For more than 20 years I’ve challenged myself to get kids excited about learning. Whether it’s my own children at home or my students at school, I have searched for the best ways to encourage them to love that feeling when they think deeply and creatively, and ultimately find an answer. I’ve always gravitated toward puzzle-type activities to encourage that thinking because, deep within me, I’ve known it is good for kids’ brains and hearts. Here’s my take on How Puzzles Benefit the Whole Child:
1. Puzzles Are a True Mental Workout. When kids solve puzzles*, they have to use nearly every part of their brains while solving. To be efficient, puzzles require the solvers to read and understand the goal, plan ahead, think critically, think creatively, and remember past experiences that have led to correct answers. If the puzzle is something active, it could also call for motor coordination. When completed in groups, puzzles require support with behavior and social emotional regulation. This is a major workout for our kids’ brains, and a great opportunity to strengthen their ability to become flexible, deep thinkers.
2. Puzzles Can Improve Your Kids’ EQ and IQ. Lots of research has been shared about increasing IQ scores. But with such easy access to information in today’s world, I’m most interested in making sure my kids grow up with skills to interact and collaborate with other people. Solving puzzles in pairs or small groups is a great way for kids to learn better collaboration and teamwork skills. Of course, kids need guidance to learn these skills, but puzzles are a perfect avenue to build them. Solving Fun’s Solving Guide shares some strategies to build lots of skills through puzzle solving.
3. Puzzles Improve Problem-Solving Skills. Adults analyze situations and make choices many times each day. We often know what to do without really thinking about it. How did we learn to do this? Lots of practice. Just like any activity, in order to strengthen skills, you have to practice. What better way than with a fun activity that has so many various benefits? By definition, puzzles are games that test ingenuity. In order to find the final answer to a puzzle, solvers have to understand the challenge, think through past experiences, apply various strategies, and persevere through to the end. Kids have to be problem solvers every step of the way in any puzzle they solve.
4. Puzzles Help to Build Strategies for Greater Attention to Detail. How many puzzles have you tried that seem so simple, until you realize there are sneaky details that make it super challenging? Those are often kids’ favorites. The trickier the better*. Those tricky pieces are what teaches kids’ brains to take the time to pay attention to details. Puzzles often include specific directions, hidden clues, and multiple steps. When kids’ find success with each of these, they are much more likely to notice those multiple steps and tricky directions in other places.
5. Puzzles Can Lower Stress Levels and Increase Perseverance, Focus, and Productivity. I have seen many of my students get lost in puzzles* within minutes of getting started. No matter the type of puzzle, all outside stress drifts away when they are focused on finding the right answer to a clue. Even when the puzzles are challenging, with practice and support, kids learn strategies to deal with frustration and persevere. Kids’ lives are often so busy, that they often don’t sit down to engage in a task for more than a few minutes at a time. Giving them the opportunity to be away from a screen, try out a challenge, think deeply, and find success in that challenge will build their confidence and lead them to productivity and focus in other areas of their lives.
*An important piece to this is that puzzles need to be the right challenge level for any solver. Anything entirely too easy or difficult is never fun. In order for puzzles to be a worthwhile activity, the solver needs to have the skills (and/or support) to be able to find the answer.
Have you seen any of these benefits in your kids? What other benefits have you witnessed?
Find lots of puzzles that kids will love at SolvingFun.com!