The Advantages of Puzzles

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When I hear the word ‘puzzle’ I immediately think of a picture in pieces that needs putting back together. Then I think about logic puzzles, word problems, tangrams….there are lots of different puzzle types I have used with students in the classroom and many I enjoy doing myself. According to Wikipedia, ‘A puzzle is a game, problem, or toy that tests a person’s ingenuity or knowledge.’

Traditional wooden puzzles are a common sight in most homes with small children and for good reason; they are a great toy to engage young children in play. There are many, MANY more advantages to puzzles and, many different types of puzzles that are equally as engaging as those first wooden ones. Here are a few (all listed puzzle types are clickable links):

There are many advantages to puzzles and, many different types that are as engaging as those first wooden puzzles. Here is a list of puzzle types and advantages.
Different puzzle types

To see more great examples, head over to the Flying Sprout Pinterest page.

The Advantages of Puzzles

Some puzzles are great fun, others can be immensely frustrating but they all have their benefits. Here are a few:

Satisfaction of achievement

Completing a task is satisfying and often, the more challenging the task, the greater the feeling of achievement once it is completed. This sense of satisfaction is a great way for children to build an understanding that hard work pays off and brings its own reward.

Patience and persistence

Persisting and having patience when faced with a challenge is not always easy but, as mentioned above, it brings great satisfaction when approaching tasks with a level head and having success.

There are many advantages to puzzles and, many different types that are as engaging as those first wooden puzzles. Here is a list of puzzle types and advantages.

Problem solving strategies

Different puzzles require different approaches in order to solve them. When completing maths, word and logic problems at school children are often encouraged to think carefully about the right strategy to use. These include acting out the problem, drawing a picture, writing a list, looking for a pattern, simplifying the problem, creating a table, working backwards, guess and checking, writing a number sentence or using and using objects.

Hand eye coordination and fine motor skills

Physical puzzles are a great way for children to practise their hand eye coordination and develop those all important fine motor skills.

Fun and rewarding

Puzzles can be used to reinforce learning or they can be used as a fun, rewarding activity. Great satisfaction comes from completing puzzles and this is lots of fun.

Building dept of knowledge on a subject

Whether learning new skills, practising, revising or consolidating understandings, there is a place for puzzles.

Quiet concentration

Some children are naturally quiet, while others take a little more encouragement. Puzzles give all children an opportunity to work with quiet concentration, either on their own or cooperatively with others, to complete tasks.

There are many advantages to puzzles and, many different types that are as engaging as those first wooden puzzles. Here is a list of puzzle types and advantages.

Goal setting

Setting and achieving small goals is rewarding and reinforces the idea that, with hard work and focus, you can achieve your larger goals.

Self correction

Many puzzles are, particularly physical ones, are self correcting. They are either right or they aren’t, so children can work out immediately if they have solved the puzzle.

Skill development

Many puzzles encourage the use of skills that children aren’t necessarily using everyday, skills that are very important such as critical thinking, logical thinking and spatial reasoning.

 

If you have a few spare minutes and enjoy a challenge, have a go at this collection of puzzles.

For more like this, head over to: https://www.puzzles-to-print.com/rebus-puzzles/rebus-puzzles-page-1.shtml
For more like this, head over to: http://www.free-for-kids.com/brain-teasers.shtml
For more like this, head over to: http://www.free-for-kids.com/brain-teasers.shtml
For more puzzles head on over here: http://www.mathinenglish.com/PagePL2P26to30.php
For more puzzles head on over here: http://www.mathinenglish.com/PagePL2P26to30.php

The Benefits of Playing with Play Dough

Playing with play dough is a wonderful tactile experience that is a treasured part of childhood. Manipulating, moulding, rolling out and cutting the colourful dough is not only fun and relaxing, it is assists with building vital life skills too!

Playing with play dough is a wonderful tactile experience that is a treasured part of childhood. Manipulating, moulding, rolling out and cutting the colourful dough is not only fun and relaxing, it is assists with building vital life skills too!

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Manipulating play dough strengthens those all important fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are those that involve the use of small muscles in hands, fingers and thumbs. By strengthening these motor skills children are then more able to hold a pencil and write, cut with scissors, do up buttons, tie shoelaces and correctly use a knife and fork….all fundamental skills they’ll use throughout their lives.

 

As well as being a fabulous material for building fine motor skills, play dough play allows, even encourages, freedom of expression and imagination. Children can create anything they like when playing with the mouldable dough. There are no rules when it comes playing with play dough (except maybe keep it off the carpet!).

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Image from Freepik

Play dough is also a great activity to have on hand for times when your child might be getting tired, frustrated or just generally in need of some quiet time. It is a safe way for them to express them selves and take out frustration in a productive, harm-free way. Tactile stimulation with play dough can be calming and has great benefits for children with hyposensitivity.

 

Children are able to engage all their five senses when playing with play dough. They can see the different colours and creations, feel the play dough change shape as it is moulded, smell the unique fragrance, hear what it does when squeezed or thumped and…lets be honest, as kids most of us had a taste of that salty home made play dough when we were little! Sensory play encourages curiosity as children explore the world through their five senses. Investigating and exploring what play dough can do is, in some ways, even an early scientific investigation.

 

Having play dough available is great when it comes to building numeracy and literacy skills in a fun way. Children can represent different numbers, letters and make sums by using number stamps, forming small balls or rolling out long, thin snakes which can be twisted to form the desired shape. Play dough is also handy for alphabet and spelling activities with letter stamps.

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Play dough is also useful as a tool when learning about colours and shapes. It comes in a huge range of colours so can be helpful when your little one is learning to identify different colours. Primary colours can be mixed to create secondary colours too. Children can make shapes, either flat or 3D, easily with the use of play dough. Flying Sprout’s Tomato Busy Bag uses plasticine, rather than play dough, to build colour and shape skills.

tomato bb pic

Play dough play lets adults be kids too. Playing freely with your child is a wonderful bonding activity and play dough allows you to be working on the same level. Unlike Lego for example, there are no ‘right ways’ of connecting pieces together and any play dough creations made by you are likely to still have a child-like quality to them.

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Image from Freepik

This simple product makes a wonderful gift! Of course there is the popular brand we all know, Play Doh, but I have recently come across a glorious small business which creates beautiful smelling play dough, Happy Hands, Happy Heart. If you’re on Instagram, be sure to check out Emma from Happy Hands, Happy Hearts, she has an amazing Instagram feed featuring very clever play dough art!

 

If you’d prefer to make your own at home, here is a great play dough recipe that doesn’t require cooking!

 

As you can see, I’m a big fan of play dough and believe it definitely offers your child more than a few minutes of quiet play time!

What You Can Do at Home to Help Your Child Learn at School

There are many things, besides structured homework, you can do with your child to help their academic development that are incidental, don’t feel like ‘work’ and are fun for both of you.

In addition to making awesome Busy Bags 😉 I am primary school teacher with 8 years experience and currently work as a tutor so I know a thing or two about helping students learn outside the classroom.

Now that the school year is underway your child has probably come home with some kind of homework that they’re expected to complete. While I don’t love the idea of homework as a whole, the importance of reinforcing skills, particularly reading, cannot be underestimated.

You might find it hard to make time to do anything other than read with your child each night and the burden of homework might rest heavily on your shoulders. What ever you do though, please don’t ignore it completely. Provide your child with a quiet space for them to complete their reading and homework. If spending an hour a week sitting down with your child to work through their homework sounds too challenging, consider blocking out smaller amounts of time. Four 15 minute sessions is much easier to manage than one whole hour of uninterrupted learning.

Mother and daughter helping daughter with her homework

If you and/or your child are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of homework, please talk to their teacher, they may be able to work out some alternative arrangements.

There are many things, besides structured homework, you can do with your child to help their academic development that are incidental, don’t feel like ‘work’ and are fun for both of you.

Many of the recommendations below are suggestions I wrote in reports for my Year 1 students. They are simple activities that can be done in a stress-free way and may be of great help to your child.

 

Reading

  • Reading skills should be supported through nightly reading of the take home book. When reading with your child, encourage them to use different strategies. Help them to read for meaning by asking questions about the text. If a word does not make sense, suggest they re-read the whole sentence/passage to try and understand what the word might mean.
  • Borrow a variety of books from the library. You can check out levelled texts to correspond with the books they are bringing home from school but be sure to also borrow books that are of interest to them. Developing a love of reading opens up a world of possibilities.
  • Read a variety of texts together and at every opportunity. Read newspapers, brochures, menus, shopping lists, catalogues, information on TV adverts, cereal boxes etc. The more your child is exposed to different text types in real life environments, the more value they’ll see in learning to read.

Child holding a open book on white background

Writing

  • Provide your child with fun and entertaining opportunities to trace, colour and write. These activities should help to develop their fine motor skills, in turn leading to better letter formation and neater writing.
  • Practise letter names and sounds with your child by making play dough letters, writing with crayons in the bath or cutting out letter shaped cookies.
  • Help your child practise pronouncing, sounding out and spelling words they regularly use as well as new words they come across.
  • Place word lists in a position at home where they will be seen regularly. Practice reading and spelling from word lists, play games and identify sounds.
  • Encouraging them to write cards and journal entries gives a meaningful way to practise writing well punctuated sentences.
  • Encourage your child to practise writing detailed and interesting letters or postcards to friends and family. You might also consider giving them a scrapbook in which they could write, record thoughts and collect memories.
  • Use Flash cards of letters or common words to build familiarity and help your child to learn sight words.
  • Consider using magnetic letters on the fridge to form words and sentences.

 

Maths

  • Practice basic number facts through quizzes, flash cards and questioning when there are a few spare minutes, such as while preparing meals or during car journeys.
  • When opportunities arise, ask your child to assist you to work out real life problems modelling the solutions e.g. “If I we have 25 grapes to share between the 5 of us, how many will we each get?”
  • Support your child’s numeracy development and number fact recall by encouraging them to play board games like snakes and ladders and work through online math activities such as Mathletics*
  • Practise counting and mathematical operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) using counters, paddle pop sticks or beads. I have a large collection of Busy Bags targeting specific mathematical skills. You can find them here.
  • Find mathematical opportunities everywhere; add the digits on number plates, measure ingredients when cooking, read the time on analogue clocks, count down to events on the calendar, look for shapes and numbers to read in every day locations.
  • If your child is finding a concept challenging, borrow some books on that particular theme e.g numbers, colours, time.

School supplies with calculator

Mathletics and Reading Eggs

Most kids love having access to an iPad or computer and there are many great apps or programs that are both fun and educational. Reading Eggs and Mathletics/Mathseeds are paid programs but are definitely worth the investment. Your child can work through short, engaging lessons at their level and develop base level literacy and numeracy skills before building upon them. You might find your child already has access to these programs through their school. I highly recommend signing up for a free trial to see if you and your child likes the program. (After your free trial you will be offered a discounted rate to subscribe, though maybe not immediately so hold out a little while if you’d like to save a few dollars.)

 

It doesn’t need to be stressful or overwhelming when it comes time to help your child with academic learning outside of school. Hopefully you can see from the suggestions above that there are are plenty of opportunities to extend everyday activities to make them richer learning opportunities.

If you’re after more ideas and pre-prepared activities to help your child with their learning, head on over to Flying Sprout’s online store to browse the full range of fun and educational activities.