Buying Guide for Puzzles for Kids
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 and fix mistakes. 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 3-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’s practically an 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 cause cuts, scrapes, or splinters. Cardboard is inexpensive, versatile, and common, 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 as 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 sequence within an open slot to form the picture or shape.
Our Picks for the Best Puzzles for Kids
Melissa & Doug 4-in-1 Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles
This set of wooden puzzles gives you four puzzles for the price of one and a convenient sliding storage box.
Pros: You receive four puzzles for the price of one with this puzzle set, and since they’re made out of durable wood instead of cardboard, you know you’re getting a good bang for your buck—especially since a wood storage box with organizational compartments 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. There are five total different themes from which to choose.
Cons: These puzzles were designed for children aged 3 to 6 in mind. Be careful with the slide-on lid of the included storage box, 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 3 and 6 years old, this wooden jigsaw puzzle set will be a perfect addition to their toy chest. Pick a theme they enjoy and entertain them again and again with this set.
Melissa & Doug Underwatwer Ocean Floor Puzzle
A large floor puzzle that's great for budding problem solvers.
Pros: Melissa & Doug is a fan favorite with parents and caregivers because of the imaginative screen-free play that this brand supports. If you’re looking for a larger floor puzzle that’s ideal for preschool-aged tots, you’ll like this 48-piece puzzle that measures 2 by 3 feet. The thicker cardboard is ideal for little hands, and the larger pieces are easier for them to handle.
Cons: While cute, this might not be a practical option for homes with less available floor space to dedicate to a puzzle of this size.
Bottom Line: As long as you have the floor space to dedicate to a puzzle this large, this fun oversized underwater-themed puzzle is a great way to keep little hands and minds busy without the need for electricity.
CubicFun National Geographic 3D Taj Mahal Puzzle
When classic 2D puzzles aren't enough to keep you occupied, you can watch architectural wonders come to life.
Pros: If you or your children have tired of the traditional flat puzzles, it’s time to up the ante with a 3D version. While not new by any means, they’re definitely more challenging. Along with the Taj Mahal, you can choose from other iconic buildings from across the world like the Colosseum, Empire State Building, Tower Bridge, and Notre Dame de Paris.
Cons: This puzzle is intended for a slightly older demographic, as the brand notes that it takes roughly 1 to 2.5 hours to complete.
Bottom Line: If you’re stuck inside on a rainy or chilly day, this 3D puzzle is a great way to spend some time with children around 10 or older.
Momo & Nash World Map for Kids
Make geography fun with this immersive puzzle that's easy to assemble and brightly colored.
Pros: Who says that fun and education can’t co-exist? This 75-piece puzzle features a brightly colored world map that brings geography to life with an illustrated representation of landmarks and animals that are native to each region of the world. The larger pieces are ideal for younger children and are safe for kids as young as 8 years old. Choose from a U.S., world, or solar system map.
Cons: While colorful with big pieces that are ideal for little hands, sometimes, parents will need to step in and help finish the puzzle because of some tricky pieces.
Bottom Line: Get kids excited about the world around them through this educational puzzle that makes geography fun.
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 skills at the same time.
Pros: This unique, brightly colored puzzle offers a more creative twist on classic jigsaw puzzles. The pieces slot in next to each other (like Tetris blocks) 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 puzzle’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.
Puzzles 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 longer stretches of time.