The Power of Puzzles For Children
Who doesn’t like puzzles, especially when they’re pretty and colorful, and they show a captivating picture? And that includes children, teens, and adults of all ages.
For very young children, just touching the pieces and moving them is fun, but putting them together to see how they fit, finding the solution and making a picture with them gives a real sense of satisfaction. And doing it with mom or dad, grandma or grandpa – well now, that really is fun!
- Playing with puzzles strengthens fine motor skills. The hand and finger movements involved in manipulating puzzle pieces to pick them up and grasp them, to turn them around, to fit them into designated spots all strengthen young children’s fine motor skills. When we talk about fine motor skills, we’re talking about the coordination of the small muscles in the hands, fingers, and wrists, about hand-eye coordination, and about the performance of everyday tasks such as holding pencils and crayons, using scissors, buttoning clothing, turning pages, writing, and even eating. This coordination takes a lot of practice and if it isn’t learned well, the child's self-esteem, especially in school, can be negatively affected.
- Puzzle play supports cognitive development. When presented with a puzzle, the child is asked to solve a problem. As the child looks for possible solutions, he or she has to observe, to analyze, to compare for similarities and differences, to focus on details, to make visual distinctions, and to analyze all the information. This involves memory, spatial awareness, reasoning, and decision-making, all parts of critical thinking.
An additional benefit comes from playing with open-ended puzzles that have more than one possible solution: it boosts children’s creativity and innovation.
- Puzzle play increases social/emotional learning. Give a child a puzzle, and you give her a challenge. This means that in puzzle play, children learn that with patience and by means of trial and error, they can eventually succeed in finding a solution – an important life lesson.
When children work on a puzzle in a group, they learn the social skills of cooperation and give and take.
- Puzzle play boosts family bonding. Working to solve a puzzle with other family members is a wonderful experience where everyone is focused on the same thing, working together toward a solution, having fun, talking, contributing, and getting a real thrill when the puzzle is finally put together.
This is healthy, family fun and bonding.