Jigsaw puzzles have always provided hours of fun and entertainment, but do they offer an educational value for children?
Aside from the fun element of trying to complete a challenge, a child who is absorbed in doing jigsaw puzzles will also be developing their brain at the same time - effortlessly - without realising it.
The particular biological areas expanded during the learning process are reasoning, deduction, analytical skills, logical thought development and problem solving skills. As well as the improved mental ability, physical capabilities such as hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness are also enhanced by regular jigsaw puzzle challenges.
As well as the many benefits derived from working on general jigsaw puzzles, some companies manufacture these under the 'educational' label. These are designed to teach children facts on specific educational topics, such as 'Flags of the World' or 'The Solar System.'
But do they really work in the educational sense?
Experts are divided as to how much direct benefit these educational jigsaws have. For instance, would your child be able to study for a geography test simply by completing a jigsaw of a map of the world? It's highly unlikely. Most education professionals tend to agree that the educational value becomes most noticeable when used in conjunction with other educational materials such as maps, books and scheduled learning programmes.
Jigsaw puzzles are great for introducing new learning concepts to a child, as well as reinforcing subjects the child is already familiar with.
As a parent, it's helpful if you spend time with your child doing the puzzles together. This can be incredibly beneficial as an aid to learning, as the child is more likely to ask questions while you are working together than if he or she is tackling the puzzle alone, and would have to remember to bring the point up later.
Jigsaws are a great tool for sparking the imagination. Say for instance your child is working on a jigsaw of famous landmarks. Once they have completed this they will more than likely be curious about the structures contained in the picture and keen to know more. This can be followed up by a visit to the library, or perhaps the child will be motivated to draw some of the landmarks. The possibilities are limitless.