If you thought the inclusion of devices in classrooms had made puzzles obsolete, think again!
Although you’re more likely to see kids learning digitally these days, rather than putting together traditional puzzles, including these in independent centres can have surprising benefits for your learners.
A quick and inexpensive way to include puzzles in your classroom is to print 2 copies of clear images of your favourite artworks. Laminate both to help them last longer. Keep one for a master and cut the other one up. The complexity of the cuts and sizes of the pieces will depend on the level you teach.
In this post I have included images of my puzzle centre in use - perennial favourite among students of all levels.
Solving puzzles helps reinforce existing connections between our brain cells, improves mental speed and thought processes. Furthermore, puzzle-solving improves our short-term memory which helps us notice and remember small details, then visualise how these might fit into the bigger picture.
Creative problem-solving and critical thinking skills are becoming increasingly valued in the workforce today. Puzzles help us to develop these important skills.
Puzzles require us to trial different approaches when solving a problem because there is a lot of trial and error involved. Students learn to formulate theories, test hypotheses, and change perspectives when something doesn’t work.
Solving a jigsaw puzzle gets children to look at many different pieces and figure out where they fit within the larger picture. Better visual-spacial skills help with a number of everyday tasks, including:
Positive Attitude & Calmness
Puzzles also increase our brains’ production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and feelings of optimism. This also affects memory, concentration, and motivation.
Dopamine is released every time we successfully solve a puzzle — or even just get one piece in the right place. This encourages students to continue working on solving them and challenging themselves.
Puzzles also help us to relax as our brains go from a “Beta,” or wakeful, state to an “Alpha” state when we’re solving puzzles. The Alpha state is similar to the state we’re in when we’re dreaming. This shift in consciousness comes with many benefits, including:
Ability to make deeper connections
Increase our self-confidence
Attention to Detail & Increased Productivity
Attention to detail is crucial. You need to train your eyes to pick out slight similarities and differences in line, colour or shape that will help you put everything together.
An ability to pick up on small details helps in every other aspect of learning. When students are more detail oriented and precise, the quality of their school work improves.
Happier, calmer students concentrate better and their productivity levels increase. A puzzle break can help to reset the brain for focused learning.
Puzzles also build collaboration between learners. Researchers found that giving learners the opportunity to work together on solving puzzles, allows them to improve their relationships and their abilities to cooperate over completing a task. Including more complex learning tasks later on.
Puzzles & Adults
And if you like the sound of all of this, puzzles have great benefits for adults too. They delay the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Keeping the mind active through puzzles and other problem-solving activities can reduce the amount of brain cell damage that occurs in Alzheimer’s patients. It also supports the growth of new nerve cells and strengthens the connections between them. Researchers have also found a correlation between the number of years someone has been solving puzzles and the likelihood that they will develop Alzheimer’s.
So, the sooner you start making puzzles a regular part of your family and classroom life, the better. It’s never too early to start protecting your brain.
Kia Kaha (stay strong)
Thoughts on Teaching
Stuck for ideas? Grab a cup of tea, put your feet up and settle in to read my teaching blog focused on all matters in teaching and Visual Art.