WoodCentral's Book Reviews
Making Toys That Teach

Making Toys That Teach
by Les Neufeld

Taunton Press: 2003
Paperback, 137 pp., $$19.95
ISBN 1-56158-606-4

     Ideal beginner projects and innovative gifts for youngsters from toddler age through about eight years old, these fine wood puzzles and toys are well explained and well presented as wood projects. The admirable thing about these toys is many of them can be interchangably used with one another. A simple project of brightly colored stringing wood beads is sized to fit on a 'Bead Board' in a later set up. The stacking geometric shapes on the Bead Board can also be used with an 'Ultimate Building Block Set,' or carried as cargo on the 'Puzzle Train.'
     Neufeld gives detailed instructions on organizing geometric 'Pattern Blocks' that combine in an open-ended jigsaw puzzle of many different colored woods. He shows 'Fraction Circles' that help a child visualize relationships in parts of a whole. A stackable set of dominoes is cut in giant size, 3"x6" blocks with geometric shapes glued on their faces in dyed veneers. There is a 'Puzzle Box' for the very young, with a recessed triangle, circle and square fitted in rising layers beneath a hinged lid.
     The 'Puzzle Train' is something parents may tend to take over from the children. With a locomotive, a coal tender to pack blocks in, a 'fraction stacker car' of cut dowels (whole, halves, thirds and quarters) a 'color pattern car' of 1/4" thick exotics on a flatbed railway car, a 'geometry puzzle car' of one-way fitted shapes, a log-carrying car, a boxcar and a caboose with cupola, this little number is sure to be a winner. Neufeld's directions are very complete, including a list of what tools are necessary (with alternatives for handtool work) and how long each project is expected to take. He gives tips on precise repetitive cuts and how best to use the materials chosen, as well as finishing advice on children's toys. Neufeld, from British Columbia, is an educator as well as a woodworker. He has written instructional materials for several Canadian school districts, and is also the author of 'Tremendous Toy Trucks.' After describing the projects in this new book, he advises how to interact with children in learning through play. With color photographs and detailed line drawings througout, these simple-looking projects are fine enough to become family heirlooms.

. . . Barb Siddiqui