Alex toys is pretty new at baby toddler toys, introducing Alex Jr. in 2008, but they have positioned themselves as a leader in launching innovative infant toys, in a market that seems flooded with just one more stacking toy.

Hug-a-Puzzle” is just that–a soft puzzle in the form of a dog, kitty, bus or pig. The plush velour doggy is just firm and slim enough for a one-year-old’s hands to grab and give to someone or squeeze with a hug. Little ones were drawn to the simple face and pointed out the nose while younger kids enjoyed a munch on the ears and tail. Even I was amazed that a one-year-old could pull the pieces apart and then hand them back to me to start the game over again. “Hug-a-Puzzle” became a buddy and a game all in one.

Talk about body parts and point them out, describe the textures and colors, count the three puzzle pieces, as well as name opposites–off/on and in/out, as you use rich language to describe pulling, pushing and sliding. In talking about what your child is doing, you are teaching him language that prepares him to talk.

Sherry Artemenko, MA-CCC, is a speech-language pathologist with more than 35 years experience and founder of The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “Hug-a-Puzzle” was provided for review by Alex toys.