When you see your little one’s chubby hands grasping at toddler puzzle pieces, trying to force them together, you may think that he/she is too young for this kind of toy. But the truth is, children are never too young for puzzles. In fact, puzzles are a great way to keep toddlers entertained while also serving as an educational tool. With time and practice, your kid will not only be able to solve his toddler puzzle, but he/she will also find it easy to solve other similar puzzles as well. That is because kids’ brains are constantly developing.
According to experts, at 10 to 12 months old, most babies are able to put small items into larger containers and take them out. At 15 to 18 months, children usually figure out how to fit the round shape of a shape sorter in the round hole, and then work their way up to mastering the more difficult square and triangle. By the time they are two, children often get to manage toddler puzzles that require putting a single large piece onto a board, such as fitting a piece of fruit into a cutout space matching that shape. Around the age of 3, kids can even complete puzzles with multiple pieces that interconnect.
Therefore, as your child gets older, solving puzzles will help him/her learn many essential life skills. But which ones exactly? Here are some of the benefits of solving toddler puzzles for your child’s development.
While your child is turning, flipping, and removing the pieces of the puzzle, he/she is learning the connection between their hands and their eyes. The eyes see the puzzle while the brain envisions how the puzzle needs to look or which piece needs to be found and placed. Then the eyes, brain, and hands work together to find the piece, manipulate it accordingly, and fit it into the puzzle accurately.
Fine Motor Skills
More than hand-eye coordination, puzzles also offer toddlers the opportunity to develop fine motor skills. Different from gross motor skills like walking, fine motor skills require small, specialized movements – something that puzzles help develop. Practicing fine motor skills at an early age helps with handwriting and other important skills in the future.
As your child looks at the various pieces and figures out where they fit and where they don’t, he/she develops the skill of effective problem-solving. Considering the fact that a puzzle can’t be completed by cheating, children need to use their minds to find out how to solve these problems and think in a logical way.
Simple jigsaws and other types of toddler puzzles also help enhance a child’s memory. For example, your child will have to recall the colour, size, and shape of the various pieces as he/she works through the puzzle. If a piece doesn’t fit, it will be set aside, but it will be remembered when needed.
Setting Small Goals
As your child works on solving the puzzle, he/she will develop a strategy on how to solve the puzzle faster and more efficiently. He/she may decide to do all the edge pieces first, or instead, sort all the pieces into piles according to colours or shapes. This helps the child learn how to achieve small goals in order to reach the big one.
Feelings of Happiness
For a child, being able to assemble a jigsaw puzzle is extremely satisfying and can be a cause for happiness. Bringing into order a pile of jumbled pieces can also have an incredibly calming and relaxing effect. Kids also learn to not give up and keep trying until they hit the desired goal – to complete the puzzle. And since their bran is focused on solving the puzzle, they forget about their daily worries and anxieties.
When buying puzzle games for kids, it’s important to make sure they are age-appropriate. Although the puzzle shouldn’t be so easy that your child could solve it in a minute, being too challenging could frustrate him/her into giving up. Consider bright, fun, and colourful pictures and shapes as they can help engage younger children and keep their attention for a longer period of time. And if possible, get a puzzle that appeals to their interests. For example, is your child into airplanes, trains, robots, or princesses? Find puzzles that incorporate those things.
If the puzzle you buy is a more difficult one, consider working with your child. Although it shouldn’t be too hard to put it together, the difficulty level can be slightly increased if you work on completing the puzzle with your kid. Not only will his/her mind have to work a little harder but you will also get in some quality time with your little bunch of joy.