BENEFITS OF PLAYING WITH PUZZLES
From childhood through adulthood we love to play with puzzles. We like the way they challenge our thinking and exercise our minds. Table puzzles are popular because they provide satisfaction, enjoyment, and an opportunity for children to focus on an activity that has an ending. Puzzles are also an important educational learning tool for toddlers and young children as they provide many skills, mental learning benefits, and opportunities.
Children often start with puzzles of simple knobbed pieces of cardboard or foam to outlines of simple shapes that fit into corresponding board cutouts. Puzzles gain complexity after that, to pictures of real world objects that take more focus and concentration. Typically, the last step that people take with puzzles is to jigsaw puzzles of varying complexity, guided by an image to assemble, and finishing with the same result, each time. These are the basics when we think of puzzles, but puzzles can come in a variety of forms to choose from.
But why are puzzles considered helpful to a child’s development? Here are some reasons!
1. HAND-EYE COORDINATION
Working with puzzles builds good hand-eye coordination. When children flip, try to fit, or remove, etc. pieces of the puzzle, they are learning the connection between their hands and their eyes. The ability to coordinate what the eye sees, what the mind wants to do, and what the hands can accomplish takes practice. Puzzles offer a fun way to practice this skill.
2. GROSS MOTOR SKILLS Working with larger puzzle pieces and stacking puzzle games and blocks can enhance the larger movements of your child.
3. FINE MOTOR SKILLS
Not to be confused with gross motor skills, fine motor skills require small and precise movements, such as the movement of fingers to get a puzzle piece into the right spot. Puzzles are a fun way for children to develop and refine their fine motor skills, which can lead to better handwriting and keyboard skills, later on. While playing with puzzles, children must pick up, pinch, and grasp pieces, then manipulate them into spots, sorting them, and fitting them into the correct places.
4. COGNITIVE SKILLS
Puzzles come in a wide range of themes such as alphabet and numbers, shapes, fruit and vegetables, animals and pets, transportation, hobbies, and colors. Puzzles help increase a child's visual and spacial awareness. All children learn differently and puzzles may be just their their medium for grasping an understanding of certain themes such as alphabet letters.
5. SOCIAL SKILLS
Puzzles are a great tool to enhance and promote cooperative play. As children work together to complete a puzzle, they will discuss where a piece should go and why, take turns and share and support each other when handling frustration, then sharing the joy of finishing the puzzle. Puzzles offer opportunities to expand social skills as well. When children work cooperatively to complete a puzzle they engage in conversation, develop a plan to solve the puzzle, and take turns and help each other solve problems as they arise.
6. UNDERSTANDING THE WORLD AROUND THEM
Psychologists have determined that a child’s brain development is influenced significantly when a child acts on or manipulates the world around him or her. Puzzles provide that key opportunity. Children learn to work directly with their environment and change its shape and appearance when they work with puzzles.
7. SHAPE RECOGNITION
The first puzzles we use are simple shapes―triangle, squares, and circles. From there, more complex shapes are used until the abstract jigsaw puzzles are used. For young children―even babies―learning to recognize and sort shapes is an important part of their development. Puzzles can help little ones with this, since the pieces need to be recognized and sorted before they can be assembled.
Your child has to remember the shape of pieces that don’t fit for when they will fit later on. Simple jigsaws and other types of puzzles may help enhance a child’s memory. For example, a child will need to recall the size, color and shape of various pieces as he or she works through the puzzle. If a piece doesn’t fit, the child sets it aside; but he or she will need to remember that piece when it is needed.
9. PROBLEM SOLVING
As a child looks at various puzzle pieces and figures out where they fit or don’t fit, he or she is developing effective problem solving. A puzzle, after all, can’t be completed by cheating! It either works and fits, or it doesn’t. So puzzles teach children to use their own minds to figure out how to solve problems and think in a logical way. Working with table puzzles helps young children develop many skills, such as observing, analyzing, sharing, and solving problems. Puzzles become a significant educational tool in the development of children’s thinking when teachers select puzzles appropriate to children’s developmental levels, establish meaningful routines, and encourage responsible actions through this activity.
10. PUZZLES ARE A SELF CORRECTING LEARNING TOOL
As a child attempts to place a puzzle piece in its place, it will only fit if it is placed properly in the right space. The act of manipulating each piece, turning it, and testing the fit, is the way the child learns to problem solve and develop critical thinking.
11. LANGUAGE SKILLS
Puzzles offer children an opportunity to develop language skills. When a child asks for a certain piece they will often describe what they are looking for. For example, the square piece, the red piece, etc. Puzzles can often used when working with Autistic children who have delayed speech ability as a fun tool to encourage speech.
12. MATH SKILLS
Puzzles teach children several basic math concepts, as well. While working with a puzzle, children learn to categorize and organize pieces.There is also new data available that shows children who have better developed spatial thinking skills will have an advantage in math. What are spatial thinking skills? Spatial thinking is the understanding of how shapes fit together to make recognizable objects. When doing a jigsaw puzzle, children visualize where and how a puzzle piece will fit! It involves geometry, problem solving, and pattern predictions. So get your summer spatial activities going with your little ones this summer by visualizing where and how a puzzle piece will fit.
13. SETTING GOALS
The first goal is to solve the puzzle, the next goal will be a series of strategies your child comes up with to finish the puzzle, such as putting familiar shapes or colors in one pile for future reference. As a child works on a puzzle, he or she will often develop a strategy to work the puzzle faster and more efficiently. He or she may do all the edge pieces first, for instance, or sort all the pieces into piles according to colors or shapes. This helps a child learn to achieve small goals as a means toward a larger goal.
14. PATIENCE AND PERSISTENCE
Puzzles are not like sports―your child must practice patience, and slowly work through the puzzle before reaching the ending. When a child works on a puzzle, slowly until completion, the child is developing persistence.
15. SELF ESTEEM
Achieving a goal brings much satisfaction to a child. Overcoming the challenges involved in solving a puzzle gives them a sense of achievement and pride within themselves. It provides a boost to their self-confidence and self-esteem.
16. ADAPTABLE AND ABSTRACT THINKING
Children use adaptable thinking and deductive reasoning skills when they find different ways to put the puzzle pieces together. They gain the ability to think abstractly when they are able to see negative space, like the space where a puzzle piece may fit, and figure out what type of shape would be needed to fill that space.
Maintain quality of your puzzles
Regularly check puzzles for damage and encourage children to report missing pieces. Nothing frustrates a child more than to find that the final piece needed to complete a puzzle is missing. It breaks the sense of completion and the continuity of the puzzle-solving activity. Make replacements for missing puzzle pieces from foam, cardboard, or wood. Make an impression with play dough or clay of the equivalent thickness. Paint the piece to match the missing puzzle part. Children can help by painting the piece or pounding the clay.
As you can see, puzzles offer a fun educational toy that challenges young minds, teaching and preparing them early in life with some very important life skills. There is no mistaking the benefits of puzzles in childhood development. Give your child the opportunity to continue learning from simple shapes, to silhouettes, to jigsaw puzzles, to abstract shapes! Check out a different type of puzzle, today!
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