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Which Kind of Puzzle is Right For My Child?

2012-09-11 by Melissa & Doug

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Choosing puzzles? Kids love puzzles . . .

And there are so many different types. For building fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and problem-solving skills, puzzles can’t be beat! How do you know what to pick?

boy and puzzle

But to many parents, trying to make sense of the huge variety of formats and styles can feel like a puzzle in itself. Feel like you’re missing a piece? Check out our puzzle primer to find the perfect fit for your child:

 BABIES

Before real puzzles come into play, babies develop puzzle skills with simple in-and-out toys.

baby with puzzle toys

Our soft and whimsical Fill & Spill play sets are a great example of in-and-out toys. Babies love to place the easy-grasp objects in the hole and dump the pieces out – again and again! Each fill & spill set is like a velvety, squishy puzzle with no wrong answer. Plus, the adorable pieces each make a playful sound whenever baby shakes or squeezes them.

 OLDER BABIES/YOUNG TODDLERS

Around age one, children delight in fitting a piece into the “right” spot. Try a Jumbo Knob Puzzle with just a few big pieces. Pieces with large handles like this are easy for little fingers to grasp. Plus, a matching picture is shown underneath each piece to help the child guide each piece into place.

 OLDER TODDLERS

For older toddlers beginning to engage in imaginative play, Chunky Puzzles are ideal. Both puzzles and play sets, they feature big pieces that are easy to hold and thick enough to stand up for pretend play! (They also make good first manipulatives—use them for counting and sorting.)

girl with puzzle

Like Knob Puzzles, Peg Puzzles offer something to grasp—in this case, a smaller handle that requires a more precise grasp. Some Peg Puzzles have pairs of pieces that fit together in a single space—a big step toward jigsaw puzzles! Pictures under pieces help guide each piece to its home.

 PRESCHOOLERS

Preschool kids embrace the challenge of Wooden Jigsaws—just like “big kid” puzzles, but with helpful aides like a puzzle board that defines boundaries and a limited number of pieces. Gone are pictures under pieces—but you can always provide a printout as a guide. (Find your puzzle at MelissaAndDoug.com.)

Floor puzzles are another great introduction to jigsaws: They have proportionately larger pieces and make a big impact, so they can serve as an encouraging introduction to cardboard jigsaws. They’re great for teamwork, too—ideal for social preschoolers!

 JIGSAW TIP: Wondering how to choose a piece count? Consider the number of inside pieces to gauge the challenge: a 12-piece jigsaw has 10 side pieces and only 2 middle pieces; a 24-piece puzzle has 8 middle pieces.

PUZZLE KEEPERS

Want to make puzzle play a bit more carefree? Our stretchy Puzzle Keeper covers fit many wooden puzzles and magnetic dress-up play sets, to help make storage tidy and more secure. The Puzzle Keeper is available as a separate item, or with select peg puzzles / wooden jigsaw puzzles.

puzzle keeper

CHOOSING PUZZLES BY THEME:

Does your kid love dinos, farms, or things that go? These are just a few of the themes that run from our youngest Jumbo Knob Puzzles to our trickiest jigsaws! Following one theme can be an exciting way to see skills progress. It also encourages subject knowledge as the artwork grows in complexity. Check out our “timeline” of a farm puzzler:

puzzle guide

From here, enjoy browsing through the different types of puzzles to see what fits your family best. Explore themes, formats, and piece counts. (Click here to check out our entire selection.) Then let the puzzling fun begin!

What types of puzzle does your child love most? Share in the comments below!

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Melissa & Doug

Our team of play experts occasionally enjoys sharing news about our company, new product launches, and some of the #CountlessWaysToPlay with our toys, crafts, and games. At Melissa & Doug, we’re on a mission to inspire the innovators of tomorrow through kid-powered play!

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