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How puzzles can help your child develop

Puzzles do more than entice with their bright colours and interesting shapes. Finding the right place for each piece:

  • Allows children to learn that a whole is made of parts
  • Develops hand-eye co-ordination and fine motor skills
  • Builds visual-perceptual skills
  • Develops attention, concentration and thinking skills such as recognising, remembering, matching, sorting and problem so
  • Assists language skills as the child listens and follows instructions and talks about what they are doing

All of the aforementioned developmental benefits translate into skills that are used in maths areading and writing.

Which one to choose?

  • Large knobs make it easier for little ones to get the pieces in and out.
  • In general, look at the number of pieces when choosing puzzles. A child’s first puzzle will probably have 1 piece per separate hole on the puzzle board with up to 7 pieces.
  • More complex puzzles may have 2-7 pieces that slot into one hole.
  • With adult help children can graduate to puzzles with 24 to 36 pieces that slot together into a single frame.
  • Harder again are puzzles without a frame to help identify where pieces might go.
  • At first you may need to stay nearby when your child works on a puzzle. A little adult help can make a world of difference when trying to figure out a new puzzle.

Puzzle tips

  • When first exploring puzzles, younger children may be prompted to take the piece out and then watch as you place it back in.
  • Take pieces out carefully making sure the pieces are face-up so the design of the picture is clearly present.
  • Talk about the particular part of the puzzle that may be missing, eg the arm from a body puzzle- the reverse also, examining a puzzle piece and discussing what it looks like and represents in the puzzle
  • Discuss the colour, patterning or shape of the border, and ask the child to look for a piece with those characteristics
  • Ask the child to try and rotate the puzzle piece into position. If this is unsuccessful, then gently move the piece so that it will be placed into position, instead of being forced
  • Discreetly move appropriate puzzle pieces closer to the child’s reach, so that it may be selected next. This may be useful when the child is becoming frustrated
  • It may be helpful to let your child hear your thinking and problem solving strategies whilst doing the puzzle
  • To attract children to puzzles it can be beneficial to choose ones on a theme they love such as animals, transport, food, or popular characters

Toy Library Benefits
The benefit of borrowing from the toy library is that you can expose your child to a puzzle every so often if they aren’t that interested, or you have a huge resource to constantly borrow from if your child is mastering different puzzles at a fast rate.

To locate a toy library close to you visit the web site at:

All LLT Articles are the sole property of LLT and all contents are copyrighted – Life’s Little Treasures Foundation 2009

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