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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

10 Benefits of Puzzles for Early Child Development

Photo by Abigail Batchelder (Flickr)

In our playroom, we have a table set up just for puzzles. My girls both enjoy complicated jigsaw puzzles now, and I attribute their passion to all of the puzzles they put together as toddlers. Those simple puzzles featured shapes, knobs, or interlocking pieces that were the perfect size for my girls' toddler hands. In addition to providing hours of fun, those puzzles aided my girls' early development and provided 10 benefits.

Develop Gross Motor Skills

Gross motor skills are movements kids make when they use their arms and legs. With these skills, our kids roll over, crawl, walk, and run. Completing stacking puzzles and manipulating large puzzle pieces improve a child's gross motor skills.

Hone Fine Motor Skills

When kids learn to hold a spoon, fasten buttons, or pick up objects from the floor, they use fine motor skills. These skills require small, precise movements our kids hone as they fiddle with puzzle pieces and put those pieces into their assigned spots.

Establish Cognitive Skills

The brain uses cognitive skills to think, learn, remember, read, pay attention, and solve problems. Let your kids play with puzzles and they will establish these essential skills. With puzzles, they process information, learn about cause and effect, evaluate and organize ideas, apply knowledge, and discover how ideas relate.

Expand Memory

Kids need both short-term, working memory and long-term, semantic memory to remember what happened moments ago and create a basis of their identity. Puzzles are one tool I used to improve my girls' memories. As they remember which pieces they've tried in certain slots and which piece worked last time, they develop working and semantic memory to aid them in all areas of life.

Enhance Problem-Solving Skills

When kids put puzzles together, they use their mind and logic, think critically, and solve problems. Plus, as they look at a piece and guess where it might go, they ask questions, narrow down their options, and eventually make a decision. This same process helps them solve problems they face in real life, such as what to wear on a snowy day or which book to read.

Teach Shape Recognition

My older daughter's first puzzle featured shapes. I'm glad she spent hours learning the difference between circles, triangles, and rectangles. Not only do we see shapes all around us, but our kids use shapes in their math, reading, science, and other academic classes.

Improve Hand-Eye Coordination

To brush their teeth, tie their shoes, and color with crayons, kids use hand-eye coordination. They develop this skill as they turn, flip, place, and remove puzzle pieces. Their eyes see the piece, their hands feel it, and their brain tells their hands where it belongs.

Evolve Goal-Setting and Achievement Skills

When school starts each year, I ask my girls to list the activities, grades, and achievements they wish to enjoy, earn, or gain that year. This discussion prompts them to set goals and work hard to achieve their dreams, and I taught them this skill through puzzles. Kids know they want to finish a puzzle, but first they have to sort the pieces, check the board, and then assemble the puzzle one piece at a time. That's how goal-setting and achievement work, and our kids learn this skill through puzzles.

Encourage Patience, Persistence, and Determination

As a toddler, my younger daughter always tried to complete jigsaw puzzles that were too advanced for her. Sometimes, she grew frustrated, but the patience, persistence, and determination she developed help her succeed in school, with friends, and on the sports field.

Promote World Awareness

One of my older daughter's favorite puzzles included a dozen farm animals. She would make animal noises as she played with each piece, and that puzzle prepared her for her second birthday party at a farmyard petting zoo. Your kids will explore the world, too, as they play with animal, geography, alphabet, and space puzzles.

Thanks to puzzles, our kids have fun and receive 10 important benefits that aid their development. In what ways have puzzles helped your child?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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