Puzzles are a much loved activity from early childhood through to adulthood. As well as a great play activity, they are an important educational tool for toddlers and children of all ages. Puzzles teach visual spatial awareness, fine motor development, hand-eye coordination and problem solving. As well as this, puzzles for young children are often thematic or topic related, teaching letter, number, shape and colour recognition or subjects such as pets, transport, dinosaurs or space, opening up opportunities for social and language development.
First Puzzles 12 Months:
Puzzles can be introduced as early as 6 months, or when a baby can sit unsupported, transferring puzzle pieces from one hand to another and mouthing. Puzzle pieces need to be large enough not to be a choking hazard for all young children. The earliest puzzles are often timber peg puzzles, with generally three or four simple shapes. Ever Earth have a great range of Peg Puzzles for children aged 12 months. Plan Toy's Shape Matching Puzzle is a classic, teaching shape and colour.
As your child grows they will show you they are ready for a new challenge. Once your child is ready to move on from peg puzzles there are a few different directions you can go in. One option is staying with wooden puzzles with more pieces and without the pegs to hold on to.
These gorgeous animal sets from Plan Toys can be used as a puzzle or as figurines for creative play.
The Four Layered Puzzle from Mudpuppy is a great puzzling challenge with each layer giving a new picture and a different number of pieces. The Wooden Day and Night puzzle from Petit Collage encourages language development with the opportunity to focus on what happens in the day time and at night.
Puzzles from around Two Years Old:
From around two years old early jigsaw puzzles can be introduced. Puzzles with a small number of chunky pieces are a good place to start.
One option is a Petit Collage Beginner Puzzle, these come with four puzzles, one each of 3, 4, 5 and 6 piece puzzles each of a particular theme.
Another Petit Collage option is the Follow and Spot puzzle, these are a 10 piece puzzle, with solid chunky pieces that create a busy scene. The finished picture has a finger maze to follow, encouraging observation skills as children spot the 20 different items along the way.
Mudpuppy offer a great series of beginner puzzles in their Touch & Feel range, also with particular themes. These puzzle packs come with 4 differently shaped puzzles of 3 pieces each that have the added feature of one textured piece per puzzle, allowing for language development and enhancing understanding of different textures.
Three Year Old Options:
At around 3 your child may be ready to move onto jigsaw puzzles with more pieces. One of the best options for this age group is a floor puzzle, named because they generally are quite big, sturdy pieces and the finished puzzle is big enough that the floor can be the best place to do them! They are great for children to work together, and learn early cooperation. You will see that your children come back to these puzzles again and again as they develop their skills. Peaceable Kingdom Floor Puzzles and Petit Collage Floor Puzzles are great examples.
If you are looking for a smaller, more portable option for your 3 to 4 year old Mudpuppy have a great range of 36 piece Puzzle to Go, chunky large pieces in a travel and packing up friendly bag.
Other options include a cute 20 Piece Puzzle, with less chunky pieces, from eeBoo
Puzzles from Four Years Old:
By the time your child is four they may be ready to start a more traditional puzzle. Ravensburger create a huge range of jigsaw puzzles for children, and adults. Their puzzles are age graded to give you guidance in choosing. The difference in age grading relates to puzzle piece size and number of pieces.
Mudpuppy are an alternate puzzle brand with a focus on sustainable production and modern artwork. The 64 piece Search & Find puzzles are a favourite. Suitable from around 4 years these puzzles come with a field guide insert, encouraging observation skills and exploration of a broad range of animals, plants, sea creatures and dinosaurs. 5 year olds will love the 100 piece puzzles, in foil, glitter or glow in the dark finish. In an easily stored box these puzzles are a great gift idea for a 5 or 6 year old. Double-Sided Puzzles are a good choice from around 6. Two puzzles in one, with one side matt and the other gloss finish, this will keep kids coming back again and again.
6 and 7 Year Olds:
These 300 piece Shaped Puzzles from Mudpuppy add another challenge for children at around 7. Having a shaped rather than square border creates interest and these unique puzzles are beautiful pictures as well as great puzzles.
Once your child can master a 300 piece puzzle easily they will soon be ready for the bigger challenge of 500 pieces. there is a huge range of 500 piece puzzle available from Ravensbuger, Mudpuppy and eeBoo. At this stage they are probably less likely to do puzzles again and again as younger children do, but they are able to focus longer and complete a puzzle over a number of days or longer.
There are a huge range of choices for puzzles for children of all ages. The themes vary greatly but they all have one thing in common. They are fabulous educational products that your children will revisit as they develop. Here at The Donkey's Tale we try to focus on providing a quality range supplied to ethical and sustainable standards. We encourage everyone to explore our puzzle range and seek to select puzzles that are both age appropriate and challenging.
Come and see us at The Donkey's Tale, 4 Howe St Daylesford.