THE “PURPOSE” IN PUZZLES?
Puzzles are great for helping young brain develop and grow. That’s
because the brain looks for patterns in our world — and puzzles are a true
patterning activity. Patterning is also the foundation of reading, math and
What are colors? (ans. a
What are letters? (ans. a
What are shapes? (ans. a
What are numbers? A sequence?
(ans. a pattern)
What is sorting? (ans. a
What are similarities and
differences (categorizing)? (ans. patterns)
What is repetition? (ans. a
So when your child does puzzles, they are doing one of the best brain
building exercises for developing their reading, math and logic skills. They
also develop problem solving skills and individual success and achievement. That
is why they like to do puzzles over and over again!
What do you do when you are putting a puzzle together? Look for shapes
that fit together, matching the pieces by color or by image. Your brain stays
focused on one single activity — it is hard to think of anything else except
the pieces before you and how they fit together. I think that is why puzzling is
so calming and relaxing — you are doing an activity that renews and refreshes
your brain! Simply stated, your brain gets happy when you do puzzles.
PROBLEM SOLVING SKILLS:
Ever listen to children’s self talk while they put puzzles together?
They develop problem solving strategies for fitting the pieces together and
completing the puzzle. They observe and detect similarities and differences,
analyze, and do trial and error. (“Let’s see, the blue piece goes with that
blue piece — and they are the sky! “ “This piece has a straight edge —
it must be part of the border.”
CHILDREN EXPERIENCE A SENSE OF COMPLETION AND
A. Many pieces make a whole (also math concept)
B. Fragments come together to complete an image
C. Things that appear broken are fixed
D. Things are put together where they belong
Puzzles are often an individual activity. Puzzling requires a high
degree of concentration for a period of time. Children become totally absorbed
— and the success is theirs alone! It is a wonderful way for children to gain
confidence in their growing abilities. That is why children love to do the same
puzzle over and over again!
DEVELOP SOCIAL SKILLS:
Puzzles can also be a small group (or family) activity. This promotes
shared strategies, observation, and cooperation and a sense of shared
Talking about the process and also the puzzle picture gives excellent
opportunities for conversation between child and parent, child and child. It
also promotes “self-talk” which helps children develop their own language
skills. Puzzles are an excellent way to introduce new words and concepts in
SMALL KNOBS for TODDLERS: Small knobs help with small finger
coordination. It also strengthens the three-fingered “pincer grip” that is
used for writing. Knobs help toddlers become successful puzzlers and make
beginning puzzles fun.
ATTRACTIVE BRIGHT FAMILIAR IMAGES AND SCENES: Children like
puzzles that are things they know — animals, familiar object, scenes that
promote stories, discussion and self-talk.
WELL DESIGNED, STURDY, NO MISSING PIECES: Puzzles should work!
They should fit together easily and be able to take a lot of repetitive use.
There is no such thing as a “too easy” puzzle. Kids often enjoy
doing puzzles that seem “easy” to adults — but the puzzle is just right
for them. They will want to do the same puzzles over and over again. The
important thing with puzzles is experiencing success and mastery in a fun,
non-frustrating way. All puzzles develop patterning and problem solving skills
and will develop your child’s self-confidence. Puzzles also can promote
conversation and once completed, can be used too as “story starters.”
Your child will move to harder puzzles when they are ready. Some
children move quickly through puzzles others will take their time. Children
should be encouraged to do puzzles at whatever level is fun, non-frustrating,
and where they enjoy repeated success. Puzzles should be designed so that
children can advance through various stages of puzzle difficulty easily. Puzzles
are such an excellent activity; a child should be encouraged to do the puzzles
that are at the right skill level for them.
Presented as a service of CityBizDirectory
Concepts in this article are
based in part on the following article:
Maldonado, Nancy S., “Puzzles: A Pathetically Neglected, Commonly Available Resource,” Young Children, May 1996.