Puzzles have always been a typical choice as toys for toddlers. What makes it so popular are the benefits it has to a toddler’s early development. In this article, I will detail the various advantages of puzzles for toddlers. Hopefully, these advantages will support the claim on why puzzles are fit for toddlers.
Why are puzzles good for toddlers? Aside from an efficient way to keep them occupied, puzzles have other many benefits. Puzzles are great educational toys and materials that aid a toddler’s development. It can improve a toddler’s cognitive skills, motor, social, emotional, and verbal abilities. In a sense, puzzles are an all-around tool that can support toddlers. It fits well in a child’s development providing an opportunity to explore and enhance the skills they need as they grow up.
Many puzzles, with varying shapes and sizes, are good for toddlers. From boosting mental to emotional intelligence, here are reasons why puzzles are perfect for toddlers.
Purpose of puzzles for toddlers
Before jumping to the advantages, let’s figure out the purpose of these things to toddlers. Try to visualize puzzles and analyze them from a toddler’s point of view. For them, puzzles are simply another type of toy – except it is more challenging to play with. Toddlers might also find puzzles interesting but in a different way compared to their plushies, dolls, or other toys.
Yet, as an adult, we must know that puzzles have other purposes for toddlers. For them, it is a toy, but in reality, it is also a learning material.
Puzzles keep toddlers occupied. That is why parents or guardians use it to take a break from looking after their toddlers. But, a reason why it is good for toddlers is because of its benefits in early childhood development.
In essence, the following are positive impacts of puzzles on toddlers:
- Cognitive skills: Memory, shape recognition, problem-solving, language, knowledge in specific subjects/topics
- Physical skills: Motor development, hand-eye coordination
- Emotional skills: Patience, concentration, goal setting
- Social skills
Benefits of puzzles for toddlers
Shape Recognition: A basic concept introduced in puzzles is the shapes. For toddlers, puzzles with knobs focus on teaching simple shapes (square, circle, triangle). Some teach other geometric forms or shapes of letters, numbers, animals, etc.
A critical part of a toddler’s development is distinguishing differences between shapes. One of the best ways to familiarize them with shapes is through a sense of touch. By feeling the edges or curves of the puzzle pieces, toddlers can respond and learn specific vocabulary. You can use terms such as above, side, below, rotate, turn, and flip to engage your toddler. Aside from widening their vocabulary, it also teaches them about spatial awareness.
Memory: Puzzle exercises toddler’s short and long-term memories. When completing a puzzle, toddlers need to keep the shapes, sizes, appearance of each piece. These activities help the toddler’s mind active.
For long term memory, toddlers like to solve puzzles over and over again. It helps them recall the processes and characteristics of the pieces.
Spatial awareness/vocabulary: Spatial awareness is to recognize one’s spatial relationship between objects and space. Puzzles offer an early start for toddlers to have spatial perception. This is because puzzles are solved by fitting pieces within the ideal spaces.
Toddlers often need supervision from adults when doing puzzles. This reinforces communication and cooperation.
Problem-solving: Puzzles showcase many problems needed to be solved. Toddlers start to have critical thinking skills and logical reasoning to finish puzzles. It also unlocks toddlers’ problem-solving skills, imagination, and creativity.
Knowledge of specific subjects/topics: Puzzles cover various subjects or topics. Many puzzles marketed for toddlers feature different subjects like alphabets, numbers, objects, etc.
Motor development: Puzzle exercises and enhances toddlers’ gross and fine motor skills.
Gross motor skills – Movements like grasping pegs, and stacking blocks train the toddler’s muscles. It helps them to strengthen their grip when handling objects.
Fine motor skills – Through manipulating smaller delicate puzzle pieces, toddlers will refine their fine motor skills.
Hand-eye coordination: To solve a puzzle, toddlers need to use their sight to examine and envision images. It is then connected to the hands to manipulate and put together the pieces. The flip, turn, and trial and error in solving puzzles help the brain form an image. Based on this mental image, the toddlers can also make simple judgments – like which piece should be picked up next, etc.
Patience: Time is required in solving puzzles. For toddlers, the process of solving it can be frustrating as they learn how to manipulate pieces. This is why puzzles are great materials to let toddlers practice patience.
Concentration: Toddlers have a limited attention span. One way to help them extend their concentration on one object is through puzzles. They need to focus to understand and solve the problem. This is also why puzzles are great materials to keep toddlers occupied.
Goal-setting: A common goal in puzzles is to solve the problem. It can also be through completing a jigsaw puzzle’s image. Or recreate objects through building blocks. Toddlers are being taught to hit or do these kinds of objectives. It allows them to set goals for themselves at an early age.
Toddlers can play or solve puzzles with adults or other toddlers. It is a good social activity that enables communication and cooperation.
Tips to encourage toddlers to solve puzzles
Now that you have an idea of the benefits puzzles offer to toddlers, the next question may be: How do I introduce or encourage toddlers to solve puzzles?
First of all, don’t force toddlers to do it. They are toddlers. It is better to give them the freedom to choose whether they want to solve puzzles. Listed below are tips to gradually motivate toddlers to play with puzzles.
Start with age-appropriate puzzles
Some puzzles are suitable for a specific age range. It is helpful to look for appropriate puzzles to prevent emergencies. Some puzzles serve different purposes. Chunkier puzzles are better for younger ones since it helps with motor development.
Pick something that reflects the toddler’s interests
Puzzles for toddlers often have fun illustrations like animals, objects, or cartoons. Choose something that the toddler would love to see.
Examine each piece
Guide toddlers and teach them to examine every piece of the puzzle. Encourage them to describe what they see.
Check the reference image
Show the reference or complete image of the puzzle to the toddler. It is often illustrated in the box or package. This will aid them to get an idea of what the piece should look like.
Help by starting from the outside edges
Teach them what to do. Show how to manipulate each piece. To achieve this, you can start doing the edges. Doing this will make it easier for them to figure out what to do.
Communicate using descriptive language
Use descriptive words when solving puzzles with toddlers. Hold up a piece and describe what you can see from it. What color(s) can you and your toddler see? Does it look like a tree or an animal? These verbal cues will help toddlers understand the puzzle better.
Be patient and give positive reinforcement
Be patient and help them when they ask for support. Praise them for their effort. This will boost their morale and mood while finishing the puzzle. Moreover, toddlers might think of it as a friendly or positive activity.
Types of puzzles for toddlers
Here is a list of safe and good puzzles for toddlers are:
- Knob puzzles: Knob puzzles as starter puzzles for toddlers. These puzzles will familiarize them with the concept of puzzles. It is also very helpful in training their grip.
- Wooden jigsaw: This is like normal jigsaw puzzles – except it is chunkier and made of wood. This is appropriate for toddlers who are still unfamiliar with puzzles.
- Frame puzzles: This is the usual type of puzzle.
- Floor puzzles: Floor puzzles are very interactive.
- Building blocks: Building blocks are also considered puzzles. Despite being more complex, it enhances a toddler’s imagination and creativity.
- Digital puzzles: Puzzle or problem-solving games or applications are also helpful. Most toddlers nowadays are more familiar with gadgets. Utilize their screen time by letting them play digitized puzzles.
Puzzles are good for toddlers for various reasons. It is highly beneficial to the toddler’s cognitive development. Moreover, it also boosts emotions and their social skills. Nonetheless, the most important thing to do is to support your toddler. To wholly absorb the puzzle’s benefits, toddlers should enjoy doing it. Forcing them to play with puzzles will only make them hesitant to do it.
Can puzzles boost a toddler’s self-esteem? Puzzles can help improve a toddler’s self-esteem. Puzzles, when accomplished, gives toddlers a sense of accomplishment. Additionally, puzzles also teach self-worth. Since it is an activity that a toddler can do, it helps them be more independent. This, when paired with positive reinforcement, can improve a toddler’s idea of self-worth.