The Fun Versatility of Pentominoes

Education Toys
Image: Learning Resources
Image: Learning Resources

If you have a kid who likes to fiddle, make patterns, or solve puzzles, get them a set of pentominoes. Pentominoes aren’t expensive and can engage kids (and adults) for hours. A quality set will last a lifetime.

Called “pentominoes” because each piece consists of five square units, they can be combined in a variety of ways. My favorite set is made by Learning Resources and comes with a full set of pentominoes in each of six colors.

Image: Scholastic
Image: Scholastic

What can you do with pentominoes?

  • Arrange them together to make large squares or other shapes.
  • Spell out words, since the twelve shapes are vaguely shaped like letters.
  • Create elaborate “road” systems.
  • Read and solve puzzles in the novel Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett, which combines mystery, art, puzzles, and fantastic illustrations.
  • Teach your kids about symmetry, rotating and reflecting the shapes.
  • See how large of an area you can tile solidly with the pentominoes, without any open spaces.
  • Using pentominoes that have a full set of several colors, make up games with friends or family.
  • Do a puzzle a day in Pentomino Puzzles: 365 Teasers to Keep Your Brain in Shape by Eric Harshbarger.
  • Just fiddle. The plastic pieces feel really great in your hand.
Image: Puzzlewright
Image: Puzzlewright

If you like pentominoes, other places to find them and related shapes are in the games Blokus and City Square Off.

What are your favorite activities to do with pentominoes? With such basic shapes, your imagination is your only limitation.

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