The Benefits of Puzzles in Early Childhood Development

People have long known that puzzles present many benefits for children as they develop. Children usually start out with simple knobbed puzzles that are outlines of simple shapes that fit into corresponding board cutouts. From there they go to more complex silhouettes of real world objects that take more consideration.

The last step that people take with puzzles is usually to jigsaw puzzles of varying complexity. The user is guided by an image they assemble and every time you end up with the same result.

I am here today to write about the benefits of puzzles for your child as they grow, and offer a step beyond jigsaw puzzles that are found at

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The three basics of what puzzles do for your child

When your child is alone with a puzzle you can expect three basic skills to be built:

  • Physical skills — from holding puzzle pieces and turning them until they fit
  • Cognitive skills — as they solve the problems of a puzzle
  • Emotional skills — they learn patience and are rewarded when they complete the puzzle

These three basic skills are the building blocks for a well rounded person. As Nancy Maldonado states in an article, puzzles allow “an opportunity for young children to focus on an activity that has an ending,” completing the pleasing image.

In addition to these three basics, doing a puzzle with a friend or family member also allows for the growth of social skills as they work together and communicate about what fits where. This is a minor point as nearly any activity done with more than one person will have this benefit.

Looking at the specific skills behind the three basics

Each of the three basics break down further into specific skills that a puzzle can build for your child. I’ll look at them in point form under each heading, for further reading check out this article from Parenting Today or this one from B — Inspired Mama.

Physical skills

  • Hand-Eye Coordination — your child will develop a keen relationship between what their eyes see, what their hands do and what their brain relates to this information.
  • Gross Motor Skills — Larger puzzle pieces and stacking puzzle games can enhance the large movements of your child to the point where they can then work on their fine motor skills.
  • Fine Motor Skills — small and precise movements, such as the movement of fingers to get a puzzle piece in exactly the right spot, are built and can lead to better handwriting and typing skills.

Cognitive skills

  • Understanding the surrounding world — there is no better way for your child to gain an understanding of the world around them than by letting them literally manipulate the world around them.
  • Shape recognition — the first puzzles we use are simple shapes — triangle, squares and circles. From there more complex shapes are used until the abstract jigsaw puzzles are used.
  • Memory — Your child has to remember the shape of pieces that don’t fit fir when they will fit later on.
  • Problem solving — Either the puzzle piece fits or it does not. Your child uses critical thinking skills to solve the puzzle and, best of all, you can’t cheat a puzzle!

Emotional skills

  • Setting goals — The first goal is to solve the puzzle, the next goal will be a series of strategies your child comes up with to solve the puzzle. Such as putting familiar shapes or colors in one pile for future reference.
  • Patience — Puzzles are not like sports, you can’t just step up to the plate and swing until you knock it out of the park. You must practice patience and slowly work through the puzzle before you reach the ending.

The next step in puzzling

The designers over at Puzumi believe that the next step in puzzling, beyond the jigsaw, that can help your child develop are the mathematically designed puzzles that are on offer there. You will find the exact same benefits as above, these are puzzles just the same, but with these added benefits that jigsaw puzzles can’t offer:

  • Multiple solutions are possible with each puzzle.
  • Differing colors and having multiple solutions for each experience allows for creative freedom. Think modern art that you can create.
  • The puzzles are also board games, rules are included, furthering strategy building skills and social skills. The social skills will, in fact, be even better built with these competitive games.
  • Varying difficulties allow your child to grow into a new puzzle set. Start your child out with the simplest puzzles and scale up later.

There is no mistaking the benefits of puzzles in childhood development. You used them, your parents used them and your children are using them now. Give your child the opportunity to continue learning from simple shapes, to silhouettes, to jigsaw puzzles, to abstract shapes united by a mathematical concept that include a board game twist.

Matthew is the resident writer and researcher for, a company which supports using puzzles as both brain exercising tools and fun family gathering toys. He currently lives in Cape Town, South Africa where he reads and writes during all of his spare time.

Find out more about early childhood education here.