PUZZLES  …that ageless activity that your grandparents did when they were children, you did as a child and that you’re now encouraging your children to do (or your child’s teacher has encouraged you to do with your children.)


What is the importance behind this simple activity? Just how does this activity benefit your child?

In a study conducted by the University of Chicago in 2012, it was suggested that puzzle play lays the groundwork for the development of mentally transforming shapes. This ability is an important predictor of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) course-taking, degrees and careers in older children.

Furthermore the study found that children who play with puzzles between ages 2 and 4 years later develop better spatial ability. "The children who played with puzzles performed better than those who did not on tasks that assessed their ability to rotate and translate shapes," said Psychologist Susan Levine, a leading expert on mathematics development in young children.

Spatial ability is the capacity to understand and remember the spatial relations among objects. This ability can be viewed as a unique type of intelligence distinguishable from other forms of intelligence, such as verbal ability, reasoning ability, and memory skills.

Why is spatial ability important?

Visual-spatial skills are of great importance for success in solving many tasks in everyday life. For instance, using a map to guide you through an unfamiliar city, merging into high-speed traffic, and orienting yourself in your environment (as when you are learning your way around a new school building) are all activities that involve spatial ability. Other examples of tasks requiring visual-spatial ability include packing (as when you must decide if a certain box is large enough for the objects you want to put into it) and using mirror images (as when you are combing your hair while looking into a mirror).

So know you know why your husband is so good at packing all the luggage in the car while you are just terrible at it! He has better spatial ability than you. Which is not surprising when you consider that during the study Levine and her colleagues found that boys played with more complicated puzzles than girls and the boys also performed better than the girls on a mental transformation task given at 54 months of age.

(To learn more about the study visit: http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2012/02/15/puzzle-play-helps-boost-learning-important-math-related-skills#sthash.vJDevdTD.dpuf )

But, coming back to the benefits of puzzles, development of spatial ability is not the only benefit of puzzle building. Puzzle building also develops you child in the following areas:

FINE MOTOR SKILLS- Your child’s fine motor/ hand muscle skills are improved as your child picks up the puzzle pieces, manipulates the piece inside their hands and places the piece in the correct position. Eye-hand coordination is also developed.

INTELLECT- Children gain experience in solving problems. Puzzle-solving experiences help children learn math concepts such as sorting, classifying, comparing, sets, size, and as mentioned earlier: spatial abilities.

PERCEPTION- Your child’s concentration, eye muscle movements and other important developmental areas related to sight i.e. visual closure, visual memory, visual attention & visual spatial relations are all improved during puzzle building.

SOCIAL & EMOTIONAL- Children feel pleased with themselves after completing puzzles. They gain confidence in themselves and need to practice patience while building. Improved communication & social skills are also developed as your child builds the puzzle with you or another family member.

Over the next 2 weeks we will be delving further into the area of puzzles. I will give you guidelines as to how to increase the difficulty of puzzles, which puzzles you should be using for which aged child and I’ll be providing you with activities to “mix-it-up”.

When you have a chance check out our cool puzzles on our website: http://www.grow-it.co.za/collections/puzzles.

Till next time,
“Over and Out”

The Grow Specialist

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  • July 13, 2015
  • Linda Kruger

When building a puzzle – is there a wrong and or a correct way of building a puzzle? The frame first? Colours together? Please advise!