Puzzles Buying Guide
Fun for a rainy day, or any day, puzzles have been a centerpiece of playtime for generations. It’s a perfect way for children of varying ages, as well as adults, to get in on the fun.
Learning comes in many forms, not just words and numbers, and nothing epitomizes this more than puzzles. Important skills, from recognizing colors and shapes to identifying the countries and planets of the solar system, can be taught or reinforced through the completion of this classic activity.
Features to Consider
Whether there are 10 pieces or 1,000, a puzzle is a toy that requires that all the pieces are there! Teach your child the importance of keeping everything in its place, which will ensure fun the next time the puzzle is put together, or when it is passed on to a younger family member or friend. (Have you ended up with some errant puzzle pieces? See our Arts & Crafts category, and consider a creative, eco-friendly project to re-purpose them!)
Another important element to note is the degree of ‘free space’ that is available to put the puzzle together. See more under Where to Play.
Like many toys, puzzles provide an opportunity to introduce new concepts, from animals and locales to professions and seasons. At the same time, a child’s favorite topic or scene can be enjoyed in puzzle form and give them another chance to explore a passion in a different format.
Some Age Group Suggestions
Easy to define by age group and skill level, puzzles can appeal to all ages from 12 months of age all the way through adulthood. Each age group does have some general features to consider:
12 months to 2 years old
: Puzzles are often wooden, featuring easy-to-grasp knobs and just a few pieces. Features include recognizable, colorful characters and scenes. As toddlers grow, they may also play with large, wooden chunky puzzle pieces that don't include knobs but can double as pretend play items.
3 and 4 years old:
Choices now include the familiar "jigsaw" shape, but there are large scale versions, like giant floor puzzles. Designs feature more early learning subjects, like the alphabet and numbers, or simple, age-appropriate designs and details.
5 to 6 years:
By this age, a child can take puzzle fun to the next dimension with the standard jigsaw design, with smaller pieces and more intricate designs to add more challenge. Kids can also explore exciting 3D puzzle options.
7 years and up:
As children grow, so do the number of pieces in their puzzles! Patterns and designs continue to become more complex, which will make it that much harder to put together. As designs become more complicated and the number of pieces increase, children can have fun completing the puzzle with other friends or family members.
Where Will They Use It? (Play Environment)
All of our puzzles are well-contained and easy to transport to the play destination. Play can take place on a table or right on the floor - wherever the moment strikes children! But, if it is going to take multiple play sessions to complete a puzzle, then make sure it is in a place where it will not be disturbed until the child can finish it.
Ways for Adults to Play/ Adult Involvement
Like games, puzzles are a perfect way to get the whole family in on the fun. Adults and older kids can assist younger children with early puzzles, and all can join in on more difficult ones.
Seeing how the pieces fit is a mental challenge – from placing a wooden triangle into a triangle-shaped hole to finding the location for hundreds of small pieces. Puzzles help kids learn how and why things work and are a great mental exercise.
While each piece has its proper place, there is still a degree of imagination involved. Imagining a finished puzzle and working in reverse; seeing patterns align and pictures come together, helps the mind grow beyond seemingly simple play time.
Thoughts are transferred from the mind to the hands and fingers when putting together a puzzle, promoting the undeniably essential skill of hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
With no (or little) help, solving a puzzle alone is an outstanding way for a child to tackle problem-solving skills. While they may be solving a puzzle now, these skills can only help with future tasks like reading comprehension and test-taking.
While putting together a puzzle as a pair or group may be “parallel play” to a degree – each person assembling their own corner or section – teamwork is still needed to achieve the goal of a beautiful, finished puzzle!
Types of Play
While many toys can be adapted to a child’s liking, puzzles are generally straightforward and require fine manipulative skills. This type of play reinforces the important skill of playing "within the rules," while developing hand-eye coordination!
An ideal activity to be done solo, a puzzle provides children a chance to figure out the solution to a problem (in this case, which pieces go where) without social interaction. Plus, as puzzles become more complicated, it increases the duration of quiet time with which a child interacts with them.