Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Our Puzzles at 2.5 Years Old

Seeing as all we seem to do around here is puzzles these days, I thought I would do a quick post on my thoughts on puzzles, and the favourite ones we have out at the moment.

I was doing a little bit of research on the benefits of completing puzzles, and came across this article I thought was interesting. As a child, I was very good at, and very interested in, puzzles. My mom mentioned thinking she must have missed an opportunity to extend this skill, however, as I did not end up being proficient in mathematics as a teenager - despite there apparently being a connection.

This connection between an active experience, the child using their hands to acquire knowledge in indirect preparation for a later skill, is a key component of Maria Montessori's work. She states that "the hand becomes a prehensible organ of the mind", meaning that, once a child becomes able to work with his hands, his hands become an extension of the absorbent mind that once learned simply by observing.

Playing with puzzles apparently helps with the STEM subjects, because, among other things I am sure, it helps a child to develop spatial skills which are needed for these areas in which abstract relationships and concepts are key. Puzzles also help with concentration, goal setting, memory, fine and gross motor skills, and are a great opportunity to broaden vocabulary and story telling with very young children. That is all I am going to say on this matter, as I am most definitely not an expert, but I am obviously a huge proponent.

Some of our favourites right now are:

The Knobbed Cylinders

I accidentally bought a small version from Kijiji (the authentic Montessori one includes ten cylinders in each block), and though I would have preferred the bigger one for the added challenge, this material is a huge hit.

The cylinders are perfect for teaching differences in dimensions and size and have a built-in control of error making it easy for Jerome to correct himself. We have worked up to using three at a time, and he will complete them over and over in a sitting. The cylinders are also perfect for arranging, practising fine motor skills as an extension, as well as counting.

Interlocking (Jigsaw) Puzzles

We have a few cardboard jigsaw puzzles, as well as wooden, which Jerome loves, and his skill level is definitely increasing as he works on them more often. For example, we have a Richard Scarry one he has loved for some time, which he used to require a lot of help with completing. I would need to strategically place the pieces so he could find them, and provide him with many hints. Now he can do it almost completely on his own, though he still prefers to have me sit with him,

This is because making puzzles has become a very social activity for him, and I am happy to support and encourage this opportunity. We have such good conversations about the pictures, the items and characters in the pictures, and talk about new concepts like "edges, cracks, top, and bottom" among many others.

Building Block Puzzle

Benedict got this exact puzzle for his birthday, and at first, I thought it would be much too difficult for Jerome at this stage. The boys love to stack it and knock it over, (or should I say, Jerome loves to stack and little brother loves to knock) but, surprisingly, the difficulty level was not daunting to Jerome as I thought it would be.

I always start by setting all the pieces to the correct side (for example, all on the yellow. robot side) and then we talk about matching the grass sides to the grass sides, and sky to sky. He most definitely is not interested in completing it on his own, but when we have committed to completing it together it has been a wonderful opportunity to learn new words, tell stories, and imagine.

Melissa and Doug Magnetic Dress Up Doll

I found this game at a thrift store, and Jerome has been playing with it every day since. He is very interested in dressing himself right now, so this has been a good extension for him. He loves to talk about the different articles of clothing and is beginning to make up little imaginary games based on the clothing he has matched on the doll.

There we have it, a pretty long post about something that may not be as interesting to other people. I find it so fascinating to see his interests growing, his vocabulary expanding in leaps and bounds, and his powers of concentration deepening. I have found it to be so beneficial for my independent, strong-willed toddler, that I make sure to spend one-on-one time with him every day, and these have been his activities of choice.

Have a great week,

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