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Ability in Puzzle Solving

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: We have a 4 yr. old daughter that loves puzzles. Recently we purchased her a 100 pc. puzzle because her other 24. 48 and such were making her parse board (She made them up really fast). When she received the 100 pc. puzzle she completed it in 45 min. Her Father and I were both dumbfounded. We just bought her a 200 pc. puzzle which took her an hour and a half to complete but she did it. What does this say about our child's mind set? Thank You.

A: Your daughter obviously has advanced abilities in solving puzzles. More than anything else, it indicates a sharpened ability to gather information, assess a situation, and find a quick solution to a problem. They would have a better ability to understand problems involving physical shapes and spaces. Research also indicated that early advanced ability in solving puzzles relates to later success in math.

In relation to giftedness, this may be one of the distinct characteristics of gifted children who have heightened logical mathematical intelligence. However, it is not enough to determine giftedness. To gauge if your child may be gifted (and it may be worth looking at), there are other characteristics that could be in combination.

For a 2-4 year old child, the checklist below can be used as a guide:

  • Early and extensive language development and vocabulary, forms grammatically correct sentences as compared to peers.

  • Interest in computers (not video games).

  • Ability to solve above 20-piece puzzle quickly by age 3.

  • Has a vivid imagination (includes having imaginary friends).

  • Extraordinary feats of memory.

  • Extreme curiosity and asks many questions.

  • Specific talent (if any), such as artistic ability or an unusual facility for numbers - becomes more apparent by age 4.

  • Ability to memorize and recall facts easily.

  • Early development of a sense of humor.

  • Ability to do one-to-one counting for small quantities by age 3.

  • Recognition of simple signs and own written name by age 3.

  • Ability to write letters, numbers, words, and their names between 3 and 4 years.

  • Ability to read easy readers by age 4.

  • Rather independent on the computer by age 4.

  • Demonstration of musical aptitude just after 2.

  • Ability to do simple addition and subtraction by age 4.

  • High degrees of mathematical understanding by age 4.

The above checklist is at best regarded as a rough guide and bear in mind that not all of the skills and age guide mentioned is absolute. Some children may demonstrate these abilities at a younger age and some may be older and yet classified as advanced learners. However, this can be a good guide to look out for signs of early advanced development in children and provide the necessary platform for them to flourish.

It is found that puzzles and puzzle games help reinforce logic, critical thinking, visualization, creativity, and fine motor skills. Given that puzzles rely heavily on children’s spatial abilities and problem solving skills, early ability in this area would indicate advanced ability. Do vary her activities to other problem solving types, as she may get bored after some time. All the best.


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