Review by Stacy Zeiger, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2014
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Pettson's Inventions

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Building zany contraptions gets kids thinking

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Creativity
  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Science
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
K-5
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (1 Review)

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Pros: The increasingly difficult challenges and Pettson's positive praise keep kids playing.

Cons: Puzzles are initially hard to figure out.

Bottom Line: Fun challenges test kids' creative problem-solving skills to the max and teach them a little bit about physics and engineering.

Teachers can use Pettson's Inventions as part of their regular science instruction, particularly when that instruction relates to basic physics and engineering concepts. Go through a few puzzles with the class as a whole, challenging students to work together to complete the tasks. Kids could also work in small groups or individually, racing to see who solves the challenge first. The quirky contraptions could also be a way to inspire kids to come up with their own, real-life inventions. Take the learning offline with some hands-on building.

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Pettson's Inventions challenges kids to help Pettson and his cat, Findus, build 27 different zany inventions using traditional items such as cogwheels and rubber bands, and less traditional items such as pinwheels and little green monsters. Pettson introduces a problem, and kids solve it by dragging and dropping items to build a contraption. For example, Pettson says "Help the bird take a shower," and kids place a weight over an elephant so that when it drops it'll squeeze air out of the elephant's trunk with enough force to power a pinwheel, which in turn, pumps water for the bird's shower. As kids successfully complete tasks, Pettson offers praise, kids earn a gear, and new puzzles unlock.

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The scenarios in Pettson's Inventions may seem a bit odd and the materials a bit unconventional, but the zaniness helps increase the learning potential. While the game may not state outright that it wants students to learn about physics and engineering, it incorporates scientific principles in every task. For example, kids may use a stick with a hand attached to it to push a snowball down a ramp and set off a chain reaction of events, or they may connect a balloon to a fire-breathing lizard to help move it closer to the fan that will blow the fire closer to the fuse of a rocket. Kids build key problem-solving skills and a wealth of examples to reference when it comes to learning more specific science concepts.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

The challenges may frustrate some kids at first. But once they get the hang of it, they'll love these quirky contraptions.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Puzzles increase in difficulty at an appropriate pace. However, there's only one right answer, so kids can't test different configurations.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

As kids drag and drop items to assemble the contraptions, they'll discover that each piece snaps into just one spot, making the puzzles easier to figure out. Optional hints would help younger kids be successful and avoid frustration.


Common Sense Reviewer
Stacy Zeiger Homeschooling parent

Teacher Reviews

(See all 1 reviews) (1 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Steve I. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
William Annin Middle School
Basking Ridge, NJ
Engaging puzzle game to get kids involved with design and systems thinking.

I think this would be a good extension activity in the elementary classroom. It would be a great activity as a learning station or for kids who have earned extra time. The puzzles are fun and engaging. I like that the point of the game comes across fine with few words. This certainly provides the opportunity for ELL students and certain students with special needs as the language or reading would not be a limiting factor. One thing I am not crazy about is the fact that each puzzle clearly only has one solution and each item can only be placed in it's proper place. This makes it easy for a student to continue to just guess or drag items in the hopes that they will lock into their proper place. I do like the fact that there is a sandbox mode where students can create whatever type of invention they like. This brings a Papert-esque constructionist feel and would certainly encourage creativity compared to the activities that do not allow for creativity. Another interesting aspect is that there are several challenges to create a certain object rather than just trying to complete the 'mouse trap' like puzzles. I am sure students would enjoy playing in school and even outside of school. Definitely worthwhile for parents to purchase this app for their home devices.

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