Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Stenzzles Tropical Puzzle

Stenzzles Tropical Puzzle

Fall 2012 Puzzles
Ages: 8 & Up
Manufacturer: ThinkFun, Inc.
Price: $9.99

Stenzzles Tropical Puzzle is a set of eight stencils that can be layered into colorful chaos (a word meant in the best sense). Each of the images is tropical-themed - there's a frog, a flower, and sea creatures. A puzzle booklet shows eight flat images, and the goal is to rotate and flip the stencils, layered one on top of the other, to produce the exact result in the illustration. For the top layers this is easy to do, but as the layers get deeper it becomes increasingly challenging to get it exactly right. A clever system of arrows on the surfaces of the stencils is used in the solutions guide to determine when the puzzle is perfect. Given that thousands of permutations of the stencils would be possible, it is a curiosity that the editors chose to include only eight puzzles (one for each stencil as the top layer), but it is also extremely easy to create new challenges - layer them at random, snap a photo (and record the arrow sequence!) or make a sketch, then hand the puzzle over to a friend. In addition, the stencils themselves are sturdy enough to be used as stencils, so when kids tire of the puzzle it becomes an art toy.

Barbara Chamberlin   ©2012 Parents' Choice
Barbara Chamberlin researches and develops educational software and media at New Mexico State University's Learning Games Lab. She and her husband have two boys.

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