When you stop to think about it, the educational value of puzzles is immense. So when our 6 yr old, recently showed keen interest in puzzles, I was a happy camper.
He was completing these puzzles, containing approximately 50 pieces, with comparative ease so I figured it was time to increase the challenge. As a result, we found a puzzle with a few more pieces ... well ... a couple hundred more pieces.
At first, the sheer number pieces looked a little daunting. However, we worked together and soon the puzzle started taking shape.
So what exactly is the educational value of puzzles? Glad you asked ...
Puzzles help children develop several skills including:
- Cognitive Skills: sorting, comparing, classifying, grouping, deducing, analysing and sequencing - how's that for a list of skills puzzles draw on? Problem solving, reasoning and logical thinking also fostered. Children engage trial and error strategies to fit pieces.
- Maths Skills puzzles increases visual special awareness and help children to see the whole/part relationships.
- Fine Motor Skills are definitely used as small pieces need to be picked up, grasped, manipulated and fitted. Hand-eye coordination is also enhanced.
- Emotional Skills: puzzles can be frustrating when nothing seems to fit. It takes patience to find pieces, determination and "stickability". When the job is done, there's a tremendous sense of accomplishment!
- Social Skills: I love using puzzles to enhance social skills. When we sit down together to do a puzzle, we have to share, cooperate and engage in team work within a confined area.
Helpful Hints for Doing Large Puzzles with Children
Here are some hints that we've found helpful for successful puzzle outcomes:
- Work together WITH your child. I've found that when I sit down with my boys and work beside them, their ability to stick at the task increases dramatically. It's a matter of finding a balance of not doing all the work for them but also not allowing them to feel overwhelmed by the task.
- Sort and group pieces. I found it helpful to put puzzles pieces in groups that may go together and present these to the boys when things were getting a bit tough. This was especially helpful for our 4 year old.
- Allow plenty of time. We left the puzzle out on a table for many days so that we could return to it at different times. This helped maintain an interest in the puzzle and encouraged the boys to continue working in order to complete the task - even if it took a few days.
- Don't underestimate abilities. To my surprise, our youngest was also eager to join in and managed to correctly fit puzzle pieces which I was having trouble with. I think this was because he was following the example of those around him and felt relaxed enough to give it a go. His involvement was sporadic but when he did get involved and succeeded in finding pieces which fitted, he was delighted - and so was I!
- Small puzzles within the whole puzzle. Once the puzzle was completed, we left it out on the table for a while. I broke out small portions of the puzzle for our youngest to put back together. This enabled him more participation in putting this 'enormous' puzzle together without the overwhelming task of facing all the pieces in a gigantic jumble.
- Allow time and space. We didn't try to complete the puzzle in one go but completed over the course of many days.
- Use trays. I helped to prepare the puzzle a little by using several trays to try and sort puzzle pieces into various groups - edges, colours, patterns. This helped to provide a little more support.
But Most of All ...
For me, the best part of doing this puzzle with the boys, apart from watching them develop numerous skills, was enjoying the time together as we worked alongside each other. It was a time to talk as well as a time just to enjoy one another's company. That's not to say there weren't times of frustration ... but that just meant more opportunities for growth - for them and me!
I hope the boys will look back on our puzzle experiences with positive memories of the time we spent together. I know that's how I'll remember these times.
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