Playing with puzzles is a teacher and parent favorite for quiet time, when kids need to calm down. When I taught preschool, after lunch but before nap was always a good time for puzzles because it calmed my students before rest time. But that’s not the only way you can use puzzles; they can be a dynamic learning tool especially when coupled with a good book.My daughter just graduated from Jumbo Knob Puzzles to Peg Puzzles. To get her started I paired Vehicles Mix ’n Match Peg Puzzle with the book Touchy Feely Trucks by Fiona Watt.We started by playing with the puzzle. Since she is just beginning with peg puzzles, I removed three pieces at a time and asked her where they went. If I had removed them all at once it may have been overwhelming, but she had no trouble finding the spots with just three pieces to place. Her favorite thing to do was to put the puzzle piece in the wrong spot on purpose and say, “No no no no!” and laugh. Then she’d find the right one and give herself a clap. That self-congratulations is what it’s all about: finding challenges that kids can conquer themselves and helping them feel pride in their effort and success.Look how fast she is clapping! She is so proud that she got it in all by herself!That’s not all I love about puzzles though. So many great skills are being worked on in such a simple toy: matching and problem solving, for instance. And of course these puzzles are fantastic for fine-motor development; holding the little pegs takes serious effort when you are little.
After we did all three rows of the puzzle we read the book. For younger children, try to pair the puzzle with a shorter book, since attention spans aren’t huge and you want your child to learn and have fun connecting the two.
Touchy Feely Trucks is a great book for toddlers because it’s a touch-and-feel book with different textures to feel as you turn each page. Great for wiggly toddlers who crave stimulation. Other great truck-themed books include I Love Trucks! by Philemon Sturges, My Truck Is Stuck! by Kevin Lewis and Trucks by Byron Barton.
After we read I grabbed the puzzle and we played a simple matching game. I flipped through the book and gave her one puzzle piece, saying “Can you put this yellow truck on the yellow truck in the book?” This is a good activity to add to the book and puzzle because you are building on the matching activity that the puzzle already sets out to teach.
We did this three times, which was just the right amount of time for her. Watch your child’s cues because once frustration sets in, learning steps out!
By pairing a great classic toy like a puzzle with a book you deepen the connections your child makes and spark her curiosity about the theme of both.
Check out these other great peg puzzles we love!