This morning I got out a pile of puzzles, and everyone was excited to have a "new" toy available, so we did a lot of puzzles! It may look like child's play, but the kiddos are learning so much as they work, and I want to share some of what I saw and heard.
As she worked on the Lion King puzzle, this sweetie asked me, and then answered her own question, "Where is Nala's tail? It's behind!" She knew that 2 lions needed 2 tails, and since only one was visible, the other must be hidden.
I saw children cooperating, working together to do puzzles. The pieces at the bottom of this particular puzzle are tricky for a puzzle with only a few pieces, and it was giving these girls some trouble. One said, "The green is what's stopping it from fitting." She identified the problem, and what was causing it, an important step in problem solving.
Some of these kiddos are kindergarteners, and routinely do much more challenging puzzles. This one found a way to make the easy puzzles more interesting, "I'm teaching R___ to do puzzles," she told me.
Obvious skills like spacial reasoning and problem solving, and social skills like cooperating and teaching each other aren't the only skills practiced while doing puzzles. One of the kiddos was counting the pieces of her puzzle, and this little guy started singing Chicken Count, a song we've learned from youtube.com. On another round with this puzzle I also observed him pointing to the numerals in the puzzle and saying, "Zero, one, two, three, four... five!"
"I will help you. Which one looks tricky? This one?" O___ moved the troublesome piece. "It's not tricky any more." As the picture came together, these girls started singing "Over the field we go, laughing all the way."
There's also plenty of pretend play happening, because, with children, there's almost always pretend play! This kiddo was "driving" the vehicles and saying, "Nee-nar, nee-nar".
This was also a teaching time, as I worked with children to help them figure out what they needed to do. Here we've turned all the pieces over, and I asked the child, "Where does the head go, bottom, middle or top?"
Here are some of the other things I heard the children say while working on puzzles this morning:
EF: Where does this one go? OE: Got it!
CH: You want to play with this puzzle? JP: I already did it. CH: You want to do that puzzle?
EF: I did it! We did it! We did the not easy one!
BM: Pretend I take all your pieces while you are napping. CB: No! Don't!
NP: Can I do the train puzzle? (He took a few pieces out, and put them back in.) I did it!
JP: I put the whole thing together!
Are there other skills the children can learn as they do puzzles and games - oh yes! Today I saw them using shape and color, simple logic, singing, making connections to prior knowledge, cooperating, taking turns, imagining, persevering, and helping each other. Child's play? Oh yes, very important child's play indeed!