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Puzzle Me This!

Updated on April 19, 2016

Did you know that January 29th was National Puzzle Day? Do you like to do puzzles with your kids? I always have found that puzzles are something I enjoy doing with my children. I’m not very good at playing dollies or stuffed animals, but I enjoy a good puzzle! Children and adults alike can enjoy and benefit from the challenge of completing a puzzle.

Different Types of Puzzles

There are many different kinds of puzzles, and some things that we don’t think of as puzzles, provide all the benefits of jigsaw puzzles and more!

Jigsaw Puzzles―Usually when we think of puzzles, we think of jigsaw puzzles. These can be very simple up to extremely advanced. When children are very young, they can work on very large floor puzzles that don’t take much fine motor skill. They can put together the alphabet in order, or fit a letter into the matching shape. As children get a bit older, a puzzle might include shoe laces, so they can learn to tie their own shoes, or they can begin to put together pictures that don’t have too many pieces. Then, kids can begin to advance to harder, bigger and much more difficult picture puzzles.

Word Searches and Crossword Puzzles―Other kinds of puzzles to enjoy are word searches and crosswords. You can buy books of word searches and/or crosswords at educational learning stores or make your own using a computer. When my children were younger, and we were going to a restaurant, (before they had their own phones!), I would ask them to give me a topic they liked, such as Types of Dogs, or Zoo Animals, then I would go to a website like www.puzzle-maker.com, input different words and create a word search or crossword and bring it with us to give them something to do while we waited for our food. Other websites like www.workseets.theteacherscorner.net also allow you to customize your own word puzzles.

Board Games―Board games involve setting a goal and planning a strategy, as do all puzzles, and have the added advantage of teaching social interaction skills to children. Games like the Memory Game, Scrabble, Clue, Operation, Monopoly and Yahtzee are fun for the whole family! Games like Jenga are great for spatial planning and word games like MadLibs can teach grammar and parts of speech. Chess, Checkers and even mathematical story problems involve strategizing and systematically planning and looking at the big picture to achieve the goal.

Benefits of Doing Puzzles

The skills learned from doing puzzles are many. Puzzles can build confidence in problem solving and increase spatial reasoning ability—skills that are important in many careers down the road!

Patience―In these days of instant gratification, having the patience to do a laborious puzzle can be hard to find, but practice makes better! Teach your children patience and model it for your children by setting out to do a somewhat involved project and carefully and methodically working toward completion. They will learn the rewards of a job well done! Kids can learn that breaking a large task into bite-size pieces can make it more approachable and less overwhelming. This is an important life lesson!

Gross and Fine Motor Skills―Some activities like building blocks and Jenga involve gross motor skills like standing, stacking and manipulating objects. Some venues, like the square at Santana Row shopping center in San Jose, California, even offer life-sized chess games where children are using their brain and their bodies together.
Fine motor skills are necessary for handwriting, cutting with scissors, coloring, and playing a musical instrument. Puzzles are great for fine motor skills as kids learn to try to fit things together and move things around to try to achieve success and completion.

Memory―Remembering shapes, size, color and where pieces could fit all enhance memorization skills. The word puzzles help with memorization of spellings, definitions or locations.

Bringing Families Together―In these days of video games and personal devices, it is up to the parents to set aside time to bring their family together for some good old fashioned fun! The children will love it and so will the adults! Good memories can be made and good feelings can abound. Parents can get directly involved in their own child’s development as they work with them to solve or create puzzles to help their child with certain skills. Children need and require attention, and playing games is great positive attention!

STEM Skills―Problem solving weaves itself into STEM skills (Science Technology Engineering and Math). Puzzles and math manipulatives teach how to label and build shapes. Mentally transforming shapes is a predictor of STEM skills and even future careers. Girls are equally good at puzzles as boys and can increase their confidence in STEM-related disciplines by participating in puzzle and problem solving frequently. Spatial reasoning skills are a valuable benefit of puzzles.

Bringing Families Together

In these days of video games and personal devices, it is up to the parents to set aside time to bring their family together for some good old-fashioned fun! The children will love it and so will the adults! Good memories can be made and good feelings can abound. Parents can get directly involved in their own child’s development as they work with them to solve or create puzzles to help their child with certain skills. Children need and require attention, and playing games is great positive attention!

Enjoy having your kids do puzzles or playing and working with them on different types of puzzles on January 29th or any of the 364 days of the year!! Everyone will benefit! Have fun!

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