Did you ever wonder why our classrooms have a variety of puzzles on the shelves? Most of the puzzles we have are lateral thinking puzzles and are designed to have one correct and obvious answer. They have a control of error built in so that the puzzler will know when a correction needs to be made, rather than someone pointing out a mistake. We believe that mistakes are opportunities for learning.
We use jigsaw-type puzzles in our early childhood classrooms for children to learn political boundaries as part of our geography curriculum. The concept has not changed much since 1760 when British engraver and mapmaker, John Spilsbury mounted a map on a sheet of wood and sawed around each country.
Puzzles are extremely beneficial for the development of reading and math skills. Children utilize visual discrimination, which helps to differentiate the shapes of letters and numbers. Visual “mapping” is learned by looking at a picture of the completed puzzle to find out where a piece should be placed or rotating pieces to find the correct visual orientation and directionality. Puzzles provide opportunities for abundant problem solving skills. Another skill developed through puzzles is frustration tolerance. Puzzles can also be shared with others and helps to develop cooperative social skills. Who knew puzzles pack such a wallop in early learning?
This past week, I spent several days with friends in Vermont. It rained hard all but one day. I carried along a 500-piece puzzle of Adolf Dehn’s 1941 watercolor of Spring in Central Park. You are probably familiar with this famous painting. There were 5 adults actively working on the puzzle. Between making up stories about the people depicted in the painting and rules for puzzlers, and what should be included in a puzzler’s tool kit (a puzzle hammer), we laughed until we cried! Who knew a puzzle could be so entertaining for adults? I highly recommend them for young and old!