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on July 1, 2009
When I ordered this puzzle the product description said "wood" and "hand painted", the customer reviews also raved about these features. When I got the puzzle I was very disappointed to find that the puzzle pieces are MDF board, not wood or even plywood, and the puzzle board was MDF and plywood. Additionally they were not painted at all but had paper stickers that immediately started tearing off.
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on December 11, 2009
This toy is fun. The farm animals are super cute. It's a great concept for a 'first' puzzle, with it's bright fun animals and easy-match puzzle board. It is certainly educational, and when I bought it I felt pretty good about my kids playing with it.

I bought this puzzle expecting it to be precisely what was advertised: A wooden puzzle. Naive to the world of children's toys, I took that description at face value. When I think wooden, I think solid wood, which is what these pieces appear to be. They have a nice heavy feel to them, and when thoroughly coated in paint, considering the false advertising, you'd really have no reason to expect otherwise.

Enter time and a little rough tossing around of the puzzle pieces, and as the paint begins to chip away, another story is revealed. These puzzle pieces are nothing but pressed paper-like sawdust material. When revealed beneath the chipped-off paint, this dry, dusty substance easily flakes off where it can get into little mouths and become part of the general household dust.

Okay, so Melissa and Doug fudged a little on their description. What might have been wood once upon a time is now thinly pressed layers of sawdust and resin, but it was wood in a previous life, and that still counts, right? It's intentionally deceptive marketing, but does any of that really matter in the practical sense?

I think it does.

Medium density fiberboard (MDF) is nasty stuff. Containing a higher resin-to-wood ration than any other pressed wood product, MDF emits VOCs for at least a few months after manufacture and emits urea formaldehyde for the duration of its life. I doubt there have been any studies on using pressed wood for a child's toy that may be mouthed and is nonetheless handled frequently and in close proximity to their faces during day-to-day play. There have been studies suggesting urea formaldehyde is a suspected carcinogen; others show that incidences of leukemia and lymphoma increase through prolonged exposure of VOCs in the indoor environment.

Bottom line, most MDF is not something you want in your home in any form, and it's probably not the best thing to make a child's toy out of. There are ways to manufacture MDF which use resins that do not contain formaldehyde which are supposed to be environmentally friendly. I contacted Melissa and Doug to find out if they use these formaldehyde-free resins in their MDF. They've got really friendly customer service, but no one available could provide me with that information. I was told they'd get back to me. I'm still waiting.

In the meantime, I think I'll just stick with the old adage: You get what you pay for.

I think the important part is knowing what you're getting when you decide to purchase it and not being led falsely into believing you're paying for superior materials when you're really just buying a few adorable cubes or formaldehyde-imbued garbage coated thickly in conveniently concealing paint. Had this been disclosed in the description, I'd have no gripe with this puzzle. I also would not have purchased it to begin with.

There are solid wood (and plywood) puzzles out there. They cost anywhere from 2 to 3 times as much as a Melissa and Doug 'wooden' puzzle (sometimes more), but most have the added bonus of not being made in China; a small detail of Melissa and Doug's toys that has always sent a red flag of sorts up for me.
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on May 19, 2010
I bought one of these puzzles (Sea Life) a few years ago, and it was a beautiful puzzle. The puzzle pieces were completely painted and smooth. I have seen all the puzzles in this style at libraries and church nurseries and they have all been beautiful. Until now. Melissa and Doug have changed the style of this puzzle. I bought two (Farm and Vehicles) today expecting them to be nice like my old one. The pieces are no longer painted. They have stickers on top of scratchy particle board (i.e. jagged bottom edges and dusty stuff falling all over). The cow use to have defined, carved ears and now it is just a smooth top with a sticker that looks like it was cut wrong. What's more, I got this today, opened it 1 hour ago, and the stickers are already peeling off. My toddler hasn't even put these in his mouth yet--and I won't let him as chunks of the "wood" will come off into his mouth if he did and the stickers would probably disintegrate. I have written the company to let them know that this new idea is a bad one. Don't buy unless they change it back.
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on December 13, 2009
This would be such a great puzzle IF it were actually hand-painted and made of wood. I read the other reviews and I think the design of the puzzle must have changed. I was so excited about this puzzle, and my kids love it. The only problem is that I'm about to throw it away after just a few weeks because the stickers on the pieces are all but gone. We have only used this puzzle gently and as intended. I'm very disappointed and now I don't trust the descriptions of Melissa and Doug puzzles.
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on November 14, 2009
What has happened to Melissa and Doug? We bought one of these chunky puzzles for our other son 3 years ago and it has lasted so well because it is painted. I just got this one last night for his little brother and it's not painted at all. Everything just has a sticker on the front that immediately will start peeling away if you wipe the thing down. It's definitely going back! Very disappointing.
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on July 9, 2010
I saw this puzzle at a friends house and she must have had the older version - wood, handpainted. My daughter really liked to play with it, so I decided to get one. What a dissappointment .. the pictures of the animals are nice, but on this one they are just a cheap paper sticker. The 11 mo old daughter of a friend got hold of the duck. She is still in the age where she sticks everything in her mouth and sure enough the sticker got soaked and peeled off and the duck is without a face now. And I don't know how safe this is to ingest. I know that the box says the toy is for 2+, but if you have playdates with children of different ages those things can happen. Maybe the company could go back to their original values and produce a better quality toy!
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on January 6, 2008
My son received this puzzle as a gift when he was around 8 months old. I figured it was too old for him. But i was wrong. He loved this puzzle from the start. the big chunky pieces were easy for him to manipulate. as he grew older, he moved from talking about the farm animals to fitting them into their proper places on the puzzle board. I believe this product helped my son identify farm animals and encouraged us to discuss them and their sounds. Now that he's almost 2, he pulls each animal out of its place, names it and its sound, kisses it then returns it to its proper place...followed by giggles and applause. I love Melissa and Doug products. ...they're educational and VERY DURABLE.
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on April 13, 2011
I will be writing a letter to the company. They should no longer be writing "handcrafted by hand" on their products. It is shameful and misleading. The puzzle pieces are probably machine made and and I don't see any evidence of "hand crafting" anymore. I just opened the package and the paper stickers are tearing off and my kids haven't played with it yet. The puzzle background is also paper and is coming off the plywood. Do not buy this product. It is not made to last 5 min.
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on November 8, 2007
Highly recommend these. Our daughter has this one and the zoo/safari animals. The pieces stand up easily which is a huge bonus over regular puzzles. She lines up the animals in a "parade" and then puts them back in their place over and over....

She plays with them so much that the corners are starting to chip. THat's the only negative.

We love them!!
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on April 4, 2011
i bought this puzzle truly because it was on the cheaper side and i usually like the Melissa & Doug products.
Well this puzzle is chunky pieces (great for tiny hands) but the paint comes right off the pieces over time. We have had this puzzle for a few months and the paint just chips right off. We recieved the same one again as a gift and it did the same thing... i was very disappointed in this product.
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