As we move into winter, you may need to find something to occupy your kids on snowy days. Have you thought of tangrams? Tangrams are an old puzzle game that came to us by way of the China trade in the early 1800s. It consists of seven flat shapes--two large triangles, one medium triangle, two small triangles, one small square, and one small parallelogram. All seven shapes can be cut from one square. The shapes are called tans, and are put together to form a variety of recognizable other shapes such as people, animals, etc.
You need not spend a lot of money on a tangram puzzle, although there are mahogany sets, magnetic sets, travel sets, etc. You can make your own tangrams out of paper or cardboard, instructions here. Or, if you're feeling adventurous, you can even make a puzzle out of a sandwich! Instructions here.
We have these books for children that include tangram activities:
Mattern, Joanne. Recipe and Craft Guide to China. [J 641.591 MAT]
McCallum, Ann. Eat Your Math Homework: Recipes For Hungry Minds. [J 510 MCC]
Pappas, Theoni. Fractals, Googols, and Other Mathematical Tales. [J 510 PAP]
You can buy books of tangram patterns or do an online search. The Florida Center for Instructional Technology, a free clipart site for teachers and students, has a nice collection of tangram puzzle (and solution) sheets. Here's a seasonal example:
Grandfather Tang's Story by Ann Tompert [JP TOM] is a picture book that incorporates tangram foxes. It would make a good introduction to tangrams for the younger child.