I love doing paper puzzles, but I also like playing puzzle games. There are actually quite a lot of them available. There are puzzle games that are single player and others that are multiple player. My favorite is the single player logic puzzle. The best of those offer unlimited creating and solving possibilities, like the Rubik's Cube. But these are usually too hard for young solvers (and sometimes too hard for me! ;-) Some of the best puzzle games that I've come across are those sold by ThinkFun. If you aren't a puzzle hound like me, you can get away with buying one or two, and have plenty of puzzling for your kids. I prefer to have a copy of each puzzle...it's a collecting thing!
Of the puzzles ThinkFun makes, my recommendation for the youngest solvers is a puzzle game called Chocolate Fix. This game is single player. It comes with 9 chocolates, 3 pink, 3 milk and 3 dark, which also have different shapes, 3 triangles, 3 squares, and 3 circles. The chocolates fit snugly in a 3x3 grid tray. There is a flip book with instructions, it's own stand, and 40 challenges. Players flip to a challenge and then attempt to solve it using the clues shown. Each clue gives hints as to where on the grid to place the chocolates, by noting the color or the shape or both.
The suggested age range is 8 and up. I say "No way!" to that! We've owned this game for years. When my daughter was younger (4ish), she liked to pretend these were real chocolates and she would go around the room and offer one to everybody. We would have to pretend to eat them of course! As she grew older, she was able to solve the easiest puzzle challenges, and at almost 10 years old, she can hold her own on the intermediates. The expert levels give me a challenge, although I can usually solve them within 10 minutes or less (cut me some slack! I'm not a genius!).
There are a number of thinking skills children can practice while playing with this puzzle. For the youngest, it is a chance to learn colors and shapes and maybe do a little sequencing. Others will learn how to analyze clues, visualize possibilities, and the skill of process of elimination, just to name a few!
The newest version from Thinkfun comes with "place holders." I think they must be used as markers for guesses, but the puzzle works just fine without those, if you happen to have an older version like me. From the picture above, it looks like they have also changed up the colors a bit, but that is probably a benefit, because I sometimes have trouble telling the dark chocolates from the milk chocolates on the clue cards in my version. It also looks like there is an app from iTunes, but it only has 30 of the challenges and no fun chocolates to play with. On the other hand, it is free! So if you have an iPhone-type-thing, you can try it out before you buy.
So if you're looking for another critical thinking challenge for your young solver, this might be the game for you! I would certainly buy it for under 5's, but not give it to anyone who still puts things in their mouths. I did recently give it to an under 5, and she was delighted to have her own little box of chocolates! Little did she know, I am trying to groom her to be a puzzle lover! It's never to early to start puzzling. That said, there are puzzles challenging enough for older kids and adults too. You've got to keep your brain sharp, no matter how old you are! I just wish their were more than the 40 challenges.
Note: This is not an advertisement for ThinkFun. I just happen to think they are a great company and this game is worth checking out!