While searching for ways to help my engineering students develop some desperately needed problem-solving stamina and spatial reasoning, I came across these wonderful puzzles that are in color – and provide solutions. (Did I mention I need to practice my spatial reasoning, too?) I gave them the TED Ed River Crossing Riddle last week, and I thought I was about to have a full-on mutiny on my hands when I wouldn’t reveal the answer right away, so I thought I would try some less complex challenges for the next few weeks 🙂
A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season. I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December. These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child. For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page.
Dog Pile might be a good stocking stuffer for kids 8 and up. Though the box recommends it for 10+, there is no reading needed (except for the instructions). It’s a good game to promote growth mindset and spatial reasoning. Responsibility is another attribute you may need to cultivate, so none of the small plastic dog pieces get lost 😉
The multi-colored dogs included are in a variety of shapes. Challenge cards are included with scaffolded puzzles from Beginner to Expert. Each card has a region that must be filled by the dogs suggested on the card. When placed properly, the dogs will fill the area of the shape without going outside the lines.
Dog Pile is one of the games I like to say belongs in the, “Solitaire Games Best Played with a Partner.” My daughter and I take turns on the challenges for games like this. In my classroom, students usually work in pairs or small groups on games of this category (like Rover Control). Conversing about the puzzles seems to help, and kids tend to persevere more. It’s also important to keep them on the challenge “continuum.” Children often try the first couple of puzzles, think those are too easy, and then skip to the Expert challenges. When the Expert level frustrates them, they sometimes declare the game is “no fun.” Encourage them not to skip levels, as each one slowly introduces new difficulties that will prepare them for more complex puzzles later on. If playing this at home, you will find that games like this have a lot more “staying power” when adults join in and model good problem solving skills.
You can watch the video below for a quick explanation of the game.
Oh, and if your household prefers cats, there is a feline version of the game here!
Some of the tests that students can take in their quest to qualify for gifted services require spatial reasoning. I am frequently astounded by the performance of some students on these tests as they whip through the pages at lightning speed, ending up with nearly perfect scores. Spatial reasoning has never been my strong suit, and even the questions on tests for 6 year olds can make me go cross-eyed.
When you think about it, however, we don’t usually practice a lot of spatial reasoning during a typical school day. After all, aside from geometry and map skills, it’s not generally a part of state standardized tests. According to this article from MindShift, though, we should consider integrating more spatial reasoning into our curriculum.
What kinds of activities can we do to build spatial reasoning skills in school? Here are some suggestions in an article directed to parents from Parenting Science.
Here are some of the blog posts that I’ve done in the past, recommending games and apps to develop spatial reasoning.
Considering I have to use the Waze app to find my way out of a parking lot, I think I probably should spend a few hours a week sharpening my brain on these types of challenges (or just resort to online shopping for the rest of my life).