Over the summer, puzzles were a huge hit with Madeline. They were perfect for rainy days or during quiet afternoons while the baby rested. I was pushing them a bit onto Sammy during the summer… as a nice quiet activity while the baby napped, but he would not oblige me—instead, he preferred the racing, banging, crashing sort of games.
However, lately Sammy has come around to puzzles all on his own. Which I am thrilled about (and not only because it means I have a few minutes without racing, banging, and crashing games, either!). There are so many benefits of puzzles for children! Open-ended and imaginative play is very important for wee ones—but I am a big believer in ‘a little bit of this, and a little bit of that’ to make my little ones well-rounded, creative, and happy.
Here are 10 Benefits of Puzzles for Children
1. Problem Solving: In my opinion, one of the top benefits of puzzles for children is problem-solving. There is a clear problem, the puzzle is in pieces, and it needs to be solved; put together. Unlike many other situations children face, puzzles are different – there is only one solution. As I mentioned above, I think it is very important for wee ones to be exposed to many, many experiences. Problem-solving with only one possible solution is a very worthwhile and meaningful experience for wee ones.
2. Attention: Focusing on a puzzle is a wonderful way to build a child’s attention. They need to focus on details, colors, themes, and sizes. My Sammy talks to himself while “playing” puzzles – and it is very directive talk—quiet and focused. He is clearly paying very close attention to what he is doing.
3. Fine Motor Skills: Another great benefit of puzzles is helping to develop fine motor skills. Wee ones need to use a pincer grip to pick up the puzzle pieces and work carefully to fit the jigsaw puzzle pieces together.
4. Sorting: Puzzles require a lot of sorting to complete. Wee ones may sort puzzle pieces by color or by design. Madeline (11) is a color sorter. She finds all the blue pieces and then puts together the sky of the puzzle. Sammy (3) is a design sorter. He finds all of the pieces to a specific part of the puzzle (in his current favorite puzzle he always starts with the school bus). Personally, I like to start with the edge pieces and sort this way. Neither of my wee ones likes to start with the edges, and when we do puzzles together, it drives me a little nuts!
5. Vocabulary building: A wonderful benefit to puzzles that may go unseen is the benefit of building vocabulary. Wee ones are introduced to new words all the time while completing puzzles. New terms are talked about (edges, corners), new animals or items in the puzzles themselves (Yak and Arctic Fox have been favorites from Sammy’s second favorite puzzle), and different color words. The color words are wonderful, as often in puzzles, you need very specific colors: dark or light colors, but also specific words like teal or fuchsia can be introduced.
6. Independence: The first few times Sammy did ‘big’ puzzles (puzzles without pictures and about 30 pieces or so were big for him), we did them with him. Slowly we tried to build up his confidence, help him with some tips and tricks, and then ease back the help until he was doing it all on his own. Puzzles have become wonderful independent activities for him lately. A quiet activity he can do all on his own – perfect for moments when I need a few minutes!
7. Persistence: I used puzzles a lot in Kindergarten as well. Children who were not used to puzzles would often get frustrated with them quickly. But after some time, and a bit of help at first, this frustration went down a ton. Most were able to hold back their frustration knowing that it might take a few tries, but the right piece is there somewhere, and they just need to be patient and keep trying. A very valuable lesson for anyone—wee to big!
8. Perception: Looking very closely at things and seeing things in different ways is a wonderful benefit to puzzles. Have you ever noticed how things can look so different depending on how you look at them? Looking at a Puffin, you may not notice the little white streak on it, but when you look at that puffin in 20 pieces, all of a sudden, you notice every little detail.
9. Imaginative play and Self-talk: This, knowing my Sammy, should not have surprised me. This wee one of mine talks ALL the time! So I should not have been surprised when doing puzzles; he also began imaginative play and talking to himself. Sometimes he will be saying, “School bus, where is your other wheel … here I am … oh no, you are not the wheel I need … where are you, other wheel …” And other times, his self-talk becomes imaginative play like this: “I am Mr. Arctic Fox, and I like it to be chilly, chilly, but it is getting very warm in here, what should I do? I know, I will build some snow with these puzzle pieces”. He is a very creative and imaginative wee one, this boy of mine.
10. Confidence Building: The very first time a child finishes a challenging puzzle all on their own is such a wonderful thing for their self-confidence. Of all of the benefits of puzzles, this one has to be my most important. I still remember the look on Madeline’s face when she finished her first puzzle. And I actually got a picture of Sammy’s:
Proud as can be! Puzzles are a great way for wee ones to learn. In fact, puzzles themselves are like a great metaphor for how I see education. A lot of different ways to learn all coming together to create one beautiful whole person (too corny?!?!?)
Looking for Puzzles? Here are some great ones (affiliate links):
Puzzles for Toddlers:
Fishing Magnetic Puzzle Game by: Melissa and Doug. A great way to engage wee ones!
Melissa & Doug Pets Wooden Chunky Puzzle. Perfect for wee fingers.
Puzzles for Preschoolers:
Beginning Skills Floor Puzzle 4 Pack by: Melissa and Doug. An ideal first step for ‘big’ puzzles
Giant Fire Truck Floor Puzzle by Melissa And Doug. A great puzzle for wee ones having trouble (or little interest) in fine motor skills
Puzzles for Bigger Kids:
The Solar System Jigsaw Puzzle for Kids. This 100 piece puzzle is wonderful for vocabulary building and learning about Science.
Make Your Own Puzzles Fun set Blank boards Crafts Kids Color Paint Draw. Extend this learning even more by having your wee ones make their own puzzles!
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Thank you so much for reading, sweet friend.