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Puzzle play by age (and developmental stage)

by | Mar 12, 2021 | Just Kids, Play + Learn | 4 comments

Puzzles… This has to be one of the most underrated toys of the moment! It’s easy to forget why this classic has proven it’s worth generation after generation, especially in our digital age of screens and buttons. Yet, puzzles hold far more value than we think… That’s why parents need to know more about puzzle play by age! This blog post will help you choose the right puzzle for your child’s stage of development, helping them build not just a pretty picture but also important life skills. (It’s also a fantastic way to ease your little one into independent play – giving mama a much-needed break from time to time

benefits of puzzle play

Types of puzzles available…

Puzzles are categorised into 2 main groups:
  1. Insert Puzzles: These include all those fun 1st puzzles. Chunky wooden puzzles, knob and peg puzzles.
  2. Jigsaw Puzzles: These are puzzles we build well into adulthood. They include frame puzzles, floor puzzles and 3D puzzles.
A quick look at each:

types of puzzles

* Frame puzzles are smaller jigsaw puzzles (great for beginners), usually made from wood with a limited amount of pieces. The frame proves a guideline when putting the pieces together.

* Floor puzzles don’t just refer to the size of the puzzle but are actually the classic jigsaw puzzles most of us know. They are usually made from cardboard and come in a rectangular shape but unconventional shapes such as an octopus, cameleon etc are also classified as floor puzzles. 

age appropriate puzzles for kids3d puzzles south africa

Now for puzzle play by age (and developmental stage)

To keep puzzle play fun and to get the full benefits, puzzles need to be age-appropriate. Giving a toddler, a puzzle meant for an 8-year-old will only lead to frustration. Puzzles need to be enjoyable and just challenging enough to keep your little one’s attention and brain active without making them feel incompetent.

The image below will help you choose according to types of puzzles and the appropriate number of pieces but always remember to take into consideration your little one’s interests, as well as learning themes you may want to promote.

how to choose the right puzzle for your baby and toddler

how to choose the right puzzle for your child

* Contrast refers to how easily different parts of the puzzle can be identified and placed together. High contrast images are easy to identify and make use of simple images and bright colours. Medium to low contrast pieces proves more challenging. Think of a puzzle depicting a lush green jungle for instance. With mostly variations of greens to work with – it’s not always easy to identify which pieces go where. These types of puzzles are considered low contrast. 

100 piece puzzles south africa

5 Tips to enhance puzzle play:

  1. Kids need to learn how to build puzzles. This takes time. Fight your urge to “do it for them” and rather provide verbal guidance (and a lot of patience). Over time your little one should be able to build an age-appropriate puzzle without any help at all.
  2. Take puzzle play further by asking questions about the images on the puzzle. It could be a basic concept such as learning about colours and shapes and numbers. Even farm animals and food. Or the puzzle could be depicting a world map, a moment in history, nature or science. You won’t just be feeding your child’s vocabulary and speech skills but also growing their knowledge.
  3. Do puzzle swaps amongst friends and family to add some variety but remember, kids love building the same puzzles over and over again – getting better at it over time.puzzle play by age
  4. Keep puzzle play interesting by adding cool, interesting puzzles as the kids get older. Think 3D puzzles, puzzles with interesting shapes with pictures that glow in the dark or that include pop-up pieces and books.
  5. Build a puzzle together! And teach your little one helpful strategies to make puzzle play more enjoyable such as turning all the pieces face up, sorting pieces according to colour and building the frame 1st.

best puzzles for a 10 year old3d puzzles from timeless toys south africa

Our current favourite puzzle brand:

sassi puzzle review

  • SASSI (These are all the puzzles photographed and featured in this post.)

We have A LOT of puzzles but recently Timeless toys introduced us to SASSI, and they have instantly become a favourite! This is puzzle play but on another level!

Each puzzle comes with a book! That means loads of added value and learning. Whether it’s factual, teaching kids about science, geography or the moon landing or completely fictional enhancing language development and social skills through fun stories about magical unicorns or animals in a tree… These are incredible! The illustrations are beautiful and created by artists exclusively for SASSI. All puzzles (and books) are printed on FSC certified paper and board, using environmentally friendly inks. The quality is amazing and the pieces are easy to handle. The packaging is mindful too, using minimal single-use plastic and the boxes double as portable storage or books. We can’t recommend SASSI enough! I promise it’s one of the best investments you’ll add to your little one’s toy collection (these photos kind of say it all).

puzzles for toddlers

SASSI Junior focuses on kids 5years and under – think giant puzzles, cardboard books, memory games etc.

sassi puzzles south africa

SASSI Science is for kids 6years and up – think bigger puzzles with interesting shapes and more pieces, added pop-ups, 3D models, science and engineering sets and more.

Other puzzle brands we love:

A boutique, woman-owned toy manufacturer based in New York, that specialises in useful, beautiful and well-made games, puzzles and gifts. Each product features original artwork commissioned from the finest children’s book illustrators and contemporary designers. All of their products are made from high-quality materials and natural inks, with a strong and sturdy design.

eeboo puzzles south africa

Founded in the heart of Paris, Djeco is now one of the top toy manufacturers in Europe. Because play is essential to a child’s development, this collection is both entertaining and educational, awakening youthful curiosity and enriching young imaginations with beautiful and fantastical art and clever design.

djeco puzzles south africa

Orchard Toys is a leading manufacturer of award-winning educational games, puzzles and activities for children aged between 18 months and 12 years. Orchard games and puzzles are designed with the ethos of “learning made fun” and while parents will enjoy the trusted educational values, the products are so much fun that kids will just want to play, time and time again! Manufactured in the UK from 100% recycled board with sturdy, wipe-clean cards and pieces.

orchard toys puzzles south africa

A beloved educational brand that needs no introduction. We simply love our M&D wooden peg and knob puzzles, especially the sound puzzles.

Because local is always “lekker”! A proudly South African brand with a big heart celebrating the beauty found in our country. Shweet puzzles are also made using 100% FSC-certified recyclable paper and non-toxic soy-based inks. They also source as many local materials as possible, when creating their products.

shweet puzzles south africa

Another local company specialising in a variety of educational products. Their collection of wooden “Smart Starter” puzzles designed and made in South Africa was our girls’ very 1st jigsaw puzzles. They have images that represent our South African culture and heritage as well as bilingual products too.

rsg puzzles south africa

Now don’t forget our DISCOUNT CODE…

justamamma discount code 1 1

CLICK HERE to visit

puzzle play by age and developmental stage

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  1. Lisa

    Love this post! So many great tips and resources! Thank you!

    • Mari-Louise

      Thank you so much Lisa, glad you found it helpful too.

  2. Carmel

    Super cool post thank you for sharing

    • Mari-Louise

      My pleasure Carmel. Glad you found it helpful too.


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