This post gives some examples of puzzles you can set up using our magnetic-tile circuits to help develop spatial reasoning skills… and because they’re just really fun.
Spatial reasoning is the ability to mentally manipulate shapes or images by rotating, rearranging, regrouping, etc. Aptitude in this skill is linked to better performance in science, technology, engineering, math (the STEM fields), and even reading. See this article in Parenting Science for a great overview. It turns out that with practice, you can develop better spatial reasoning skills, which may improve your skills in other fields, like math. Children can develop and hone these skills by playing with blocks or other construction toys or completing puzzles that require shape manipulation.
We made these magnetic-tile circuits to really just play with circuitry, but found a great opportunity for spatial reasoning puzzles. You can design incredibly simple puzzles for beginners and easily increase the complexity for more able children. To get an overview of the magnetic-tile circuit project, check out the original post here. Below, we’ll show you several puzzles of varying difficulty and describe how you can create your own.
Simple Puzzle for Beginners (Age 3+):
This puzzle makes sure the child understands how to play the game. You would set up (the equivalent to) the orange, red, and green tiles, then hand them the blue tile with the LED. The child would need to match the ends of the copper tape correctly for the light to turn on. For young children, it’s not as easy as it seems to us. If they solve the puzzle, the immediate lighting of the LED is fun and exciting feedback for them.
Puzzles for those who master the basics:
Above, you would give the child the three tiles on the table like the image to the left. She or he would have to start to think three dimensionally to solve the puzzle. In the image on the left, the pink tile needs to join with the blue tile by folding the strip into a triangle (right side image) in order to complete the circuit for the LED to turn on.
Similarly, in the puzzle above, the orange and the blue tiles need to be folded up to meet the pink tile to complete the circuit.
Nets (in math) are 2D patterns for making 3D shapes. This type of net puzzle can be presented in two ways. For older children, you can lay out the set-up in the image above (or one you make yourself) and ask them to fold it into a cube in their mind and decide whether it will make a complete circuit (then they can assemble it to test the guess). Alternately, you can give them all the pieces separately and have them assemble it into a cube that completes the circuit.
How to make your own puzzles
These sound like creepy tests you’d see those scientists having Eleven perform on Stranger Things, but they’re actually really fun to play with, I promise! And thats how you can make your own puzzles- just by playing around with the tiles! Try to build something and when you get the LED to turn on, either flatten your creation into a net, disassemble it and give the pieces to your kid to solve, or take some pieces out and have them try to find what missing. You can even try to ask them to make a puzzle for your or their siblings.
We have had a blast playing with these things, whether through organized play like this or just building fairy castles that light up and spin pinwheels with working motors. Be sure to check out the original post. The possibilities are really endless and we’d love to see what you create. Share your ideas on social media and be sure to tag us and use the hashtag #IBravedTheElements for a chance to be featured!