Do your kids struggle with putting puzzles together on their own? This super simple self-guided puzzle trick will encourage your child’s puzzle building skills while sneaking in some great learning reinforcement as well.
The variations of this activity are endless, so you can tailor the trick to meet the skill levels, age, attention, and interest of your child.
It’s a great activity to add to your arsenal of quiet time activities, too!
How to make a self-guided puzzle
All you need to do is grab one of your kids’ frame tray puzzles (affiliate link) and a marker (or possibly some crayons or colored pencils depending on the skill you want to reinforce). The puzzle must have a puzzle tray (a backing to put the pieces in).
Then take the pieces out of the puzzle (if it is a larger puzzle with more pieces, you may want to take out one piece at a time) and flip the pieces over.
The basic idea is that you are going to write something on the puzzle board and it’s corresponding part on the back of the puzzle pieces.
Adding the Self-Guided Learning Trick
In order to best explain this self-guided learning trick, I focused on counting and number recognition for this first puzzle. (More learning variation ideas will be explained below.)
Step 1: Add numbers to the frame tray
First, I removed the puzzle pieces so I could customize the frame tray itself. (I just flipped it over carefully and let the pieces fall out as one big chuck, for ease of matching them up later.)
I drew one dot in the first puzzle piece spot, two dots in the next spot, three dots in the third spot, all the way until the puzzle board was full.
This puzzle had twenty-five pieces, so I put one dot all the way to twenty-five dots. I added dots to reinforce counting, but you could simply write the numbers 1 to 25 if you only wanted to work on number recognition.
Step 2: Add numbers to the corresponding puzzle pieces.
Then you need to write on the back of the puzzle pieces. I chose to write the corresponding number to reinforce number recognition with counting.
So, I wrote a number “1” on the puzzle piece that fits in the spot with one dot. Then a number “2” in the spot with two dots, all the way to number twenty-five. If your puzzle pieces came out in one big piece like mine, then your numbers will be written as a mirror image to your frame tray.
Time to Puzzle and Learn!
Then I invited my preschooler over and the best method for him was to count the dots on the puzzle tray first and then find the corresponding number piece.
You could also have your child pick up a numbered puzzle piece first and then have them count the dots to find the correct amount on the board.
In addition, I put the dots in order from one to twenty-five, but for more of a challenge, you could put the dots in a mixed up order as well.
I was amazed to watch my preschooler complete the puzzle all on his own using this self-guided learning trick.
Use this puzzle trick to reinforce so many skills!
There are many skills that you can choose to reinforce with this puzzle trick; for example, counting, number recognition, color matching, letter recognition, upper and lower case matching, addition, subtraction, shapes, sight words, etc.
We had a smaller puzzle with only sixteen pieces so I decided to focus on color matching.
Once I had the puzzle I found sixteen different colors of crayons (some of the colors were close, but they were different).
Then I took the pieces of out of the puzzle and flipped them over.
I drew a color with crayon on each puzzle piece spot on the board.
Then I drew the same color on the piece that would fit into that spot.
You could add more challenge to the color matching by putting two of the same color or even making a pattern of colors.
Uppercase and Lowercase Letter Matching
Another learning skill could be letter recognition and matching upper case and lower case letters.
On the puzzle board you would write the lower case letters and then on the puzzle pieces you could write the upper case letters.
To make it more simple, you could write upper case letters on both the board and puzzle pieces.
Adding and Subtracting
For older kids, you could also reinforce addition or subtraction by writing the solution on the puzzle board and the problem on the pieces.
For example, 17 on the puzzle board and then 10 + 7 on the matching puzzle piece.
The variations are endless and can be tailored to your individual child and their learning levels.
This self-guided trick will help them to be able to complete the puzzle on their own, while reinforcing their learning and building their confidence.
As an added bonus, this is also a great puzzle method to keep track of which pieces go with which puzzle board! Mom win!