I can’t remember who taught me this little technique for teaching preschoolers how to manage a puzzle but it is a technique I have used for many years with much success.

When a very young child takes a puzzle and dumps all the pieces out, chances are he or she will have a little trouble figuring out where to put the pieces back.

Before the child moves from simple board puzzles to more complex jigsaw puzzles, it can be helpful to teach the child this simple approach.

1. Invite the child to set the puzzle in front of him or her.

2. Encourage the child to take each puzzle piece out and set the pieces to the left side of the puzzle so that all the pieces can be seen.

3. Now invite the child to look at the shape of the puzzle pieces and see if he or she can find that same shape on the puzzle board. The child will be more likely to observe the picture on the puzzle piece but you want to encourage the child to also look at the shape. Encourage the child to pick up the puzzle piece and feel the edges. Are they straight, curved, pointed?  Now look for that same shape on the puzzle board.

Putting pieces of the puzzle to the left helps the child with a few developmental concepts…

  • Promotes visual tracking from left to right which is also how we read and write – from left to right.
  • Promotes the development of organizational skills so that the task of putting the puzzle back together is more manageable.
  • Helps the child to develop spacial awareness and fine motor control.

Of course, we don’t want to over emphasize this technique – we want to allow room for problem solving in the child’s own way as well. In my own classroom, I look for opportunities to give guidance when the child seems ready and give freedom to explore as well.

See this article on Games in the Classroom!