At 100 Toys, we love open-ended play and that means activities with no predetermined outcome. Puzzles couldn't be further from this ideal, so why do we include them in the 100?
Puzzles work on so many levels, from problem solving and fine motor skills, to hand-eye co-ordination and concentration. Completing a puzzle - one that is appropriate for their age - also gives children a vital sense of achievement. Feeling confident in their abilities and knowing they can successfully complete things is important, because it gives them courage to try new activities they might otherwise avoid for fear of failure. On a secondary level, puzzles with illustrations, characters and words, can help inform and build knowledge around particular topics. From farmyards and French, to colours, numbers and shapes, they are a great way to develop discussions. When choosing your jigsaw, the most important thing to remember is that it should be age and skill-appropriate.
Babies: Before tackling traditional puzzles, babies need the gross- and fine-motor control to put one object inside another. Posting anything to hand into the nearest hole is a great first step (unless it's your car keys!). Grapat's bowls and balls make a beautiful alternative, especially as they double as a great object permanence game.
Toddlers: Now they're ready to handle the pieces with more control and to orientate them correctly. This is the age of the shape and farmyard puzzle.
Next come two- and three-piece puzzles, for example where you put together the front and back of an animal.
Preschoolers: Show them that it's best to start with the corners and then find the pieces with straight edges and a four-year-old will happily complete a 100-piece puzzle independently. And don't forget that puzzles are not just jigsaws. You can branch out and explore three-dimensional challenges such as a Grimm's rainbow or puzzle square.