Whether they are easy, moderately difficult, or hard puzzles, there’s something to be said for having fun while still learning, don’t you think? (well, duh…) It sounds so obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to enjoy themselves along the way while their eyes are set on the final prize. We firmly believe that it’s possible to achieve win-win situations where you don’t have to sacrifice fun while still achieving lofty academic goals - even for the tiniest folks among us! There are so many benefits to starting a child out early with a set of mechanical puzzles, age appropriate of course, and we’ve narrowed our focus on 4 of them to give some different perspectives. There are countless benefits beyond what we’ll cover, and you’ll find that many of the benefits overlap. The long journey to a strong mind starts from those first, tiny footsteps in the right direction - a healthy brain does NOT happen overnight. Check out our breakdown of these benefits, and let us know what you think!
#1 - Hand/Eye Coordination
Children develop motor skills when operating puzzles as their eyes and hands work simultaneously to identify the proper piece. Often, kids can guess a piece, then check to see if that piece fits; a child’s eye, hand, and brain sync together to identify the piece to make it fit and choose a new piece if that one isn’t right. Techniques like this guess and check routine are also taught in early mathematics classrooms, and can be applicable to the scientific nature of testing (and then retesting) different hypotheses. In addition, with the use of such small, intentional movements that are necessary to solve puzzles, children gain skills for early penmanship and typing skills. The various collections of puzzles in the world each require the use of different grasps to hold puzzle pieces of intricate sizes and shapes, strengthening muscle movements and dexterity in the hands and fingers - much, much more than what a kid gains from tapping the screen of a tablet! No offense intended, tablets are a marvel as well.
In our own selection, the Kubiya Shape & Sort in particular is a stellar choice for toddlers ages 12 months and up which gives them a head start in matching colors and shapes to the proper cut-outs in the sorting box. It’s a great way to introduce the concept of organization, sorting, and pattern recognition without them even realizing! Then, move your child up to a higher level every few years until they are ready for a larger spatial challenge like our Soma Cube Set. There’s an appropriate challenge for every new phase of brain development, just check out the recommended age group before selecting a product, and feel free to search by age group as well.
#2 - Memory
Memory is everything, whether it’s short or long term, and it’s never too early for children to start remembering patterns and strategies to help them for a lifetime. Kids will recognize (in time) which pieces do not fit in a particular place for a puzzle and will then use them later on in the puzzle. Children will rely mainly on their memory of where the puzzle pieces sit through trial and error. This is a fun way to challenge the children’s minds, using strategic ways to complete the puzzles while learning life skills.
One of the best examples of memory in our collection is the Kubiya Animal Memo Concentration Game, where the goal is to turn over matching animal tiles, and remember the placement of tiles when a match is not able to be made. Plus, you get to look at cute animals! Memorizing pictures on a grid pattern is excellent for short term memory, which is the memory that kids will work with the most in the moment, on an everyday basis. In terms of long term memory, children will hopefully start to remember the solutions to puzzles that they play many times, even if they haven’t picked up the puzzle in weeks. Repetition is key to storing patterns in long term memory, and so measuring the solutions to mechanical puzzles early on will be the gateway to memorizing mathematical formulas, theorems, musical melodies, dramatic monologues - everything on the spectrum of arts and sciences. Mechanical puzzles truly are a wonder in the way that they mix together creative and technical elements. Many see these subjects as separate, polar opposite groupings, but they’ve always blended beautifully together - and puzzles are the proof!
#3 - Social Skills
In the age of social media, smartphones, and burying our heads in screens, sometimes social skills just don’t develop the way they used to when more kiddos played games with each other, face to face, on a daily basis. We’ve talked in previous blog posts about the classic, vintage nature of mechanical puzzles, and we’ll never get tired of it! They really do hearken back to a different time, while managing to be timeless all the same. Owning team based or turned base games that your child loves might inspire play dates, and could work as a cool alternative to video games. No judgment on video games, we love them too! Life needs balance, though, don’t be afraid to shake things up with a screen break. Kids might discover their new best friend based on a mutual love of puzzles, crazier things have certainly happened. It’s also a nice rite of passage to hand down beloved puzzles and board games to your child, and inspire them to host their own parties and game nights some day. Think of it as a way to bring families of the past, present, and future together into one shared experience.
Many of our puzzles (and games) foster a sense of teamwork and cooperation, like our Tangram Puzzle Set that allows two players to compete to see who can complete the shape on the card first, using all 7 pieces. The set comes with two sets of the same pieces so that they can play side by side. Or, multiple people could team up, collaborating to make their way through the more challenging cards. We also have a children’s version of tangrams for toddlers. Even if the game is not strictly meant to be social, all puzzles can be turned into a group experience with enough creativity. Teach kids early on that it’s okay to ask for help as you all work together towards a common goal!
#4 - Persistence and Concentration
If you have ever done a puzzle yourself (and I’m assuming you have if you’re reading this blog!!), then you know how challenging they can be. If your child really buries their head into a puzzle, they’re going to want to finish it, or forever be driven mad by the solution that they never got to. If they run into a hard time with it, the nature of mechanical puzzles encourages kids to sit and mull things over. The lack of instant gratification fosters persistence, patience, and a desire to complete what they start. So many solutions these days are just a click or a google search away, which is convenient ….. but nowhere near as satisfying as solving a problem you’ve been chugging away at for so long. Teach your child the importance of following through at an early age, and see the long term goals they set and complete decades later. Keep in mind, even with a puzzle game, you don’t want children to get frustrated too soon. Start them off with easier puzzle games and then work their way up in difficulty when they’re ready. This is a common psychological hack that builds confidence by setting the initial standard lower, leaving nowhere to go but up. Starting off with simpler goals to accomplish creates smaller patterns of success that lead to larger and larger successful encounters with mechanical puzzles. Every journey starts with a single step, and every mechanical puzzle starts by placing the first piece.
Cheers to a peaceful end of Summer, and as always - Happy Puzzling!!