Puzzles are an excellent tool to enhance your child’s cognitive as well as mental development, by stimulating intellectual/mental abilities such as thinking, reasoning and understanding through fine-motor manipulation.
- As a child looks at various pieces and figures out where they fit, s/he is developing effective problem solving skills since a puzzle either works and fits or it doesn’t. So, puzzles teach a child to use his/her own mind to figure out how to solve problems and think in a logical way.
- When children manipulate puzzle pieces, they are developing hand-eye coordination, as they are learning the connection between their hands and their eyes. First, child's brain envisions how the end puzzle needs to look, and then the eyes and hands look for a correct piece. Thus, the brain, eyes, and hands work together to find the piece, manipulate it accordingly, and fit it accurately into the puzzle.
- Puzzles also provide the opportunity for children to develop fine motor skills which require small, specialized movements necessary for handwriting and other important achievements.
- Jigsaw puzzles also help enhance child’s memory. For example, if a piece does not fit, the child would sets it aside, however, s/he would need to remember that piece when it is needed.
- Lastly, as a child works on a puzzle, s/he develops strategic thinking on how to work the puzzle faster and more efficiently. Adrian, for example, starts with all the edge-pieces first, before filling in the middle. Julia, for instance, while working with large puzzles, would sort the pieces into piles according to color or shape, which she thinks will make up a part of the puzzle such as person/animal.
Here is a round up of the best value puzzles Adrian has been enjoying since 40 months old.
This Alphabet Train Jumbo Jigsaw Floor Puzzle (buy here) is amazing! 28 extra-thick cardboard pieces feature beautiful original artwork, where a train pulls familiar animals from A to Z. Ten feet long when assembled, this colorful puzzle reinforces letter identification, as well as first sound recognition when matching an animal to a letter. Even now, at 42 months, it takes a while for Adrian to assemble it. He does not refer to the control chart on the box, and it is such a delight to hear him humming "A, B, C, D, E, F, G ….. would you like to sing with me."
Adrian also stimulated his gross motor skills, while getting up and down, building a 10 ft puzzle train.
Puzzles are good not only for child’s mind and cognitive development, but are also considered helpful to a child’s mental development since they provide a key opportunity for children to learn about the world around them. Psychologists have determined that child’s brain development is influenced significantly when a child acts on or manipulates the world around him/her. Here, Adrian is matching letters to animals, most of which he is familiar with. So, when working with this puzzle, he learns to work directly with his environment.
Adrian loves transportation and he is naturally loving this Going Places Vehicles 48 pcs Floor Puzzle (buy here). The set includes four puzzles in one: a Jet plane, a Dump truck, a Locomotive and a Cruise ship. Each vehicle-shaped puzzle has 12 pieces and is 18 inches long. The sturdy cardboard jigsaw pieces are extra-thick, durable, and colorful. This puzzle might be challenging for a three year old, but a 3-and-a-half, it is a pure joy. This puzzle is the easiest of the three as there are not a lot of pieces in each vehicle-shaped puzzle and pieces themselves are large. Adrian first assembled this puzzle at 40 months, and he has been doing it over and over since then.
Lastly, Busy Airport puzzle (buy here) provided some challenge to Adrian as the pieces are smaller, but offered great joy when completed. This puzzle is made in Germany, and it comes with 35 cardstock pieces.
Studies have found that when children work on jigsaw puzzles, they use both sides of their brain. Brain stimulation leads to improved memory, cognitive function and problem-solving skills. Puzzles also promote hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, association, and task completion. Most importantly, puzzles are fun, offering a child independent play, which is productive and constructive!
For more on the importance of puzzles read here a post "National Puzzle Day – How we celebrate."