Puzzles. Puzzles are fun. Puzzles are educational. Puzzles are entertaining. And, there are plenty of them at my house. Well, to be clear…the ‘plenty of puzzles’ we have at my house are for Levi. None for me, thank you very much. I get all twitchy when someone opens up a box of those 400 pieces of cardboard. Probably the hardest thing on this planet for me to do would be finish one of those puzzles. Little irregular scraps of cardboard that fit only to another irregular scrap and there are 8 different color combinations on one piece and only 1 color on the matching piece. Maddening, I tell you! My OCD kicks in when I even see the box!
Being involved in preschool education since I was in college, I have seen my share of puzzles. I loved using them in my teaching all through the years. In school, in church, with my own children. I used puzzles that were bought and many I made myself.
*****A QUICK PUZZLE*****
Take 6 wooden craft sicks…(use the large size like a tongue depressor). Lay them side by side and use 3 strips of masking tape to hold them together on one side. Turn the taped sticks over and design your puzzle. Markers seem to work the best for this project, with crayons next. Sometimes I had large stencils for the children to use. Sometimes they made up their own designs. Sometimes we used only the words of a Bible verse. If it was fall, we may have traced a leaf and colored it in fall colors. The possibilities are endless. Be sure to extend the design to cover a bit of every stick. Then pull the tape off and put it on the front of a ziplock bag (sandwich size is just right). Use the tape surface to write child’s name. And, this is a good place to include a Bible verse that relates to the puzzle…such as “Work with your hands…”1 Thessalonians 4:11 Then the puzzle pieces are easily taken home in the baggie and kept together.
That’s just a little freebie for you grandmothers out there! 🙂
I was taught, not in college, but in training to be a Convention Approved Preschool Teacher by the Southern Baptist Convention, the proper way to work a puzzle. It’s really very sensible and very logical. It should be taught in early education classes in college, and maybe it is now…but they didn’t when I was there! I have tried, in every setting I have ever been apart of, to share this info with teachers, as I taught the children the proper way to do the puzzles. Always, they said it makes perfect sense…but carrying it out was another story.
If you go into any Sunday School class with little ones and you give them a puzzle to work…how are they going to get the pieces out? Right…they are going to turn the puzzle over and make a loud noise when all the pieces fall out. Then some will fall on the floor, so they will have to get them. Then they still have to turn them over. And if Timmy is working next to Emily who is working next to Mary…all the pieces are going to get mixed up! Yuck! Confusion and chaos! There IS a better way.
Every child should place his puzzle in front of him. Then take the pieces out of the frame face up, one by one and place them on the LEFT side of the puzzle, face up. (They may be too young to know’left’…but if you put a red dot on the outside of the puzzle, it reminds them where the pieces go. Now the puzzle is ready to go…no turning pieces over, no looking for lost pieces , and no mixed up pieces. If all the children follow these rules…several can sit at a table and work and no one will mix up their pieces. This works in another way also. It reinforces looking left to right, which is the way they will learn to read.
As hard as I have tried, it has not always worked. Children do it the wrong way so often at home or other places that it is hard to change this habit. I tried through all the years I worded with preschoolers to teach them the proper way. But, unless you get a child when he is working his very first puzzles and teach the right way, it is hard to get them to change. My 3 boys did them correctly. And, I have shown this way to Levi ever since we got his very first puzzle.
Today, he wanted to get out the puzzles so I laid one on the floor for him. Imagine my delight when I looked down to see the puzzle ready to be worked…all the pieces were face up on the left side! He’s got it!
So, nothing big or exciting to anyone but me…but it makes me happy. It goes to show that in most things, we can make a difference in the way a child does things if we set the example very early. Much easier than changing behavior and habits later. What we give our time to when teaching will become what the child will excel at. To Levi, this is not even a conscious decision anymore, it’s just the way to do puzzles now. How many other things could become second nature to a child if we took the time to focus on it. I am reminding myself of my priorities here!
“Train up a child…”
Now for a laugh…
Two good ‘ole boys went into a restaurant for a celebration.
The waiter asked them,”What’s the reason for the celebration?”
One of the guys answered ” Well we finished a puzzle we were working on. It only took us a month to complete it !
The waiter said, “Wow! That must have been some puzzle!”
The other boy replied, ” It sure was! The box said it would take ‘from 3 to 6 years’!!!” 🙂
Hope there is nothing in your life that is too ‘puzzling’ right now!