My family is addicted to jigsaw puzzles. When a special birthday came up for one of my daughters, I prepared a photo collage using paint.net and ordered a photo jigsaw puzzle from Venus Puzzle.
The puzzle comes in a custom box, shrink wrapped and with a copy of the submitted photo on the cover, commercial quality. Puzzle pieces and printing was of excellent quality.
Since you can submit any image with the suggested proportions and dpi, this service can replace or improve upon the previously reviewed hometown puzzle.
The advantage to this site is that it ships internationally with the same DHL charges for anywhere in the world.
For my next daughter I didn’t want to use DHL, and Venus Puzzle referred me to their sister site Piczzle, which has the same product range and quality, also shipping worldwide (but with regular post instead of DHL).
Base prices are a little cheaper on the Venus Puzzle site, but for my country, DHL added customs service charges that made it unattractive. The order from Piczzle arrived in about a week, instead of in 4 days.
Note that both sites are slightly clunky, and only the Venus Puzzle site has the necessary information on the recommended proportions and resolution: In my case I purchased the 550 piece puzzle which uses a 1:1.25 ration and minimum dpi of 150.
Simple games are the best. Tangrams are an old puzzle based on a set of elemental shapes that can be arranged in thousands of different patterns. To recreate a given picture is challenging, yet not too daunting even for kids. Playing gently encourages lateral thinking. It exercises a geometrical logic, rather than words or numbers. The puzzles are almost like peanuts; you keep wanting just one more.
We use tangrams as an after dinner parlor game. Everyone gets a set and we compete to find the solution first. Since the shapes can be contained in one large square, you can easily cut your own version from cardboard or plastic (and we have). But I’ve found that this Tangoes model is precise, won’t wear out, and crates up easily and tidily. Each Tangoes case contains two sets of tangrams (in two different colors) and a nifty set of puzzle pattern cards, all of which slide into a plastic case with instructions on the inside. It’s a very nice package. We have several sets, to fill all the seats at a table.
Cuboro is they best toy I have seen since Lego. I recently purchased a set for my 3-year-old son, and we both have been having a blast with it ever since. The basic idea is simple: marbles and a track. The interesting thing is that the track is built out of individual wooden blocks with curves and channels cut into them, allowing the builder to create a track of whatever shape their imaginations can conceive. The marbles are moved along strictly by gravity, falling from one level to another and cutting back and forth through hidden tunnels. After starting out with some simple structures, you will quickly start to think of more complicated structures. I found the challenge to build more interesting designs quite addictive.
The company is based in Switzerland, but sets are available from several US retailers. There are several starter sets, plus add-on kits that allow you to build more complicated structures. I started with the Cuboro Standard, and recently added the Cugolino set. Although Cuboro is a bit pricey for a toy, the manufacturing quality is exceptional and you get what you pay for.