My Little Naturalist
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A Guide to First Montessori Puzzles

A Guide to First Montessori Puzzles from how we montessori
1, 2 and 3 Circle, Square and Triangle Puzzle sold separately at Classic Baby or as part of a set from A2Z Montessori (Australia) or Kid Advance (US). 4. Increasing Circle Puzzle available from Classic BabyA2Z Montessori  (Australia),  Montessori Outlet (US). 5 Circle Sorter Kid Advance or Amazon or Michael Olaf (US). 6 Kid O Recognising Shapes Puzzle from Amazon (US). 7 Shapes Puzzle from Manzanita Kids (US). 8 Part-Whole Perception Puzzle by TAG from Amazon or Michael Olaf (US). 9 Geometric Shapes Puzzle by TAG from Amazon or Michael Olaf (US). 
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Step One. Lay the Foundation - Prepare the Hand
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Once a child is sitting you can introduce activities that encourage and develop grasping and the pincer grip. The Palmer Grasp Cylinder Block and the Pincer Grasp Cylinder Block are materials that will help with this. Small edible items such as rice puffs, organic baby puffs, cooked peas, corn kernels or small bread crumbs on a flat surface will also encourage the pincer at this young age.  
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Step Two. Single Shape Puzzles - Start with a Circle
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When you are ready to introduce the child to a puzzle it is easiest for the child to start with a single shape puzzle. The circle is the easiest, then the square, then the triangle. It's usually best to wait until the child has mastered one puzzle before introducing the next. 
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Step Three. Multiple Part Puzzles - Multiple Shapes or Single Shapes in Multiple Gradients

Once the child has mastered the shapes you can introduce a multiple shape puzzle or a single shaped puzzle in different gradients/sizes. Once the child has mastered these they are ready for more complex puzzles - different shapes or shapes of objects such as animals or cars or puzzles with increased parts or gradients. 
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Jigsaws
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Jigsaws (such as puzzles 8 and 9 above) are best left to an older child/toddler once they have mastered more complex puzzles. Start with a two piece shape puzzle and work up to four and so on.
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Tips
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If you are introducing a puzzle to the child for the first time give them a demonstration before leaving the puzzle on their shelf/work area. Demonstrate the entire process from selecting the puzzle off the shelf, carrying it to a work area or small table to packing it up and carefully placing it back in it's spot to encourage good work habits. Don't expect a child to 'get' the puzzle straight away, sometimes a child will need days or weeks to work a puzzle out. If the child is not using the puzzle at all take it off their shelves and store it away for a week or so and return it when you feel they might be ready. If the child is frequently using the puzzle, even if it seems it's too easy for them, leave it on the shelf as children like to master an activity through repetition. When presenting jigsaws I put them on a small tray to keep them together on the shelf.
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A Practical Reality - What we did
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While it is likely that you will see an entire range of puzzles like this in a Montessori infant or toddler community it is not necessarily practical or affordable to have so many puzzles at home. We decided to purchase only a few puzzles. First we started with the Palmer Grasp and Pincer Grasp Cylinder Blocks. Otis started using the Pincer Block at around nine months old and was still using them at eleven months old. His first puzzle was this multiple shapes puzzle as seen at nine months. At 21 months Otis has started using two piece jigsaw puzzles. 
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Please use this information as a guide only. Next week I will feature some of my favourite puzzles for toddlers and pre-schoolers. 


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