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It’s National Puzzle Month!

My almost three-year-old always loved the baby and toddler puzzles, however he’s been getting to the age where he doesn’t find them particularly challenging anymore. So my husband and I decided it was about time to start introducing him to floor puzzles.

Tech-Free-Tuesday-Introducing Your Toddler to Jigsaw Puzzles

Puzzles are a wonderful toy for both children and adults, with developmental and social benefits. Puzzles help:

  • Problem solving
  • Fine muscle and hand eye coordination
  • Cooperation and communication
  • Developing focus and attention to detail

When we first started teaching our son how to do baby puzzles, we had to be very hands on with him, and when we graduated to a big puzzle, we again had to become more hand on as we worked on the puzzle. We chose a PJ Masks Floor Puzzle as a good starting puzzle, which had 46 large pieces.

The reasons why we chose this puzzle were very specific. First of all, it was a very large puzzle (approx. 24 in. x 36 in.) with very large pieces that would be easy to keep track of, but still small enough to easily do on our dining room, kitchen, or work table. Since we have an 11 month old, we wanted to keep the puzzle up and out of reach of baby hands.

The second reason was that it had large, recognizable, and distinctive characters. My son loves the PJ Masks; and the three main characters make up the bulk of the picture with very few pieces that don’t include part of their costumes. They all also wear distinctive colors and have different eye colors and skin tones; this makes it easy to distinguish which pieces go with each character.

The first time my husband and son tried the puzzle, they made pretty good progress, but my son lost interest in sorting through all the pieces to try and create a picture. So this time, with him watching, I unpacked all the pieces and sorted them into piles. He loves apps and games that involve sorting; I’m hoping to show him how to use those skills more in problem solving in the physical world.3

After we had neatly sorted puzzles for each character (as well as some edge pieces) we chose a character and got started. When I do a jigsaw puzzle I often start with the corners and edges, but in this case working on each of the characters and assembling it that way would be the easiest method for a toddler to understand. We chose Catboy, since he’s standing in the middle, as our first character to assemble. We began by finding his face and pointing out his eyes, nose, and mouth, and putting together the pieces until everything fit together. From there we worked down towards his feet. As we moved forward with each character my son’s confidence grew, and he became more assertive about finding the right place for the puzzle pieces.

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After all the characters were assembled and connected we worked on assembling all the remaining edge pieces. This was a bit more challenging since there was less of a reference, but a few of the pieces had edges of costumes, and we also got to compare the edges to the background to find where pieces went.

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When we were done my son was immensely proud of his accomplishment, and he was excited to show everyone what he had done. Finishing a challenging task and recognizing that accomplishment is great for building self esteem and learning motivation for tackling projects. My son even asked if I could get him more puzzles that we could do together.  1

What are some fun tabletop activities you’ve been teaching your kids?

Introducing Your Toddler to Jigsaw Puzzles