Some people I know have a lot of trouble with spatial tasks. I’m not saying it’s me but… it totally is me. Help your preschooler develop good spatial skills by giving him puzzles. Not, like, videogame puzzles – just real, hold-in-your-hand and lose-half-the-pieces puzzles. Not only do they help with spatial learning, fine motor skills, and hand-eye coordination, but puzzles also provide a great way to practice and reinforce colors, shapes, numbers, letters, and letter sounds.
For classic wooden puzzles, you can’t go wrong with Melissa and Doug. This company makes high quality products in every theme imaginable. Traditional puzzles with fun themes, alphabet puzzles, clock puzzles, puzzles with gears that move, puzzles that make sounds (FYI: These are TERRIFYING if stepped on at 3:00 a.m.), dress up doll puzzles, maze puzzles – you name it! Their big, chunky pieces are easy for little hands to grasp and safe for littles who like to explore with their mouths (follow the printed age guidelines). Find puzzles with handles for children two and under.
If you prefer more lightweight puzzles, check out the offerings from eeBoo featuring fun themes like robot, fairies, space, castles, and animals. This line is beautifully illustrated and inspires your child to create stories about the pictures once puzzles are put together. Try telling your own story first and then encouraging your child to make up something completely different. For more storytelling fun, check out their story cards, activity books, and games.
Sprogs offers a line of 3-D foam puzzles that can be taken on-the-go. Their foam pieces are easy for little hands to manipulate and fit together. Make a roaring dinosaur or a cheerful dollhouse. Bonus: once the puzzles are complete, they’re ready for pretend play (or to be taken apart and put back together again!).
For easily the most beautiful and intriguing puzzles you’ll find, check out the gorgeous and versatile sets from Grimm’s Wooden Toys. Grimm’s puzzles are tiny works of art with vivid colors, graceful lines, and intricate designs. You’ll love watching your preschooler explore these puzzles, turning the Little Flower set into a mini doll village and Small Waterwaves into a bridge and tunnel for cars. Grimm’s also has breathtaking options for older kids and adults like the Large Mandala Lara and the Circle-in-Square Magnet Puzzle. You might find yourself encouraging kids to leave these puzzles out after playtime is over – they’re too beautiful to put away!
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Kristen Berthiaume is a clinical psychologist whose other day job is as mom to three willing product testers. Find her articles on all things child-wrangling at “Parenting with a Ph.D.” over on birminghammommy.com.