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Invented in China, the puzzles known as tangrams remain a timeless activity proven to develop logical thinking and math skills—which is why tangram games, which involve piecing together colorful shapes to recreate a pattern, are excellent for kids. Tangram sets can help young ones with color and shape recognition, spatial understanding, and more—but because tasks typically involve assembling cute designs like bugs and robots, the activity can feel very much like playtime. In our book, a good tangram set should be built to last, with smooth and vibrantly colored shapes and plenty of puzzles to keep kids engaged and challenged. Browse our favorite sets below.
1. 3 Bees & Me Wooden Pattern Blocks
Many tangram sets challenge kids to form shapes by copying a design, but this one also gives them the option of matching colors and shapes by placing pieces on top of pattern cards, which helps to reinforce their understanding of shapes and colors. The cards are large, so the fun designs, which range from a strawberry to a bee, are much easier to see than the small renditions included in some competitors’ sets. In addition to 24 pictures to replicate, this set comes with 130 durable and smooth wooden pieces in six different shapes and colors.
2. Coogam Shapes Puzzle
If you want a set with tons of puzzles, go with this one from Coogam. Included in a slim metal box are 60 cards depicting adorable subjects like a caterpillar, a toucan, and a ladybug. The cards are smaller than those in our top pick, but the natural wood shapes, made of elm, are larger (while still easy for little hands to grasp). However, you get only 36, which is not always enough to make more than one tangram at a time. We do like that each puzzle card features an illustration that shows which shapes puzzle solvers will need, a helpful prompt if they get stumped.
3. Gemem Pattern Blocks
If more blocks is what you seek, consider this set, which comes with 155 pieces—more than enough for group use. Perfect for classroom settings or using with your child for remote learning, it also comes with 24 design cards. These feature tangrams for diverse pictures such as a helicopter, a sunflower, and a crab, and each is rated with one to five stars depending on difficulty. The cards are small so you can’t build directly on them, but this is still a great, well-priced option that will offer hours of fun and learning.
4. Melissa & Doug Pattern Blocks and Boards
This is a really nice set from the much-hyped creative toy company. Rather than cards, it comes with five double-sided boards inked with geometric and animal-themed patterns. As with 3 Bees & Me’s option, kids can place wooden blocks directly on these boards or forgo the map and replicate designs freehand. As expected of Melissa & Doug’s products, this one is well constructed, featuring 120 burr-free, perfectly weighted wooden blocks and a handsome case to store it all. You only get 10 designs, but the blocks will withstand years of imaginative play.
5. Vanmor Shapes Puzzle
A good choice for the child who you suspect will zoom through puzzles, this set comes with 60 double-sided cards so players have a whopping 120 shapes to recreate. There are lots of unique designs to keep young ones engaged, from bird species to modes of transportation. The unique challenge here is that you get just seven wooden blocks, and every design requires all of them. Of course, this means that if a piece gets lost, you’ll be in trouble.