5 Ways Puzzles Benefit Your Child’s Cognitive Development

girl with rubix cube

When you think of puzzles, what comes to your mind? A set of 100 to 1000 interlocking tiles? A series of word searches or a book of sudoku? There are numerous types that many people aren’t familiar with, each with a varying level of difficulty.

They’re flexible activities that benefit people of all ages, especially during early childhood development. Let’s discuss how puzzles accelerate child development and stimulate children’s neural pathways.

toddler cognitive development with number puzzles

They Increase Motor Skills

Ever see how a child develops their movement? During infancy, a child staggers around here and there, trying to get a feel for things while navigating their surroundings.

As they get older and their musculoskeletal system mature, children need to participate in activities that strengthen motor control. The use of their senses, particularly the eyes, give them a sense of depth when avoiding obstacles.

During these primary ages, a child’s hand-eye coordination can be vastly improved with block puzzles. These toy blocks come in three-dimensional shapes that fit into a matching 2-dimensional shape.

Manipulating these toys help children stimulate their hand muscles, improving grab action. This activity is processed by their brain and eyes, which improve their spatial awareness.

creativity through lego puzzles

Puzzles Stimulate Creativity

Everyone loves Legos! They aren’t puzzles per se, but can be used to encourage creativity and experimentation. In a sense, they are puzzles because they normally come with instructions.

Without adult intervention, children have to look at the pictorial instructions and determine where piece goes. As a result, they are strengthening their problem-solving skills.

Moreover, legos’ shapes, sizes, and interlocking nature allow children to showcase their imagination tenfold! They can build a tower, a spaceship, a house, and even play out scenarios with characters.

This important activity helps them understand the world around them–allowing them to expand their creativity and innovation.

girl with number puzzle

Puzzles Develop Patience

Cognition isn’t just the development of problem-solving and thinking skills, but also the development of emotional intelligence.

Picture your toddler trying to solve puzzles to figure out which combination works.

They’ll often get frustrated and lose interest, but then they will retry the puzzle with a different approach. They will try new ideas that show how they’ve learned from previous attempts.

A great test of patience for a child is sliding tile puzzles. These puzzles are advanced–the difficulty level is slightly higher than other puzzles.

Sliding tile puzzles are similar to jigsaw puzzles, but restrict the movement of the puzzle pieces to two directions. They consist of interlocking tiles fixed in a frame, which are free to slide around each other in the horizontal and vertical directions.

The objective of this puzzle is to slide the pieces into proper position. Some sliding puzzle produce a picture, while others require numbers to be placed in the right sequence.

Sliding tile puzzle

Sliding puzzles take time and patience to complete, allowing children to run different simulations in their minds to solve the puzzle. It helps them deal with failure if an attempt fails, and forces them to persevere and try new ways of solving the puzzle.

word search sample

Puzzles Enhance Vocabulary

Kid develop communication skills in their toddler and preschooler years. What they can explain in words is what defines the world around them. For children in their developmental stages, enhancing their vocabulary positively affects their cognitive development.

One of the best ways to enforce language and vocabulary is with word games. There are many to choose from, each with different levels of difficulty.

The easiest are word searches, which are a grid of letters with words hidden between them. Finding all the words help children broaden their vocabulary and spelling skills.

Similarly, anagrams strengthen vocab skills, but also encourage children to be more creative and witty with words. An anagram is a play on words created by rearranging the letters of the original word to make a new word or phrase.

  • Save = Vase
  • Angel = Glean
  • Stressed = Desserts

For advanced children, crossword puzzles offer a nice challenge. They work in reverse, offering the meaning of words to figure out the words in blanks. They help children and pre-teens develop word recognition, assist in learning context clues and introduce/review vocabulary.

magic square for sum of 15

Puzzles Develop Pattern Recognition

Looking for patterns is one of the bases of problem-solving. It is an integral part of your child’s cognitive development.

Pattern recognition involves finding the relationship between two variables, numbers or other objects. Normally, this relationship leads to a pattern that a child recognizes.

Number patterns are puzzles that form mathematical sequences with arithmetic or geometric relationships in each consecutive term. These activities heighten children’s logic skills and mold their minds to find the obvious and not so obvious connections within puzzles.

A sequence of events or actions help children of all ages practice organizational skills. They can practice outlining the most efficient way to complete a task before starting it.

rubix cube family

Puzzles are Cognitive Candy for Kids

There are many aspects of cognitive development in children that scientists are still studying. How the human brain works and dynamically adapts to different scenarios still remains somewhat a mystery.

However, the most effective way to improve understanding is to expose children of all ages to different puzzle challenges.

When children work on puzzles, the solutions may not be obvious, but when they solve the puzzles, a eureka moment is cemented in their mind.

This motivates children to search for that similar “”a-ha” feeling. Fortunately, there are many types of puzzles on the market that can help drive your child or student’s curiosity.

  • Mechanical puzzles: These activities improve cognition and visual-spatial reasoning. They include jigsaw puzzles and Rubik’s Cube.
  • Word puzzles–These puzzles preserve memory and strengthen vocabulary and spelling. They include includes puzzles like word searches and crossword puzzles.
  • Logic Puzzles–Boosts logical thinking, enhances memory and recall, improves concentration and provides healthy escapism. They include sudoku and nonograms.
  • Number puzzles— These puzzles make math fun, help you grasp diverse math concepts and build strategic thinking. This category includes puzzles like sum search and magic squares.

They can be exposed to a plethora of challenging activities that reinforce their existing skills.

Great puzzle activity books are out there

There are several awesome puzzle books out there. They are great circuit training for the brain. One of my favorites is The Brain Training Puzzle Pack.

It is a great puzzle book to enhance cognitive development in middle schoolers, high schoolers and young adults. It includes 100+ Assorted Puzzles to keep them occupied for hours.  The puzzles are designed to enhance memory, develop word recognition, improve number operation skills and refine visual-spatial reasoning.

It includes the following puzzles:

  • Crossword Puzzles
  • Mazes
  • Classic Word Searches
  • Zig-Zag Word Searches
  • Magic Squares
  • Sum Search
  • Sudoku
  • Word Scrambles
  • Scrabble
  • Don’t Melt the Snowman


Puzzles can have a profound impact on your child’s development.  They enhance problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, which are both crucial for mastery of other skills later in life. They also help with pattern recognition, memory and fine motor skills.

Meshing your passion for puzzling with a math curriculum can really peak your students’ interest for learning. Are you an avid puzzler? Do you like word searches and crossword puzzles?

Don’t be shy. Think out of the box and give your child something different. They will appreciate it! If you have any recommendations for some cool puzzle books and activities, put them in the comments below.


Can puzzles help develop children’s cognitive abilities?

The growth of your child might be greatly influenced by puzzles. Puzzles help your child develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills, which are both important for mastering other skills later in life. Pattern identification, memory, and gross and fine motor skills are all skills that puzzles can help with.

What type of puzzles are good for children?

Jigsaw puzzles–improve cognition and visual-spatial reasoning.
Word puzzles–includes puzzles like word searches and crossword puzzles. These puzzles preserve memory and strengthen vocabulary and spelling.
Sudoku–Boosts logical thinking, enhances memory and recall, improves concentration and provides healthy escapism
Number puzzles–includes puzzles like sum search and magic squares. These puzzles make math fun, help you grasp diverse math concepts and build strategic thinking.

Are puzzles good for brain exercise?

Dopamine synthesis in the brain is increased. This neurotransmitter is in charge of mood and optimism regulation. Learning, memory, focus, and motivation are all affected. Dopamine is released when we complete a puzzle or simply when we insert a piece in the correct spot.

Do puzzles help enhance math skills?

Students can explore problems by combining their hands and intellect with puzzles. They allow you to experiment with new approaches to solving the puzzle. Students who work on puzzles can learn about what information is important, how to break down a solution into smaller pieces, and how to justify why certain tactics are better than others. These are mathematical abilities.sum search


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