Helping young children solve puzzles in preschool

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!

By |2010-08-28T01:06:24+00:00August 28th, 2010|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.

One Comment

  1. Natalie September 4, 2010 at 11:38 pm - Reply

    I used laminated construction paper to put beside the puzzle and the pieces go on the paper. This helps keep them from getting lost, mixed up with others as well as visual. LOVE your site. I wish such resources were available when I started teaching years ago.

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