It’s PUZZLE time! Buy your puzzle rack when your baby is born and add puzzles as they grow! I’ll tell you what puzzles to introduce at what ages and what you can expect your infant, toddler and preschooler to do and learn from them.
Large, chunky puzzles with handles on the pieces are ideal for infants. Try large shape puzzles. Each piece is typically a bright color to grasp their attention and is big enough to grasp and explore with their mouths and hands.
Introduce new types of puzzles with handles on the pieces or that have pieces large enough for toddler hands to grasp. Toddlers’ hand/eye coordination is getting stronger so encourage them to place the pieces back in the appropriate spots. Show them and guide them in the placement until they can do it on their own. When working with puzzles, identify what each piece is to build cognitive development. If the puzzle has more than one characteristic (shape and color for instance), focus on one at a time. Toddlers cannot learn more than one characteristic of something at a time.
Try Introducing these puzzles to your toddler:
Farm Puzzle: Big handles and familiar characters – but more intricate shapes. Identify the character and then see if toddlers can find the correct space for each piece. Once the correct space is identified, guide them in turning the piece until it fits.
No handles but the pieces are chunky enough for toddler hands to grasp. This is also a more detailed puzzle (3 characteristics plus the concept of a clock). Start by identifying the color,then shape, then number. Identify and discuss only one characteristic at a time.
Shape Puzzle with Handles:
Great handles for toddler hands, and the shapes are bright and large so they stand out. Identify color and then shape as toddlers work to find the right space for each piece. Point to the word as you say the name of the shape after the piece is correctly placed.
Shape Puzzle without Handles:
No handles but the shapes are large enough for toddler hands to grasp. The colors REALLY stand out here, so ask about color first. Then have toddlers find the correct spot for the piece. Once the piece is placed, say the name of the shape as you point to the label under it.
Try Introducing these puzzles to your preschooler. These “preschool puzzles” have handles that are smaller to accommodate preschoolers stronger hand/eye coordination and fine motor abilities. Many toddlers can also use these puzzles so introduce them early if children are ready. My own child used these “preschool” puzzles at 18 months old. She learned her letters, colors and numbers before age 2 from just playing with them. They are fun and easy learning AND playing tools!:
It’s amazing how fast children learn the alphabet when they play with letter puzzles! Pick up a piece, say the letter, and then as you place it in the appropriate spot identify the corresponding picture. Then ask your preschoolerto find a letter and repeat the process. Or, wait for them to pick up a letter. Do it with them until they can do it on their own.
Identify all of the colors on the puzzle with your preschooler. Then work with them to match the colors on the pieces to their appropriate spots. After a match, repeat the color. Be sure to talk about the color of everything you see to reinforce the concept.
It’s amazing how fast children learn their numbers when they play with number puzzles! This puzzle incorporates counting with number correspondence, so count count count with your preschooler. Start by just placing the numbers in their correct spots. Then pick a spot, count the objects, and work with your child to find the corresponding number. If they place a number in the correct spot, say the number, lift it up, and count the objects underneath with them. Make sure to point to each object as you count it – very important for learning to count.