Friday, July 12, 2013

How Puzzling?!

I believe every child should be introduced to puzzles at a young age. The benefits of this form of problem solving are huge & will benefit them now, while they are young, but will also be a good building block for some of the things they are going to learn/encounter in the future (ex: math problems, life problems, etc).

I think that often times in this day in age electronic toys & games seem to be all the rage for many parents & kids. It seems like they are being introduced to our kiddos at younger & younger ages, but I strongly believe that there is a lot that can be learned from the simple things in life. I think it is VERY important that we expose our toddlers to the good old fashioned stuff first (if you want to do electronic stuff at all) that teach them to think for themselves & be easily amused. Our kiddos shouldn't always need the flashing lights & loud sounds to be entertained, use their imaginations, or learn something new. Again, I am not saying that every electronic doodad out there is bad, but I think we also need limit a lil' more & not forget the countless benefits & lessons that the simple things from "back in the day" can give to our kiddos.

One of the main benefits of puzzles is helping develop toddlers' fine motor skills. They are asked to hold an object & manipulate it into different directions until they find the right spot it fits into.

Puzzles can also aid in confidence building. They help children learn that they are capable. Start with the easier stuff & have them work their way up. At first the simple 5 or 6 piece puzzles may feel like a  lil' "much" to your toddler (maybe at first you can do them together to model how it is done), but with practice they will soon realize that they can in fact figure it out on their own!

They will learn to confront feelings of frustration & feeling incapable, to soon developing patience & confidence. Puzzles teach children to see things through from beginning to end, not to quit until the task at hand is completed. Personally, as I child I found doing meticulous tasks to be extremely hard at first. I hated to sit still & being the youngest (for 4 1/2 years anyway), I tried to play the "...but I am so little, do it for me please" card. Fortunately, my mom was not having that & I quickly learned that sometimes we need to able to just sit still. Sometimes there are going to be things that take a lil' more time than others until we see the end result. What a wonderful life lesson at such a young age!

Puzzles also tap into kiddos cognitive skills & coordination. Some puzzles help teach letter, number, color, or shape recognition at the same time they are learning to reason & problem solve. With puzzles, children are being ask to manipulate pieces this way & that until the find the correct place that they need to go (hand-eye coordination).

Social skills can also be developed when a child does a puzzle with a family member or friend. They learn to communicate & work together to accomplish one common goal! It is a great activity to include the whole family in, not just in the toddler years but even beyond! I remember that every Christmas as a family we would put together the same 1,000 piece puzzle. It always took awhile, but I will never forget the fun that came along with sipping hot apple cider & trying to finish "the beast" every year.

There are many different types of puzzles out there. One of my favorite brands to start with is Melissa & Doug. They have many young age appropriate puzzles with a huge variety of educational & fun themes. They are also usually wooden so that makes them very durable against young toddlers who are still learning the meaning of "gentle".

The idea of "solving puzzles" does not have to wait for the toddler years to begin either. There are tons of fun toys out there that encourage babies to put certain items in the right hole (Usually called "puzzle cubes" or "shape sorters").

Before I close, I think it is important to note that every child is different. Having 4 kids myself, I know first hand that there are many different personalities, gifts/talents, & so forth in each & every child. Some kiddos are going to catch onto things a lil' faster than others & some kids are going to enjoy certain types of activities more than others. I definitely work with all of my children on their puzzle solving skills & they enjoy it, but I have also realized that some of them are a lil' quicker at getting them solved than others. Some of them just come by this type of activity more naturally (like their dad) & that is okay. Its not a competition & we are all learning something. I make sure to give all of them praise for their efforts & not draw extra attention to the fact that 1 might complete things faster. Also, you need to know your child's limits. Some of my kids do well sitting through 1 or 2 puzzles (stretching their patience just a lil' bit), but then they are ready to move on to the next activity. Then there are other ones who could literally sit there all day doing puzzles. I respect their differences & make sure not to push them too far beyond their limits.

 Well, I hope I convinced a few of you to go out there & buy a new puzzle or 2. They are a simple, yet wonderful, educational fun that we can expose our kids to at an early age that can help them develop a variety of skills that will last a lifetime!

-M&M Momma
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The biggest puzzle enthusiast!

Mom: "What do you want to do for special time with Mommy?"

Asher: "Cars McQueen puzzles, 3 of them!"

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