A child’s brain sees maximum development in the first five years. These years of childhood are important in their learning journey. Puzzles or puzzle games contribute significantly to a child’s early learning journey. They entertain and improve cognitive skills while consistently challenging and exercising their little minds.
What is a puzzle?
A puzzle is a game, toy, or a problem that tests the solver’s imagination, intelligence, and skill. There are various types of puzzles like:
- Logic puzzles such as chess
- Mathematical puzzles such as finding the missed number in the series
- Mechanical puzzles like Rubik’s Cube.
- Paper and pencil puzzles such as solving a maze
Benefits of Puzzles in Early Childhood Development
Children love to solve problems – from simple shapes to advanced jigsaw puzzle games. Puzzles can contribute greatly to the child’s physical skills development, cognitive skills development, and emotional skills development.
Physical Skill Development
- Hand-eye coordination: When the child finds a piece, picks it up, and fits in the puzzle, the connection between hands and eyes strengthens. It develops a relationship between what the eyes see, what their hands do, and what information the brain processes.
- Gross motor skills: The large puzzle pieces and stacking puzzle games enhance the muscle movements of the children.
- Fine motor skills: Fine motor is movements that would require the movements of small muscles such as fingers, toes, tongue, etc. In puzzle games, the child is required to pick, hold, grasp, and move around the puzzle piece to fit in perfectly. This provides the scope for the improvement of fine motor skills.
- Recognition of numbers, alphabets, shapes, and colours: The first puzzle games are usually very simple ones such as shapes, colours, etc. These kinds of puzzle games could be highly educative and entertaining for children.
- Memory: Jigsaws and other puzzles enhance the child’s memory. For instance, while solving the puzzle, the child needs to recall the size, colour, and shape of puzzle pieces as s/he works through the puzzle.
- Problem Solving: The puzzle piece fits in or not, either way, no one can cheat in the puzzle games and everyone needs to put their problem-solving skill to work. To complete a puzzle successfully, the child needs to think, develop his/her own strategies. This entire process of solving the puzzle helps young minds in developing logic, reasoning and problem-solving skills.
Emotional skill development:
- Setting goals: As the child is determined to solve the puzzle, s/he will often learn to develop a strategy to work on the puzzle efficiently, maybe by piling up similar coloured/shaped puzzle pieces on one side. This kind of strategy helps the children to set small goals and work towards achieving a big goal.
- Patience: Puzzle games demand patience to keep the mind cool and think at the same time to solve it. As the children solve more and more puzzles, they learn the necessary skills, and patience is definitely one among them.
- Self-esteem: When the children set small goals and achieve them, they start developing self-esteem. Solving problems boosts their self-confidence and prepares them for the real challenges of life.
Social skill development:
When children work together towards one common goal, it provides a great opportunity for them to enhance their social skills. For instance, if the child is solving the puzzle with a friend or a family member, they communicate, discuss, and work together to solve the puzzle. This teaches the children about cooperative play.
Solving puzzles that vary from easy to complex levels, stimulate the development of the above skills in a growing child. Hence, it is important to encourage the use of puzzles to foster the development of a child’s emotional, social, cognitive and physical skills during their early childhood.