My oldest, Sawyer, has always loved puzzles. We noticed when he was about 18 months old that he was a little puzzle whiz. It seemed like it just came natural to him. And that tendency toward analytic thinking still shows at 5 years old in his love of machines, building toys and Legos. Puzzles don’t come as easily for our 3 year old, Priscilla, though. She’s more imaginative and social than analytical. So I’ve been trying to encourage her puzzle skills a bit more. Here’s what I’ve found helps…
10 Tips for Teaching Puzzle Skills to Kids
- Pick an Appropriate Puzzle. Choose a puzzle that is appropriate for your child’s age and development. Board and simple shape puzzles are great for beginners and toddlers. When you see her mastering them, move onto large floor puzzles and then jigsaw puzzles.
- Tie into Your Child’s Interests. Find puzzles that depict a subject matter that interests your child. She’ll be more motivated to participate in putting it together.
- Look at the Image. Make sure that your child can see and refer to the image of the final product (usually on the box) as they work on the puzzle.
- Find the Outside Edges. Even for many adults, one of the easiest places to start on a puzzle is the outside edge. Have your child try to find all of the pieces with a straight edge. Then see which ones have similar colors and try to hook them together.
- Sort the Pieces by Color. Have your child help sort the pieces by their predominant color. If they don’t know their colors yet, show them a puzzle piece and ask if they can find others that look like that the same color as that piece.
- Use Descriptive Language. Use lots of descriptive words as you work on the puzzle with your child. Show her a puzzle piece and have her describe what it looks like. Does it look like part of the dinosaur? Does it look like leaves or grass? What colors are on it? Then find other pieces that match that description.
- Spin the Piece Around. Sometimes kids find two pieces that they know go together but can’t quite figure out how. Encourage them to spin the piece around and try all sides before giving up.
- Simplify It. Too many pieces might be overwhelming to little ones. If they don’t seem to know where to start, just give them a few that you know go together. As they get pieces together, add some more that you know will work.
- Show by Example. When you find pieces that match, make sure to get your child’s attention to show them how you hook them together.
- Give Positive Reinforcement. Praise your child when they get some pieces together. Have a party; clap and dance if it makes them smile!
Do your kids enjoy playing with puzzles? Do you have any other tips on teaching puzzle skills?
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