Review of the Puzzle People, handmade in Philo CA. From their website: “Puzzle People have been making wooden puzzles since 1972. Located in Northern California , the Puzzle People use baby safe materials and finishes on all puzzles. We are known for high quality educational wooden map puzzles and a variety of personalized name puzzles, as well as for award winning puzzles of endangered animals.
One of the main reasons I started this page was to find alternatives to the Melissa & Doug wooden toys made in China I was seeing everywhere, puzzles being one of their very popular offerings. The Puzzle People was one of the only non-jigsaw options I found so I put them on my Made in the USA toy list (https://www.facebook.com/notes/eco-friendly-babyfamily-products-made-in-the-usa/awesome-battery-free-safe-toys-made-in-the-usa-list/488605551155090). My sister bought my babe a personalized name puzzle for his 1st birthday. It sat on a shelf looking beautiful for at least 8 months as it was too advanced for him & I was worried about him losing pieces before he was ready to play with it. Then one day when he was about 20 months old I brought it down for him to try out. He (and I) have been puzzle lovers ever since! We currently own 4 puzzles from them including the one in the photo which they sent for our new baby girl, and will continue to purchase one every time I can come up with an excuse to buy one J
When I asked my page about ideas to help my toddler welcome our new baby, many suggested that I get a gift to give big brother from his new sister. So I thought “great, I can buy him another puzzle”. I ordered the number puzzle, which also has the names of the numbers written in English & Spanish underneath as well as a series of little dots (like on dice) to represent the numbers. My due date was getting close & I still hadn’t received it, so I gave Pat a call to ask if it would be arriving soon. She informed me they were having trouble with their computer server, and my order had been delayed but they would get it out immediately. I mentioned the reason I was ordering the puzzle, and also my page, and she told me to let her know when the new baby arrived & what we named him/her & she would make a name puzzle for the new arrival. As my baby girl waited until 8 days past our due date, the number puzzle gift for big brother made it on time! Then I let her know that Althea had arrived and they sent me the one in the photo as a gift. I absolutely LOVE that they sent the “scrap” which is a by-product of Althea’s name puzzle, with a note that suggests it could be used as a picture frame. I will certainly do that, or something creative with it. I also really enjoyed the handwritten note on the little heart piece welcoming Althea & congratulating our entire family on her arrival!
They use non-toxic water based paints & finishes for all of their puzzles. The colors are very vibrant, and these puzzles hold up AMAZINGLY well. My son’s name puzzle has been around the longest, and has been played with over, and over, and over & there are barely any chips or dings from the wood or paint. There is nothing he owns that he plays with more than these puzzles (and the lacing puzzle we own from Smiling Tree Toys, our other favorite puzzle). About the birch plywood used, or more importantly, the glue that holds it together: “The adhesives used in plywood have become a point of concern. Both urea formaldehyde and phenol formaldehyde are carcinogenic in very high concentrations. As a result, many manufacturers are turning to low formaldehyde-emitting glue systems, denoted by an “E” rating (“E” 0 possessing the lowest formaldehyde emissions”. Plywood produced to “E0” has effectively zero formaldehyde emissions.” They sent me a copy of their MSDS sheet (https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/u/0/?ui=2&ik=47df4bcb4f&view=att&th=140a3364eea7bf80&attid=0.1&disp=inline&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P__-hj0ySDKPpqTwRrBtXU1&sadet=1377187357478&sads=7lcLPknf_PwUe9gUuRrR4pLEuMo), which states that tested panels “have emitted at levels within the generally accepted E-0 European standard”, the toughest standards that exist. And, as the make their puzzles in the state of CA, they must comply with the strictest standards in our country.
Categories of puzzles, with several options in each category: map, name, animal, educational, preschool, toddler. The least expensive puzzles cost $14, and the most expensive one I saw was $75. Even the simplest ones with 5-7 pieces will still provide hours of entertainment for your little one. I seriously wish we could own one of each, and get rid of the rest of the toys in our house- I love these puzzles that much! My husband has come up with a creative idea to keep our son engaged—he started turning the puzzles upside down when he presents them to my son, adding an extra challenge! And, even the simplest puzzle becomes challenging again if my son doesn’t play with it for a week or so. They really, really keep him engaged. I also love that they offer “Paint-A-Puzzle” options, which include 25 pieces that you & your kids can paint yourself- how fun for the older kids, and most of them are only $15, with a couple running $30 (http://www.puzzlepeople.com/blue/blue.html)!!! I feel the prices are very reasonable for these puzzles, considering what goes into making them, how much enjoyment your child(ren) will get out of them, and the fact that they can be passed down or even resold (we’ve only lost 1 piece so far- I know it’s in the upstairs of our house somewhere)…
I absolutely loved browsing their photo tour tab. I learned that their puzzles are made of bird, which is fast-growing, non-endangered, and white which helps the colors show up very nicely. I highly encourage you to browse this album & see photos of how they make the puzzles, including their giant silk-screen machine they use to imprint some of the images. Viewing this album helped me realize how much work goes into these works of art (as I believe each & every one is): http://www.puzzlepeople.com/black/VT1.html
During the months of November and December, please allow us up to 3 weeks to make your puzzle. I will certainly be ordering these puzzles for both my kids for Holidays & Birthdays for years to come.
This may be a 1st for a review I’ve done, can you believe they don’t have a FB page?!