7 Benefits of Puzzles for Kids' Learning
Learn| By Anneliese Beard | April 26, 2021
We all rediscovered a love for puzzles last year – but did you know that jigsaws can boost kids’ learning? We take a look at the benefits of puzzles for kids.
Whether it’s learning to count to 10 with a peg puzzle or spending hours on a 1000-piece challenge, kids (and adults!) love a puzzle. In theory, it’s simple: pick up a piece and connect it to the next. But as your child recreates a picture of a puppy, they’re also working on the mental and physical skills they’ll need for school. Discover the wide-ranging benefits of puzzles for kids of all ages.
Create a Dedicated Space
While kids are having fun trying to figure out where a certain puzzle piece fits, they’re also developing their fine motor skills. As they turn each piece from left to right, upside down and round-and-round to find out which angle is the right fit, they’re strengthening their finger muscles – a subtle stepping stone to setting up the basic foundations for handwriting And, if you’re paying close attention, it might also help you recognise early on if they have a preference for using their left or right hand.
Put Their Knowledge of Shapes to the Test
Kids love to experiment with everything they can touch and puzzles are a great way to make that tactile desire educational. As their developing minds scramble to figure out how they can put the pieces together, they start to recognise the shapes in front of them – what a square looks like, that a triangle has three sides – and they begin to figure out what fits where, Diversity learning teacher Mary Elliot says you can usually see the process kids use to solve puzzles unfold. “Often, [it’s] first looking at the picture on the box, then creating a square outline, all through recognising that each piece connects to another,” she says. “This whole idea is based around a recognition of shapes.”
Improve Hand-Eye Coordination
Picking up a piece and connecting it to the next seems simple, but it’s the hidden communication between the brain and hands that’s essential. A bit of trial and error is common as kids work through it: they'll pick up one piece, realise it doesn’t fit, and repeat until one does. This simple process improves their concentration and is used in more practical skills down the line,like doing up buttons on their school uniform and learning to tie their laces. “Simply by looking for and choosing the correct pieces and then joining them securely means a child’s coordination develops,” says Mary.
Find the Best Ways to Solve Problems
It’s all about learning the best way forward. At an early age, kids start to learn the basics of strategy through puzzle play. “Moving on from one idea to work through the next process creates strategy. It’s figuring out the best options and finding what is most efficient going forward,” says Mary. There are also studies from the UK which suggest, depending on age, children's choice of tactics differ. Three-year-olds seem to prefer a process of trial and error but fast forward a year and a four-year-old deciphers a puzzle by recognising what the picture is as a whole.
Become a Master of Concentration
Trying to convince kids to stick with a task they find difficult can be hard, but using encouragement as an incentive can make it more rewarding – even a few encouraging words really can make a big difference. The challenges they face will turn into positives as they work on their patience and concentration, learn to be independent and realise how rewarding finishing a task can feel. “Focusing can lead to children developing solutions based on attributes such as colour and recognising that similar colours belong together,” says Mary.
Work Together to Work It Out
‘Teamwork makes the dream work’ and there’s a reason this cliché is so persistent. Working together is important for children's development as it helps them understand that everyone has different skills and can bring something new to the table. Achieving a goal and being able to reach it with others is always more fun, plus it's an added bonus when children can work with their friends.
Let Them Give Themselves a Pat on the Back
Spending time trying to find that dinosaur's left eye can be frustrating but when it’s found, there’s no better feeling. Let kids celebrate their wins no matter how little (or big!); it shows them it’s important to recognise their own successes. Seeing a finished masterpiece is a sign of perseverance and lets them know they can start something and finish it with their own two hands – though it may make it harder to pack up the puzzle when it’s time to tidy up!
What To Try
Whatever their age or interest, there's a puzzle to suit them.
Fun Puzzles for Preschoolers
Perfect for the younger kids, these peg puzzles and simple shape games work on their fine motor skills while also teaching them basic categorisation, like which animals belong on a farm, and other educational basics, like letters and numbers.
- Melissa & Doug African Plains Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle
- Kadink Wooden Peg Puzzle Number
- Galt Alphabet Puzzles
- Learning Can be Fun Colour and Shape Matching Board
- Melissa & Doug Cube Puzzle Pets
- Melissa & Doug Beginner Patterned Blocks
- Melissa and Doug Wooden Puzzle Old MacDonald
- Melissa & Doug Wooden Alphabet Puzzle Cards
- Kadink Wooden Rocket Puzzle 10 Piece
- Melissa & Doug Barnyard Jigsaw Puzzle
- Kadink Wooden Peg Puzzle Alphabet
- Melissa & Doug Giant Floor Puzzle Firetruck(not pictured)
Puzzles to Challenge Early Primary Schoolers
Learning how to read numbers on a clock puzzle, or find out the names of planets in our solar system, gives young primary schoolers real-world, practical knowledge.
- Mideer Time Puzzle 48 Pieces
- Melissa & Doug Solar System Floor Puzzle 48 Piece
- Learning Can Be Fun 3 Letter Word Puzzles
- Learning Can Be Fun 4 Letter Word Puzzles
- Learning Can Be Fun 5 Letter Word Puzzles
- Melissa & Doug Wooden Shape Sorting Clock (not pictured)
Puzzles Perfect for Late Primary Schoolers
Test their perseverance with a puzzle with more pieces, or even a 3D puzzle: the feeling of finally nailing it will be worth the time and concentration! While all puzzles help with developing hand-eye coordination skills, the bonus of 3D puzzles is that they aren’t just flat – they set new dimensional challenges, especially with improving visual and spatial awareness.
- Ravensburger Realm of the Giants Puzzle
- Ravensburger Puzzle The Solar System
- Ravensburger Puzzle Looking at the Worldor Ravensburger Forest, Zoo and Pets Puzzle 3 Pack
- Thinkfun Colour Cube Sudoku Puzzle
Puzzles to Satisfy Tweens and Young Teens
Put a twist on learning by solving puzzles to get to the answers. These combine the benefits of puzzling and scientific concepts: another clever way to expand knowledge incidentally and spark conversations with friends.