Church had been dismissed and most of the preschoolers had been collected by their parents. One toddler remained. To keep the child occupied while he waited for his parents, the teacher gave him a puzzle. The boy happily emptied the puzzle pieces, picked one up, studied it, and tried it in various places on the puzzle. Both teacher and boy rejoiced whenever a piece fit where the boy had placed it. When the puzzle was done and the picture complete, the teacher named each object, and the boy repeated the words. The child was having fun, filling time until his parents came. He did not know that he was learning as he played.

Several minutes later, the boy’s older brother came in to wait with the toddler. From the wisdom of three additional years, the brother pronounced, “Oh, that’s easy,” and completed the puzzle in mere seconds. To him the puzzle was a simple toy, easily mastered and not worth his interest except to show his superiority to his little brother.

Adults may view puzzles in the same way: a simple toy, a possible way to fill time, not worth much interest. They may not consider puzzles the teaching tool that they are.

Benefits of Puzzle-solving

Solving a puzzle is good for everyone, from toddler to adult. Perhaps that is why Sudoku, riddles, anagrams, doublets, math puzzles, logic puzzles, and the like remain popular among adults as well as children and youth. The challenge exercises the brain, and success makes the person feel good. Regular Baptist Press carries a book of puzzles for adults, Christian Puzzler’s Paradise by Eric Graefen. This book contxains 60 challenging puzzles in a variety of categories.

Solving a puzzle is especially good for small children. It encourages concentration. It helps improve their motor skills; hand-eye coordination; thinking, reasoning, and remembering skills; and even their social skills. Putting together a puzzle teaches children to explore, make mistakes, and learn.

Uses in the Classroom

Understanding the value of puzzles in education, the editors at Regular Baptist Press have incorporated puzzles into the children’s Sunday School and VBS curriculums. While twos and threes and pre-primaries enjoy assembling simple jigsaw puzzles, older students work on more advanced, age-appropriate puzzles. They learn to observe, recall, judge, compare, classify, and draw conclusions as they work.

Jan Salzman, editorial manager of RBP’s children’s curriculum, says, “Children learn in different ways. They learn best and retain more when they do an activity related to the teaching.” Puzzles in RBP’s activity sheets, take-home papers, and student books provide that kind of activity, reviewing and reinforcing lesson truths.

RBP’s 12 puzzles for children ages 2 to 5 are also designed to reinforce and review lesson truths. Each puzzle has 8 to 10 inlaid pieces and a picture from a Bible story. Educators agree that puzzles help teach children such things as numbers, letters, colors, shapes, and categories (e.g., pets, transportation, foods). Jan says, “Puzzles are a great way to help a child expand his literary and conversation skills while learning God’s Word. He also has an opportunity to review what he has learned about the Bible and God in a casual atmosphere.”

Jan says that classroom helpers should talk with young children as they work on puzzles. She says, “Ask specific questions about the story and the figures. Correct wrong information. Emphasize the desired student response. For example, ‘David is praising God. How do you praise God?’ ” Such guided conversation directs a child’s thoughts to God and His Word. It helps young children understand the relationship between what they do and what the Bible says.

Beyond reinforcement and review, puzzles provide an easy, inexpensive activity for children who finish early, need a change of pace between activities, or are restless and need a break in routine. Perhaps the beauty of puzzles is that even when children rework the same puzzle time and again, they are benefitting both mentally and physically. And puzzles are fun!

  • View all puzzles from Regular Baptist Press