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The Not So Humble Jigsaw Puzzles

Putting it all together to find the final image kept me excited from a very young age. I see the same enthusiastic approach in my little Zavi too. He is very excited to put things together. 

Puzzles can be played even alone, testing someone's knowledge as well as their intelligence and creativity. In puzzles, the solver should put together the puzzle pieces using a logical approach to achieve the final image / solution. There are different types of puzzles like crosswords, word search, numbers, logic or relational puzzles, and today we will be focusing on the jigsaw puzzles. 

Jigsaw Puzzles

These kinds of puzzles are like tiles which require assembly of the interlocking pieces. Each individual piece will have the image or part of the image which when assembled would provide a complete picture. There are even jigsaw puzzles without pictures which are considered the ultimate challenge. 

Puzzles were originally created by pieces of wood. However, as jigsaw puzzles became more and more popular, there was a need for them to be more cost effective and easily available. Thus began the use of cardboards which were painted. The most traditional subjects used were nature, mountains, famous buildings, and maps. However, nowadays it's even more advanced, and we can find puzzles of any subject. Also as the number of pieces increased, the complexity of these puzzles rose up. Even 3D puzzles are now available which are really interesting and once completed we could even keep it as an art show piece. 











Benefits of Puzzles

Puzzles are a creative fun learning opportunity for kids. They would love to play with these puzzles and would help them to develop finger strength, problem solving skills, hand eye coordination and motor skills. They would flip, turn and wiggle around with the pieces into its position. Playing with these puzzles encourage kids to improve their concentration skills, and force them to focus on detail. Going from top to bottom, left to right, etc. Kids start to remember visual cues, similarities and differences also. This will not stop there, they start to perform different strategies to complete the puzzle. If you ask them to do it again, they will try different pieces and different orders until they find the easiest pattern to complete the challenge. This will teach kids to accept challenges, overcome frustrations and focus on problem solving skills. 

Let's talk about few of them in detail now, 

Fine motor ability: When it comes to young children, the little hands struggle to hold and grasp. They drop and pick it up again, spill milk, drops toys, etc. These are because they are still building their fine motor skill. Jigsaw puzzles will improve fingers and hand movement. Puzzles help them to focus on these skills when they move the small mosaic pieces. 

Shape recognition: Toddlers need to learn shapes like rectangles, squares, circles, stars etc. Initially all shapes would appear the same, and they will not be able to identify the difference like a Square or Rectangle. It's best to give kids puzzles which outline the shapes of animals, or vehicles or similar stuff. Slowly we can provide them with more complex puzzles which would require them to identify the shapes. This is important because this helps children to understand letters and numbers also easily. 

Hand eye coordination: Jigsaw puzzles help young children to improve hand-eye coordination. To successfully solve the puzzles, kids should carefully place and move the pieces into the right spot. Before placing, they should be able to identify and orient the piece to the right slot. Initially kids would require a lot of our assistance but gradually we should withdraw our involvement and encourage them to focus in solving the puzzle. 

Problem solving skills: Jigsaw puzzles are basically to solve a problem. The aim is to put back the mixed up pieces to form the right picture and to find the right piece and organize them to solve the problem which will enhance one’s problem solving skills. They learn strategies while solving jigsaw puzzles. Each time they find a better method to solve the puzzle. Eventually the overall time required to complete the puzzle will be reduced drastically. They will introduce strategies like to break down the puzzle into smaller sections and finish each small one and then assemble everything together to get the final big picture. This is the most important problem solving skill for children. This will also help them to make and take decisions based on the random pieces and random order they get while solving the puzzles.

Concentration and Patience: Children are restless in nature and do not have any patience at all. Experts claim that little ones can concentrate only for 5 mins or less. In this scenario,puzzles are here to help. They help kids to concentrate and practice patience. It is essential to always provide kids with age appropriate puzzles first. As and when they show improvements, more challenging puzzles may be introduced. If you see impatience or see that they are giving up early, sit with them, solve the puzzles and make them enjoy the whole task. For kids of age 3 years or 4 years, puzzles with less than 20-30 pieces with relatively large mosaics will be ideal. For starting you could even look for puzzles with 15-20 pieces and work it upwards to 30 pieces. Older kids can handle harder puzzles with significantly more pieces. Always try not to make kids too frustrated.

Topic Specific knowledge: A map puzzle, or an animals puzzle can be classified as a topic specific puzzle. This helps to teach them about the topic while playing the jigsaw puzzle. For example a “Human Body” 500 piece puzzle would excite a biology focused student. This is also an opportunity to educate your young ones by talking about the images and giving them vocabulary and subject related knowledge. 

Social Skills and Spatial awareness: Social skills are involved when they play along with friends or with family. They will share the knowledge they get, or help the other person solve the puzzle by identifying the right piece. This will improve cooperation and communication skills. Jigsaw puzzles also improves spatial awareness, i.e. they will be aware of how to identify the objects and relate them with other puzzle mosaics. They will learn to identify using shapes, colours, etc and also to turn the pieces around to find the current fit as well as they learn the trial and error method to finish the problem. In other words, kids would develop their perception towards the objects around them and how they relate to them.

Avengers Endgame Puzzle by Frank

Our little boy loves Avengers and we bought him a set of Avengers puzzle. This is a 3 in 1 set, in which each puzzle picture consists of 48 puzzle mosaics. The recommended age level by the company is 5 years. However, our 4 year old loves it. We have to basically make sure that our little ones are not getting frustrated and start with smaller puzzles like 2 piece mosaic puzzles. Zavi started out with a 2 piece puzzle set of animals and their young ones, which were the simplest ones available. Eventually he learned all the animals as well as their little ones. We then gradually started sharing more challenging puzzles and topics. 

The Avengers puzzle is a 2D puzzle set which needs to be played on a flat surface. The three puzzles are bundled together in a single pouch. However the designs in the back of each picture are different and that would help us to identify the respective mosaic set. The images are tough, for the first time. As the images would become more familiar kids will find it easier to figure out the pieces and fix them. 












Verdict

Puzzles are a great fun activity which helps the kid to develop numerous skills and benefits. These toys are very important for kids of every age. These puzzles support them later in life as they grow up. These would allow kids to interact with others, and improve bonding with parents as they start to learn the puzzle topic, laugh, smile and solve the puzzle. This will also bring in a self esteem which reflects the satisfaction of achievement as well as happiness in overcoming the challenges. 

An advice to all parents is that, introduction to puzzles from an early age should be gradual. As they start taking lesser time to solve a puzzle it is a signal that it is time to introduce them to the next level of difficulty. This can be by increasing the number of pieces, or by introducing smaller puzzle pieces or even a different topic all together can be introduced. 

Our little Zavi strongly recommends puzzles to all the young little kids out there.

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