Bookmark This Page

HomeHome SitemapSitemap Contact usContacts

Read and Writing Improved Through Puzzle Play

How does an activity as simple as putting puzzles together help your Toddler learn to read and write when he gets older? Let me break down some of the skills that a child needs in order to read and write. He will need to recognize objects, scan for objects, scanning from left to right, focus on the task for a length of time, building his attention span, eye hand control, head control, trunk control, visual motor control and fine motor coordination which includes hand and finger control. Wow, right?

When children are growing they develop control from their trunk out to their hands and feet. As you observe an infant, he works on head control first then on trunk control and finally the control of his extremities.

At the age of 12 months or so toddlers are ready to start practicing putting together puzzles. They have mastered some skills such as trunk control in sitting, head control, and some gross motor control of the arms and legs. They will also have mastered the grasp and release of larger size objects.

They will need the skill of rotating the puzzle piece around so that it will fit into the hole, improving his fine motor skills and eye hand coordination. This will also increase the strength in his trunk as he reaches for the pieces, arms as he picks up the pieces and tries to fit them into the hole and fingers as he holds the puzzle pieces.

At this time they are using a gross grasp, so knob puzzles are good to start with. Taking the puzzle pieces out will be the first skill that they will achieve quite easily. Banging the puzzle pieces is also a lot of fun because it makes a lot of noise and they love that!

Identification and scanning are practiced in this activity where children will identify the pictures of the puzzle piece and the picture in the hole where it belongs.

The chunk puzzles and peg puzzles will be used in the next stage of development. By this time, age 2+, there will be more pieces to the puzzles but they will still have a picture in the hole for the child to match the puzzle piece to. Peg puzzles can also come with sound which is an added treat when the child places the correct piece in the hole. They will not only see the picture, but also remember it with the sound. There are many different sound puzzles; some with very basic sounds such as animals and trucks, others with more educational sounds like musical instrument, letters, numbers, state names and capitals.

Now they can move on to jigsaw puzzles and floor puzzles. As the number of pieces increases so will the difficulty. Wooden jigsaw puzzles, age 3+ have 12 24 pieces and age 4+ with 48 pieces will be the next challenge as they have no picture in the hole, but they still have the outline of the puzzle piece on the wood holding tray to help. With these puzzles, the pieces will show smaller parts of the picture to place together to recognize the picture as a whole. With cardboard and floor puzzles children are on their own, having no help from a picture or a form underneath.

Puzzles, whether they are knob puzzles, chunk puzzles, peg puzzles or jigsaw puzzles at any age can be a captivating and a fun educational experience!

Cathy Segovia worked in Occupational Therapy for 25 years and is the founder and owner of a resource site to help parents find Licensed Family Day Care quickly and easily for their children and to give insight and solutions into child development and childcare issues.