My boys have been super into puzzles lately! In an effort to go off of their lead and follow their interests while still keeping things challenging, I have tried to make use of our puzzles in a variety of ways.
With my youngest, who is 22 months, we are really focusing on his language, communication, and turn taking these days. Sitting down with him and interacting with these puzzles has been a really great tool for us, and he even made up his own game of “knock-knock, who’s there?” which definitely makes my mama heart sing!
One-on-one interaction is so important for language development, and I think that even if you aren’t necessarily keen on sitting down to play cars or dolls, puzzles are an easy and inviting way to get that interaction time in!
Whether you are looking for a quick and simple activity to set up, or just want a way to make the same old puzzles interesting again, check out these 5 different ways to use your puzzles in play!
1. Hidden Pieces
Try hiding the puzzle pieces inside tin foil or wrapped up in some tissue paper. Your little one will have so much fun unwrapping the pieces and discovering what’s inside! This is also excellent fine motor practice for those little fingers as they work to unwrap each piece…they may even want to try wrapping up the pieces again by themselves!
For a super quick option for this, simply place a sticky note on top to hide each piece, or even use a sticky note to cover up the empty space and have them lift it up and search for one piece at a time.
2. Sensory Bin Puzzle Hunt
Another fun way to enhance your puzzles is to add the pieces to a dry sensory bin using a base such as coloured rice or shredded paper, add some tongs for extra fine motor practice and let your little one hunt for all the pieces!
3. Puzzle Piece Sort
Who says you can only use one puzzle at a time! Mix up the pieces from a 2-3 puzzles and challenge your little one to sort through the pieces and put them back with the right puzzle! My 22 month old loved doing this with our two zoo puzzles!
To extend this activity even further, set out some pieces of coloured construction paper and see if they can sort the pile of pieces by colour first before finding their place in the puzzle boards! We had a few that my 3.5 year old had a hard time fitting into one category, which is why in the pictures the zebras are in between the black and white, and the lions head seemed more orange while the body was yellow! This is great for problem solving and language!
4. Scavenger Hunt
This one might be especially great to set up on a rainy day when you might need a little extra movement! Hide the pieces of a puzzle around the room, then set out the empty puzzle board with a magnifying glass and a note challenging your little one to search for the missing pieces. They are sure to have so much fun playing detective!
5. DIY Outline Puzzles
This may not seem like much, but simply tracing the puzzle pieces onto a piece of construction paper for your little ones to match can provide a big challenge for them.
First, you can rearrange the order of the pictures from where they are on the original board, meaning that if your little one has memorized where the pieces go, they will have to work a little harder to solve the puzzle!
If your puzzle board also has pictures to match, then only having the outline to go off makes this version tricky as well!
Another added challenge is that there are no indents to provide your child with instant confirmation when they have matched the right piece.
My 3.5 year old found this activity a little frustrating at first. He said the pieces kept “slipping” and he got stuck between the elephant and the hippo pieces, but he was really proud when he had matched them all and even did a little happy dance!
*BONUS* To level up this activity one step further, you could make a sun-faded outline sheet to match the pieces. This will take a little longer and might be best to do outside in the summer, but it doubles as a fun science experiment so that is a big bonus!! All you have to do is let your little one pick a colour of construction paper, set it on a tray, then place the puzzle pieces on top and leave them in the sun light for at least a few hours. The sun will fade only the paper around the puzzle pieces leaving you with a shadow outline puzzle board!!
I hope you find these ideas helpful!
May you be inspired to play always,