The Cognitive Benefits of Puzzles for Brain Development in Children

by Phone Zhu

Kids love puzzles for the challenges they present and the sense of accomplishment that comes with success. Perhaps puzzles satisfy a natural thirst in the brain for cognitive growth, and that is part of why children are drawn to them and enjoy them so much.

There is wide agreement among child psychologists that interacting with puzzles effectively builds cognitive skills in children. A foundational benefit is discussed in the Psychological Science journal which concludes that, “children who play frequently with puzzles, blocks, and board games tend to have better spatial reasoning ability.” Spatial reasoning is the ability to perceive and think about objects in three dimensions. It is a core skill for life basics such as operating an automobile or using a map to get from one place to another. According to University of Chicago News, “Children who play with puzzles between ages 2 and 4 later develop better spatial skills, a study by University of Chicago researchers has found. Puzzle play was found to be a significant predictor of spatial skill after controlling for differences in parents’ income, education and the overall amount of parent language input.”

For adults, good spatial reasoning is essential to career success in many fields such as design, architecture, engineering, aerospace science, physics and other disciplines that require being able to manipulate objects mentally.

What Puzzles Do for Children

The development of spatial reasoning is just one important benefit that working with puzzles offers. There are many more reasons related to brain development and learning to offer the kids in your life a diverse array of puzzles.

1. Puzzles Improve Motor Skills


Children see the piece of the puzzle they want, and they reach for it. The eye sees the piece, the brain signals the hand to reach for it, and the shoulder and arm move the hand to the necessary point.

Both gross motor skills (the arm reaching for the piece) and fine motor skills (the fingers manipulating it into position) improve with putting together puzzles. With repetition and the growth of these motor skills, hand-eye coordination is developed.

2. Shape Recognition Increases

Shape recognition is a basic building block of spatial reasoning and awareness skills.


A simple puzzle might contain a series of shapes that fit into spaces on a board. The round piece must go in the round hole, the square piece in the square hole. The child learns the differences between shapes and also what space looks like that the shape will snugly fill. Puzzles with various sizes of the same shape, rectangles for instance, are another excellent choice for developing this skill.

Once the child has mastered basic shapes, puzzles featuring various animals, modes of transportation or fruit might represent the next appropriate challenge level.


3. Problem Solving Skills are Developed

Every puzzle is a series of problems that must be solved. Children are presented with a steady stream of questions to answer based on the specifics of the puzzle:

  • What shape is needed?
  • How does the part fit into the whole?
  • Which pieces go together to form the desired shape?
  • What is the next step in the sequence?
  • What parts must be added to accomplish the desired result?
  • Which piece or pieces should be started with (e.g. the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that form the frame or a foundation piece for a stacking puzzle)?

 The solving of the problems presented is the path to success.

4. Efficiency and Productivity are Built through Memory, Organisation and Planning

Organising puzzle shapes develops efficiency and productivity


Children enjoy doing the same puzzle repeatedly, and the process is excellent for memory. They must remember the answers to that list of problem-solving questions, and when they do, their speed increases.

Kids also learn to organise the work that needs to be done, separating out jigsaw puzzle edge pieces first or dividing pieces into groups based on shape, size, colour or other characteristic depending on the problems that must be solved in the puzzle. This is a form of goal setting, of breaking down the work that needs to be done into specific, measurable tasks. These skills develop efficiency and productivity that will benefit children in many ways throughout their lives.

What’s known about puzzles and their benefits to kids leaves one important question: Should you be providing children with puzzles to help their cognitive development? Scientists are united in responding with a resounding, “Yes,” and their answer is built on a wealth of research.

View our full range of puzzles online, including Gibsons jigsaw puzzles that present a great challenge for kids.

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Site will remain open and we will continue to dispatch orders throughout all days which Australia post are operating.

We can't guarantee delivery of items before Christmas. Please check with site delivery estimates chart for approximate delivery times to your location.

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