Toy Blog - Toys, Parenting, and Kids

The Perks Of Puzzles

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what does that make a puzzle worth?  Puzzles are wonderful learning tools without even appearing as such.  Children love to piece together puzzles at almost any age, from toddlers through the teen years and into adulthood.  The benefits of “puzzling” are innumerable, but here are a few areas that puzzles really shine.

Puzzles are excellent for visual discrimination.  Children must learn to match shape to shape (or cut out area to cut out area), looking for specific details on each piece.  In younger children, peg puzzles help develop matching skills and shape identification, whether those shapes be “standard” shapes or unconventional ones.  

Putting together puzzles also increases a child’s fine motor skills, which is necessary for pre-writing skill development.  Fitting puzzle pieces together “just so” works on finger dexterity and strength.  This, in turn, aids in writing skill development with control over pencil/crayon movement. 

Puzzles are excellent tools for developing problem solving strategies.  Children must figure out how to put the pieces together, where to start, and what method is easiest for them.  While many may choose to work the “edge” of the puzzle first, there are those children who will find starting with a specific design or picture within the overall puzzle is easier.  Both ways are correct ways to fit together a puzzle; both ways develop different strategies in problem solving.

Have a variety of puzzles on hand for children.  Puzzles are a great way to have fun and learn at the same time!

All Tied Up With Fun!

As my younger child grows, I am introducing more and more activities that focus on his fine-motor development without being tedious or frustrating for him.  One of his favorite activities is to play with lace-up toys.  It is a perfect activity for increasing eye-hand coordination as well as being a lot of fun!

There are several kinds of lacing toys that you can find online and in stores.  First, you have the traditional lace-up cards.  Usually there is a picture of an object with holes punched along the borders, and the child weaves a shoestring through it.  I always put a knot at one end of the string for my son so he doesn’t lose his patience with the end always pulling through.  At his young age, I have found it useful to start with shorter strings and fewer holes.  He can complete one easily and in a short amount of time; perfect for his attention span.  I also favor the ones that are cut to the shape of the object as opposed to being simply a rectangle with a picture imprinted on it.  It is easier for little hands to spot the punched holes around the object and reach.  They make terrific beginning stencils as well. 

There are also alternative lacing activities.  We have a book about tying shoelaces, and the cover of the book is a cardboard “shoe” that the child can lace.  He LOVES this one.  I just have to be careful – a week ago I found my tennis shoes unlaced!  Also, I have found a variety of the “Dressy Betsy”-style toys.  These are usually dolls or animals with all sorts of fasteners on them: snaps, buttons, zippers, velcro and yes, laces.

Another lace-type activity that we love is stringing beads.  These can be anything from large wooden colorful shape beads (which work great for teaching patterns!) to soft foam pieces and even colored (or uncolored) macaroni.  We make necklaces, bracelets, garlands and even a backpack “decoration” for Big Brother.  Beading is something children as young as two can enjoy as well as pre-teens.  It all depends on the materials used.

By giving your child the opportunity to explore such activities as lacing, you are helping to develop their fine-motor skills, their eye-hand coordination, and providing an outlet for fun for everyone!

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