Headstart for Life

Getting the most out of your toys: Part 2

Posted on Monday, June 19, 2017 by 2 minutes

Hello everyone! Welcome back to HeadStart for Life’s blog!

Previously, I discussed several ways in which we can use a toy that most of us will be very familiar with to support various aspects of your child’s development. That familiar toy was blocks. Hopefully, that post had provided some inspiration for you to think of other ways to play with toys that your child seemed to have outgrown.

In this post, we will continue to explore different ways in which we can use the same toy to support your child’s development! I have chosen another toy that will very likely be present in every child’s home – puzzles!

Puzzles come in various forms and sizes. Starting with 2 piece puzzles for toddlers as young as 1+ to puzzles consisting of thousands of pieces for adults, each type is designed to suit different age groups. Let us have a look at how puzzles can be used for various types of learning/play!

For the toddlers

Developing vocabulary

How to play?

Are you trying to teach your toddler new vocabulary? Start with developing their understanding of the words by holding up 2 or more puzzle pieces and asking them to identify the target (e.g. “Take giraffe” when shown a giraffe and lion) before placing it on the puzzle board. After your toddler develops more understanding of the vocabulary, ask them to request for the puzzle that they want (e.g. “giraffe!” or “I want giraffe!”). More functional than starting with flashcards!

This can help to develop…

  • Concentration
  • Language skills
  • Motor skills
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Photo credit: http://fisher-price.mattel.com/shop/en-us/fp/baby-toys/growing-baby-animal-activity-puzzle-w3110

 

Turn-taking

How to play?

Turn-taking is an important foundation skill for communication and social skills. Start teaching your toddler turn-taking skills through the use of simple activities such as puzzles! Take turns to choose a puzzle piece and fix it on the board. Comment on whose turn it is (e.g. “my turn”, “your turn”). Playing with puzzles does not have to be a solo activity.

This can help to develop…

  • Turn-taking skills
  • Language skills
  • Waiting skills

For the preschool children

Pretend Play

How to play?

Need a sheep to complete the family of animals at the farm? Use the sheep from the animal puzzles! Is the doll going on holiday? Decide what to pack using the clothing or food puzzles! Need more passengers to go on the school bus or train? Encourage your child to have a look at your puzzle collection! Don’t limit your child’s creativity! After play, teach your child to place the puzzle pieces back at their original locations.

This can help to develop…

  • Pretend play skills
  • Creativity
  • Problem solving
  • Responsibility
  • Organisation skills

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I Spy with my Little Eye

How to play?

Spread out the puzzle pieces. Take turns to describe 1 of the puzzle pieces and let the partner guess! Guide your child in using different descriptions! Examples of descriptions include adjectives (“I spy something blue!” or “I spy something big!”), categories (“I spy an animal!” or “I spy a vehicle!”), and functions (“I spy something we can eat!” or “I spy something we can sit on!”).

This can help to develop…

  • Language skills
  • Turn-taking skills

 

Treasure Hunt

How to play?

Hide puzzle pieces around the room or house. Tell your child the location of the puzzle piece (e.g. “the car is under the sofa”) or give clues (e.g. “the car is at the place where we eat breakfast”) to let your child search for the pieces.

This can help to develop…

  • Language skills

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For the older children

Story-telling

How to play?

Mix up some puzzle pieces in a bag. Take turns to put a hand into the bag and take out a puzzle piece. Start a story and add on to it with each turn, using the puzzle piece as the key word for that turn. Prepare a background picture to provide some context if needed. Here is an example with the underlined words indicating the puzzle pieces that were drawn from the bag: “Once upon a time, there was a duck who lived on a farm. The duck decided to go on a drive around the country in a truck. She packed some ice cream in her bag for lunch.”

Be as creative as you like! You can even create silly stories together to make the activity more fun!

This can help to develop…

  • Creativity
  • Language skills

 

These are just some ideas to use your puzzles in different ways as your child grows up! I hope you found some inspiration after reading this post. Do you have any more ideas to share? Let us know by leaving a comment!

"All the information on this site is for educational purposes only and does not replace the assessment and intervention of a registered speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist or any other medical or education professional."

About Jia Yue

Jia Yue has a keen interest in working with children with special needs, particularly autism spectrum disorders, whose difficulties may include the areas of speech, language, and social skills. She has been working with children with special needs for 2 years and loves to browse through toy stores for new therapy ideas in her free time.

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