Puzzlets by Digital Dream Labs LLC teaches early learners (K-2) the fun and joy of problem-solving through coding with the "Cork the Volcano" game. Why is learning to code for younger ones so important? - because it provides a ground or sequence of where to start when given a goal or task. The algorithms used in coding are simply telling the story of what to do, and in our increasingly complex world, kids need to know the how and why of how things happen in order to successfully solve day-to-day problems independently. So much of a child’s time is spent in adult driven play schemes. Sanitized playgrounds and participation trophies, homework assignments with one approach, and other concrete dualistic methods with no chance of veering off the path typically lead to prompt dependent kids. There is utterly no chance of coloring a cow purple simply because it may be more beautiful. So by providing basic terminology and the chance to discover the varied ways and means to how things work, we begin as teachers and clinicians to train kids to think in an organized but also creative manner. Those early experiences of trial and error – and yes, failure is the building blocks for future success as it allows kids to explore and discover varied possibilities for action as well as to persevere. The Puzzlets starter pack includes the “play tray” and the Puzzlets that are placed in the tray to sequence the characters in the game. The “Cork the Volcano” game can be played on a Mac computer with the play tray via a micro USB connector (included in the starter pack) or an iOS or Android tablet. The devices then read the Puzzlets placed in the tray in a sequential fashion. Gameplay centers on programming the characters to mobilize from point A to point B, but there is a lot more to it than that! Here is the background story directly from the teacher’s guide that is downloadable from the website: During Rus and Friends' vacation to Pear Island, the great volcano - Pompear Peak - erupts, breaking the ancient golden seal that has imprisoned the evil King Kaldera for centuries. Now Kaldera's molten minions march forth, throwing this once peaceful land into chaos. It's up to Rus, Sydney, and Hippo and YOU to gather the golden pieces to reveal the volcano and stop Kaldera before it's too late! Five worlds with multiple levels (120 +), (Whoopsie, I mean lessons), are open to exploring. Fire, Monsters, and battling Bosses are just a few of the obstacles to overcome. Tutorial levels demonstrate and teach concepts in the planning and writing of a program to play. There are many ways to solve the current puzzle, and that is what makes Puzzlets so dreamy for parents, teachers, and clinicians. Most of the levels have multiple challenges to complete the level, and kids must go back and replay to earn all of the points or water droplets to the level. (Water droplets are the currency of play in “Cork the Volcano” and unlock secret levels.) This at first is frustrating for many but quickly becomes a “habit” to re-evaluate and adjust a course of action. Sequence and timing of moves all are up for consideration. I love that this life lesson is taught through direct experience and not just talked about. It makes an abstract ideal real. Check out Digital Dream Labs website. It is so well laid out to support those working with children that it takes your breath away. The effort and work involved in producing Puzzlets are commendable. Along with an incredibly detailed teacher’s guide, there is also a suggested curriculum, complete with handouts. The curriculum guides teachers through such concepts as debugging and looping, but more importantly persistence. If kids are paired while playing, opportunities for collaboration and working as a team are also reinforced. All lessons are aligned to Common Core Standards. More games or worlds are being developed as separate game purchases, and the 2nd game is expected to be out this summer. Each will have their new set of tiles and puzzlers to solve. Puzzlets can be purchased on Amazon, at Toys R Us, Brookstone, or directly from the website. Puzzlets are a TWA Top Pick and awarded our badge of excellence. Jo Booth OTR/L has been an Occupational Therapist for over 35 years, and currently practices at EasterSeals of SEPA, Montgomery County Division mainly focusing on Early Intervention. It is an APS (Approved Private School) and home outreach based setting. She has also worked in Adolescent and Adult Rehabilitation. Writing reviews for Teachers With Apps have been a tremendous opportunity and experience to share and learn with others.
Written by Jo Booth
Jo Booth has been an Occupational Therapist for over 30 years and currently works in Pediatrics with early intervention. She sees kids newly diagnosed on the spectrum as well as medically fragile kids. She loves to move, explore and play every day; so that “her kids” grow up to be healthy independent learners.