Why doing puzzles is so important to children’s development

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Doing puzzles is a fascinating pastime for people of all ages. Not only is it a lot of fun, it also has a positive effect on our mental processes. When little ones work on puzzles, they train their fine motor and cognitive skills. Reading this article you can learn about what age children can start doing puzzles, which puzzle games are available, how safe HABA puzzles are, and what else can be done with the puzzle material.

When can children start doing puzzles?

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Puzzle fun can start when your child is between 12 and 18 months old – depending on their individual development when it comes to visual perception and fine motor skills. Observe your child and ask yourself the following questions: Can your child consciously grasp things? Does he/she use the so-called pinch grip, as in does she pick things up between the thumb and forefinger, turning them back and forth? Can he recognize and differentiate shapes? If you can answer all these questions with a yes then your child is the right age to be introduced to the exciting world of puzzles. An interest in puzzles cannot be forced. The motivation should always come from your child.

From what age does doing puzzles with a toddler make sense?

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The best introduction to puzzles for toddlers are the clutching puzzles, wooden puzzles with grips, in which a picture is completed with just a few easy to grip puzzle pieces. Or start with wooden frame puzzles, in which colorful images are put together using large wooden puzzle pieces. At this stage, puzzles train fine motor skills and focus the awareness of shapes. However, it’s important to note that toddlers can generally only concentrate on doing puzzles for short periods of time. It can therefore be helpful for a parent to help the puzzle beginner by arranging pieces.

What do children learn when doing puzzles?

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When doing puzzles, children train their fine motor skills, improve their hand-eye coordination and practice concentration and patience. They learn how problems can be solved through strategy and structure – in this case through repeated sorting of puzzle pieces. Doing puzzles also helps children recognize shapes and colors better. Their concentration skills and memory improve, in particular short-term memory. Perseverance and a tolerance of frustration are also developed. Children’s puzzles therefore have countless positive effects on manual abilities, cognitive development and visual perception. Last but not least – in the end the hard-working puzzler is rewarded with a beautiful image and can enjoy a feeling of success. Doing puzzles therefore keeps you mentally fit and makes you happy!

What types of puzzle are available for children?

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There is a wide variety of puzzles. They are differentiated by the material they are made of, the pictures they show, and their degree of difficulty. In general, as children get older the degree of difficulty of their puzzles increases. This difficulty is derived from a combination of factors: the number and size of the pieces, the level of detail in the picture, its color scheme, and the quality. Puzzles can be made of wood or cardboard; the degree of difficulty varies depending on the shape, thickness and flexibility of the pieces. A larger number of puzzle pieces, smaller pieces with difficult contours, or a detailed image make it harder to put the individual puzzle pieces together and make it more tricky overall.

Which puzzles are suitable for which age?

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Doing puzzles can only offer these advantages if the child is offered a puzzle that suits his/her age and level of development. It’s important to pick the right degree of difficulty so that children enjoy doing puzzles. Little ones also appreciate it when their parents help them, especially when the puzzle is a bit more difficult.

1 to 2 years / 12 to 24 months

For children one year or a little older, clutching puzzles with button grips are perfect because they are easy to grip. Wooden puzzles or wooden-framed puzzles are also good for younger children because they are robust. They are not too difficult, with only a few pieces fitting together to make an image. The images are generally brightly colored to arouse the interest of little ones. They show popular images such as animals or vehicles, themed worlds such as farmyard or construction site, or scenes from children’s everyday life that also stimulate language development and expand vocabulary. You can find a variety of puzzles that are suitable for this age on haba.de under “Wooden puzzles & clutching puzzles”.

2 years and up

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Wooden puzzles with up to 8 individual puzzle pieces are interesting for children ages 2 and up. Some puzzles contain multiple images in a set with an increasing number of pieces, offering even more variety. One image is made up of two pieces, the other of three and the next of four. In this age group, experienced puzzle fans stop doing wooden puzzle and move on to puzzles made of cardboard. Children ages 2 and up enjoy sound clutching puzzles with sound effects. Here children need to put the matching piece in the right gap according to the sound.

3 years and up

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For children ages 3 and up, cardboard puzzles with a fixed frame are increasingly more interesting. They start putting together puzzles with more cardboard pieces that are smaller. At this age, children lose the interest in exploring the world with their mouth and also continue to develop their manual and visual skills. Puzzles with up to 24 pieces become manageable. When doing puzzles, children often use the “trial and error” principle.

4 to 5 years

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Children ages 4 and up continue to get better at putting together the individual pieces, thanks to their experience doing puzzles. Generally they can do puzzles with up to 24 pieces. Some still work with the trial and error method while others already operate a little more systematically. When it comes to images, puzzles for this age group can also show pictures with a little more detail. Many puzzles for children ages 5 and up contain around 49 pieces, but puzzles with up to 60 pieces can also be managed.

6 to 8 years

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Six year old children can already manage to identify and sort puzzle pieces according to their final location. They have developed their own strategies for putting together the overall picture based on shapes, colors and the picture shown. With up to 100 pieces, the puzzles become increasingly challenging and show detailed scenes such as hidden object images, maps, jungle or dinosaur landscapes, fantasy worlds or space. Eight year old children can, depending on their earlier puzzle experience, handle puzzles with 260 or even 500 pieces. 3D puzzles bring the third dimension into play and train spatial imagination abilities. It’s still important to make sure that the number of pieces and degree of difficulty is suitable for the individual development level of the child, as doing puzzles should always be something enjoyable.

How else can children play with the puzzle material?

Not all puzzles are created equal. Some puzzles have play figures made of wood or plastic for free play. In general, the puzzle serves as the playing surface. The puzzle and figures stimulate the child’s imagination and invite them to think up stories to reenact. Some puzzles are a puzzle and a book in one. Children can browse, read stories and, if they feel like it, take the puzzle pieces out of the book then put them back in. Printable puzzle templates can be found online to color in, cut out and put back together. This also lets children practice using scissors, pencils and glue.

Where are HABA puzzles made and what materials are used?

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HABA puzzles for the littlest puzzle fans are made of wood and contain large puzzle pieces that babies and toddlers can easily grip with their little hands. Wood is one of the most natural and beautiful raw materials around. Our products made from wood have carried the PEFC seal since 2010. This confirms that we use wood from sustainable forestry. You can find more information at haba.de under “HABA on the outside means quality on the inside”.

When we bring color into wooden puzzles, we only use solvent-free, water-based paints and stains. This means that babies and toddlers can put all our wooden puzzles in their mouths at any time with no worries. 

We make puzzles for toddlers and older children out of cardboard that is very robust thanks to compact pressing, enabling children to enjoy their puzzles for a long time. It’s also easy to print beautiful illustrations on cardboard puzzle pieces, stimulating children’s imaginations.

How safe are HABA puzzles?

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Like with all HABA products, the quality and safety of our puzzles is very important to us, and is monitored both by our in-house quality assurance and external testing. The mechanical safety tests are particularly important. Using template tests,  we ensure that the elements of toddler puzzles are large enough that children under three cannot swallow them. Our wooden puzzles with grips also undergo a soaking test to ensure that the button grips do not come off. More detailed information about the quality and safety standards at HABA can be found in “Quality”. 

Which other toys can help develop the fine motor skills and cognitive abilities of my child in the same way as puzzles?

As parents, you can train the cognitive abilities of your little one with age-appropriate toys such as pegging, stacking and sorting games. Suggestions can be found at HABA under “Cognitive development”. In addition to HABA wooden puzzles, the fine motor skills of your child can naturally also be encouraged with other wooden toys, for example with clutching toys or wooden building blocks. Learn more from HABA under “Fine motor skills & motor development”.

Discover all HABA puzzles from the “Children’s puzzles” product category with your children. The youngest ones from 12 months will find a wide range of puzzles for little children’s hands in the product category “Wooden puzzles & clutching puzzles.” HABA hopes all puzzle fans have lots of fun with the HABA children’s puzzles!