Types of Puzzles and What they Teach

Puzzles, Puzzles, Puzzles!  My kiddos love puzzles!  But, did you know that there are different types of puzzles that help promote different skill sets for young children?  Today, I will be sharing four different types of puzzles for the early childhood crowd.  The puzzles are in order from beginning puzzlers and more advanced puzzlers!  There are Melissa and Doug affliliate links within this post, seeing as their puzzles are the BEST!

types of puzzles
types of puzzles

Melissa and Doug Jungle Friends Jumbo Knob Puzzle - 3 Pieces

Knobbed Matching Puzzles 

-matching: the picture on the puzzle piece to the picture underneath

-fine motor: pincer grasp practice when grabbing the knobbed puzzle pieces

-problem solving: when turning the puzzle piece to make it fit just right

Three piece large- knobbed matching puzzles are a wonderful place to start for young puzzlers.  It narrows down the number of options, making it less frustrating for younger children.  After your child has mastered the 3 piece puzzle, try one with more pieces and smaller knobs.

types of puzzles
types of puzzles

Melissa and Doug Tools Chunky Puzzle - 7 Pieces

Non-Knobbed Matching Puzzles

-matching: the picture on the puzzle piece to the picture underneath

-fine motor: pincer grasp practice when grabbing the non-knobbed puzzle pieces

-task completion: some non-knobbed matching puzzles have more pieces, therefore they take more time and attention to finish the task

Non-knobbed matching puzzles are essentially just like the knobbed puzzles, but are missing the knobs.  The Chunky Puzzles from Melissa and Doug are good examples of non-knobbed matching puzzles.  As far as the fine motor skills go, when children use knobbed puzzles, they generally use their finger muscles to turn the piece as the hold the knob.  Non-knobbed puzzles have to be turned by using the wrist, practicing another group of fine motor muscles.

types of puzzles
types of puzzles

Outline Matching Puzzles

these puzzles do not have knobs and do not have a picture to match underneath

-shape recognition: children match the picture puzzle piece to shaped outline

-fine motor: pincer grasp practice when grabbing the non-knobbed puzzle pieces

-problem solving: by not being able to use the picture to match the puzzle piece, children must look closely at the shape and turn the piece until it fits

*A well-known example of this type of puzzle is a shape sorter.  Children must look at the outline of the hole on the shape sorter and the actual shape to make it fit.  Another example is the Melissa and Doug Magnetic Puzzles  Although, the magnet puzzles make use of hand eye coordination as children must use the magnet on a string to pick up the pieces.

You can easily make your own outline matching puzzles too!  Just trace common household objects onto a piece of paper and have the kids match them up!

types of puzzles
types of puzzles

Jigsaw Puzzles

The puzzles in the picture above are called Progressive Puzzles from Discovery Toys.  The set includes 4 piece, 6 piece and 9 piece jigsaw puzzles.  As far as I know, they are no longer being sold.  I have yet to find an awesome alternative to this set (if you know of one- leave a comment!).

-parts of a whole: helping children see how parts of a picture form to make a whole

-problem solving: when children are figuring out what shaped pieces fit together and how to turn the pieces to make the puzzle come together

-fine motor: pincer grasp when grabbing and fitting together the pieces

-task completion: jigsaws encourage child to work on the puzzle until it is finished and not giving up

-social: sometimes you need a little help from a friend or parent, sharing the puzzle and working together promotes great teamwork skills

When starting children on jigsaw puzzles, it is ideal to use 2 piece or 4 piece puzzles.  You can easily make your own by cutting up a picture or coloring page mounted to cardstock.  As your child progresses, you can add more pieces to challenge him or her!

Do your kids love puzzles too?  What type are they working on right now?