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!