Further fun with the Archimedean Solids at the Curious Minds Club (St Thomas of Canterbury Primary School, 13 March 2020)

This week at the Curious Minds Club we continued to build the 13 Archimedean Solids, with Polydron Frameworks and Magformers.

My Y2 girl who got half way through a Truncated Icosahedron two weeks ago (then had to miss last week’s session) was happy to finish it. She then got her first go at Magformers. She made several of the Platonic Solids from looking at a picture of the net, then made a lovely symmetrical pattern on her own initiative.

I asked my two Y1s to build a Truncated Cube in Polydron. Once they had got the alternation correct at the start (put a triangle on one edge of the octagon, miss one edge, add another triangle etc) they were able to bring the whole solid together. They needed a little help snapping it together at the end.

My Y5 boy completed the Icosidodecahedron in Polydon, having made it in Magformers last week. My Y4 girl made the Cuboctahedron in Polydron first, then in Magformers. She built the Rhombicuboctahedron in a Polydron net really quickly, then needed quite a lot of help bringing it together. With a few minutes left at the end I gave her the Tangram puzzle. She solved it in a few minutes with no help. My Y6 girl and Y6 boy attempted the Rhombicuboctahedron in Polydron. It didn’t go quite to plan. Bob was born instead.

Here are the photos:

Y2 girl. Truncated Icosahedron (you may know it as a football); three Platonic Solids (can you name them?)

Truncated Icosahedron and Platonic Solids 13 March Y2 girl


Y1 girl. Truncated Cube; half an Icosidodecahedron (to be continued).

Truncated Cube and half Icosidodecahedron 13 March Y1 girl


Y1 boy. Truncated Cube; Truncated Octahedron; a Heart.


Y4 girl. Rhombicuboctahedron; Cuboctahedron; a completed Tangram.

Rhombicuboctahedron and Cuboctahedron 13 March Y4 girl


Y5 boy. Icosidodecahedron. Really pleased with the angle I took this at: you can really see the line of reflection symmetry.

Icosidodecahedron 13 March Y5 boy


Y6 girl.   Meet Bob. Apparently he doesn’t have a best side. He looks good from every side. Hard to disagree.

Bob 4 of 4 13 March Y6 girlBob 2 of 4 13 March Y6 girlBob 1 of 4 13 March Y6 girlBob 3 of 4 13 March Y6 girl





A review of Baffled, the game where you need ‘the Memory of an Elephant’


I was sent a copy of Baffled by Cheatwell Games in exchange for an honest review.

I played this game today with my partner and daughter, just turned 9. The game lasted about half an hour.

Game overview: you have 60 seconds to memorise the position of twelve symbol tiles; the symbols constantly swap and change positions; you have to find symbols, name them, swap them or test other players; the winner is the last player left in the game.

Things we liked:

the game feels solid and well built, and I do like a fold-up game board (for some reason);

colourful and good size playing pieces which are not at all fiddly;

the ‘Life cards’ are a clever idea and it is good that they are visible to all players;

we liked the opportunity to win back a life;

lots of variety in the actions needed: naming, asking, swapping and finding three of something;

we liked the tip about how to memorise the symbols by making mental connections;

it is interesting to notice the strategic choices people make: my daughter swapped then later re-swapped the same pair of symbols;

we liked the fact that this game is not easy, and that it provides a challenge for both adults and children. I thought I was good at memory games until I played this, but I went out of the game before my daughter. We agree with the maker’s claim that the game ‘helps develop vital memory skills’. I did notice that I was getting better at the game as it went along: I may have picked the wrong symbol but it was the correct colour;

the makers claim the game is ‘cleverly designed so that children and adults have an equal chance of winning’. We agree with this claim: an adult will not necessarily win if a child is concentrating hard;

the die is translucent!

Things to consider:

You have 60 seconds to memorise the positions of the symbols but no timing device is provided. You could use a watch (does anyone still wear one?) or a phone stopwatch. You might want to ask everyone to be silent during this 60 seconds so no one is distracted. I blame my poor performance on my daughter bellowing a Jason Donovan song in my ear.

Some people will be easily baffled by Baffled and find it frustrating. The hardest part is the constantly changing board. You might consider playing a version where you ignore the eight swap squares: if a counter lands on a swap square then move to the next square. This version could build the confidence of a less able player until they are ready to play the full version.

You will be referring to the rules sheet a lot when you play your first game but not so much at the end of the game. This shows that the board itself is quite easy to understand.

You probably won’t want to play a second game straight away as you will still be remembering the positions of the symbols from the end of the previous game.

I asked my daughter what she thought at the end. She said she was ‘looking forward to playing it when the schools are closed for coronavirus’. I’m sure she can’t wait for the schools to close, the little monkey.

I am sure we will play this game again. It is a useful addition to my collection of memory games.

I plan to include Baffled in a future blog post on 10 great memory games, similar to my recent post on 10 great visual perception games.

If you buy Baffled there is no financial gain for me.

My ebook ‘Starting a School Board Games Club: How to Win at Having Fun and Learning Through Play’ is available on Amazon.


Continuing the Archimedean Solids at the Curious Minds Club (St Thomas of Canterbury Primary School, 6 March 2020)

This week at the Curious Minds Club we continued to build the 13 Archimedean Solids. We used Polydron Frameworks and a new material – Magformers.

My Y6 girl and Y6 boy sat together and used the Polydron. They started with the Truncated Dodecahedron. I then asked them to make the Cuboctahedron, explaining that it uses the six squares from the Cube and the eight triangles from the Octahedron (hence the name). Continuing with this theme, I asked them to make the Icosidodecahedron: it uses the 20 triangles from the Icosahedron and the 12 pentagons from the Dodecahedron. They needed very little help from me to work through these.

Meanwhile I introduced my Y1 girl, Y1 boy and Y5 boy to Magformers. The younger children can find it hard to snap together the Polydron pieces so I wanted to try them on a material that uses magnets to join the pieces together. I started them on all five Platonic Solids, asking them to use a picture of the net to make the shape in two dimensions, then lift it up and join the edges together. This worked really well. Even the Icosahedron comes together well, provided you work from one end to make one half, then switch to the other end, make the other half and bring them together.

My Year 1 girl was then determined to have a go at the Truncated Icosahedron in Polydron. She had seen an older girl make one last week and must have thought “I can do that”. With some reminders that every pentagon is surrounded by hexagons she was able to complete this one. She took it out to show her mum at the end and looked very proud.

I asked my Y1 boy to make a Cuboctahedron in Magformers, from a picture of its net. He cracked the net and just needed a little help lifting it up and joining the edges. He then made some fun shapes: a fish, hourglass and small star.

My Y5 boy also made the Cuboctahedron in Magformers. He then asked for ‘something harder’ so I showed him the net of the Icosidodecahedron, which he cracked. Not content with this, he went on to make a copy of the Compound of Two Tetrahedron (not an Archimedean Solid but I brought my model with me again as it is such a nice thing to look at). He worked really hard to figure out where each of the 24 triangles should go.

Here are the photos.

Y6 girl. Truncated Dodecahedron; Icosidodecahedron.


Y6 boy. Truncated Dodecahedron; Cuboctahedron.


Y1 girl. Truncated Icosahedron.

Truncated Icosahedron 6 March Y1 girl


Y1 boy. Cuboctahedron; Fish; Hourglass; two views of a Small Star; one of the Dodecahedrons.


Y5 boy. Cuboctahedron; one of the Dodecahedrons; Icosidodecahedron; Compound of Two Tetrahedra.


At the end of the session it is irresistible to build some towers.


This one gets bigger and bigger. It ended with a Tetrahedron on top, then threatened to topple over so we had to stop.




Starting the Archimedean Solids at the Curious Minds Club (St Thomas of Canterbury Primary School, 28 February 2020)

Before half term we built all five Platonic Solids, in various materials, so this week at the Curious Minds Club we made a start on the 13 Archimedean Solids. The material was Polydron Frameworks. I gave a brief account of who Archimedes was.

I explained that we would start by truncating all five Platonic Solids, and that truncation meant slicing off every vertex. I gave each child a piece of paper I had prepared: it had a triangle drawn in pencil, with each edge marked into thirds. I labelled the markings A,A; B,B; and C,C, gave each child a pencil and ruler and asked them to join the letters and shade through the area near the vertex. I asked them how many edges the new shape had. They counted to six and told me the new shape was a hexagon. I pointed out that we started with three edges and ended with six edges; one boy was quick to tell me this meant we had doubled the number of edges. I picked up a Tetrahedron and said we were going to truncate it: the four faces that were triangles would now be hexagons, and we would need four new triangles to replace the old vertices. I gave each child four hexagons and four triangles and put a model of a Truncated Tetrahedron on the table for them to copy if needed. Every child was able to complete this activity quite quickly: some studied the model a lot, while others just glanced at it.

We then moved on to the Truncated Octahedron. The Octahedron’s eight faces are also triangles, so these are replaced by eight hexagons. The vertices are replaced by six squares. I had a model available for those who needed it.

Two Y6 children moved ahead of the others so I started them on the Truncated Cube. I gave them a square drawn in pencil, again with each edge marked into thirds. The markings were A,A; B,B; C,C; D,D. After joining the letters they knew they had made an octagon. I reminded them that they had doubled the number of edges. I gave them six octagons and eight triangles and they happily built this solid. I was unable to make a model: I only had enough octagons in my collection for two Truncated Cubes to be made at the same time. I was able to provide a picture.

I started a Y1 girl and a Y4 girl on making their own Truncated Dodecahedron. I gave them both 12 decagons and 20 triangles. This had to be done from a picture. The Y4 girl only needed a little assistance from me. The Y1 girl needed a bit more helping snapping the Polydron pieces into place, but she had no problem working out which piece went where. At the end of the session she took it to show her dad, and he looked very impressed. I was not surprised, as this is the second biggest of the 13 Archimedean Solids.

Meanwhile a girl in Y2 made a start on the Truncated Icosahedron. She used a picture to help her, and my tip that a pentagon is surrounded just by hexagons. She ran out of time, so I promised she could finish it next week. A girl in Y6 was able to complete this solid, and looked intrigued when I pointed out that this is the shape of a football.

My Y6 boy had noticed that I had brought with me a model of a Compound of Two Tetrahedra which I was keeping to one side in case I wanted to use it. I had used yellow and red triangles to really bring out the fact that it looks like two separate tetrahedra that have been spliced together. He asked if could make his own copy of it and I was happy to agree. He needed very little help from me, and I could tell he was really proud when he had finished.

I welcomed two new boys to my club this week, brothers from Y1 and Y5. After they had completed the Truncated Tetrahedron and Truncated Octahedron I decided to take them back to the Platonic Solids as they had missed these sessions. I started them on a Cube as I knew they would have seen one before. I showed them a net and got them to build it from there. I followed this with a Tetrahedron and an Octahedron. The Y1 boy did need some help in snapping the Polydron into place, but he got stuck into the activities with enthusiasm.

Below are some photos to enjoy.

Y1 girl. Truncated Dodecahedron; Truncated Tetrahedron; she sneaked in a Cube when I wasn’t looking.

Archimedean solids 28 Feb Y1 girl


Year 1 boy. Truncated Tetrahedron; Cube; Octahedron.

Archimedean solids 28 Feb Y1 boy


Year 5 boy. Cube; Octahedron; Truncated Tetrahedron.

Archimedean solids 28 Feb Y5 boy


Year 2 girl. Truncated Icosahedron (to be completed next week).

Archimedean solids 28 Feb Y2 girl


Y6 girl. Truncated Icosahedron; Truncated Octahedron; Truncated Cube.

Archimedean solids 28 Feb Y6 girl


Y4 girl. Truncated Dodecahedron; Truncated Octahedron; Truncated Tetrahedron.

Archimedean solids 28 Feb Y4 girl


Y6 boy. Two views of the Compound of Two Tetrahedra.

Archimedean solids 28 Feb Y6 boy 3 of 4Archimedean solids 28 Feb Y6 boy 2 of 4

What a collection! A Truncated Octahedron sitting on top of: Truncated Cube; containing a Truncated Tetrahedron; containing a Cube; containing a Tetrahedron.

Archimedean solids 28 Feb Y6 boy 4 of 4


10 great visual perception games

Here is my list of 10 great visual perception games. These are all games for at least two players, played at speed. They are about having fast eyes and fast reactions. Many can also be played solo, setting challenges for yourself (in contrast to abstract strategy board games, which require an opponent). Nearly all are easy to buy online. They are suitable for children and adults. Several come in small boxes so are great for packing for a journey. They would make a great present for someone who you know enjoys playing games.

If you buy one of these games there is no financial gain for me. Please share this page if you found it helpful.

Here they are, in reverse order:

10 – Rainbow Rush / Rainbow Rage

Rainbow Rage

Look at a rainbow card, be the first to spot which two colours have swapped places and gain matching coloured pieces. The winner is the first to collect every colour and build their own rainbow.

Great for familiarising children with the colours of the rainbow;
Great for practising pattern recognition;
A harder set of cards is included for a greater challenge;
Children enjoy handling the pieces and building their stick;
The pieces are pentagonal, which is my favourite shape!

I was going to question why the rainbow looks so angry and whether this puts anyone off buying this game. I was going to suggest Rainbow Race as a better name. Now I have seen that the game has been renamed Rainbow Rush and the rainbow face is now … happier, but still ever so slightly threatening.


9 – Avocado Smash!

Avocado Smash

A variation on Snap where the winner is the first player to get rid of all their cards.  If a card matches a number said out loud then that is a smash. The last player to react takes all the cards in that round.

Nice thick cards which are a good size for small hands;
Interesting box;
A good next step for children who have mastered Snap (or families who are sick of it).

It takes a while to read through and understand the instructions;
As with any game which involves slamming down hands there is the potential for scratches and arguments: you might want to have an adult present to adjudicate.


8 – Swish


Swishes are made by stacking at least two cards so that every ball swishes into a hoop of the same colour. The player with the most swishes at the end is the winner.

Nice carry bag;
Having to rotate and flip the cards over in your mind before you can pick them up is a great mental exercise.

Having to rotate and flip the cards over in your mind can be really tricky for younger children, so is best played with age 8+. A junior version is available, but I have not played it;
The cards can be tricky to pick up from a hard surface (consider a baize or plain tablecloth);
No proper instructions in the box (but I found them easily online);
The box is a bit over-packaged.


7 – Blink


Match a card in your hand to either one of two discard piles, matching by shape, quantity or colour. The winner is the first to empty their draw pile.

Easy to explain and start playing;
The cards are well designed and easy to distinguish;
A nice variation is available for three players.

Whenever cards are dealt there is always an element of luck involved, which the purists may not like;
The piles can easily become untidy and confusing, and you may have to pause the game to tidy them up.


6 – Dobble / Spot It!

Dobble Spot It

Be the first to find the one symbol which is on two cards. The size and positioning of the symbols varies between cards, making the matches difficult to spot. Every card has eight symbols on it; every card is unique; whichever two cards are in play it can be guaranteed that they will have one symbol in common. Spot It! is aimed at younger children as each card has six symbols, so it should be easier to find the match.

Easy to explain and start playing;
Several variations on the instruction leaflet to prolong your interest.

Hard to think of one, which helps explain why this game is so popular. This game involves a lot of visual scanning but not enough problem solving to make it higher up this list.


5 – The Genius Square

Genious Square

The seven dice are rolled and both players put a blocker in the corresponding grid reference. The players then race to be the first to fill every empty space with their nine differently shaped pieces. There are 62,208 possible combinations, often with multiple solutions. Whatever the grid looks like there will be a solution.

Easy to explain and start playing;
Great for practising shape and space recognition;
Nice tactile wooden game pieces (the grooves between each square are a winner);
If your child plays Tetris on their phone this game is a great next step and subtle way of introducing the pleasures of non-electronic games;
The unique dice could be useful if you enjoy inventing your own games.

This game involves a lot of problem solving – if the contestants have very different abilities this will quickly be exposed, and it is hard to see how the game could be levelled up (perhaps the weaker player could be given a 20 second head start). 


4 – Set


Be the first to identify a set, which consists of three cards in which each individual feature is either all the same or all different. The player with the most sets at the end is the winner.

Provides a real test of your ability to spot patterns while remembering the four different features (colour, shape, quantity and shading);
A game which rewards persistence and practice as you will get better at it;
No limit to the number of players;
The cards are easy to distinguish from each other;
If you enjoy Maths and want to deepen your understanding there is a book you can buy;
Possibly the most satisfying game of the 10 to play solo, especially when you know there is a lot of depth to it.

Not easy to explain to younger children: many will find it hard to make their first set. A junior version is available, but I have not played it. Consider an activity where you ask the children to arrange the cards on a large table, looking for patterns and groupings, to get them familiar with the deck. Then start the game, perhaps with 15 cards not 12 as the odds are very much in favour of there being a set when 15 cards are available.


3 – Ghost Blitz

Ghost Blitz

Five wooden objects are placed in the middle of the table. There are two different types of card: if you see one object on the card in its original colour then grab it; if neither object on the card is in its original colour then grab the object whose shape and colour are both not on the card. The winner is the player with the most cards at the end.

The mental processing skills involved in eliminating the incorrect object and identifying the correct one are a great work out for the brain;
If you really love this game there are four different versions available to buy (plus a junior version).

My mouse’s tail has come loose;
On some of the cards the green object looks more olive than green, which can be off-putting when the game focuses highly on colour;
The potential for scratches and arguments over who grabbed the object first – you might prefer to go off who shouts it out first.


2 – Rubik’s Race

Rubik's Race

Shake the scrambler and it forms a 3×3 pattern of different coloured cubes. Slide the tiles to become the first to match your central 3×3 area with the scrambler’s pattern. If only I had a £1 for every time someone tells me there is a piece missing!

A proper test of your ability to manipulate objects at speed and work out the quickest way of getting the tile where you want it;
The satisfaction of slamming down the frame when you have completed your pattern.

The cubes don’t always sit nicely in the scrambler;
The board can be a little tricky to assemble;
As with Genius Square above the problem solving element will expose players of very different abilities.


1 – Space Faces

Space Faces

The colours! The artwork! The sound of the shaker in my ear! The thump in my chest as I race to find the alien first! Do I feel sheepish about recommending a game which is only available second hand and is hard to find? Not at all: if you find one (or befriend someone who owns a copy) you will not be disappointed. The prolific Ivan Moscovich invented this game in the early 1980s. It involves identifying the correct alien from 120 different choices. There is an updated version called ‘Robot Face Race’: a lot has changed but the concept is the same.

It’s about aliens;
Very easy to explain and start playing;
A great workout for the brain, involving memory, concentration, colour and pattern recognition, visual scanning and strategic planning. For me this game strikes the perfect balance between being easy to understand but hard to master.

The shaker is rather loud and sometimes the colours need persuading to drop into their hole.

So there you have it: my list is complete. Please share this page if you found it helpful.
If you remember playing Space Faces in the 1980s, do get in touch.