Helping Children Learn to Play Series: #1 Puzzles

Helping Children Learn To Play With Puzzles

Have you helped your child figure out how to play with a puzzle? By playing with them, we can share a few strategies. Play is the favorite way to learn for young children. While children may be born with the ability to play, play is also a skill that kids need to develop and practice. They learn to play by watching brothers, sisters, and friends, and by participating in play experiences. As they play, they imitate what they have seen and heard from the adults around them.

playing with puzzlesThere is no one way to play with toys. Playing with puzzles is a form of construction but quite different from blocks or lego. Puzzles come with an end result that is built-in or already decided. Even though there is only one way for the pieces to fit together, there are many ways to figure it out. Puzzles are an amazing toy for hands-on play.

playing with puzzlesIf your child has never before played with a puzzle, you will need to show how to do one. Choose a simple one to start with, perhaps only 2 or 3 pieces. As you fit the pieces together, talk about what you are doing, for example, “Look at this, it’s part of a train. This piece is part of one too. The bits of picture go together and now there’s more of it.” Besides the strategy of parts of the picture, you can show your child how the shapes fit. This helps for pieces that are all the same color, like the sky in this puzzle.

playing with puzzlesAfter putting a puzzle together a few times, your child will see how to play with one. Kids will often play with puzzles all by themselves, maybe asking us for help if they need it and certainly calling us to admire a puzzle that they have done successfully. We can make a “mistake” and model how to try again another way so that kids know it’s okay to have to try something a few times. As both attention and patience grow, they do harder and harder ones.

playing with puzzlesDoing a puzzle requires lots of thinking and action. Being able to connect pieces of plastic, wood, or other material helps the brain learn to connect pieces of information, a valuable thinking strategy. Have you introduced your child to puzzle play?

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