When you think back to your childhood, even before you began school, you can see that your earliest instances of learning were through puzzles and games. Fake phones and cash registers, paper money, magnetic letters - entertainment and education in infancy have gone hand in hand for decades, to the point where studies have been conducted to prove the efficiency of puzzles and games. With homeschooling becoming an extremely popular option, you may find it beneficial to utilize these same activities to help your child learn - whether you’re teaching them their alphabet and multiplication table or viable soft skills.
Why Puzzles and Games?
People of all ages love puzzles and games. Whether the puzzle is simple or complex, the game long or short, there’s just something satisfying about putting your mind to work. But, in a world where education and entertainment have been kept separate for so long, you may wonder how introducing puzzles and games to your child’s homeschooling routine is beneficial.
The answer is simple, really: children love tinkering. Think about it - when babies are first learning to explore their surroundings, their first instincts are to touch and pick objects up. You can see how they’re using their hands - and usually their mouth - to learn and understand. As babies get older, before they begin school, most parents invest in a wide variety of toys to help them learn. Boxes with holes for wooden shapes, large puzzles, alphabet blocks - all of these puzzles and games work to help your child grow and develop foundational skills.
Besides making it more child-friendly, puzzles and games also make homeschooling fun. Consider it this way: would you rather sit down with a multiplication worksheet or a puzzle or game that helped you learn your times tables. This lets your child learn without them knowing they’re learning - kind of like sneaking broccoli into your spaghetti sauce in order for them to healthy.
What are the Benefits of Homeschooling with Puzzles and Games?
Unlike regular schoolwork that only challenges your child’s mind, the incorporation of puzzles and games can also bolster your child’s physical wellbeing. First, it teaches them hand-eye coordination. While hand-eye coordination is important for sports and physical activities, it is also essential for reading. For younger children, puzzles and games can teach your child fine motor skills.
One of the biggest benefits of combining puzzles and games with homeschooling is the fact they help foster soft skills. Soft skills are less quantifiable than hard skills and more difficult to learn. These are skills that are valuable regardless of career, and they work as foundational stones in relationships. Rather than being taught, like multiplication or the alphabet, soft skills are introduced and developed with your child as they learn to interact with their world and surroundings. Here are some of the soft skills that puzzles and games can help your child learn:
Life is full of difficult decisions, so it’s important to give your child the tools to be able to make them early. Critical thinking encourages your child to truly assess a situation and make a well-thought-out choice that weighs both the pros and cons and uses research. Sometimes, it’ll involve your child viewing a situation with a different perspective in order to make the best choice possible.
The Hanoi 9-Ring Tower is a great example of a puzzle that encourages your child to think outside the box. Introduced by mathematicians in 1883, this puzzle involves your child removing all the rings from the center stack and placing them on the others. There are only two rules: only one disc may be moved at a time and a large disc cannot be placed on a small disk. There are hundreds of possible ways to complete this, helping your child learn to think through their decisions and understand consequences. The Hanoi Tower also teaches your child work ethic skills, which are discussed further below.
A positive attitude goes beyond a cheery disposition and general kindness. It also includes having confidence in your actions and decisions, as well as the ability to self-supervise. By teaching your child to be independent, you can also help them grow into strong leaders and listeners who will work well with others because they’re sure of their own abilities.
This wooden multiplication table can be beneficial in bolstering your child’s confidence and ability to work alone while helping them to learn a fundamental math skill. There are one hundred wooden tiles, each one labeled with the problems for 1x1 through 10x10. Each tile has the answer underneath, letting your child teach themselves. This allows for independent work that encourages your child to be confident in their own mathematical abilities. Plus, it’s more fun than sitting down with a stack of worksheets trying to memorize their times tables.
From sharing to problem-solving to coexisting - learning how to communicate and work with others is one of the most important skills your child can develop. This is a necessary social skill that they’ll need their entire life. When you’re homeschooling, it’s especially important to encourage this skill as your child won’t interact with as many other children as they would in face-to-face classes.
Puzzles, and especially games, help your child learn to follow instructions and rules. Games have to be played a certain way in order to be fun, so it encourages your child to follow directions.
Puzzles can also help your child develop goal-setting skills and patience. Your child will learn early on to associate the finished puzzle with a goal, and they’ll have to muster the patience to complete it. This also fosters persistence, as they’ll continue to try even if they place a puzzle piece in the wrong area.
A Pentomino puzzle set helps your child to follow instructions while also encouraging them to try again. The object of a Pentomino puzzle is to use the given tiles to complete the shape described on the included challenge cards.
While it may seem strange to incorporate entertainment in your child’s homeschooling routine, it’s actually something you’ve probably been doing since they were first learning to walk and talk. Puzzles and games are great learning tools that don’t just work to help your child hone their academic abilities but also help them develop soft skills essential for life.