Jigsaw puzzles provide educational benefits while allowing a child to enjoy playing. First developed around 1760 by John Spilsbury as a geography aid for British children, they quickly became popular in the educational field. It wasn’t until around 1880 that puzzles became a leisurely pastime. Now, puzzles are used by people of all ages and walks of life. Puzzles are found in nursery schools, day care centers, and nursing homes alike. They have even found their way into rehabilitation centers. They provide a retraining method for those people who have suffered a stroke or brain injury.
Skills that children learn will become a part of their foundation as they grow. Reasoning abilities, thought processing, sequencing, and analytical skills are enhanced through the use of jigsaw puzzles. All puzzles help children develop matching skills as they analyze shapes and color patterns. They also help develop fine motor skills as they manipulate the pieces to connect them together with other pieces.
Some designers look to specifically incorporate skill development into their puzzles. An example is a company called Melissa & Doug, which makes puzzles appealing to children and parents alike. Melissa & Doug launched their first educational puzzle in 1991 and over the years they have continued to expand their product line.
Jigsaw puzzles are perhaps most effective when used as part of an overall curriculum, supplementing lessons from textbooks with hands-on activities which are fun for everyone. Puzzles offer a great way to supplement teaching of a particular topic, such as geography, Bible stories, the solar system, emergency vehicles, horse breeds and trains. There are a great variety of puzzles available which focus on these topics. There are even puzzles geared for toddlers and preschool kids, which can help with teaching lessons such as colors, shapes, numbers, alphabet letters and farm animals. Some of the puzzles for younger kids provide additional learning experiences by making sounds, such as farm animals and emergency vehicles. Others introduce kids to different textures to develop their sensory abilities.
Melissa & Doug offers peg style jigsaw puzzles, in which very young children can match the puzzle piece to the corresponding shape. This simple puzzle helps children develop fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination. It also helps kids develop cognitive skills as they have to think about matching shapes and positioning each piece to make it fit into the corresponding hole.
Going large can make puzzles even more fun. Giant floor puzzles make a bigger impression on little minds, and bring the action down to their level. Huge selections of educational floor puzzles are available for all age ranges.
As children increase in age, the number of puzzle pieces should also increase. For children ages twelve and up, puzzles with 500 or more pieces will keep them challenged and motivated to solve them. At this level, jigsaw puzzles provide added educational benefits as kids develop persistence and steadfastness in staying with the task until it is completed. As the piece counts increase, so does the degree of difficulty. As a result, kids are motivated to interact with their peers and ‘co-workers’ to solve the puzzle. In the process, they develop better communication skills and learn the value of teamwork and collaboration.
An important key to getting the most benefits from the puzzle is matching the puzzle to a child’s age and abilities. However, jigsaw puzzles provide children of all ages with a sense of accomplishment at the completion of the puzzle.
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Joe Kanooga is a father of two kids, a successful business owner and the author of numerous articles about jigsaw puzzles. Click here to download our free Melissa & Doug guidebook filled with tips, ideas and information.
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