Kids love puzzles, and learning to master them teaches many skills. In fact, puzzle solving not only develops mental skills but dexterity, fine motor skills and spatial awareness.
While older children spend much of their time in school, lots of learning happens outside the classroom. Unsurprisingly, puzzles and games have a lot to offer when it comes to added learning time.
Play isn’t all fun and games! From babies to grade-schoolers, puzzles help kids learn a variety of important developmental skills. These include both “hard” skills like motor control and “soft” skills like sharing.
In this article, we review 5 of the main education benefits kids can get from puzzle-solving.
1. Puzzle Solving Boosts Memory
Memory is a very important cognitive skill. We cannot learn new things without comparing and contrasting with past experiences. Using our memories, we analyze problems and apply those lessons to make decisions.
Working on puzzles can reinforce connections between our brain cells, boosting memory. Puzzle-solving improves focus and concentration as well.
While there are many games designed to develop kid’s memory, even simple jigsaw puzzles can improve focus and memory.
For example, your child will need to recognise what an empty space looks like and, using memory, know the piece they’re looking for.
As their puzzle solving skills improve your child may begin to keep multiple spaces and pieces in their memory. This allows them to solve the puzzle more quickly.
In fact, as short-term memory improves, so too will their puzzle solving abilities!
2. Spatial Reasoning
Spatial reasoning is the ability to think about objects in your head and understand how they fit in three dimensions.
Adults use this skill every day, never stopping to think that it’s something we have had to learn and practice as kids.
Using blocks and other building toys are one of the best ways a kid can learn spatial reasoning and develop puzzle solving skills.
In fact, it’s not just using these toys, but how often kids use them. Children who used spatial play toys more than 6 times a week had higher spatial reasoning scores than those who only had 3-5 times a week.
Other types of play, like cycling or drawing, are important and teach their own lessons. However, they do not result in improved spatial reasoning skills.
3. Puzzle Solving Promotes Collaboration
While puzzles are a fantastic solo activity, they also present an opportunity to learn to work together.
Solving puzzles is often easier with two people searching for pieces, but teamwork can present new challenges. For example, solving a puzzle with two people may require agreement on strategy.
Do you start with the outside or inside pieces? Are you working together or separately on your own sections before joining them together?
Tackling these simple questions can help children understand how to approach collaboration with other people in the future.
Solving puzzles in a group also requires more advanced communication skills, an important aspect of development that can be difficult to teach directly.
4. Fine Motor Control
Young children must learn to use small muscles in their hands and wrists and coordinate those movements with their eyes. This dexterity, known as fine motor control, is a skill that must be practiced in order to develop.
While fine motor skill milestones occur at different ages, puzzles of varying difficulty can help them develop these important skills.
For example, children at 1-2 years old should be able to pick up smaller objects with the thumb and index finger. They then need to learn to turn those objects around. By 3-4 years of age, kids can stack a tower of 9 blocks and even hold a pencil with a fair amount of control.
Different types of puzzle solving and games will teaching certain fine motor skills. For example, “controlled voluntary release” is taught to young children through games that have them placing things into containers. Jigsaw puzzles help improve hand-eye coordination, as well as memory as noted above.
5. Puzzle Solving Requires Reasoning
We know that when we practice a single skill, like solving jigsaw puzzles, we get better at it. Amazingly, solving puzzles also make us better at tackling other problems.
Experts explain that solving puzzles can help kids and adults become more focused on solutions, rather than problems. This will help us tackle challenges in new ways.
Also, by dealing with problems in a safe environment through puzzle solving, kids learn to regulate their emotions when faced with real-life challenges.
Puzzles and games are also a great way to teach specific skills and subjects. For example, a 2018 research article explained the use of puzzles as “didactic tools”. These can be useful in teaching children math, both in the classroom and as an extracurricular activity.
Games exist for nearly every grade school subject and grade level. Using games and puzzle solving can make it fun to practice classroom skills like math or spelling at home.
How To Get Puzzle Solving Started
When we think of solving puzzles, our minds usually go straight to the traditional jigsaw puzzle. However, while they provide some clear educational benefits, not all kids love jigsaws.
In fact, there are many other games and puzzles that provide similar benefits!
For younger children, games like memory cards or shape-matching puzzles are a great way to boost a love of puzzles.
For example, in a shape or color matching game, kids must pick the correctly shaped or colored block to place into the matching space. The child develops fine motor skills while also learning the names of shapes and colors.
Don’t stress too much – kids can learn from nearly any activity!
For older children, we recommend a more immersive puzzle experience, like a board game or escape room. As 60out.com explains, escape rooms make use of many different types of puzzles, from basic math to hidden objects.
These specific puzzle solving skills allow your brain to work in different ways. Not only that, you practice a variety of helpful skills not often used in our daily lives.
Puzzle solving helps children of all ages develop and practice important motor and other skills. These include memory, spatial awareness, problem solving and even social skills.
No matter the puzzle you choose, it’s important to let your child lead the way. Sit back, relax and provide support when they need it.
Let the learning begin!
Our super author here at Famous Parenting and an absolute wealth of knowledge. She has studied many topics including creative writing, psychology and journalism but her real passion lies in raising her 3 children. Between working from home, homeschooling her youngest 2 children and navigating the world of teenagers she is a guru for parents.