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10 Best Problem-Solving Puzzles for Kids

2021-01-28 by Melissa & Doug
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The Power of Puzzle Play

Puzzles are a great way to keep kids entertained, but they’re also a fun way to encourage logical thinking, goal setting, and patience! When a child engages in puzzle play, they’re not only building a puzzle—they’re building strong problem-solving skills. Puzzles teach children that if at first, they don’t succeed, they should “try, try again.” While engaging in puzzle play, supporting your child helps them develop innovative solutions, like rotating a piece they’re stuck on or looking for similar colors or patterns.

Problem solving through play with the ‘traditional favorites,’ such as blocks and puzzles, can support fine motor skills and language and cognitive development and predicts both spatial and early mathematics skills. —The American Academy of Pediatrics

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts on the skill-building power of different types of play.

The 10 Best Problem-Solving Puzzles for Kids

These great problem-solving puzzles can help build fundamental developmental skills. We’ve included extra play ideas for each to keep the educational play going!

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  1. Solar System Floor Puzzle
    Melissa & Doug Solar System Floor Puzzle

    Age: 3+
    Why it’s great: A total of 2 feet by 3 feet when assembled, you’ll need lots of “space” for this out-of-this-world puzzle! Plus, the extra-thick cardboard jigsaw pieces are built to last, and their easy-clean surface keeps this beautifully illustrated puzzle looking new.
    Sweet detail: Each planet (and the sun) is labeled, helping kids to learn our solar system as they complete the puzzle.
    Skills: Fine motor, hand-eye coordination, problem solving
    Countless Ways to Play: Place the finished puzzle on a flat surface and use tracing paper to create your own solar system drawing!
  2. Dinosaur Jigsaw Puzzles in a Box
    Melissa & Doug Dinosaur Jigsaw Puzzle

    Age: 3+
    Why it’s great: Your child will have a DINO-mite time with this set of four puzzles — a triceratops, an apatosaurus, a stegosaurus, and a T-Rex. Each set comes in a sturdy wooden box that’s great for travel, and each piece is shape-coded on the back for easy sorting.
    Sweet detail: The slide-on box lid doubles as a convenient puzzle board
    Skills: Fine motor, hand-eye coordination, problem solving
    Countless Ways to Play: Since each set comes with four puzzles, make it a friendly competition and see who can assemble the puzzle first!
  3. Farm Chunky Puzzle – 8 Pieces
    Melissa & Doug Farm Chunky Puzzle

    Age: 2+
    Why it’s great: This extra-thick wooden puzzle is great for toddlers! It includes eight easy-grasp, chunky farm animals and a barn with brightly colored pictures below to encourage matching skills.
    Sweet detail: The pieces stand upright, doubling as fun-on-the-farm play pieces!
    Skills: Fine motor, hand-eye coordination, problem solving
    Countless Ways to Play: Teach animal sounds to your child as they complete the puzzle, asking them to make the sound of the animal they just placed.
  4. Farm Cube Puzzle
    Melissa & Doug Farm Cube Puzzle

    Age: 3+
    Why it’s great: It’s six puzzles in one! This beautifully crafted wooden 16-piece cube puzzle can be put together by rotating the solid cubes to create six different scenes with six friendly farm friends (cow, sheep, pig, chicken, ducks, and horse).
    Sweet detail: The border design of each puzzle provides a helpful hint!
    Skills: Fine motor, hand-eye coordination, problem solving
    Countless Ways to Play: Have your child build the puzzle by stacking the blocks vertically. Then use the farm scene as the backdrop for imaginative play.
  5. Fishing Magnetic Puzzle Game
    Melissa & Doug Fishing Magnetic Puzzle

    Age: 3+
    Why it’s great: This puzzle is the ultimate problem-solving catch! Assemble the puzzle and then use the magnetic fishing pole to “catch” the 10 colorful sea friends.
    Sweet detail: Matching pictures under each piece encourages matching skills
    Skills: Fine motor, hand-eye coordination, problem solving
    Countless Ways to Play: Play a game of catch & release! Point or call out the name of the piece and then have your child “catch” it.
  6. First Shapes Jumbo Knob Puzzle
    Melissa & Doug First Shapes Jumbo Knob Puzzle

    Age: 1+
    Why it’s great: The jumbo knobs are great for little hands! This charming cottage features five big puzzle pieces with full-color matching pictures underneath each piece to encourage matching.
    Sweet detail: Each piece features a different shape — circle, triangle, rectangle, square, and oval.
    Skills: Fine motor, hand-eye coordination, problem solving
    Countless Ways to Play: Have your child find shapes around the house, just like the shapes in the puzzle!
  7. The Wheels on the Bus Sound Puzzle
    Melissa & Doug The Wheels on The Bus Sound Puzzle

    Age: 2+
    Why it’s great: Sound puzzles are a great way to amplify learning — and The Wheels on the Bus is a timeless classic! Kids sing along as the wipers go, “swish, swish, swish,” the horn goes, “beep, beep, beep,” and more!
    Sweet detail: The lyrics are on the back of the board to help kids learn the words.
    Skills: Fine motor, hand-eye coordination, problem solving
    Countless Ways to Play: After you complete the puzzle, celebrate with the whole song. Put on The Wheels on the Bus and let loose with a dance party!
  8. See Inside Numbers Peg Puzzle – 10 Pieces
    Melissa & Doug See-Inside Numbers Peg Puzzle - 10 pieces

    Age: 2+
    Why it’s great: This 10-piece peg puzzle helps teach kids numbers zero through nine. Colorful pictures beneath each piece feature the same number of items as the numeral on top to help guide them.
    Sweet detail: Each piece comes with an easy-grasp peg.
    Skills: Fine motor, hand-eye coordination, problem solving
    Countless Ways to Play: Create a number-themed scavenger hunt! For example, hold up the number two puzzle piece and then have them bring back two items of the same thing (like two teddy bears or two apples).
  9. Bear Family Dress-Up Puzzle
    Melissa & Doug Bear Family Dress-Up Puzzle

    Age: 3+
    Why it’s great: This beautiful wooden set contains 45 mix-and-match pieces to assemble Mama, Papa, and Baby Bear. Your child will have so much fun changing their expressions and their clothing to express their every mood.
    Sweet detail: The wooden box has compartments for easy storage, and the lid conveniently serves as a puzzle board.
    Skills: Fine motor, hand-eye coordination, problem solving
    Countless Ways to Play: Get Mama, Papa, and Baby bear all dressed up for an adventure and then have your child tell you about where they’re going!
  10. African Plains Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle – 24 Pieces
    Melissa & Doug African Plains Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle - 24 Pieces

    Age: 3+
    Why it’s great: This beautifully illustrated jigsaw puzzle brings Africa to life with every piece. Assemble to reveal a hippo in the watering hole, a flamingo in flight, and more!
    Sweet detail: The wooden frame is perfect for storage and for learning where the corner pieces go.
    Skills: Fine motor, hand-eye coordination, problem solving
    Countless Ways to Play: Get kids moving by setting up a puzzle hunt! Hide the pieces around the room, and don’t let them start until they find all 24 pieces.

In its “Selecting Appropriate Toys for Young Children in the Digital Era” study, the AAP noted that “High-quality toys in each of these categories can facilitate caregiver-child interactions, peer play, and the growth of imagination”:

Pretend Play Activity centers, dolls, play food, cooking toys, role play sets, puppets, vehicles

Developmental Play Fine motor manipulatives, activity stations, sorters & stackers

Problem Solving Blocks, construction play, puzzles

Creativity Craft kits, coloring activities, painting & drawing

Language & Concepts Alphabet activities, number activities, games

Physical Activity Balls, tunnel, gardening & nature

Here are our product picks for the best toys in some of these pediatrician-recommended categories! More to come:

Read The Power of Pretend Play >
Read The Power of Developmental Play >
Read The Power of Problem Solving Play >
Read The Power of Letter & Number Play >

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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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