Puzzles have been around for thousands of years, but it wasn’t just the Romans or the Chinese who loved puzzles. Can anyone say labyrinth? The variety of puzzles is immense, from simple logic twists to physical puzzles.
They have entertained and challenged civilizations throughout the ages. So, of course, the Girl Scouts had a badge that focused on learning the different puzzle types.
The retired Puzzler badge is a great one to earn for your Junior troop. It is relatively inexpensive to prep for and can be structured to allow the girls to work pretty independently.
This can be especially helpful if you have a meeting where you are short of adult helpers.
In the original handbook, there are 10 options listed, of which girls are required to complete six. I’ve gone through the list and narrowed it down to what I think is doable.
So, here is my suggested meeting plan for your troop to earn the retired Junior Puzzlers badge.
1. One Dollar Words
This is a cute word game that sneaks a little math in while the girls are having fun. I’ve included an explanation sheet and a conversion chart to print and distribute to the girls. If you’re not aware of the game’s rules, letters are equal to cents, and the goal is to find words that add up to $1.00.
There is an example on the instruction sheet using the word ‘Scout.’ Once they have reviewed this example, I would then have the girls calculate the value of their first names. After that, you could then have the girls work in pairs or small teams.
If you want to create a sense of urgency, try adding a time component such as 5-minute rounds and then have the girls switch partners. Hey – and what about giving a genuine $1 bill to the winner?
One Dollar Word Materials (PDF)
2. Optical Illusions
There are several ways you can go here. First, you can print out copies of the old woman/young woman illusion, the duck/rabbit illusion, and the vase/two faces illusion which you can download following the hypertext. If you’re limited on time, this is a great option.
However, if you have more time, you can consider having the girls create a thaumatrope. This is a toy where the child would spin two disks rapidly – one showing a bird and the other a cage.
The result was an illusion where it appeared the bird was actually in the cage. You can get instructions for this by following this link from the Girl Guides of Canada.
If you want to have your Juniors try and create their own version of a thaumatrope, you can use the blank disks (PDF) that I’ve made.
Versions I’ve seen other girls create are a bird eating a worm, a bird on a branch (lots of bird ideas out there!), flowers in a vase, a caterpillar on a leaf, or a bee hovering over a flower.
And also, you don’t have to use yard or twine when creating your thaumatrope. You can also affix the two disks to either side of a dowel or pencil and then have the girls rub them quickly between their hands.
3. Word Scramble
Most of us are familiar with word scrambles. For example, the letters that make up a word are mixed up so that “bowling” can become “lbgiwon.”
The girls need to create word scrambles that they can then swap with other troop members to solve. You can have the girls come up with their own word lists, but if you’re short on time, I’ve created a few lists of 10 words each which you can use.
I’ve also created the worksheets that match these word lists for the girls to use. And finally, there is also a generic worksheet to use should you decide the girls create their own lists.
Word Scramble Word Lists (PDF)
Word Scramble Worksheets (PDF)
I did not know how to create a maze, but I found a great site that gives you step-by-step instructions that your girls can follow. It does require graph paper, but that’s pretty easy to find if you don’t have any on hand.
If your troop happens to be younger, he shows you how to do a simpler version towards the end.
If you’re looking for a more free-flowing method of creating a maze, you can view the video below. But, I have to say, creating a maze is more straightforward than I thought it would be.
Picaria is a Native American game that reminds me of checkers but requires some strategy. To play, you just need the board, two players, and then three markers per person.
The markers can be basically anything – coins, Perler beads, etc. Just use what you have on hand. You could even use M&Ms and then dispose of the markers when you’re done!
I found a copy of a Picaria game board online that you can download along with a copy of the rules and instructions. I’m not sure how long a game usually lasts, but I think the first one might be a bit longer as the girls try to understand how to play.
However, given the relatively small board size, I would assume that actual playing time would be short once they get the hang of it.
6. Magic Tricks
And for the finale, we have magic tricks! Unless you are a master at sleight of hand, I suggest buying a box or two of magic tricks.
They can be found for a reasonable price. Kits such as these have several options so that you can have the girls each choose a trick they would like to learn. This will probably be the most exciting step in the badge for most of your girls.
Consider ending the meeting by having your troop show off their new magic tricks to the adults and the other girls in the troop.
Let me know how your girls like this badge. I plan to do this with my girls during our winter campout – if we are actually allowed to resume camping!
Our time outside will most likely be limited due to the cold weather, and this seems like a badge that we can knock out in the bunkhouse between dinner and lights out.