Jigsaw Puzzles As Educational Teaching Aides



This is primarily directed to teachers, parents or caregivers whose job it is to understand the benefit of and appropriateness of puzzles. Puzzles of 100 pieces are appropriate for primary school students (6-8 years of age) and for physically and developmentally challenged children and adults.


Concepts and skills falling within guidelines recommended for choosing puzzles for this demographic are: Reading, observation, critical thinking, long term projects.


Provide a space free from clutter and accessible to all. There are two directions here for the role of facilitator, ie. to make suggestions and offer teaching strategies.


Children naturally gravitate to puzzles. Dumping them and putting them back together is in itself a learning process for children.


Reluctant puzzlers lack focus and skill. They need many successful experiences with teaching strategies that will make problem solving easier. Always praise children for their involvement and effort in trying a new puzzle. Involvement and effort thrive on praise for “doing it all by yourself” and finishing a puzzle “cooperatively with a friend”.


Solitary play (paying alone) is quiet activity. It offers needed respite from negotiating with others. Children’s solitary play with puzzles is learning in itself. A self imposed time out. It also occurs in parallel play and group play.


Parallel play: Engagement with the same activity, materials, or in the same vicinity – with no interaction with others. Children accomplish something independently while also in the company of others around them. Move children from parallel play to group play. Encourage them by sitting with 2 or 3 kids and guiding them through puzzle completion. Ask a child that is proficient to help (not take over). Encourage taking turns.


Group Play: Associative or Cooperative: Share and coordinate materials and space but not actually cooperate (hand a piece that’s too far away to reach – this is the bridge–transition – between parallel play and true cooperation.


Cooperative group play, usually seen in children 4 yrs and older involves children really playing together and usually includes a lot of talking and sophisticated negotiations. It is appropriate to request or offer assistance at this age.


Label Puzzles Label the back of each puzzle piece so that puzzles can be easily identified. Labeled puzzles are a great time saver. (Letter or Number) (when mixing one or more puzzles in the same container).


Problem Solving:  A problem is any situation in which the child does not readily see a solution or strategy for tacking the problem. With effective problem-solving skills, children learn how to attack a new situation. Problem solving is not only a key factor in completing puzzles, but a life skill that each child needs. It’s essential that children continue to develop effective problem solving strategies as they go through life. (Mapzzles ®) are a perfect medium to practice at this age since each puzzle can be directed toward solving a different problem. As children practice, slowly gently remove your support, letting the children take responsibility for the process themselves. Discuss strategies. Colors,  vocabulary, scene, border pieces. Remove pieces one at a time, set them face up. Talk your way through placing each piece in the puzzle. Play a game with kids, “Looking for a piece that”……..Yes that’s right! This piece fits because.”……….


● Talk with children about a particular puzzle before taking it apart.


● Actually demonstrate for children how to take the puzzle pieces out one at a time. Look at each piece individually.

  “Flip and dump should be a last resort.”


● Show how to turn all pieces face up before beginning so they can see each piece. Logical piece puzzles –look at each 

   one and discuss its relationship to the whole.


● Border or frame – look at nearby colors –straight side pieces or round corners. Build a border all the way around

   before filling in.


● Look at empty space – guess what shape matches


● Encourage child to turn piece until it fits. If difficulty continues put puzzle piece beside the space, turned in right

   direction so child can see how it fits. Encourage child to twist and turn piece gently instead of trying to force a piece in.


● Move next piece close to child’s hand or touch the next puzzle piece to draw attention to it. Tell child next piece is one

   of three pieces.


● Tap the appropriate space


● Always remember to acknowledge a child’s ability to place the puzzle pieces independently as well as complete the 



Children and puzzles are a perfect fit. For young children playing is learning. Watch children working with puzzles. You can see the wheels turning in their heads as they figure out color, shape, form and consistency. Expand beyond solitary play.



Adapted from dayle m. timmons: Using Puzzles to Teach, Fearon Teacher Aids, A Division of Frank Schaffer Publications, Inc. 23740 Hawthorne Boulevard, Torrance, California 90505-5927





































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