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Puzzle Free Play: Sensory Play and a Scavenger Hunt!

2016-05-13 by Jamie Reimer

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Puzzle free play activities from guest blogger Jamie of Hands On As We Grow!

Puzzles are an amazing toy for kids of all ages. We absolutely love doing puzzles in our house, from super simple puzzles to 500-1000 piece puzzles with my 8 year old.

What I love about the simple puzzles from Melissa & Doug is how they can transform into much more than a puzzle when your child outgrows them.

Here are four unique and fun ways to use Melissa & Doug puzzles, other than a puzzle.

Make puzzles a scavenger hunt!

Take the pieces of the puzzle and hide them in spots around the house. Set the base of the puzzle back at a neutral spot. Send the kids off on a hunt to find the pieces of the puzzle and put it back in its place when they find it.

For more than one kid, divide up the puzzle pieces. We used the jumbo numbers chunky puzzle. My 5 year old went on a hunt for the larger numbers (10-20) while my 3 year old hunted for the small numbers. In reality, my 3 year old found whatever he could find (which was mostly the smaller numbers because I hid them in easier spots).

Hunting for Numbers
When they found pieces, I was waiting for them back with the base of the puzzle and asked them questions, like:

What number did you find?

Oh! You found the number 7!

What numbers do you have left to find?

This reinforces their number learning. However, you could do this scavenger hunt with any of the chunky puzzles!

Matching Numbers

Play the What’s Missing? Game

Have your kids put the upper & lower case alphabet puzzle together completely. Have your child turn away, or cover their eyes. Remove one of the pieces from the puzzle.

No Peeking!

Your child can open their eyes and look to see what’s missing.

My 3 year old always pointed to the spot that was missing immediately. Then I would ask:

What letter is that?

Oh, I see… the letter C is missing.

What's Missing?

To make this harder for older kids, remove the pieces from the base of the puzzle and put the pieces out, and remove one (or two…) piece(s) at a time.

For younger kids, this is great for recognition of whatever the puzzle is (letters, numbers, animals, shapes, etc).

Turn puzzles into a Sensory Bin Treasure Hunt!

Fill a tub or large bowl with lots of rice, or oatmeal, or other pantry item. We colored our rice to begin with but that’s not necessary.

Put the pieces of the puzzle in the tub, and bury them.

Digging for Numbers

Have your child search for the pieces and put them back in the puzzle, or on a piece of paper with the written number or letter (or other object from your puzzle).

Uncovering Letters

Add some fun to it with tongs and have your child dig for the pieces with the tongs!

Have a sensory experience with the puzzle!

Remove all the puzzle pieces and use only the base of the puzzle. Using a small scoop (measuring spoon works well), scoop rice into the empty puzzle spaces to fill them up.

Sensory Scooping 1

This is a fantastic motion transferring the rice. It also helps with hand-eye coordination as they have to be precise as to where they dump the rice.

Sensory Scooping 2

And of course! You can always use the puzzles in the traditional sense and use it as a puzzle! They’re all great fun!



Jamie Reimer

Jamie learned to be a hands on mom by creating activities, crafts and art projects for her three boys to do and shares them on Hands On As We Grow. Jamie takes the creative outlet as a way to get through the early years of parenting with a smile!

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