This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive compensation if you make a purchase using one of these links.
Looking for a simple game to stimulate cognitive skills like planning, problem-solving, and concentration? Here’s our family review of Chicken Shuffle Jr., a compact thinking skills game perfect for on-the-go and mess-free learning.
In this homeschool adventure we are on, we love to find games and materials that are hands-on and spark creativity and build thinking skills. Seeking family simplicity means adopting tools that help my daughter independently (as well as co-operatively) learn new skills, without the use of too much extra noise or unnecessary technology.
Our family loves Smartgames. We have quite a variety of their early childhood games and enjoy them all for their logic, math, spatial, and thinking skills puzzles.
A special thanks to Timberdoodle Co. for graciously sending us a complimentary copy of Chicken Shuffle Jr. to see what we think.
What Does Chicken Shuffle Jr. Teach?
Chicken Shuffle Jr., stimulates cognitive skills like planning, problem-solving, flexible thinking, visual perception, and concentration. With 48 challenges ranging from Starter to Master, there is a good variety of design, patterns, and backgrounds to keep kids (and adults) engaged.
In fact, this game is actually labeled as a 1 player game recommended for ages 4 to adult. Our whole family put this to the test!
I appreciate the fact that this game is very compact, and doesn’t have a lot of pieces that can get lost. There are 24 challenge cards, but they can be nicely stored inside the gameboard, so I’m reminding my daughter to always keep them there so they don’t get lost.
It’s perfect for travel, tossing in a purse or backpack, and taking in the car or on errands. As the mom of an active, kinesthetic child, there is so much value in mess-free activities I can toss in my purse on-the-go!
The chickens on the tiles are firmly attached in place, but they can be moved back and forth in a rocking motion, which is fun for kiddos to play with! My creative daughter really likes to move them and make them talk and develop a storyline.
How to Play the Game
There is a small instruction booklet that also has pictures of the puzzle solutions. There are 4 challenge levels: Starter, Junior, Expert, and Master, and each level has 12 puzzles (6 cards each, front and back pictures). Starter and Expert levels have 2 possible puzzle solutions, while Junior and Master only have 1 possible solution.
To play, you pick a card based on the level you want to try, place in on top of the pile inside the gameboard. Aligning the lid so that the “Smartgames” label is next to the card number in the bottom right corner, snap the lid on. Then proceed to shuffle the tiles around so that all the eggs in the picture are covered. In the Master level, there is an addition of pond water on the cards that chickens must avoid sitting in.
My 4-year-old’s Experience
My daughter is a young 4-year-old, so we weren’t sure what her ability with the game would be. She eagerly tore into the box and wanted to try the puzzle right away. She and Grandpa worked at it together the first time. While she enjoyed the concept of the game, she did struggle to find solutions on her own and asked for help.
I expect that as she gets closer to kindergarten, her reasoning and critical thinking skills will strengthen and she’ll be more likely to engage with the puzzle for longer periods of time.
If a child is unfamiliar with games that require shuffling pieces like this, recognize that it may be a new logic skill that they need to practice and strengthen. I try to offer my daughter the game every few days and help her through it. As she finds success and learns how to improve her visual perception, her ability to concentrate will also increase.
If you keep shuffling the tiles around enough times, you’ll probably hit one of the answers in the starter puzzles, so younger children will get the kinesthetic input of just moving the pieces around, even if they can’t actually reason through how to get the answer. That being said, I would say that a child does need to have the quality of patience to get to a solution, or just really enjoy moving the pieces around.
My daughter was easily frustrated when she couldn’t figure it out, but part of that is her age and the fact that she didn’t fully understand that moving the pieces around will eventually get to the solution. Something she really enjoyed though, was flipping through the cards and picking a puzzle to try. While I encourage her to begin with the Starter level, I also let her attempt any card she is interested in.
My Experience as an Adult
I enjoy a good puzzle challenge, and this game delivers. Chicken Shuffle Jr. does require some good reasoning and visualization skills for the harder puzzles.
For instance, on puzzle #2, I tried to reason my way through it and was able to reach one of the answer positions, but I couldn’t reason my way to the second solution (I’m not particularly gifted in spatial ability, so this is just my personal experience with it!).
On puzzle #3, I did a trial and error experiment and just randomly shuffled the pieces around without thinking, and behold, I was able to cover all the eggs in less than a minute without even thinking about it.
This leads me to an interesting conclusion–this game can serve as a logic and spatial skills strengthener, but also as something to just keep bored hands busy. (I know I’m not the only parent with a kiddo who needs this!)
Thoughts on the 4 Challenge Levels
Starter – For the most part you can randomly shuffle the chickens around in a circle and land upon a solution.
Junior – I had to get creative in how I shuffled them around multiple times, and they were definitely more difficult.
Expert – I found that pre-visualizing the eggs that needed to be covered was key to shuffling the pieces in a strategic way. However, randomly shuffling them around also got them to the solution in time.
Master – The master level adds in the fun restriction that the cards have pond water spots on them that the chickens cannot sit in, as well as the eggs that need to be covered. This level is hard! Several of the puzzles totally stumped me, and randomly shuffling doesn’t land on the solution as quickly, if at all.
As an adult (or an older child), you can look at the eggs or water spots and visualize what the available spots are and which chicken tiles need to go in which places. Yet, even then, there absolutely were puzzles that totally stumped me!
Final Thoughts on Chicken Shuffle Jr.
Our whole family enjoys the challenge of Chicken Shuffle Jr., which is available from Timberdoodle Co. here. Younger children may require some help to figure out how the puzzle works, but those that have an interest in how things work and manipulating pieces to achieve a result will really enjoy the game.
Older children and adults will also enjoy the variety of challenges, and the compact nature of the game makes it perfect for travel and on-the-go entertainment (and learning!).
Strengthening cognitive skills can be fun and the process of learning new strategies has so much value.
Related Articles on Homeschooling:
- Smart Farmer Game Review || Sparking Problem Solving & Thinking Skills
- Bugzzle Pattern Puzzle Review || Math Concepts to Grow With
- Zoo Picture Puzzle Book Review || Visual Learning with Search & Find