6 Developmental Benefits of Puzzles

Puzzles at any age are great activities that promote the use of several different skills including concentration, problem solving, visual perception, and fine motor skills. They are great ways to keep children entertained while serving an educational purpose. Puzzles can help enhance several different skills that are important for learning subjects such as reading, writing, and math!

Below are just some of the reasons that puzzles are beneficial to development:

1. Spatial Awareness

Spatial awareness is the ability to perceive two or more object’s position in space relative to oneself and in relation to each other (understanding up/down/in front/behind, etc.).

Turning the pieces and understanding where each piece goes in relation to each other to create a picture is how this skill is used when doing puzzles.

2. Visual Closure

Visual closure is the ability to recognize forms or objects when they are only partially visible (e.g. being able to recognize a picture of an apple when part of the picture is covered up).

Trying to see what puzzle piece would complete the part of the puzzle being worked on is encouraging the use of visual closure skills.

3. Visual Discrimination

Visual discrimination is the ability to identify the similarities and differences between colors, shapes, patterns, and sizes.

Putting together puzzles helps increase attention to detail and the ability to find specific patterns, colors, and shapes that will “fit together”.

4. Visual Figure-Ground

Visual figure-ground is the ability to perceive the foreground from the background.

This skill assists in the ability to find specific objects in a visually busy background. Puzzles encourage this skill by having to look for and find a single piece with a particular detail in a pile of other pieces.

5. Visual Memory

Visual memory is the ability to recall objects, numbers, letters, figures, and words that have been previously seen.

Working on puzzles encourages visual memory by having to remember the details of the picture and using that visual information to find those details on the individual puzzle pieces.

6. Fine Motor Skills

Puzzles allow children to work on their pinching and grasping skills, as well as their fine motor precision skills by manipulating pieces to move and turn them so that they fit into the correct slots.

If your child avoids or has difficulty doing puzzles, they may have poor visual perceptual or fine motor skills mentioned above, or it could simply be lack of exposure to the concept of puzzles!

You can teach your child how to do puzzles by following these tips:

  • Start with smaller and simpler puzzles. You want to prevent frustration, and give them an achievable goal to build confidence and self-esteem. Then work your way towards puzzles with more pieces and/or irregular shapes for more of a challenge.
  • Teach them to recognize straight edged pieces and sort them from pieces without straight edges.
  • Have them put the straight pieces with similar colors together and create the border of the puzzle.
  • Teach your child to sort puzzle pieces based on color, patterns, etc.
  • Then put together small sections of the puzzles based on similar colors, patterns, and details

-Marla Griswold, OTR/L