5 Puzzle power secrets

As a pre-school educationalist, I am always amazed at the lack of interest parents place in jigsaw puzzles. Every year I receive a new child who has never been to daycare before and almost always this child has never completed a puzzle. Puzzle building is an excellent foundation for reading, writing and mathematics skills, as well as being one of the measurements for school-readiness.

Here are some tips about puzzles and reasons why they are vital for your child’s development.

Problem solving skills

The child is given a problem to solve; he has to determine what pieces fit where and how, promoting thinking skills. These are pre-math skills.

Planning and strategising

The child has to be able to strategise how all the parts fit together to form the whole picture. This requires concentration, focus, reasoning and memory; by using all of these his thinking skills are being developed.

Eye-hand co-ordination

The child has to manipulate the pieces and their hands, eyes and fingers have to work together to achieve this. Position and direction are used as part of fine motor co-ordination as well as visual discrimination. He has to identify the shape and colour in order to correctly match pieces together.

Pre-reading skills

Putting together parts to make a whole also helps with pre-reading, as later on he will learn to put letters together to form words. This process is also known as analysis- seeking parts that fit together and synthesis- linking them together to create the whole picture.

Midline crossing

Using a large floor puzzle, the child kneels on all fours and has to stretch across to reach corner pieces, encouraging him to cross over their midline. This also helps to strengthen his shoulders by putting weight on his arms when stretching. This helps to prevent low muscle tone in this area.

There are two different ways of approaching puzzle building. Your child can start with the corners and frame, pieces that have straight edges, and build the frame first. This is perhaps the easiest way. Once the frame is done he can then start to fill in the middle area. The second is to build it by colour. Start putting all the pieces together sorting them into colours that match and then start linking those pieces together. Which ever way the child chooses, it will still require thought, focus and concentration.

Bear in mind that each puzzle is different; for instance a 70-piece puzzle that has smaller pieces and the picture is more intricate with more detail may be harder to do than a 100-piece puzzle with an easier picture. Also a 50-piece puzzle that has just one colour would be more difficult as there are no points of reference or clues.

Here is a general guideline about ages and capabilities:
  • Ages 2-3:  4 to 12 pieces
  • Ages 3-5: 12-50 pieces
  • Ages 5-6:  50-100 pieces
  • Ages 6-7: 100-200 pieces
  • Ages 7-8: 200 pieces
  • Ages 8-12: 300 pieces
  • Ages 12 and up: 500+ pieces
Jigsaw puzzles are also a great way for the family to spend time together either working on the same puzzle or different ones at the same time. There are many available in toy shops and stationery shops at reasonable prices.

Happy puzzling!

Do your kids spend time with jigsaw puzzles?

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