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“When children flip, turn, remove, etc. pieces of the puzzle, they are learning the connection between their hands and their eyes.”

Pam Myers, BSEd, Child Development Institute

1. Choose the right puzzle

In the beginning it’s important to choose the right puzzle for your comfort level. If you’re a beginner, it’s best not to select a puzzle with too many pieces. When in doubt, start with fewer pieces—you can always challenge yourself with more pieces the next time.

2. Choose the right image

The first puzzle rule is to choose an image you really like. You want to stay motivated and be able to make progress. A puzzle image with lots of details and assorted colors and patterns makes it easier to find the next piece you’re looking for.

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puzzles help us improve our minds

babies & toddlers

8 mos + Knob Puzzles • Wooden

For Babies and Toddlers: I like to have 1 wooden puzzle and one plastic puzzle to start with.



I personally like the basic 3-4 piece wooden puzzles with large knobs for my babies.  All three of my children started off with the Melissa & Doug Pets Jumbo  puzzle at around 6 months old.  My last baby just turned two, so we passed on our wooden knob puzzle to a friend with a baby. 

At 6 months old, my babies could not place the pieces in correctly, but they could take them out!

Gradually, with practice, they started to be able to put the pieces back in.  We often played peek-a-boo with the pieces and pretended to make the animal sounds when we played.


We have also had the Fisher-Price Brilliant Basics Activity Puzzle .  My 3rd child LOVED being able to open and close the door, crinkle the birds winds and squeek the dog collar.  The extras made it a little more of an interactive toy during the first stages. I tend to limit puzzles that make a lot of noises in our household.


My 2 year old is a master of puzzles and can put these together in just a few minutes.  We take two out at a time and mix the pieces together in a pile so that he has the opportunity to sort the pieces out to the correct puzzle. This adds one more beginning math skill to the activity. Some of these puzzles have pegs and some just have chunky pieces.  Both are easy for little hands to manipulate.  We are slowly trying to introduce the 12 piece wooden preschool puzzles, (see the next section) but he gets frustrated with them.

2+  2-6 Piece Jigsaw • Peg Puzzles • Nesting & Stacking Puzzles

For Preschoolers – I personally thing that they need a minimum of 5 different puzzles to rotate between.  I like to have 3+ wooden puzzles and 2 learning puzzles minimum for each child. Of course, having more can help keep puzzles exciting and new. Try rotating puzzles.  Keep 2-3 in a closet and 2-3 out for use.