"As the child explores the environment, she becomes aware of and interested in the variety of colours and shapes in the indoor and outdoor environment. This is the time to give very simple shape and colour puzzles as children love to put things inside containers, such as puzzle pieces in spaces that match.
Through early experiences with such puzzles, children can develop many useful skills: handling materials, refining movement, completing a cycle of activity, carrying out logical steps in order, solving problems. There is a built in control of error in puzzles so the child can judge for herself, without the help of another person, if the work has been done correctly. This is high-level mental activity." - The Joyful Child, Birth to Three Years 2008-2009, Michael Olaf.
There are so many reasons to provide good puzzles to the young child but it's hard to know where to start. Today I'm sharing the simple process that we have followed.
- Egg and Cup - The child's first puzzle, two pieces that fit together.
- Palmer and Pincer Grasp Blocks
- Single Shape Puzzles - 1. / 2. / 3. Circle, Square, Triangle.
- Three Shape Puzzles - 4. / 5.
- More Complex Shape Puzzles - 6. / 7. Some of these have five different shapes and some have the same shape in more sizes.
- Chunky Life Like Puzzles - 8. / 9. Fruit puzzles are often popular or animals or transport (trucks, cars). At this stage, I'm still looking for chunky puzzle with knobs.
We start with the Egg and Cup at around 8 months+ when the child is sitting and able to use both hands together. Shortly after this we have introduced the Palmer and Pincer Grasp blocks.
We introduced the single shape puzzle at around 9 months, starting with the circle. The circle is the easiest as it can fit in any direction, no matter which way the child is holding it. Next, we present the square and then the triangle at around 10-11 months.
These puzzles really help the child's developing hand-eye coordination. It's also lovely to watch the child's satisfaction when they have completed the puzzle. At 11 months we are now introducing multi-shape puzzles. Otto is using the Three Circle Puzzle (4.) and the Square, Circle, Triangle Puzzle (5.). These are the right fit for him, not too easy not too hard. These puzzles each have three shapes on them. Later we could introduce shape puzzles with more than three shapes on them (6. and 7.), I'm estimating at around 12-14 months+.
We've recently received giant knobbed puzzles that are slightly more complex in shape (8. and 9.). I'm estimating for 14-18 months+. There are a couple of reasons why I like them in Montessori terms - they are a good size for the toddler (they are much larger than they look), they still have knobs supporting the pincer grasp, they feature objects that are likely to be familiar to the toddler (fruit, common farm animals) and the images are life-like.