Pediatric Physical, Speech, and Occupational Therapists Inspiring Play

Puzzle Recommendations for Pre-Schoolers

Puzzle Recommendations for Pre-Schoolers

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As therapists, we are huge fans of puzzles. The benefits are endless.

Just check out our friend Noemi and her laser focus on this puzzle.

Here are some of our recommendations for puzzles we love for Pre-School aged kiddos. We’ve put them in order of difficulty, from more simple to more complex. In therapy, or “purposeful play”, we strive to find the “just right challenge”. If something is too easy or too difficult, you may find your child will not be interested or engaged. So take a look and find the “just right challenge” for your little puzzle master!

When your little one seems ready for some puzzle play, keep it simple! Inset puzzles with big knobs and only a few pieces are a great place to start- like this one from Melissa and Doug Toys. The big knobs are easier to grasp and help develop fine motor skills.

After introducing your kiddo to puzzles with knobs, try using inset puzzles with thicker pieces. This chunky piece bug puzzle from @melissaanddougtoys is one of our favorites because of all the bright colors. The thick pieces are easier to manipulate for small 🖐🏼 and we love practicing standing the pieces up for some pretend play or stacking the pieces into towers! Don’t forget to talk about the 🐝 buzzing, the 🐞 flying, and the 🕷 crawling!

Inset puzzles with pegs are great for developing the intrinsic 🖐🏼 muscles by promoting the use of a pincer grasp. @melissaanddougtoys sound peg puzzles are an engaging way for your little one to complete more complex puzzles.

Inset puzzles with a magnetic wand increase the difficulty! There are no pictures so your little one needs to match by shape. The magnetic wand also works on their coordination skills.

Two piece interlocking puzzles are a great introduction to jigsaw puzzles. Not only do kiddos use visual scanning and visual perceptual skills to locate matching pieces, they begin to develop problem solving and sustained attention. We ❤️ this set by @the_learning_journey. It has vibrant pictures of real objects and provides a great way to build vocabulary by talking about different categories like animals, fruit, and vehicles!

This puzzle set from @melissaanddougtoys is a great way to advance from inset puzzles. These puzzles each have 4 interlocking pieces, a picture to match, and a board for the pieces to fit into. It’s great for 2 year olds to work on their puzzle skills!

Floor puzzles are another way to ⬆️ the challenge for your little one while getting them to move around! They also naturally target skills like turn-taking and talking about the location of each piece using spatial concepts like “behind,” “in front of,” and “next to.”

More floor puzzle fun! Try having your little one lay in prone (on their stomachs). It is one of our favorite power positions. Prone helps build core muscles in the trunk and shoulders. This position also assists with using focusing 👀 together.

For more ideas on how to purposefully play with puzzles, check this article.

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