Puzzles give a child the opportunity to experience and manipulate the world around him/her and, in doing so, is good for their brain development. WHY? Because putting puzzles together has the child actively engaged, manipulating his/her world and seeing what results from their actions.
Benefits of Puzzle PLAY
Just think. What does it take to convert individual pieces into a completed puzzle?
• Eye-hand coordination
• Fine and gross motor skills
• Memory and
• Shape recognition for starters!
Jig-saw puzzles are made up of pieces. Children also develop a parts-to-whole skill when they PLAY with puzzles. Another skill that’s developed, and that will be utilized later with the parts-to-whole skill in mathematics, is spatial awareness.
Spatial awareness is the ability to be aware of oneself in space. It is an organized knowledge of objects in relation to oneself in that given space. Spatial awareness also involves understanding the relationship of these objects when there is a change of position.
The development of proper spatial awareness involves an understanding of how the human body moves and the basic functions of its parts. Such an understanding is learned through movement and exploration. This begins in infancy when they discover their hands; they have reached a spatial awareness milestone.
Preschoolers (3-5yrs) need practice, practice, practice with arranging and rearranging objects to help them build spatial awareness. Puzzles let children experiment with position—rotating, sliding, flipping. With practice and experience they develop the ability to mentally manipulate puzzle pieces. The ability to mentally transform shapes is an important predictor of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) interests and abilities in older children. Early puzzle PLAY may lay the groundwork for the development of this ability.
Spatial awareness has a linguistic character as well. The understanding of the positional words people use to define themselves in space is essential to spatial awareness. As children learn positional vocabulary and use it with their bodies, they develop begin to develop an understanding of direction, distance, and location. Positional words are often seen and used in opposition. Word pairs such as: in and out, front and back, next to and between, left and right, near and far, or above and below create the beginnings of their spatial language. Preschoolers will employ spatial details and enjoy giving directions if given the opportunity to internalize what spatial awareness means and the words to describe it.
One last benefit is a boost to self-esteem. Puzzles can be difficult to solve. Persevering to solve a challenging puzzle lends itself to a sense of accomplishment and pride in oneself. As children begin to work, they will develop strategies for completion faster and more efficiently. They may begin by doing all the pieces on the edges or sort the pieces into colors and shapes. Puzzles enable children to achieve small goals while working towards a larger goal.
TYPES of PUZZLES
1. Knobbed Matching Puzzles:
Knobbed matching puzzles are a wonderful place to start for the young child. Pictures on the puzzle pieces are matched to the picture underneath. When children use this type, they’re generally using their finger muscles to turn the piece as they hold the knob, developing fine motor skills. Start with puzzles that have 3 or 4 pieces to narrow down the number of options and make it less frustrating for younger children. After your child has mastered that, try one with more pieces and smaller knobs.
2.Non-knobbed Matching Puzzles:
Essentially just like the knobbed puzzles, but missing the knobs! Non-knobbed puzzles have to be turned by using the wrist, so this type exercises another group of fine motor muscles.
3. Outline Matching Puzzles:
These puzzles do not have knobs and do not have a picture to match underneath the puzzle piece either. With these children, match the picture piece to its shaped outline. Children will get plenty of pincer-grasp practice and enhance their fine motor skills as they reach for, grab, and hold on to the non-knobbed pieces. Without pictures to match to corresponding puzzle pieces, children must look carefully and closely at the shape.
4. Jigsaw Puzzles:
It’s best to start out with 2 or 4 piece puzzles when children are starting. Jigsaw puzzles demonstrate the concept of ‘parts of a whole’ helping children see how connecting pieces (parts) together form a whole image or shape. As mentioned above, problem-solving and fine motor skills are developed. Tolerance to frustrations even perseverance is encourage when children continue to work on jigsaw puzzles even in the face of challenges. However, sometimes a little help is needed! Sharing the experience with a parent or friend…working on it together promotes great teamwork skills. Jigsaw puzzles can be of the table-top variety or large floor puzzles.
One of the most common types for toddlers, shape-fitting puzzles come in a variety of forms that let your child match each shape to its correct opening. The classic shape-fitting puzzle is a wooden shape-fitting box. Since these let your toddler solve each part individually, they’re ideal for beginners!
Sound puzzles can feature everyday objects or animals on a single flat board, or electronic game puzzles that require manipulating objects around the screen, using the sound as a clue. The sounds act as feedback because they only occur when your child places the pieces correctly. Hearing the sound also reinforces the link between the piece and the noise itself, such as a pig-shaped puzzle piece and an oinking sound.
In addition to the general skills puzzles develop in children, texture puzzles integrate the sense of touch to a puzzle’s solution. Doing this with a parent or older child/sibling, allows for enhanced language development–giving words to the child for various textures. Giving your child new words, increasing their vocabulary is an invaluable gift. This is important because vocabulary development during the preschool years is related to later reading skills and school success in general. Learn more about the Word Gap and what you can do.
How many different types of puzzles has your kidlet tried? Do they have a preference? Do they struggle with one type more than another? Share your’s and your kiddo’s experiences!
Yours in Play!