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Puzzle Play and Child Development

The Best Kind of Learning is the Kind that’s Wrapped Up in a Game.

While puzzles may seem like mere child’s play, researchers have discovered they are an important link in the cognitive development of young children. Researchers at the University of Chicago have found that children who play with puzzles between the ages of two and four develop better spatial and other important skills, including mathematical skills.

With almost 400 circulating puzzles available, the Islip Public Library is one of only a few libraries in Suffolk County that permits patrons to take up to five puzzles home for a week. Recently, the Library has expanded its puzzle lending policy to include out-of-district patrons, and renewals for an additional week for each puzzle checked out. In the supportive environment of their own homes, parents and children can play together to enrich a toddler’s learning capacity and other skills.

Additionally, there are more than 30 puzzles, from large-knob puzzles, to mix-and-match puzzles, to alphabet puzzles, and more, suitable for infants to kindergarteners for in-library play.

Psychologist Susan Levine, a professor at the University of Chicago and a leading expert on mathematics development in young children, believes that children who play with puzzles perform better on tasks that are indicators of future math skills. Parents who interact with their children during puzzle play further advance their children’s future skills in several different areas. Very young children can be guided by their parents, while pre-schoolers and kindergarteners enjoy putting puzzles together on their own.

Levine is the lead author of an academic paper studying children and parents as they engaged in puzzle play. For the research, 53 parent-child pairs from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds participated in a study in which researchers video-recorded parent-child interactions for 90-minute sessions that occurred every four months between children aged 26 to 46 months old. Researchers determined that children who play with puzzles at home improve future math-related skills.

​Other researchers have learned that puzzle play increases fine motor development in young children, skills that eventually help with handwriting, drawing and even playing a musical instrument. Manipulating both large and small pieces of puzzles into the proper place requires eye-hand coordination, a most important skill in child development.

Larger puzzles can be solved by two or more children, which in turn helps increase a child’s social skills. Solving puzzles as a group helps youngsters understand patience, teamwork and taking turns, according to an article on Huffington Post online. The Islip Public Library circulating puzzle collection includes a number of intricate layered puzzles, which are ideally suited for group puzzle solving.

​Research indicates that toddlers who work on puzzles often progress to jigsaw puzzles and larger floor-sized puzzles, which are available online and in toy stores at nominal cost. Crossword, game and logic puzzles challenge children and aid in their cognitive development. Some good sources of puzzles for all ages is Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Toys-Games-Toddler-Puzzles/zgbs/toys-and-games/196611011), and Lakeshore Education Products (http://products.lakeshorelearning.com/learning/Wooden-Puzzles). The website for Fine Wooden toys offers Melissa & Doug puzzles, which make a variety of interesting puzzles (http://www.finewoodentoys.com/). Very high-quality handmade solid wood puzzles are available for sale at Kidpuzzles (http://www.kidpuzzles.com/).

Best Sellers in Toddler Puzzles - amazon.com​

www.amazon.com
Discover the best Toddler Puzzles in Best Sellers. Find the top 100 most popular items in Amazon Toys & Games Best Sellers.

Fine Wooden Toys and Wooden Puzzles for Babies and Young ...

www.finewoodentoys.com
At Fine Wooden Toys we offer a beautiful and unique selection of hundreds of top-quality educational and developmental wooden toys, blocks and puzzles for babies ...

Wooden Puzzles - Lakeshore Learning Materials

products.lakeshorelearning.com
Wooden Puzzles found in: Lakeshore Preschool Puzzle Library with Rack, Wild Animals Puzzle Set, Big Knob First Puzzle Set, Chunky Puzzles Set...

Perhaps most importantly, puzzle play gives beginning learners a huge sense of accomplishment. Watching toddlers put the last piece into a puzzle is a wonderful sight. Puzzles are fun, educational toys that challenge young minds, and the Islip Public Library’s puzzle collection helps its youngest patrons achieve important skills.

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