understanding.

Count to Ten also comes with a number train puzzle that teaches sequencing – or getting numbers in their correct order.

Alpha Match teaches children to recognise letters of the alphabet, learn their sounds and match them to objects that start with that sound. Eg. A for apple, b for ball. In the preschool years we do not say A B C we work with phonetic sounds so the alphabet sounds completely different. Extend the learning by playing Alphabet Race – place all pieces face up on the table and all players race to match as many pairs together as they can. The player with the most pairs at the end of the game is the winner.

Smart Play’s two-piece wooden association puzzles are packed with fun and learning that will help to get your child school ready!

 What your child will learn

  • Matching skills (shapes, associations, numbers, letters)
  • Eye-hand co-ordination and fine motor-control (when putting the puzzle pieces together)
  • Spatial planning (how to manipulate shapes to fit the right space)
  • Focus and concentration
  • Task completion (either use a few two-piece puzzles for the younger child, or all of the two-piece puzzles for an older child)
  • Problem solving skills are being strengthened in this matching exercise (both visual and verbal eg. discussing how the spider and spiderweb are related)
  • Counting skills in Count to 10
  • Sequencing in Count to 10 and Alpha Match
  • Letter recognition in Alpha Match
  • Learning first letters/beginning letters of words

Smart Play’s two-piece association puzzles were reviewed by Nikki Bush.

Age category:              3 years and up and Alpha Match from 6 years and up

Price:                             Approx.  R59 per set

Brand:                           Smart Play

Distributor:                  RGS Group

Retail outlets:             Westpack and Makro