by Alix Tonsgard

While cleaning out my closet recently, I was inspired to dust off an old jigsaw puzzle. The enjoyment of puzzles is one of those activities that seem to span generations. From early childhood to late adulthood, there is just something about the way a jigsaw puzzle challenges our thinking and exercises our minds. In addition to being entertaining, puzzles are a valuable tool for young children in developing important cognitive and physical skills.

Problem Solving

Puzzles increase mathematical awareness and problem-solving skills. Completing a puzzle is a goal-oriented process. Accordingly, the person working on the puzzle takes time to develop strategies on how to approach achieving this goal. This is complicated stuff that involves problem solving, reasoning skills, and developing solutions, all of which are higher-level thinking.

Fine Motor Development

The control of fine muscle movements is dependent upon a great deal of practice. Puzzles are a fun way for children to develop and refine their fine motor skills. They are also strengthening the muscles they need to tie their shoes and write their names.

Hand-Eye Coordination

Similar to fine motor manipulation of puzzle pieces is hand-eye coordination. The brain, eyes, and hands work together to find the piece, manipulate it accordingly, and fit it into the puzzle accurately.


Overcoming the challenges involved in solving a puzzle often provides children with a sense of achievement and pride within themselves, giving them a boost in self-confidence and self-esteem.

Children enjoy puzzle exploration. Very young children will enjoy putting in pieces and taking them back out just as much as they will enjoy fitting them into the right spot. As they grow and learn to rotate pieces to match holes and find pieces that fit, they can handle increasingly complex puzzles. So the next time you are stuck inside on a rainy day, pull out the puzzles.

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Alix Tonsgard is an early learning specialist at the DuPage Children’s Museum.