The Importance of Puzzles in Early Childhood Education

If you have small children, you know just how much they enjoy puzzles.  From simple, single shapes to the more advanced jigsaw puzzles, kids and adults alike love them.

While they are primarily seen as fun toys, they actually hold some incredibly educational benefits for young children.

The importance of puzzles for kids.

Enhance Problem Solving Skills

First of all, puzzles provide your child with the opportunity to practice the trial and error method of finding a solution.  Manipulating the pieces and figuring out where they fit and where they don’t, introduces your child to the early math skills they’ll need to be successful later on.

Secondly, puzzles are perfect for teaching your children how to persevere in the face of a challenge.  Puzzles are really the only “games” that cannot be completed or won by cheating.  You can’t force the pieces together if they don’t belong and there is no way to out smart your opponent, so to speak.  The only way finish is to exercise patience while staying focused on the bigger picture.

Build Hand-Eye Coordination

Flipping, rotating, moving and manipulating the pieces allows your child to give their fine motor skills a fantastic workout.

Using these fine motor skills while finding a piece, picking it up, searching for its proper spot and fitting it into the puzzle allow your child the opportunity to strengthen the connection between their hands and eyes.

Strengthen Cognitive and Memory Skills

Puzzles are perfect for helping your child, especially preschoolers, develop critical cognitive skills.

As they get older and enter their school years, they will be expected, on a daily basis, to follow a set of instructions to complete projects and tasks.  Playing with puzzles while they are young teaches them not to get ahead of themselves and to complete these tasks one step at a time just as they would with the pieces of a puzzle.

As an added bonus, your preschooler will build their memory skills as they learn to recognize the simple shapes and colors that make up the easier toddler and preschool puzzles.

Now that you know exactly what they can do for your child, here are some tips for getting your child(ren) to play with and engage in puzzles:

  • Make sure they are age appropriate.  While it shouldn’t be so easy that your child could do it in their sleep, being too challenging could frustrate them into giving up.
  • Bright, fun, and colorful shapes and pictures can help engage younger children and hold their attention for a longer period of time.
  • If at all possible, find puzzles that appeal to their interests.  Is your little one an airplane fanatic?  Obsessed with princesses or trains?  Find puzzles that incorporate those things!
  • Work with them on a more difficult puzzle.  While they still shouldn’t be too incredibly hard to put together, the difficulty level can be slightly increased if you work on completing a puzzle with them.  Not only will their minds have to work a little harder but you’ll get in some quality time with your little one.
  • Have them create their own puzzle.  What kid wouldn’t love putting together a puzzle that they made themselves!  We recently made our own rainbow puzzle and even though it was a bit more difficult than the ones Nicholas regularly plays with, he was more excited about putting that one together than I’ve ever seen him with any other puzzle.

Do your kids enjoy puzzles?  What types do they enjoy putting together?

photo credit: Valerie Everett via photopin cc

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  1. Jules says

    My 2.5 yo son was given the best puzzle for his birthday – it’s like the alphabet puzzle in your picture but it’s his name! Great for learning the letters of his name. It’s from Also I’ve found there seems to be an ‘aha’ moment with early puzzles where all of a sudden the puzzle presents no challenge at all.

  2. says

    We’ve had that problem as well Julie! 3 seems to be a weird age when it comes to puzzles because they aren’t really using the baby puzzles anymore but the more advanced jigsaw puzzles are still a little too difficult. Maybe try having her make one of her own :) We’ve done that with blank puzzles pieces from the craft store a few times now and my oldest loved it!

  3. Julie says

    I love doing puzzles with my girls! My oldest is 3 and lately I have been having a hard time finding the right puzzle that isn’t too easy or too hard for her though. I have new one (for Easter present) so we’ll see how it goes!

  4. says

    You’re so welcome Katie! We love puzzles around here as well :)

    I think it’s different with every child but you could start some simple puzzles as early as 12 months. Those shape sorter toys make great first puzzles and from there you could easily move up to simple wooden puzzles. Melissa and Doug has a lot of awesome wooden puzzles for toddlers and while they are a but more expensive than regular puzzles, they are a lot more durable and stand up to those little hands :)

  5. says

    We love those too Christy! They are a bit more expensive than regular puzzles but I’ve found that with toddlers, you’ll probably end up paying the same in the end because the regular ones just aren’t durable enough lol.

  6. says

    Thanks for writing about this! I love puzzles. and I can’t wait to share that love with my daughter. What age would you say is appropriate to begin introducing puzzles?

  7. says

    Me and my 4-year-old really like doing puzzles together. He stays interested for a surprisingly long amount of time. It’s cool to read about all the great things it’s doing for him.

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