When children are playing with puzzles they are learning a lot. They are learning how to put things together, how to solve problems, how to sort “like things”, and how to carry out their thoughts through their actions. Smaller children will learn to grab single items with one hand and develop the muscles that will are used in writing. Through playing with puzzles they will also be introduced to the mathematical concept that the sum of the parts make the whole. They can use the puzzle pieces as something to count and they will learn about the puzzle’s colors, shapes, letters as well.
Another great thing about puzzles for children is that a child can work on a puzzle by themselves or with a group of others. They can play with puzzles without the help of adults and still be mentally stimulated the entire time. Even if children work on a puzzle as a group they still experience all the benefits of doing it themselves. They can pick up a piece, rotate it, discover the spot in which it fits, recognize the picture being formed, and be proud of themselves for having accomplished the each step.
Puzzles can be made from almost any picture. You can make them yourself as part of a “crafts time” or you can upload a digital picture to one of several websites and have the puzzle custom manufactured and shipped right to your door (or if it is a gift you can ship it to someone elses door). Doing this with your child can help them learn about computers. The child can take a picture themselves and then have a puzzle made from it! How cool is that? [Include puzzle printing websites here]. You can even work puzzles online! [Link here too]
Here are some tips relating to choosing puzzles for your children. The original source can be found here:
- Make sure puzzles are suited for each child’s age and abilities. Two year olds, for example, will enjoy putting in pieces and taking them back out just as much as they will enjoy fitting them into the right spot. Toddlers enjoy three or four-piece wooden puzzles. As they grow and learn to rotate pieces to match holes and find pieces that fit, they can handle increasingly complex puzzles.
Three-year-olds still enjoy puzzles with single knobs on each piece, but they can also work on puzzles with five to eight pieces. Four-year-olds will enjoy knobless puzzles with familiar scenes and characters. They can handle 12 to 18-piece puzzles. Five-year-olds can handle large or small piece 18 to 35 pieces puzzles. They move from the pleasure of the activity to mastering the task.
- As children reach school age, they will enjoy more complex puzzles of 50–100 pieces or more. All family members may gather around the table top to help children put the pieces together.
- Puzzles should be well-made and appealing to the child. The younger the child, the more she will benefit from large, recognizable pieces to help her complete a picture. Good puzzles may show pictures of food, cars and trucks, animals, boys and girls, nursery rhymes and scenes from story books. Young children better understand figures made of simple shapes like circles, triangles and squares.
- Watch for missing pieces or damage to puzzles. Puzzles should offer a challenge to children, but they should also be solvable. Nothing is more frustrating to a child than trying to complete a puzzle with a missing piece.
Puzzles can provide formal learning experiences. Teachers may work closely with children to help them learn to solve problems through puzzles. Puzzles also help teachers observe children and assess their development. While children work alone or in groups, teachers can monitor the way they speak, move, and concentrate.
By participating with your child as they work puzzles they will get the maximum value as far as learning experiences go, but there is plenty of value to be had from children having puzzles to play with even if you can’t always be a part of the play. Remember, they can play with other children or do it by themselves and in every case have an opportunity to develop new skills or enhance existing ones.