The Power of Puzzles for learning is something new to me. With my experience working with seniors puzzles were something to pass the time and maybe some fine motor practice for aging hands, but learning? Nope. Never saw it. Until I started educating my own children. The power of puzzles for learning is amazing! And since January 29th is National Puzzle Day, it’s a great time to chat puzzles!
Puzzles For Learning
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I first saw puzzles as a learning tool when my youngest son was attending a specialized preschool program for children with special needs. The teachers were intentionally teaching the children how to solve puzzles. They were small, simple designs, with large pieces and usually only 4, 6 or 10 pieces. The kids struggled, but I was fascinated with the way the teachers were showing the children how to look for the patterns in the colours and shapes.
See at the time my oldest was in a regular elementary school and he was learning about patterns as part of his early math skills. For the first time I saw that puzzles might be something that could be used for learning.
My youngest with his special needs really struggled to learn, but I noticed that, likely thanks to his fantastic teachers, he enjoyed puzzles.
Now at first interlocking puzzles were very frustrating for him, so instead I went with block puzzles where he simply had to match the piece into the slots. I even found puzzles that made sounds when he successfully placed a piece! He loved this! I found him block puzzles that taught him the alphabet and his numbers. My boy who struggled to learn was learning and having fun while doing it!
Over time we made the matching more complicated. Eventually I would take all his block puzzles (12 in total) and dump all the pieces into a big pile. Then he had to solve all 12 puzzles from the pile. He LOVED this game!
It took some time and patience but one day, about 3 months after we started homeschooling my son asked to do an interlocking floor puzzle of 48 pieces. It was about dinosaurs, and for my dinosaur obsessed boy, the picture on the box really got him excited. We sat down together and worked on the puzzle. Then again the next day. By the end of the week he was solving the puzzle all by himself and asking for more puzzles.
We now use puzzles regularly as part of our unit studies. Not just for my youngest son, but my older son who is gifted loves the challenge of a good puzzle.
Learning the Periodic Table of Elements? Put together the puzzle for an in-depth examination of it!
Learning about the body? Put together a stacking puzzle about the body showing all the systems.
Learning geography? Put together a puzzle of the world!
Puzzle solving has become a permanent part of our homeschool. We usually do our puzzles on the floor so there is lots of movement and crawling around, along with cross body reaching. These physical movements combined with the calm focus the kids have in solving the puzzle makes for some fantastic brain breaks during our school day.
Puzzles can also be a great busy activity while I’m working with my other child on an assignment.
Puzzles are also a wonderful time for me to take a break, slow down, and get really in the moment with my son. These moments of connection are so important and I know these are the times when we are creating special memories together.
So for National Puzzle Day, why not take a few moments and solve a puzzle together? Enjoy the power of puzzles for learning!