One of the first games to introduce to young children is the puzzle. You can buy puzzles made of cardboard or wood in toy or teacher supply stores. But it is easy to create your own puzzles, which is easy on the budget and eco-friendly because they can be made from recycled materials. So, lets get creative and make puzzles with the ideas below. These no-cost manipulatives will keep the kids amused for a lengthy period of time.
Let’s get personal
One personalized puzzle kids love is when you attach a child’s original drawing to cardboard using spray adhesive. You may wish to photocopy the drawing so children can use it as a model when they put the puzzle together. Very young children can put the pieces on top of the copy. Use scissors or a paper cutter (adults only) to snip the puzzles into four or six simple pieces. And don’t forget to use a zipper lock bag or large envelope for storage.
As a variation, enlarge and photocopy a picture of your child on a copy machine. Follow the same procedure above and make a truly personal puzzle your kids will cherish.
Recycle grocery finds into puzzles
You know those meat and produce foam trays that we usually throw away can be the beginning of a fun puzzle. First make sure the trays are clean, or you can even ask the butcher for a couple new ones. Invite the kids to take metal cookies cutters and push them into the foam. If they don’t cut through, an adult can use a sharp knife to cut around the outline. Scrape away any crumbs of foam that remain in the shape. Make four to six puzzles each with a different shape – OR – use a large tray and press several shapes into it. This is a great matching game for toddlers and preschoolers as they put the shape into the matching hole.
Colors and shapes are educational
Learning shapes and colors is a major criterion for young children. Simple puzzles can be made at home and can teach developmental skills while the children play. Cut out four basic shapes (circle, square, triangle and rectangle) from four different colors of posterboard. Then, cut each shape up into five or six pieces like a puzzle using zigzag lines. Mix up all the pieces and challenge the kids to put them together by matching the colors. Of course, this task will also involve getting the pieces to fit together to complete each shape.
One of the first concepts to teach a child is to recognize their name. What better way to teach this skill than to make a name puzzle? Begin by drawing each child’s name in large letters on a rectangle of cardboard or posterboard. You can use capital and lowercase letters. Invite the kids to color their name and decorate the page using crayons. Then, cut the name into four pieces using puzzle-cutting shapes. Challenge the kids to put together their name puzzles. Store these inside an envelope.
Why not make an edible puzzle?
Kids will love making and baking this puzzle and the prize will be enjoying the taste when the task is completed. Mix up a batch of cookie dough using a recipe of your choice. Roll and shape the dough into a large shape. Place this onto a cookie sheet and score it all the way through into large pieces with a knife. Young children can use plastic knives to help with this part. Bake until browned. Cool and gently break into puzzle pieces. Have the children put the shape back together, name the shape and then eat it. Yummy!
Let’s play a treasure hunt game with puzzles
Dump all the pieces of several wooden store-bought puzzles into a bag. Give each child an empty frame. Let the kids take turns putting their hand into the bag and choose a piece. Challenge the kids to figure out where the pieces belong. Everyone is a winner when all the puzzle frames are completed.
The information offered in this article is based on the author’s personal experience as an early childhood teacher and mother.
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