Puzzles provide educational value for children of all ages
A baby learns to recognize objects by their shape and not necessarily what position the object is in. A chair is a chair whether it is upright, lying down, or upside down-it doesn’t matter. The simple puzzles produced for younger children develop more refined and defined skills and recognition.
One of the first things a young child will learn is that it does matter which way up the pieces to fit in the hole. A typical early childhood puzzle is wooden with a picture and has spaces where the pieces fit to complete the picture. With a street scene, for example, there might be a separate car shape, bus shape, and a truck shape that complete a puzzle. These puzzles are typically robust as the first response of a child is to try to force the piece into place taking no notice of its shape. With adult guidance the young child learns to manipulate the piece until it does fit exactly.
There are several learning experiences that can be drawn from these very basic puzzles. Firstly it’s the hand eye coordination to manipulate the puzzle piece into position. To get the piece in also involves observation of the shape of the hole and the shape of the puzzle piece. At first the child deals with the problem by trial and error. The example and guidance of an adult begins to solidify the thinking process. The child starts to apply spatial awareness and mental manipulation as well as physical. This comes however, after the child has learned to put the piece in correctly through trial and error and memory.
The role of the adult at this stage is very important. The conversation about the picture, talking and demonstrating the correct method to complete it, accelerates the child’s learning process. Puzzles can create a great opportunity for increase in vocabulary, and recognition of objects and situations outside the child’s immediate world. The fact that the child learns that the piece only fits one way is in fact a pre reading skill. A letter needs to be the right way up and not backwards or upside down in a word.
These early childhood puzzles can be purchased in varying degrees of difficulty as the child’s spatial and reasoning skills become more developed. The child also learns through puzzles the recognition of color and shape with, of course, adult conversation increasing the potential of the child’s understanding and development. The green shape only fits in the green hole. This type of matching activity develops early reading skills.
At this stage it is good to introduce a new puzzle and do it with the child at first. Make this a happy social time and lots of fun. Do the puzzles with the child long enough to maintain the child’s interest and attention, but be ready to move on to another activity. Eventually when the child’s dexterity and confidence has increased, he will want to do it by himself. With praise and encouragement the child will practice until the skills become familiar. Then is the time to introduce puzzles with greater challenge.
Puzzles help develop the reasoning and deduction process of thinking. As well as skills such as spatial awareness, matching and sorting. Above all, puzzles present a great opportunity for language development and a happy social interaction with your child.