Puzzles make the best gifts! My toddlers worked on their wooden puzzles from Melissa and Doug in the early years. Then, as preschoolers, they moved into shape puzzles and pattern blocks. (The perfect Breakfast invitation in a pinch.) As my boys grew older, I began setting out 1000-piece puzzles and logic puzzles to welcome my big kids home from school and connect over. Puzzles for kids are one of the BEST activities for all ages. I included some untraditional ideas to get your little ones thinking and sparking creativity.
RELATED: Puzzles help build connection. Spend time doing puzzles together with your child as an after-school activity!
The benefits of puzzling
Puzzles offer many benefits for learning and independent play. Puzzles help a child calm down, decompress, and increase focus.
Studies have shown that puzzles are healthy for both your body and mind. So why would we not encourage our kids to do more puzzles?
Heck, why are we not ALL doing puzzles?! (Que me checking out a new LEGO puzzle for after school today.)
Puzzles for kids can help to improve:
- Boost mood
- Color recognition
- Fine motor skills
- Focus and concentration
- Hand-eye coordination
- Independent play
- Lower emotional dysregulation (aka improves tantrums and all those big feeling moments)
- Problem-solving skills
- Shape awareness
Puzzles for kids are one of the best activities to use during quiet time! Check out our other favorite quiet-time toys for kids.
RELATED: Looking for other ways to encourage independent play and quiet time? Don’t miss our ultimate guide to quiet time for kids.
What size puzzle is appropriate for my kid?
Choosing the right size puzzle for your kids is the key to their success. As parents, we always want to set our kids up for success and challenge their abilities. (Remember learning about ZPD from college?) So, finding the right age-appropriate puzzle for your child is essential. Look for puzzles based on age, puzzle piece number, and/or size.
Our rule of thumb is:
- Toddlers (age 1-3): 5-10 piece
- Preschool (age 3-5): 24-48 piece
- Big kids (age 5-10): 50-200 pieces
1000-piece puzzles are a great idea to complete as a team with one or two adults.
Of course, all kids learn and develop differently. So adjust these general metrics based on your child! I suggest starting with your favorite and moving up to the next size. If frustration builds, you can pack it up and save for another six months later.
RELATED: Puzzles make for one of the best sick-day activities!
Kinds of puzzles for kids
There are so many kinds of puzzles for kids out there. Sometimes all the pieces can even feel overwhelming. But the good news is that with so many options, your child will never be bored with puzzles.
- Alphabet/spelling puzzles
- Brain teaser puzzles
- Character puzzles
- Crossword puzzles
- Holiday puzzles
- Jigsaw puzzles
- Logic puzzles
- Math/number puzzles
- Peg puzzles
- Seasonal puzzles
- Shape puzzles
Have no regrets if puzzles make your head spin. Puzzle storage is our jam! After years of taped-up puzzle boxes that took up too much space, I finally figured out the best way to store our puzzles. Our favorite way to store puzzles is using storage solutions that are durable, easy to access for kids, and take up minimal space.
Use these bags to store puzzles and take up less room.
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Vinyl and Mesh Zipper Pouch
Take a photo of your puzzle or cut the image off the box top to add to the mesh zip bag.
Roll-Up Puzzle Mat
Yes! This really works!!! This roll-up puzzle mat is a MUST for saving your puzzle and being able to move it to a different location in your house!
RELATED: Need more storage ideas? Our favorite toy storage solutions post is a must-read for all parents!
15 best toddler & preschool puzzles
Okay! Now that we better understand why puzzles are great for kids and how to store them (thank goodness) let’s get to the list! I’ve compiled this list of our favorite 15 toddler and preschool-aged puzzles. Check it out below!
Animal Stick Puzzle
Have you tried a stick puzzle? Perfect for toddlers to rethink traditional puzzles and practice sequencing.
TOMY Toomies Hide & Squeak Easter Eggs
We LOVE this easy-to-travel puzzle for little ones that helps them practice fine motor and problem-solving, color and shape matching. Ages 18 mo+
Coogam Wooden Blocks Puzzle
Develop problem-solving skills and shape awareness using this Tetris-style puzzle. Ages 3+
Melissa & Doug Shape Sorting Cube
Calling all toddlers! This classic shape-sorting cube is a great puzzle that develops problem-solving skills and shape recognition. Ages 2+
Toy Shape Peg Puzzles
Peg puzzles are a great way to introduce young toddlers to puzzles and help them improve their pincer grip. We love this peg puzzle that also strengthens shape and color recognition. Ages 1-3.
ABC Letter Puzzles for Toddlers
A classic ABC puzzle is a must for early learners. Ages 1-3. Toddlers will need assistance matching the upper to lower-case letters.
Melissa & Doug Safari Wooden Chunky Puzzle
If you do not already have one of Melissa and Doug’s chunky puzzles, this is a fun one to introduce new vocabulary with animal names. Ages 2+.
Ravensburger Bluey Jigsaw Puzzle
Character puzzles are a sneaky way to get your child interested in puzzles. This Bluey is a winner for all Bluey-loving toddlers and preschoolers! Ages 3+.
LiKee Wooden Pattern Blocks Jigsaw Puzzle
Inspire creativity with this cute Montessori-style shape puzzle that lets your child build many fun images. Ages 3+.
Melissa & Doug Wooden Tangram Pattern Blocks and Boards
These classic tangrams are an absolute must for kids of all ages! This is another alternative shape puzzle for kids. Ages 3+
Head and Tails
This simple puzzle set for little ones helps to develop fine motor skills and animal recognition. Ages 1-3.
I have some of the best memories of putting together floor puzzles with my boys. Choose from a variety of fun themes.
Melissa & Doug Pets 4-in-1 Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles
This Melissa and Doug puzzle set is excellent for on-the-go travel! Ages 3+
8 puzzles for ages 5+
Our top 8 big kid puzzles were tough to narrow down. But with so many fantastic options, we created this list below. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!
America Jigsaw Puzzle (200 pcs)
Challenge your big kid with this USA jigsaw puzzle. This is a straightforward puzzle to help recognize the states. Ages 6+.
Map of the U.S.A. (70 pcs)
Here is an alternative America puzzle with more graphics and larger pieces. https://amzn.to/3PvMYtWAges 5+.
We love open-ended options when it comes to play! Now, your child can enjoy this open-ended puzzle as they problem-solve and create all sorts of geometric-shaped designs. Ages 6+.
LEGO Minifigure Puzzle (1000 pcs)
Calling all LEGO lovers. Bring your child’s love for LEGOs to the puzzle table with this challenging space stars jigsaw puzzle. Ages 9+.
LEGO Space Stars Puzzle (1000 pcs)
The LEGO space puzzle was the second puzzle we completed as a family. A little more difficult than the minifigure puzzle. Ages 9+
Ravensburger Super Mario Jigsaw Puzzle (100 pcs)
Mario was a big hit in my house! This jigsaw puzzle is a classic and straightforward option for kids who share a love for Mario and his friends! Ages 6+.
Search & Find Puzzle from Mudpuppy
Broaden the challenge with this puzzle as your kids first do the puzzle and then search for hidden pictures. Ages 4-7.
The Genius Square
As the Game of the Year award winner, we can’t deny that this STEM problem-solving puzzle is an awesomely engaging option for your big kids! Ages 6+.
Puzzle time is a great time to connect with your kids.
Sitting down to work on a puzzle with your kids can be one of the best ways to connect with them. Whether you have a toddler, preschooler, or big kid, puzzle time can become an excellent way to deepen your bonding and connection! And if you are introducing puzzles to your kid to spend more one-on-one time or help encourage independent play, the benefits are countless. Happy puzzling!
Empower your child with skills to thrive.
24 low-prep activities and relatable conversation starters that equip kids for life.
- Order the easy-to-follow activity cards.
- Build the foundation for social-emotional learning.
- Notice a shift in self-confidence and self-regulation as you and your child implement what you practice.
Puzzles help children learn problem-solving skills, improve fine motor development, and boost their focus and concentration.
The best kind of puzzles for kids are the ones that are chosen based on age and interest. Of course there are exceptions when it comes to general age guidelines, so choose appropriately so your child is set up for success.
We love storing puzzles in clear containers or vinyl and mesh zippered bags for easy access and efficient space-saving.