Do your kids enjoy puzzles? Mine do!
Much more than I do. I mean I’ll happily sit and do a 24 piece puzzle with one of my littles, but to sit and try and focus on 300, 500, or even bigger puzzles my older kids like is just not something I really enjoy.
Most of my kids though–they sit and puzzle for hours. My 6 year-old, 8 year-old, and 15 year-old enjoy working on them together. My husband eagerly joins them if he’s home. They all love the challenge.
Since we have a child with Pica, puzzles aren’t something that can just be done anywhere. So we have a piece of counter top that they can keep the puzzle on and move it around the house.
Sometimes they sit on a bed and work, other times the table. Then when they’re done working for that session, we set the whole board up high where no one can lose (or eat) a piece.
When my kids are working on a puzzle, they’re just having fun! But, they’re also working on 10 key skills. Let’s look at those now.
10 Benefits of Puzzles for Kids
1. Fine Motor Skills
From toddler puzzles with wooden handles to regular puzzles with tiny pieces, it takes dexterity to remove and add the pieces.
And, since there isn’t just a single piece, your children are getting repetition of the motion. That really offers development of fine motor skills.
2. Observation Skills
Do you know how many shades of red make up Mario’s outfit? Take a look at this picture. It’s one my 8-year-old son bought with his birthday money last year and still enjoys working:
Those subtle color differences are essential for actually getting the puzzle put together. You have to really look at the pieces and train your brain to pick out distinguishing features.
Observation skills are crucial throughout life.
3. Planning Skills
Just sitting down with 500 pieces can be overwhelming. That’s why my kids make a plan of attack when they’re putting together a puzzle.
Whether one person starts with the edges, or someone else tackles a prominent feature, they take a minute or two to plan. This planning stage is essential for being able to take what could be an overwhelming project and breaking it down into bite-sized chunks.
If you take little bites, it’s no longer as hard.
Puzzles offer a great way for kids to practice forming their own plans. They can use trial and error to determine what works best for them.
4. Spatial Sense
This is why I don’t enjoy puzzles.
I’m not a spatial person. It’s always been my lowest form of IQ.
Puzzles are all about building spatial awareness. You have to actually look at the pieces and try and see how the little parts fit together.
You have to notice the little gaps that scream, “You just shoved that piece in the wrong spot!” My kids are great at noticing that one when I help them put puzzles together.
“Mom! That piece doesn’t go there.”
Well, I thought it did. It sort of fit. You know, when I shoved it really hard! 😀
Actually, because of their ability to improve spatial sense, I should probably puzzle more…
5. No Screens Involved
My kids watch a fair amount of television. They’re on the computer. And iPad.
Screens are everywhere in today’s society!
So when I find an activity that they enjoy that doesn’t involve a screen, it’s always a good thing. I know that our brain responds differently to stimuli on and off the screen, so I like to encourage them to take a screen break and do something real.
Yes, there are puzzle packs you can buy for all the devices. I’ve bought a couple. The kids love them.
But, it’s not the same as actually putting together a real puzzle. So break out the boxes and get your kids unplugged for a while with the real deal.
6. Being Able to See How Little Things Fit Within the Big Picture
I’m sure there’s a fancy, academic word for this concept, but I don’t know what it is! Puzzles really help kids stand back and look at the big picture.
They have to know what the end goal is. My kids usually leave the box top, with the completed picture, out where they can see it.
Then, they pull a piece from the board and look carefully at the box. They’re trying to see where that little piece fits in the bigger picture.
They know that all the pieces go together, but they have to use this skill to get everything in the right spot.
7. Social Skills
When you work on a puzzle with someone else, you have to have at least a bit of communication. Whether it’s, “Hey, you do this part and I’ll do this one” or even just shooting the breeze while working, puzzling together builds social skills.
They’re also a good way to teach little ones not to run over and grab a piece of the puzzle and shove it down the table crack.
See–good social skills for every age! 😀
Keeping track of all those pieces can be difficult without any form of organization. Your kids will have to make some simple organizational decisions, such as:
- To dump the pieces or not to dump?
- Sorting by color
- Should I sort edge pieces?
- To turn everything the right way first
There’s not just a single way to do a puzzle. But no matter how they tackle it, your child will be subconsciously organizing while they play.
And no, those organizational skills may not magically transfer themselves to your child’s clothing drawers and closet (how sad!), but they are building an essential framework. So I have hope that someday their closets and drawers will be in better shape!
9. Working on a Task Over Multiple Work Sessions
Unless you’re dedicating hours to the task, many of these larger puzzles aren’t going to be completed in a single session.
That means your kids are learning how to stop working and come back to it again later.
Being able to walk away and then jump back in later is an important skill. Can you see the real life benefit of this one?
But, some kids don’t handle it as well, and might need a bit of your guidance. You might start with working on a hard area of the puzzle for a bit and then taking a break to an easier section.
That’ll be a good practice opportunity to change focus.
10. Trial and Error
Once you’ve figured out how to organize the puzzle pieces, and are actively working on the puzzle, your child will have to compare pieces.
They might have three or four that they’ve determined through observation and spatial awareness will fit. So now it’s time for some trial and error. Your child might pick the wrong piece at first.
And that’s okay! They’re learning to keep trying. To keep solving the problem.
Trial and error is a math skill I was taught back in pre-algebra. It works on puzzling too!
What Other Skills Have Your Kids Practiced with Puzzles?
I know kids practice more than 10 skills doing puzzles. These ten are mostly soft skills, which are important in the world of STEM education.
Which other ones can you add to the list?