The American Academy of Pediatrics defines early childhood as between the ages of one and five years and includes the toddler and preschool years. Early childhood development occurs rapidly and is widely recognized as extremely important in laying the foundation for future learning, including the social, cognitive and motor skills needed to meet the demands of preschool and kindergarten. During these formative years, parents and other caring people in their lives have an opportunity to encourage this development by wisely choosing activities that stimulate and challenge their minds.
While there is an abundance of references on the benefits of reading books, playing games, etc., this article focuses on the value of wooden puzzles as a catalyst for early childhood learning. Despite the abundance of electronic gizmos and gadgets, children are often drawn to simple things like a bouncy ball, an interesting book, and well-designed, intriguing puzzles.
The benefits of jigsaw puzzles can be divided into the two early childhood periods, toddler (ages 1-3) and preschool (ages 3-5).
Toddlers should be given jigsaw puzzles with large pieces and simple content. As they master the easier ones, maintainers can introduce puzzles with greater complexity and more/smaller pieces. This gives these young people the following benefits:
- Hand-eye coordination by grabbing and placing puzzle pieces
- Knowledge of different shapes and sizes
- Problem solving skills as they master the assembly of each puzzle
- Proud of a job well done, boosting self-confidence/self-image
- Improved memory skills as they remember what they have done and learned
- An understanding of the concept of sequencing in the placement of puzzle pieces
- Detection of different colors
- Identification of objects, animals and other puzzle content
In addition, jigsaw puzzles provide opportunities for parent/caregiver interaction with an infant, particularly when introducing a new jigsaw puzzle. While it’s a treasured bonding experience, it’s also a chance to assess the appropriateness of each puzzle, including whether they’re too difficult or too easy, which may frustrate the toddler. Additionally, if you have more than one puzzle available, other children can be involved in this quiet time activity, which provides a great opportunity for social interaction.
Preschoolers will continue to benefit from jigsaw puzzles with increasing numbers of pieces and more complex/challenging content. As they continue what they learned as toddlers, they receive the following additional benefits:
- Recognition of geometric shapes such as squares, triangles, circles, etc.
- Getting to know the letters of the alphabet and the concept of spelling
- Ability to recognize and spell their names as well as simple words
- Identification of basic numbers and the concept of counting
- knowledge of more complex elements in puzzles; e.g. shape of USA and its regions/states, dinosaurs, birds, marine life, etc,
To ensure that the above benefits are achieved to the greatest extent possible, it is very important that parents or anyone else wishing to ‘gift’ a wooden puzzle follow the purchasing considerations outlined in the ‘checklist’ below:
- Age appropriateness to provide the right level of challenge
- educational value
- Bright and varied colors
- Lead-free colors (Note: Made in USA recommended)
- No sharp edges and parts are sized to eliminate the risk of choking, especially for young children
- Excellent quality and durability; Colors/colours should not fade or crack and puzzle pieces and frames should not break from frequent and hard use over time; High-quality wooden puzzles generally meet these criteria much better
- Solid reputation from artisans; how long have you been in business? Check a series of testimonials/references for consistent customer satisfaction. Are they willing to refund or replace the product if not completely satisfied
Thanks to Randy Reiersen | #Early #Childhood #Development #Benefits #Wooden #Puzzles