When we adults use the word “play,” we generally are referring to the opposite of what we call “work.” That is, to the activities that do not necessarily produce anything (except possibly pleasure) and which we do because we want to – rather than because we have to. It is important for parents and other adults involved in the lives of children to remember that to children – particularly to those of toddler, preschool and early elementary age, the two ideas – work and play – are not usually mutually exclusive. In fact, they are most often one in the same. In fact, play is understood to be the work of childhood. Knowing this should inform us about the kind of things we provide children to ‘play’ with because we are really providing them with instruments of learning through which they will always learn something. What that something is depends not only on our attitude towards it and the child, but also to what the something actually is. Sudoku, jr. 4X4, categorized as a ‘game’ is of the type that is actually a valuable learning opportunity for young children ages 5-7. This game and games like it should be considered when deciding what to buy children to ‘play’ with.
Specifically, Sudoku, jr 4X4 is a youngster’s version of the ever-popular Sudoku games (invented by an American, Howard Garns, in 1979 and called “Number Place,” then transformed into Sudoku by the Japanese puzzle group, Nikoli, in 1984) seen being played by adults everywhere – electronically, in newspapers and in the multitude of printed (paperback) collections that are available. Sudoku has become the 21st. century’s numeric equivalent of the crossword puzzle and is similar in design. For those of you who may yet be unfamiliar with the basic idea behind the game, a number of squares (usually 81 – nine blocks of nine squares each forming a larger square) are presented. The object is to fill each square with a number from one to nine so that when finished, no row (vertically, horizontally, or diagonally) repeats any single number. Sounds pretty simple, huh? Take it from me. It isn’t!
In this children’s version, there are 48 cards divided into four levels of twelve cards each. Each level increases the difficulty of the game. Unlike the ‘grown up’ variety, each card has only 16 squares to be filled – and only with the numbers one through four. Rather than using a pencil, as adults do, the child player/learner places colored and numbered, magnetic tokens in the squares trying to achieve the same outcome as with the adult game. Each token piece is colored (one of four colors) and numbered one through four. No number OR COLOR is to be repeated across any straight line of four. There are more ‘clues’ in the first and second levels than there are in the third and fourth. The clues take the form of numbers/colors printed on the card giving the child a part of the solution to start with. As the child advances through the sequential series, there are fewer ‘up front’ clues. Children love to play with this. My own 5 year old grand daughter is VERY proud of herself as she moves through the increasing levels of difficulty and responds with a joyfulness in her own accomplishments that makes it clear that she is learning by playing.
It is well known by educators, that children learn best through approaches that are multi-sensory. That is to say, games and learning exercises that require children to use as many of their senses as possible are most apt to achieve the usual goals of the activity, integrated learning. Paper and pencil are fine for most adults, but when it comes to children at this early school age, the colors (which are visually stimulating and engaging) and the need to physically move and manipulate the tokens by hand (engaging functions of eye-hand coordination and physical activity) help make this and games like it more successful in holding the child’s interest and helping them literally play their way into learning. In playing this game, a child learns about numbers, pattern recognition, spatial and strategic thinking, organization, logical problem solving and reasoning.
It comes contained in a small closable box that is easily portable for use in the car and outdoors and because the tokens are magnetized (as are both the storage and game playing sections), they are less apt to become lost than are the small pieces of many other games.
Available at most children’s toy/game stores as well as on line, SODUKU, jr. 4X4 is a ‘game’ in the best sense of the word. It provides both fun and challenge. Stimulation and gratification. Recreation and education. Adults can sit close by and help as needed, but the more the child can figure out on their own, the more rewarding and, ultimately, educational the experience will be. Kids actually enjoy being challenged – just ask one who is under stimulated and bored! Check it out.