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7 Spectacular Benefits of Puzzles (Hint: They’re Not What You’d Think!)

2017-01-11 by Zina Harrington

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Puzzles are a huge piece of Melissa & Doug’s history. We all know the traditional benefits of playing with puzzles, but our Blog Ambassador Zina Harrington of Let’s Lasso the Moon shares seven unexpected perks below!

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Puzzles have always been a part of my daughters’ world… As our girls have grown from babies to tweens, our family has graduated from soft fabric puzzles, to chunky wood puzzles, to cardboard jigsaw puzzles, to awesome 3D puzzles.

Puzzles can be great learning tools, for sure. But I’ve found that puzzles have some additional unexpected (and spectacular!) perks if you learn how to utilize puzzles in new and creative ways—at every age. So, let me take you through seven ways to expand your puzzle use in your home as your children grow.

Let’s begin with a very basic tip for new and seasoned parents alike…

1. Puzzles Can “Buy” You an Extra 5 Minutes of Much-Needed Time.

If you’ve got an infant or a toddler in the house, a Baby Busy Box filled with Melissa & Doug puzzles can be a safe treat for them AND can provide you with the extra 5 minutes you might need to give a sibling some needed attention, to finish making dinner, or to fold a load of laundry. Your little one is happily distracted with a Busy Box that is helping to develop their fine motor skills, cognitive reasoning, and language skills, and YOU just got the dishwasher unloaded. {heh, heh} Now that’s a WIN-WIN!

7 spectacular benefits of puzzles

Check out this list of Must-Have Toys for Baby’s First Year for great examples of baby- & toddler-friendly puzzles. For example, if you’ve got a 9-month-old, a Soft Rainbow Stacker would be a perfect puzzle:

This is a classic toy with a new twist. I love that this stacker is soft, squishy, and made with durable material that is easy to grasp, squeeze, and stack. As little ones are sitting and standing, this toy continues to support the development of larger-muscle groups and gross motor skills while at the same time introducing hand-eye coordination skills needed to put each ring on the stacker. [READ FULL POST]

The truth is, setting out an enticing puzzle for your kids to work on (at any age!) can score you a few extra minutes to catch your breath or take that unexpected phone call. A started puzzle is an invitation that’s hard to refuse as growing children work to show off how independent they can be now.

7 spectacular benefits of puzzles

Or how ’bout this scenario for school-age children…

Imagine one child happily working on putting a few more pieces inside a puzzle border (that you started) while waiting on a {ahem} “slightly pokier” child to get ready in the morning?

You can create your own family puzzle board in an open space for ANYONE with a few extra minutes to work on. It’s a quiet, non-screen activity that can provide some restful minutes to come together OR to work alone.

2. Puzzles Inspire Wanderlust.

Travel can be a wonderful way to spark curiosity. Any trip can be made educational weeks before you ever step foot inside a train, a plane, or an automobile. If you’re traveling in the United States, start by introducing your kids to one of Melissa & Doug’s USA Puzzles. A puzzle like this helps foster a sense of adventure and also gives you the opportunity to talk about the different states you’ll be passing through on your next family trip.

7 spectacular benefits of puzzles

Be sure to check out this great post which shares 7 Ways to Make Your Family’s Pre-Trip Educational. A few summers back, our family went to visit the Black Hills. South Dakota is a fossil-heavy state, so we studied dinosaurs before our trip. (Of course, the Dinosaur Puzzles from Melissa & Doug were a perfect compliment to The Mammoth Site Jr. Paleontology Program we visited on vacation.)

7 spectacular benefits of puzzles

It’s a great, big world out there, and Melissa & Doug’s USA Puzzles can help by starting to expand your children’s worldview. You can put a mark on the front or back of puzzle pieces as you visit each state, or mark the states where friends and family members live. Get your children excited to visit new places and create new travel adventures together!

3. Puzzles Equal Guaranteed Success on a One-on-One Date.

When I’m looking to score some one-on-one time with one of my daughters, we head out of the house on a coffee-date. This ensures we can spend uninterrupted quality time together chatting. Heading to the coffee shop works best for our family because of the slow pace of the date.

One of my favorite things to do at the coffee shop is work on a puzzle while sipping lattes and cocoa. Puzzles are perfect for on-the-go, one-on-one time with your kids because they’re portable, slow-paced by nature, and facilitate conversation. Melissa & Doug offers jigsaw puzzles ranging from 30 pieces to 500 pieces so you can find the perfect fit for your one-on-one date.

You Might Also Like: 7 Must-Haves for the Perfect Date When Spending One-On-One Time With Your Kids

What I personally love about Melissa & Doug is the way they’ve transformed puzzles into play sets and games. One our favorites is the award-winning Suspend Family Game; it’s a game closet MUST-HAVE. It comes with color-coded wire puzzle pieces that you must precariously hook, hang, and balance on each other with perfect precision to form an ever-changing wire sculpture. If your piece makes another piece (or the whole structure) fall, your turn ends. It’s guaranteed laughs and fun on a one-on-one date with your little one—and a sneaky way to practice spatial skills and STEM (engineering) concepts, too!

7 spectacular benefits of puzzles

4. 3D Puzzles & Play Sets Spark Creativity.

What I’ve loved about the 3D Puzzle & Play Sets is watching my daughter play with them over and over again. In addition to the play suggestions provided by Melissa & Doug, I’ve found that their 3D Puzzle & Play Sets are perfect for introducing growing children to “stop motion animation.” (If you don’t already know, this means having your child create short digital films by capturing one frame at a time using objects your child moves slightly between frames. The creates a “moving picture” illusion akin to a cartoon flip book.)

While this may sound complicated, it’s actually very simple. Check out this easy how-to tutorial here on The Playtime Press. [READ FULL POST] If you’ve got a smartphone, I guarantee your kids will have an awesome time setting up their own private animation studio.

7 spectacular benefits of puzzles

5. Puzzles Provide Opportunities to Learn Social Skills (Especially When Done With a Buddy).

Social skills are essential to children’s happiness and success. Strong social skills enable children to grow and develop into functioning members of society. Since social skills determine how children relate to one another (and the adults surrounding them), it’s imperative that parents take time to explicitly teach these skills to children, starting at a very young age. Puzzle play provides many opportunities to teach and model key social skills while having fun together.

Click here to read 5 Social Skills Learned From Puzzles.

7 spectacular benefits of puzzles

6. Puzzles Can Help Kids Practice Independently Following Instructions.

Following instructions is a critical part of everyday life. It requires your child to review detailed information, to sequence the information in the appropriate steps, and to seek clarification if he or she runs into any complications.

My daughter loves the Melissa & Doug 3D Puzzle & Play Sets. They come with a set of numerical, ordered, visual instructions for building the puzzle. The 3D Puzzle & Play Sets not only foster the skill of following instructions independently, they also encourage hand-eye coordination, concentration, and an understanding of spatial relationships. There are some easier 3D Puzzle & Play Sets that are appropriate for children as young as 4 years old and some more complicated ones that keep older children engaged.

7 spectacular benefits of puzzles

See all of Melissa & Doug’s 3D Puzzle & Play Sets.

7. Puzzles Can Get Kids Moving.

Believe it or not, puzzles can be a great way to get kids moving on a rainy or snowy day. Check out this list of five Puzzle Hunt ideas that will have your kids up and about (and you can have a blast getting your 10,000 steps in, too!). The best part? They’re all fun, educational games!

7 spectacular benefits of puzzles

In summary: Puzzles ROCK.

There are so many different types… how do you know which one to pick? Trying to make sense of the huge variety of formats and styles can feel like a puzzle in itself. Check out this post to find the perfect fit for your child:

Which Kind of Puzzle Is Right for My Child?

Have you found any additional unexpected perks of playing with puzzles? Be sure to let us know in the comments or here on Facebook!

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Zina Harrington

Zina is the author of Let’s Lasso the Moon and Becoming UnBusy, where she inspires parents and children to interact creatively and enjoy the beauty of everyday moments. Facebook | Pinterest | Blog | Instagram

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