Which Kind of Puzzle Is Right for My Child?

For building fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and problem-solving skills, puzzles can’t be beat! But to many parents, trying to make sense of the huge variety of formats and styles can feel like a puzzle in itself. Feel like you’re missing a piece? Check out our puzzle primer to find the perfect fit for your child:


Before real puzzles come into play, babies develop puzzle skills with simple in-and-out toys. Fill and Spills are a great example—babies place the objects in the hole and dump them out. They’re like a soft, squishy puzzle with no wrong answer!


Around age one, children delight in fitting a piece into the “right” spot. Try an oversize Knob Puzzle with just a few big pieces to encourage them. The individual pieces fit into distinct spots in a recessed puzzle board, so each one is like a separate one-piece puzzle. Pieces with large handles are easiest to grasp.


For older toddlers beginning to engage in imaginative play, Chunky Puzzles are ideal. Both puzzles and play sets, they feature big pieces that are easy to hold and thick enough to stand up for pretend play! (They also make good first manipulatives—use them for counting and sorting.)

Like Knob Puzzles, Peg Puzzles offer something to grasp—in this case, a smaller handle that requires a more precise grasp. Some Peg Puzzles have pairs of pieces that fit together in a single space—a big step toward jigsaw puzzles! Pictures under pieces help guide each piece to its home.


Preschool kids embrace the challenge of Wooden Jigsaws—just like “big kid” puzzles, but with helpful aides like a puzzle board that defines boundaries and a limited number of pieces. Gone are pictures under pieces—but you can always provide a printout as a guide. (Find your puzzle at MelissaAndDoug.com.)

Floor puzzles are another great introduction to jigsaws: They have proportionately larger pieces and make a big impact, so they can serve as an encouraging introduction to cardboard jigsaws. They’re great for teamwork, too—ideal for social preschoolers!

 JIGSAW TIP: Wondering how to choose a piece count? Consider the number of inside pieces to gauge the challenge: a 12-piece jigsaw has 10 side pieces and only 2 middle pieces; a 24-piece puzzle has 8 middle pieces.


From here, just enjoy exploring different types of puzzles to see what fits best! Explore themes, formats, and piece counts. (Click here to see our entire selection.) Then enjoy puzzling together!


Does your kid love dinos, farms, or things that go? These are just a few of the themes that run from our youngest Jumbo Knob Puzzles to our trickiest jigsaws! Following one theme can be an exciting way to see skills progress. It also encourages subject knowledge as the artwork grows in complexity. Check out our “timeline” of a farm puzzler:

What types of puzzle does your child love most? Share in the comments below!


  1. Floor puzzles are ideal for big kids and families.Puzzles stretch the mind in so many ways.


  1. […] puzzle, including pegs that are easy to grasp and illustrations rich with color and charm. (See our guide to puzzles to help you pick the perfect level and theme for your […]

  2. […] puzzle, including pegs that are easy to grasp and illustrations rich with color and charm. (See our guide to puzzles to help you pick the perfect level and theme for your […]