Preparing children for starting school - the humble puzzle!

Jigsaw puzzles are often an underrated resource that has particular benefit for children who are starting primary school. They help children develop physical, cognitive and emotional skills. These skills are crucial in helping children to achieve a flying start to their education.
So how do these skills benefit children within the classroom environment?
Physical Skills
As children flip, turn and remove pieces of the jigsaw, they are refining their hand to eye coordination and developing the muscles in their hands and fingers, thereby improving their fine motor skills. These skills are crucial for drawing and learning to write. Floor puzzles which have larger pieces foster gross motor development including coordination and balance as children move around the puzzle to select pieces and fit them into place. Good gross motor skills are needed for children to navigate the classroom successfully and achieve independence.
Cognitive Skills (ability to communicate, think, and problem solve).
Jigsaws give children one of their first experiences of shape, from recognising the shape required and finding the corresponding piece that fits. Adults can informally use the language of colour, shape and size whilst supporting children which is an important element of early number. Equally this process requires memory skills as children have to recall the size, colour and shape of pieces. Memory is crucial when children are learning to read and write.
Puzzles teach children problem solving and logical thinking. The first goal is to solve the puzzle, the next goal is a series of strategies to solve the puzzle. Problem solving and critical thinking skills contribute to children’s learning, independence and confidence. In addition children develop resilience if they encounter difficulty and then persist to complete the puzzle.
Puzzles offer adults the opportunity to increase the vocabulary of the child through discussion of the picture and tactics. Working with others to complete a jigsaw encourages communication and can help strengthen relationships. Language and communication skills are key to learning, making friends and being independent.
Emotional skills
Slowly working through a puzzle teaches children patience, perseverance and resilience and they are rewarded on completion of the picture which gives them a sense of achievement. All of these skills contribute to a child’s self-esteem.
Puzzle building develops many aspects of the characteristics of learning targeted in the first year of school.
So there you have it - a one-stop cognitive development and character building activity all in a box!
The next time you share a puzzle consider our top 5 tips
·        Choose jigsaws that suitably challenge your child’s ability
·        As the adult model little tricks and tips such as sorting the corners first, colour / pattern matching
·        Talk about the finished image
·        Revisit favourite puzzles to build confidence and independence
·        Try creating your own puzzles from old birthday cards and pictures of favourite characters