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Play & Progress​

Unlock their Potential: Promoting Problem-Solving Skills in Early Childhood with Puzzles

27 February 2024

4 min.

Puzzles are a staple in children’s toys, besides being incredibly fun, they’re key when it comes to promoting problem-solving skills.

You might wonder if they are all that important but problem-solving is actually one of the most essential aspects of children’s development. Learning how to approach and solve problems, both at home and school, can affect the quality of a child’s relationships with others besides being the obvious skill that will support them in their life as they grow. And yes, you can help improve on this skill by building puzzles!


The Developmental Stages of Problem-solving

So, what does problem-solving look like as your child grows? We’ve simplified the basics into their key developmental stages and how you can promote it with puzzles – please remember this is a guide and not a strict rulebook as to what your child should be doing at that age.

Infants (0-12 Months):

Trial and Error: One of the earliest elements of problem-solving is through simple trial and error, such as repeatedly dropping a toy to see what happens.

Cause and Effect: They also start understanding cause and effect relationships, like pushing a button on a toy to plays a sound.

In these early stages, puzzles are just about discovering cause and effect and as they grow in confidence, infants work towards shape recognition and those all-important, fine motor skills.

Toddlers (1-3 Years):

Simple Problem Solving: Toddlers begin to learn how to solve basic problems, like fitting shapes into a shape sorter.

Imitation: You’ll see how toddlers learn to solve problems by imitating the actions of others, especially adults or older children.

Experimentation: They can also begin experimenting with different ways to solve a problem, like stacking blocks to build a tower or stacking books to build the same tower – both are towers, just built differently.

Through this intermediate stage, toddlers move from basic shapes to intricate patterns and puzzles that require pattern recognition, memory, and logical sequencing. If you watch them, it may look like they’re carefully inspecting each puzzle piece, they twist and turn them as they display an intense concentration face.

Preschoolers and Beyond (3-5+ Years):

Asking Questions: Preschoolers start to ask questions to understand how things work, these annoying ‘why’ questions are super important in general problem-solving.

Multiple Solutions: By realising that there is more than one way to solve a problem, children begin to explore different options which helps push their creative problem-solving.

Planning: Children at this stage start to plan their actions, not as intricately as a step-by-step plan but rather like deciding which puzzle piece to put were.

Logical Thinking: As their brains develop, children begin to use logical reasoning to help solve their problems, such as understanding the sequence of a story.

Collaborative Problem Solving: With improved socialisation skills, they start to learn how they can solve problems in groups, learning from their friends and work in a collaborative way.

Abstract Thinking: Abstract thinking is a more mature way of thinking, it’s where a child sees their answer beyond the on experiences that have happened. For example, if a child picks up a small puzzle piece, abstract thinking will help them to recognise that this piece should go in a small gap, whereas a younger brain would try all the gaps until the small piece fits.

To Sum Up

In summary, adults should provide age-appropriate puzzles and problem-solving activities to support children’s cognitive development. Encouraging exploration, offering guidance through questions, and allowing children to independently attempt solutions are effective ways to nurture these essential skills. Puzzles offer more than mere entertainment; they serve as valuable tools for fostering cognitive abilities in a enjoyable manner, promoting continuous learning and creativity in problem-solving, as creative solutions often prove superior to obvious ones.