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What Children Learn From Wooden Puzzles

Research has demonstrated that children who develop strong spatial skills early on can grow up to be more skilled at spatial reasoning tasks like reading maps, graphs, and diagrams. That’s why we introduce wooden puzzles to babies when we observe their developing fine motor skills are ready.
Toddler playing with First Puzzles
The Monti Kids program includes "First Puzzles" in the Level 4 Montessori Box, which babies start right around their first birthdays.

In the years ahead, your child will spend countless hours exploring the pleasures of puzzles. With these simple wooden puzzles, they get an early introduction to the satisfaction of putting pieces in their place.

These puzzles’ simple design is ideal for young children—with each one isolating a single shape, and each piece providing a small knob for easier handling. Free of distractions like colorful illustrations, the puzzles encourage concentration and help a young child focus on the task at hand.

As they boost your child’s cognitive development, puzzles work both fine and gross motor skills. Your child has to grasp the knob firmly and with control to guide the piece in place—giving them practice with motor planning (thinking through how to use their body to accomplish a goal), problem-solving, and spatial awareness. This combination of challenges is what makes puzzles so beneficial and fun for children.

Monti Kids Toy Tips: Introducing Wooden Puzzles

While your child is playing…

  • Present the puzzle at a small table or on the floor.
  • Start with one piece. After they’ve had some practice with it, move on to a different piece.
  • After they’ve become familiar with all the pieces, rotate the different puzzles to help maintain their interest.

What to say: 

Begin with the piece already in place. Then use a tripod grasp to grip the knob and tilt the piece up. Hold it with the base of the frame facing toward you—looking back and forth between the base and the frame to emphasize their relationship. Place the piece on the table and remove your hand so your child can absorb that the piece is out of the frame, then state what you did: “I took the circle out of the frame.”

When demonstrating how to place the piece back in the frame, grasp the handle with a tripod grip, then turn it over to put your child’s focus on the base. Rest the edge of the piece next to the edge of its space in the frame, then tip the piece into place. Remove your hand, then state what you did: “I put the circle into the frame.” Take the circle out again and invite your child to take a turn.

In the Level 5 Monti Kids box, the puzzles share a frame, challenging your child to distinguish the shapes from one another.
Concentration manifests when a child directs their mind, body and will towards an activity.
Zarah Kassam
Founder, Monti Kids

Research About Wooden Puzzles for Toddlers

A recent study conducted at the University of Chicago shows that children who display stronger spatial skills at an early age, can also grow up with a more advanced understanding of numbers. These children perform better when learning the number line and solving math problems, both in geometry and arithmetic. Introducing this kind of play now provides a strong benefit “since spatial learning is malleable and can be positively influenced by early spatial experiences.” Working with puzzles, building with blocks, and navigating obstacle courses are all activities that help children develop their spatial awareness.

Fraction Circle Puzzles

What’s next? Fraction Circle Puzzles!

Like many Montessori toys, this puzzle, included in Level 8 of the Monti Kids program, invites self-correction. As your child practices, they will come to observe when they have placed the pieces in the wrong order. They will problem solve and eventually learn to self-correct.

Puzzles enhance spatial awareness as your child organizes, categorizes, and arranges the pieces. Later, they will engage in less trial and error and begin to plan ahead, thinking abstractly about how to fit the pieces. A Fraction Circles wooden puzzle presents a great opportunity for introducing spatial and mathematical language.

Using such vocabulary in the early years improves mathematical and spatial skills in later life.  After introducing the words whole, half, thirds, and quarters, use these in everyday activities. For example, offer your child a choice between a whole, half, or quarter of a sandwich.

While nearly all students eventually learn how to count and add single-digit numbers, research shows that some adults never gain a deep understanding of fractions and how to work with them.

Offering your child hands-on experience with physical representations of fractions builds a solid foundation for later studies of fractions.

Tip: Baking and cooking with your child is an excellent way to experience fractions in a real-world context as you measures and mix ingredients.

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