Top 7 Montessori Puzzles for Boosting Problem-Solving and Perception Skills

Jigsaw puzzles have been around since the 18th century. Since then, many problem-solving enthusiasts have been enjoying them as their favorite pastime. At first, it started out as a fun afternoon hobby.

Later on, experts discovered numerous health benefits puzzles of jigsaw puzzles. For instance, they can help improve cognition or visual spacing reasoning.

On top of that, puzzles are excellent learning tools for children. There are all sorts of them. You can choose by number of pieces, images, themes, sizes, materials, and much more. 

However, the question that poses itself is:

What Are Montessori Puzzles?

Or rather, what makes a puzzle Montessori? First of all, Maria Montessori never mentioned puzzles by name when she talked about learning materials within her teaching method. However, if we consider the method itself and its focus on hands-on, problem-solving experience, puzzles fall right into this category.

The first thing you’ll notice about Montessori-aligned puzzles is that they differ from regular jigsaw puzzles regarding their shape. They are not just for solving but also for strengthening fine motor skills. They might have more wooden pieces with knobs to hold on to or are larger in size so young children can grasp them.

You might also notice that the images on the puzzles are rather realistic. You won’t see any other imaginary animals, dragons, fairies, or superheroes.

The Montessori method focuses on real-life skills and experiences because young children (6 and under) struggle distinguishing reality from make-believe. Maria Montessori believed that fantasy and fairytales have a place in the later stages of a child’s development.

Finally, they are more often than not made of natural materials such as wood.

What Are the Benefits of Montessori Puzzles for Children?

It doesn’t matter how many pieces a puzzle has. The most important thing is that it is challenging enough but not frustrating for your kid. That way, your child will reap the most benefits from playing with it. Here’s why doing puzzles is great:

1. Memory training

Doing puzzles can improve short-term memory by strengthening connections between brain cells and can generally improve mental speed.

2. Allows for planning and testing ideas

Montessori education is all about trial and error. If a piece doesn’t fit in the place your child intended for it, they’ll try a different approach to find a solution. This encourages children to become more courageous in their pursuits and not always wait for others to show them what to do.

3. Problem solving

Fitting and putting all pieces in the correct place means a task is complete. The more tasks a child completes, the better they become at doing so.

Not only do they become better, but they also grow accustomed to facing problems and solving them. That is how Maria Montessori believed children train to become independent and self-sufficient.

4. Fine motor skills

Grasping and handling differently-shaped puzzles can help children write, button a shirt, or type later on. It also helps build strength and precision in fingers. 

5. Hand-eye coordination

Hand-eye coordination means receiving information via our eyes and sending signals to our hands to perform an action. This is a skill we use almost every wake moment.

However, something like sports or driving a car puts a huge emphasis on this skill. Puzzles are great training for building a strong neural connection between hands and eyes.

6. Spatial awareness

Being perceptive of objects around us or the position of our body in a space is something we rely on all the time. Doing a puzzle forces our brains to create a bigger picture and envision spatial relations between different puzzle pieces.

Also, there is a study that associates a lack of spatial awareness with poor reading scores.

7. Learning teamwork

Solving puzzles is a fantastic opportunity for children to transition from parallel play to associative and cooperative play.

This is a stage in children’s development and social growth when they stop playing by themselves or next to other children and start playing with other kids sharing a common play goal.

8. Developing focus and attention span

We are all aware that our focus can sometimes drift. It happens to adults, and it happens to children, even more so with today's increase in screen time.

However, there are some tips for helping your child focus and concentrate. Taking time to solve a puzzle and focusing on the end goal is one way to do that.

How to Get a Toddler to Play With Puzzles

Introducing your toddler to puzzles can be both an easy and a challenging task. It solely depends on what your child likes. However, here are some tips that will help you to get your kid into puzzling:

1. Pick a puzzle that might interest your toddler. You can try choosing a puzzle with familiar themes for your child. If the puzzle resembles something they already find interesting, they are more likely to warm up jigsaw puzzles.

2. Begin with a puzzle with up to 12 pieces - larger jigsaw puzzles than that might prove too difficult.

3. Try to introduce puzzles when you feel their age and moment are right. You can look for signs of increased focus and times when your little one isn’t irritated or tired.

4. Introduce the puzzle the Montessori way - show, don’t tell. Lay the pieces in front of your child and see how they react. If they immediately start figuring things out, fantastic. If they are a bit puzzled (pun intended) by it, show them once or twice how to do it. Don’t tell - show them. You can use the power of parallel play to get them started.

5. Select an easily reachable place for the puzzle. You want your toddler not only to solve it but actually pick it up from the shelf and return it to it once they’re done playing. This is one of the Montessori principles that teaches a child order, responsibility, and independence.

Now that you know all this, it’s time to pick that perfect puzzle for your toddler.

How to Choose the Best Puzzles for Toddlers

The best puzzles for toddlers are those that keep their attention, exercise their focus, and improve their pincer grasp, and general fine motor control.

There are all sorts of amazing puzzles on the market: wooden jigsaw puzzles, knobbed puzzles, peg puzzles, and others.

However, if you really want puzzles that will help young toddlers on their learning journey and increase their frustration tolerance (ever missed one of the puzzle pieces?), Montessori puzzles are the way to go. Here are some great options for Montessori-aligned puzzles for you to choose from:

Montessori Happy Puzzles (6 Pack).

This is an excellent starting puzzle for those little, still clumsy, hands. It’s great for practicing grasping skills, color recognition, and learning about animals and objects. There are 6 wooden puzzles in one packaging; you can’t go wrong with them as a starting point in your toddler’s puzzling journey.

Montessori Double-Sided Puzzles (5 Pack).

When your toddler becomes a bit more dexterous, you can try these double-sided puzzles. You get 5 of them in one box, and each one has two different images. So, your child can practice completing 10 different puzzles. This one will probably remain fun and engaging for a long time.

Montessori Wooden Puzzles (4 Pack).

This wooden puzzle offers more than just solving it. Your toddler will also learn about numbers and animals. Four of them come in a box, and each puzzle piece is marked by a number and a different color. Now we’re getting into some serious puzzling territory.

Montessori Magnetic Tangram Book

Montessori Magnetic Tangram Book.

It might seem simple at first, but it’s much more complex. Unlike regular jigsaw puzzles, your child can use these 7 tangram pieces to create numerous different designs. They can replicate the ones shown on the cards or think of something completely new. This type of puzzle has been around for centuries. 

Montessori Sorting Puzzle.

Similar to the previous one, this tangram puzzle offers so many options. It comes in a different casing and offers another option for tangram fans. However, the best idea is to combine it with our Sorting Puzzle for the ultimate tangram puzzle experience.

Montessori Wooden Tetris.

Now, you might wonder, “What’s Tetris doing here?” This is not a regular old Tetris. It’s actually an analog one. Your child needs to move every piece by hand to find the solution.

More than that, it comes with all sorts of game ideas for an entertaining afternoon. Finally, it’s a solving toy that brings the same benefits as any other puzzle but with a twist.

Montessori Shape Puzzle.

Our most challenging puzzle comes with whopping 180 pieces. This is when puzzling becomes more than just a hobby. The best thing about it is that it doesn’t have only one solution. It’s an open-ended toy that can be enjoyed for years. Even you might have a great time playing with it.

What to Do With a Puzzle Once Your Child Outgrows It

A familiar situation presents itself once you have picked a puzzle for your toddler and watched them have a blast with it. A completed puzzle stops being interesting.

You might wonder, “Should I have spent all that money on a toy that now just sits on the shelf?” Well, there is something that Montessori schools regularly practice that you can apply at your home right now. There is a way to extend the life of your puzzles.

It’s called - Tracing! It’s one of the best exercises for learning to hold a pen and, ultimately, draw and write. It’s pretty simple, actually.

Your kid will use a pen or a crayon and draw around the edges of their favorite puzzle they don’t find so fun anymore. We all did it as kids. We just used to trace around our hands and fingers.

Now that you know you can double the fun from puzzles, the next step is to order one and try it out.

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