Jon O'Connor tries his hand at 3-D early-learning puzzles
Sheffield-based Wood 'n Fun is a small company which makes toys and games designed to encourage practical and social aspects of learning through play. Its products are the outcome of lateral thinking applied to old problems and are useful for mainstream activities as well as special needs.
Stepets is its range of three-dimensional puzzles which promote physical dexterity and cognitive skills through shape and colour recognition. They are particularly relevant to early learning work on basic size, shape and number and also help to develop understanding of how to recognise and order geometric and numeric attributes such as symmetry and pattern.
They even have a great deal of potential for imaginative design work and could certainly be used as the basis for an interactive display.
Each pack consists of a set of polygons in different sizes and an outer circle frame. The outside edge of each piece determines its shape, while the inside cut-out takes the shape of the previous, smaller piece.
They are available in multiple sets, which contain several identical components of the same size across a range of shapes or in size sets with the same polygon in a range of sizes. There is also the option of mixed sets which have differences both in size and shape.
Stepets are nice, chunky, tactile resources, with bright contrasted colour coding. The method of cutting the puzzles out from medium-density fibreboard also introduces some cleverly-calculated tactile attributes, but avoids sharp edges, thereby ensuring safety and durability.
Stepets can be stacked and layered through a range of permutations that take quite some time to grasp. They form assemblies of varying heights and contours, such as a dome shape when stepped upwards or an amphitheatre-like construction when inverted. Their quality reflects the well-matched marriage of a simple concept with extraordinary versatility.
The same company produces a remarkable set of dominoes which are ideal for early learning or special needs. Each domino is a massive 20 by 10 centimetres and uses a combination of shape and colour for matching skills. The dominoes are also distinguished from similar products by the fact that the shapes can be removed from the domino for closer inspection and comparison.
Wood'n Fun will use the Education Show for the launch of Magnetic Pies, a new series of teaching aids for grasping the whole gamut of concepts which involve the principles of relative proportion.
Applications include fractions, compass headings, time, percentages and potentially much more. The system incorporates a thin laminate of magnetic material so that the pie slices adhere to metal surfaces.
* Stepets puzzles and gamesFrom Pounds 29.95 (inc VAT)Magnetic PiesPrice on applicationDominoes From Pounds 35.99 (inc VAT). Wood'n Fun Unit 14,Penistone Road Trading Estate,413 Penistone Road,Sheffield S6 2FL Tel: 0114 2854466. Stand SN4