Puzzle Hacks : three tips to keep your toddler interested in the puzzles you've already got | The Speckled Goat: Puzzle Hacks : three tips to keep your toddler interested in the puzzles you've already got


Puzzle Hacks : three tips to keep your toddler interested in the puzzles you've already got

Puzzles are big around here. My toddler enjoys puzzles and spends plenty of time working on them.

I try to keep the puzzles in a good rotation to keep them fresh and interesting for my two-year-old, but every once in a while he'll go through a phase where he just doesn't seem as "into it." He gets bored.  But I really like puzzle time, because anything that keeps those little hands busy and entertained independently is a win in my book. When he's playing independently, I can sit and drink a hot cup of coffee with my feet up.



Did you believe me? Nah, I don't drink hot coffee or put my feet up. Come on now, let's get real. I do laundry.

In any case, I don't have unlimited funds to keep buying new puzzles, although I have had some great friends who have given us new-to-us puzzles, we've borrowed puzzles from friends, and I keep an eye out for thrift store or garage sale puzzles, too. Honestly, though, I don't love the idea of having nine thousand puzzles in my house, either, so I try to make sure that the ones we have are working hard to keep my kids entertained.

To keep puzzles fun and fresh, here are a couple things we do around here.

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First, I should note, I never present a puzzle with the pieces all ready put in their spots. Typically, when I put a puzzle out, I have the pieces in a small container. Giving my toddler an incomplete puzzle is much more successful and engaging than giving him a puzzle that's already completed.

Double Trouble

After my toddler has been successfully completing a puzzle, I'll put that one away and bring out a different puzzle. Once he's got both puzzles mastered, I pull them both out and mix the pieces from both of them together. It adds another level of challenge- now he has twice as many pieces and twice as many possible spots to place them in.

If you use similar puzzles (like, two different construction puzzles, or two different farm animal puzzles), it's even more difficult.

Such a simple hack-- so, so effective.

Black Out

Most of our puzzles have pictures on the openings that match the pictures on the pieces, which makes it easy for the child to match it up (tiger goes on the tiger, elephant goes on the elephant.) Even our simpler puzzles have extra "clues" -- the yellow square piece matches the yellow square hole.

After my toddler has mastered a puzzle, I like to add a level of difficulty by removing some of those extra clues.

Just black out the holes. Now, you could use paint to permanently change the puzzle, but I like to make a more temporary fix.

Trace the pieces onto some construction paper (or you could use computer paper, too, whatever).

Cut out the shapes.

Use a little painter's tape (because it removes easily, usually doesn't affect the picture underneath) to make a couple small loops, stick em in the hole.

Then just put the matching piece of paper on top and press it down well.

Do this with all the puzzle pieces, and wham. It's almost like a new puzzle.

Puzzle Hunt

We really enjoy our sensory bins around here, and this is a great way to get another activity out of those, too!

Just take a sensory bin, take out any manipulatives you've already got in there, and bury the puzzle pieces. Of course, you'll want to use some common sense so you don't ruin the puzzle-- don't do this with say, a water and bubbles bin -- but this is a fun way to freshen up the puzzle activity and add a sensory element.

Don't have a sensory bin? No problem.

Just find a container (a 9x13 pan will work for this, I use a rubbermaid container... doesn't have to be huge), add a base material, and away you go. We purchased a large bag of rice six months ago and we're still using that for a sensory bin, but you could really use almost anything. Cotton balls, dried beans, sand, decorative pebbles, oatmeal... so many options.

I love simple ways to keep toddlers entertained without the need to buy more stuff. Cheap, easy, and fun! Happy playing! Enjoy that hot coffee. Or laundry. ;)

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