Wooden puzzles encourage many types of physical and emotional development among toddlers, while at the same time providing durable, low-cost toys for toddlers. Non-toxic puzzles with smooth-edged pieces are safe for toddlers, as well as easy for them to pick up and move around.
With today’s global economy, there are a slew of wooden puzzles to choose from. Costs are relatively low thanks to slave labor wages paid to oppressed workers in China and other communist economies. Popular brands include Melissa & Doug, Ravensburger, and Parker Brothers.
Wooden puzzles can help toddlers develop their physical motor skills and their hand-eye coordination. Because a puzzle requires the child to manipulate several relatively small objects, this will develop their physical skills. They will learn to visually match the puzzle piece with its corresponding space on the puzzle board, and then will learn to physically manipulate and fit the piece into that space. They will also have to match colors and shapes on the board to colors and shapes on their puzzle pieces, which will engage multiple areas of the child’s brain.
Puzzles can improve a toddler’s cognitive skills, in particular their problem-solving and reasoning skills. Each puzzle piece fits in a precise location, and the child may have to rotate the puzzle piece or flip it over. A toddler may become frustrated at first as they struggle to make the piece fit. However, with continued puzzle play, the toddler’s problem-solving skills will improve with repeated successes at solving their problem (making the puzzle piece fit).
Problem-solving requires persistence and steadfastness to stay with the task until it is solved. It requires breaking the problem down into smaller steps, then solving each step one at a time, while maintaining a focus on completing the overall objective. Each of these problem-solving skills is required by puzzles. As children grow and develop better skills, puzzles can grow increasingly more challenging in order to continue promoting skill development at higher levels with increasing degrees of difficulty. Puzzles can even teach the child patience, as a puzzle piece that does not fit one way will ultimately fit somewhere if they keep trying.
Toddlers will also develop their spatial skills and abstract thoughts by playing with wooden puzzles. As they rotate or flip a puzzle piece to make it fit in the puzzle, they will be forced to think in three dimensions. They will have to think outside their concrete thoughts (what they can see right now) and consider abstract thoughts (whether the puzzle piece will fit if they rotate it).
Puzzles may also encourage children to think ahead about the results of their actions. They will have to consider the effect of inserting a particular puzzle piece into a particular place on the puzzle board, on the placement of the next puzzle piece.
Durable wooden puzzles from brands like Melissa & Doug and others can help foster a love of puzzles in a child that will grow along with the child, evolving from wooden puzzles to jigsaw puzzles, Rubik’s cubes, and crossword puzzles. These advanced puzzles offer similar benefits as wooden puzzles, from cognitive and physical development to learning abstract thought.
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Joe Kanooga is a father of two kids, a successful business owner and the author of numerous articles about wooden puzzles. Click here to download our free Melissa & Doug guidebook filled with tips, ideas and information.
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