6 Ways to Create Puzzles in TinyTap
By Ellen Weber
So often we think of puzzles as just a game to play, or something to keep the kids busy for a little while, but did you know that puzzles play an important role in a child’s development? Some of the skills they learn through puzzles include fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, visual perception, spatial orientation/directionality, language skills (such as using descriptive vocabulary and following directions), problem-solving, understanding part-whole relationships, attention/concentration, and memory, as well as character traits such as persistence and patience. These are all skills which impact a child’s ability in reading, writing, and math.
A study by University of Chicago researchers has found that “the ability to mentally transform shapes is an important predictor of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) course-taking, degrees and careers in older children. Activities such as early puzzle play may lay the groundwork for the development of this ability.” Other studies are currently being conducted regarding the role puzzles can play for adults to prevent or slow the progression of dementia. From the Mayo Clinic, “Mentally stimulating activities, such as puzzles and word games, and memory training may delay the onset of dementia and help decrease its effects.”
To start making puzzles for the people you care about, here are some quick tips for six different types of puzzles you can create with TinyTap.
Step 1: Find a free puzzle generator online, such as PuzzleMaker from Discovery Education. Enter the information requested, including your vocabulary or spelling words. Take a screen shot of the puzzle to use when you create your TinyTap page.
Step 2: Set up your TinyTap page with a background, your list of words, and the screen shot of the puzzle (cropped in your device’s photo editor, before importing it).
Step 3: Select “Ask a Question” feature in the next screen. Record each word as a separate “question,” and create the hotspots for the corresponding answers.
Step 1: Search the internet for pictures of a jigsaw of the shape you want, and import it into your TinyTap page as the background.
Step 2: Select “Cut a Shape Puzzle” feature as your activity layer. Using a stylus, trace around each piece to create your puzzle. Scramble the pieces on the screen.
Step 3: Record your introduction or directions, then select your settings. Hint … If you select “Easy Mode”, the puzzle will open showing the answer (completed picture) for a brief second before the pieces are shuffled around. If you do not want this visual clue, turn off Easy Mode. To keep the pieces from popping back into their starting place if the answer is incorrect, turn on “Free Play.”
Step 1: Decide whether you want to use pictures, letters, or numbers in your Sudoku puzzle, and do an internet search for the images you want.
Step 2: Search the web for a square grid. Make sure it is square, with the same number of spaces across as there are number of spaces down. That will be the number of images you will need to insert into your puzzle. For example, if there are 4 spaces across and 4 spaces down, you will need 4 difference pictures/letters/numbers. Make sure to leave room on your page to move your answer pieces out of the puzzle grid. Keep in mind, you are starting with the answer for your page, or how the page will look after the person finishes the puzzle.
Step 3: For the interactive layer, choose “Cut a Shape Puzzle,” trace your first image, and move it off the grid. Double tap on your first image one to create an identical shaped puzzle piece. The difficulty of the puzzle will depend on how many squares/images you remove. To make an easy puzzle, just remove piece one per row. Leave more blank spaces in your puzzle to make it more difficult.
Step 4: Record directions in the Settings of your shape puzzle.
Step 1: Search the web for an image and a transparent grid to import to your TinyTap page, as seen above. Make sure to keep the puzzle within the dotted outline on your page grid.
Step 2: Add your activity layer by selecting “Cut a Shape Puzzle.” Cut a box out the size of one of your grid squares, then duplicate that cut-out by double-tapping it. Use your new (duplicated) cut-out for your next piece. Each piece you cut out should be put in the space before it, following your diagram of the direction of flow. For example, start by cutting out #1, moving it off the puzzle grid temporarily, leaving a black space there instead. Then cut out #2, move it off the grid, and move piece #1 into space #2. Continue this way around the board. The last space will be covered by the second-to-last piece. And the last piece is never actually ever cut out of the puzzle.
Step 3: Go into Settings to record your directions, and select which features you want to turn on.
To save your time and sanity, you can quickly create your crossword puzzle in a puzzle generator such as PuzzleMaker.
Keep generating possible combinations until you find one that will fit on your TinyTap page, leaving room for your word clues. Hint … due to the size of the screen, the longest word should be 10 letters or less. Keep your puzzle boxes and word clues within the dotted outline on your page grid. Note that the text boxes are not case-sensitive; they will not discriminate between upper or lower case letters.
In the interest of brevity (I know, too late!), here is a link to the TinyTap blog post about creating crossword puzzles using the Tap n’ Type feature.
Step 1: To work on vocabulary and spelling, try using a letter scramble puzzle. Start by selecting your core word, such as “hearts.” Search online for an anagram solver such as the one from WordPlays. Enter your word and make note all words that can be made using the letters in the word “hearts.” You will probably need to more than one page to cover all the possibilities, so you can organize your game by making a page for 1- and 2-letter words, a separate page for 3-letter words, and so on. Select the words from your list that are age-appropriate for your purposes.
Step 2: When adding your interactive activity, select the Tap n’ Type feature. Although it is a bit time consuming, you will need to type in ALL of the possible choices in every text box for that page. For example, for the word “hearts” there are 12 different 5-letter words that most upper elementary students would know. You will need to type in all 12 words in each box (separated by a comma), as there is no way to predict which word the student will try to type in which box. To get your boxes to look consistent in shape and size, double-tap a box to create a duplicate.
Step 3: Don’t forget to go into Settings and record your directions.
Ellen Weber is a veteran TinyTap creator and pediatric SLP. Check out her TinyTap collection.