Thursday, August 2, 2012

How to Make Magnetic Tangrams (for travel)

When faced with the prospect of an upcoming mega-(17 hour)-roadtrip, I am overcome with anxiety.  Our kids do fairly well in the car, and we make long drives of about 7 to 10 hours with some frequency, but 17 hours in the car?  That's taking it to a whole new level.  What am I going to do to keep those children off of each other for 17 hours?
Inspiration came in the form of a cereal box.  Cocoa Krispies, to be exact.  The box had Tangrams on it, along with a few patterns to try. 
According to Aunt Annie's Crafts,
The tangram is a puzzle game that originated in China during the 1800s. It rapidly spread to the United States and Europe, and became very popular with both children and adults. Each tangram puzzle has seven pieces, also called tans, cut from one large square—two large triangles, one medium-sized triangle, two small triangles, one square, and one parallelogram. It is a puzzle that requires imagination and creativity.
What a great game to bring along in the car!  It has endless possibilities, and anyone can have fun with it.  For hours on end.  The only trouble was, those cardboard pieces cut from a cereal box would be easily lost.  And tangrams with lost pieces are no fun.
Enter my friend, magnetic inkjet paper.  You may remember that I made some paper dolls from this stuff a couple of years ago.  It's paper with a magnetic backing that you can run through your regular inkjet printer.  Good stuff.
To make some, just find a printable tangram you like--they're all over the internet.  I chose the ones from Aunt Annie's Crafts, because I wanted my tans to be colored, and I liked how the patterns were as big as possible to print on an 8.5 x 11 page so I wasn't wasting as much of the magnetic paper.
Just print the tangram you choose onto magnetic paper, then cut it out.  Try to cut as straight as possible--the puzzle will work better and be more fun with straight lines.  You could even go so far as to cut using a straight edge and x-acto knife (which I would love to have, by the way, if you're looking for gift ideas for me).

The beauty of the magnetic paper is that now your tangrams will stick to metal.  Use a baking sheet, craft tin, or metal clipboard to keep all those pieces contained.  At home, you can put them on the fridge or dishwasher for when the kids need to be entertained during meal prep.
That's it, you're done!  Now all that's left is to start playing.  See what kinds of shapes you can make.  There are all sorts of solutions all over the internet to try to copy, too.  I like this Tangram Zoo, because animals are fun for the kids.  Here are tons of tangram outline solutions.  I also printed off this tangram worksheet to give the older kids a bit of a challenge.
Have fun, and happy travels!

A few notes about these tangrams:
  • As you can see, the large tans hang over the edge of my cookie sheet in many of the solutions.  For travel, I would recommend the smaller tans (printed 4 to a sheet) so the solutions don't get so big.
  • Some of the solutions online do not work with this set because of the way the parallelogram is oriented (even some of the ones on Annie's website).  If you're having trouble figuring out a solution, try turning the parallelogram over, or flipping the whole shape you're attempting to make horizontally.

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