Why buy a puzzle for kids?
Kids of all ages, from toddlers to teenagers, can enjoy and benefit from putting together a puzzle. Puzzles give a boost to their creativity, concentration, and problem-solving skills. For younger children, in particular, putting together a jigsaw puzzle helps to develop their hand-eye coordination, fine and gross motor skills, and memory retention. They learn patience and self-correction as they’re working on the puzzle and make mistakes that need fixing. If you buy a puzzle that has a map or numbers or letters on it, your child may even learn and retain new facts and information as they’re putting together the puzzle without even realizing it. If the puzzle is large and challenging enough, the entire family can enjoy working on it together, creating fun, social bonding time together. Since puzzles can be deconstructed and put back together as many times as you want, lots of kids will love to put together their favorite puzzle over and over again.
What should you look for in puzzles for kids?
- Age Range: While some are suitable for almost any age, there are models aimed at specific age groups, since a preteen or teenager can obviously handle a more challenging and intricate puzzle than a three-year-old. Younger kids with shorter attention spans are likely to give up if the puzzle is too hard while teenagers will become bored with simple puzzles they can put together in a few minutes. If you have a toddler, you’ll want to avoid puzzles with small pieces as they can be a choking hazard and are harder for little hands to grasp; the younger the child, the bigger the pieces should be. Most puzzles will have an age range listed on the box or product description so be sure to check this before buying a puzzle of any sort.
- Image: There are a near-unlimited number of different subjects and topics for kids’ puzzles. Cartoon characters, pets, dinosaurs, mythical creatures, landscapes, underwater scenes, outer space, cityscapes, and much, much more are all available. Be sure to pick an image that appeals to your child’s particular interests, as this makes it more likely that they’ll stay engaged for longer and want to complete the puzzle. The image can also be holographic, shiny, matte, or even three-dimensional, which can make the puzzle more challenging or enhance your child’s enjoyment.
- Material: In general, most kids’ puzzles will be made out of cardboard, wood, or foam. Each type of material comes with its own benefits and drawbacks. Wood is nice and sturdy and is very aesthetically pleasing but you’ll have to be careful and make sure the edges are properly sanded. If not, they may sliver and cause cuts, scrapes, or splinters. Cardboard is inexpensive and versatile, but it’s not quite as durable. Foam is gentle, often colorful, and locks and stays together well, but it’s more of a choking hazard for toddlers and really young children. Some 3D puzzles may be made out of paper, which tends to come with the same pros and cons and cardboard.
What are the different types of puzzles for kids?
Most kids’ puzzles will fall under one of two categories: classic jigsaw puzzles and inset puzzles. The main difference between the two is that inset puzzles will always have some sort of frame or tray that the puzzle pieces fit into, and the pieces don’t interlock the way they do with a jigsaw puzzle. Jigsaw puzzles slot together to create an image; inset puzzles require the pieces to be inserted into the correct individual, typically non-connected slots to form the picture or shape.
Melissa & Doug 4-in-1 Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles
This convenient set of wooden puzzles not only provide you with four puzzles for the price of one but a convenient sliding storage box as well.
Pros: You receive not one, not two, not three, but four puzzles for the price of one with this puzzle set, and since they’re made out of more durable wood as opposed to cardboard, you know you’re getting a good bang for your buck—especially since a wood storage box, with organizational compartments to keep the different puzzles pieces from getting mixed up, also comes included with your purchase. Each of the four puzzles in the set has a different picture on the front though they all have a common theme. If you don’t think your child would like the featured theme never fear, there are five total different themes from which to choose.
Cons: These puzzles were designed for children aged three to six in mind. Be careful with the slide-on lid of the included storage box, too, as it jams easily if not lined up properly or shoved on too quickly.
Bottom Line: If your little one is between the ages of three and six years old, this wooden jigsaw puzzle set will be a perfect addition to their toy chest.
Melissa & Doug Farm Wooden Chunky Puzzle
These chunky insert puzzle pieces are easy for little hands to grasp and won't prove to be a choking hazard for toddlers and young kids.
Pros: As any parent with a toddler could tell you, they aren’t the most gentle or careful people on earth. Any toy made for toddlers should be durable enough to hold up to being smashed, grabbed, thrown, and chewed on, and this insert-style puzzle and its pieces are exactly that. They’re made of wood rather than cardboard so they can better withstand rough play. The pieces themselves are big and chunky, making them both large enough for toddlers to get a firm grip on and too big to be a choking hazard. There are six possible design variations of this puzzle to choose from, and since the insert-style pieces are removable, your toddler can also play with them as toys separate from the puzzle aspect.
Cons: Any child over the age of five likely won’t find this challenging enough to be worthwhile. And while the wooden body of the pieces and frame are nice and durable, there is a risk that the paint will scratch or peel over time.
Bottom Line: This insert wooden puzzle was made specifically with toddlers in mind—it’s the perfect combination of safe, simple, and durable for children between the ages of two and five.
CubicFun 3D Puzzles for Kids
Give your older kids and preteens more of a challenge with this fun, realistic, 3D paper puzzle kit.
Pros: A 3D puzzle like this one is a fun, new, unique challenge for kids ages eight and older. This paper puzzle builds up to a 3D, paper and foam, high realistic model of the New York City skyline, or one of the other three alternative cityscapes or famous landmarks available. Don’t let the 3D aspect or paper construction fool you either—this is still a puzzle that is assembled as such, so it won’t require any glue or tools to put it together or hold everything in place once it’s finished. If your child finds themselves in need of guidance when working on this puzzle, the included instructional book and handily numbered pieces will help ensure that the entire model is put together properly.
Cons: While not ridiculously expensive by any stretch, this 3D puzzle is definitely pricier than a more standard jigsaw or insert puzzle will cost you. Due to its higher number of pieces (123 in total), more complex build, and paper construction, it is more complicated and delicate for younger kids.
Bottom Line: The 100+ pieces and complexity of the finished puzzle will give your kids a sense of pride upon completion. This is an especially good puzzle to work on with your child and for any kid who has shown an interest in hobbies like model airplanes or trains.
Mudpuppy Map of the United States of America Puzzle
The perfect blend of fun and educational, this map-style puzzle will help your little one learn geography and capital cities as they're putting the pieces together.
Pros: Map puzzles are a great way to sneakily ensure that your child is learning as they’re playing, and this model is more than up to the task. If you choose the United States or map of Europe version, they’ll learn not just the layout of the continent and the geography of the states/countries but the state capitals and each state’s signature nickname or the translation of each country’s name in several different languages; if you pick the solar system version, they’ll learn where each plant is located in relation to each other and their names in three languages. All of these bonus facts are found on the back of the double-sided pieces. The bright colors and pictures of this puzzle will make it more appealing and enticing to kids as well, and it’s suitable for a surprisingly wide age range, ages five and up.
Cons: Though this is a classic jigsaw puzzle with interlocking pieces, you may find that it doesn’t slot together as securely as some others.
Bottom Line: Whether you choose the map of the USA, Europe, or the solar system, it lays an excellent foundation for your child to start learning geography or astronomy.
Coogam Wooden Blocks Puzzle Brain Teasers
Your child will have so much fun putting together this bright block-like puzzle that they won't realize they're sharpening their cognitive thinking and problem-solving skills at the same time.
Pros: This unique, brightly colored puzzle offers a slightly different, more creative twist on classic jigsaw puzzles. The pieces slot in next to each other rather than interlocking, so there’s more than one way to assemble this puzzle. You can fill in the entire wooden frame in a different manner each time or use it to create different patterns without using every square inch. Overall, this is a much more versatile puzzle than most and offers extra room for creativity and imagination to thrive. It’s fun to play with individually or in groups, and thanks to the smoothed wooden edges and non-toxic paint, you won’t have to worry for your child’s safety as they’re playing with it.
Cons: The paint on the wooden pieces may chip off over time.
Bottom Line: You can enjoy this pick’s versatility alongside your child, have your kids play with it together to work on their team-building and compromising skills, or allow them to enjoy and create with it on their own.
Inserts and jigsaw puzzles alike are a true playroom staple. You’ve probably seen them in preschools, elementary schools, daycares, and doctors’ waiting rooms to keep children entertained while waiting or during indoor playtime. If you have children at home, regardless of their age, the right puzzle is a great way to keep them entertained and focused for long stretches of time.