Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Chinese Toy: Tangram Puzzle


Have you ever played with tangrams? Known to the Chinese as qi qiao ban: the "seven-board of cunning" puzzle was invented 1500 years ago, and still used today as a popular toy and in schools to teach trigonometry and geometry. 


It consists of 7 pieces, or tans, that are moved around to create a shape, often following an outline. The 7 pieces include five right triangles (large, medium and small), one square, and one parallelogram. The rules are simple, though the puzzles range in complexity. When doing a tangram puzzle, all seven pieces must be used, they must lay flat, they must touch, and none may overlap.  

Read the Tangram Legend



You can buy plastic or wooden tangrams but we created our own using cereal boxes and decorative origami paper. We glued a square piece of paper to the boxboard, and cut into our shapes using this tutorialYou could also just cut them out of paper, but we wanted ours to be sturdier.




Of course, it would be easier :) to first find a tangram template, and cut the boxboard and decorative paper to size. Here are two tangram templates: large & small.

Also, All Things Beautiful, has a great post and tutorial on how to get your tangram pieces without measuring, but by folding your square into pieces.


Elle and I read "Grandfather Tang's Story" by Ann Tompert. It was a great way to introduce her to tangrams, as the characters are drawn alongside their tangrams, and the story is told with traditional Chinese characters of fox fairies, which are magical foxes that can change forms and get into mischief. 

First we read the book, and the second time Elle and I had fun creating the character shapes as we read along. We then closed the book to see if we could remember how to shape some of the animals - though Elle remembered a couple, my pieces just kept going in circles. 


Inspired by a game played with tangrams at Angelic Scalliwags as part of their ancient China study, I created an animal tangram challenge. The puzzle is placed in the middle of the table, with the shape facing in all four directions, and the race is on to see who can complete the puzzle first. 



I thought I would have an unfair advantage, having put the challenge together. But though I would have a general idea of where to start, I was just as puzzled as the others! I kept hearing comments like: "It's missing a piece" or "It doesn't need the square" (that square kept stumping us). I think this game will continue to challenge us, and I particularly loved seeing the focused attention hubby gave it!









I also created two animal tangram puzzle booklets (seen in picture at top of post)- one with the outlines showing, and the other without. I'm hoping to try the ones with the outlines with my almost four year old nephew, who loves puzzles.


And you can find more puzzles here,and here with varying levels of challenge.

Here are some fun things others are doing with tangrams:


Almost Unschoolers made tangram cookies  and tangram toast



Jimmie's Collage created artwork using tangram shapes

Have you played with tangrams? Do you find them challenging?


You can find more cultural and historical activities at the following linkups:

You can find more creative and kid friendly activities at the following linkups:
Highhill Homeschool

19 comments:

  1. This is great. We have had fun with tangrams, too. Thanks for linking up.
    http://homeschooljournal-bergblog.blogspot.com/2010/11/tangram-puzzle.html
    http://homeschooljournal-bergblog.blogspot.com/2010/03/discovering-tangramslessons-in-logical.html
    http://homeschooljournal-bergblog.blogspot.com/2010/03/tangrams-seven-magic-shapes.html

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    1. Thanks for hosting the link up, and for directing me to your tangram posts! I added a mention of your great tutorial on how to get your tans by folding the square.

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    2. http://www.tangram-channel.com provides teachers and pupils with free tangram puzzle activities

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  2. Yes, we also had fun with this book. We also have a Tangram Master set at home that has a book of puzzles for four players and a very nice set of wood tangrams for four players. I am hoping we'll get more use out of this set when our daughter is older :)

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    1. Pea, 15, surprisingly enjoys playing with it - we've played the last few days :)

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  3. Thanks for the mention! I know I've said it before, but you're so clever! Well done you for making the game. I thought it was cool I bought it second hand for next to nothing, but making it for free is so much better!!
    PS- I was the anonymous who left a message in your latest weekend post- not sure why my name didn't come up!

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    1. Thanks Claire :) I've gotta say, I would love to come across a beautiful wooden set second hand, and next to nothing!
      (scalliwag name came up for the weekend post after all)

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  4. This is a great idea for a China activity. I love the cookies and pinned the post:)

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    1. The cookies look great, don't they? As it turns out, Phillys at All Things Beautiful made cookies as well, and added chocolate chip cookie eyes and details.

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  5. Ooh, just read about these on Natalie's blog! Glad to learn more about them! Thanks for sharing at the Culture Swapper!

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  6. What a comprehensive post on tangrams!! I love the DIY, explanation, and the challenge looks like SO MUCH fun! I'm featuring this tomorrow at the After School Linky Party. Stop by to check it out and share more of your great ideas/activities!

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    1. Thanks for the feature, and thanks for hosting the link up!

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  7. I'm planning a Chinese cultural play date, and I love the idea of making tangrams with the children. Thank you for linking up at the Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop #6

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    1. Fun! I hope you post about the play date :) I'd love to read about it.

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  8. Great post.You hav done a great job.Thanks

    toy store online

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  9. So many great ideas! You've inspired me to get our tangrams out! Yours look really pretty with the origami paper. We made ours out of foam.

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    1. I have a weakness for origami paper - every time I see some, I want to buy it- and I hardly ever fold origami! At any rate :) we're really enjoying the tangrams - we even found an app that is played with on long drives.

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