Child Care Exchange recently shared a report that richer engagement with puzzle play at age two produced a stronger grasp of STEM-centric concepts at age 4 1/2. Specifically, the children who showed the most engagement with puzzle play at two stayed on their trajectory throughout the study period. Moreover, the strong puzzlers, when tested at age 4.5, performed well above their age peers in one of the gold standard tests for spatial skills — the ability to mentally rotate an object.
So what’s the link between puzzle and spatial? Mastering the placement of puzzle pieces inherently compels the mind — young or old — to recognize shapes and patterns in certain objects and then to imagine how they might fit into the larger whole. More often than not, the skilled players must rotate the piece in their minds to conceive of its place, and then must test their hypothesis by actually trying to place it where they believe it to belong.