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Puzzles and Giftedness

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My child is 3 years 10 months old. He likes puzzle very much, and he can now make 96 pieces puzzle by himself in 30 minutes without looking at the picture, all by his memory. Sometimes, I feels he has very good memory in remembering what I said long ago, in playing the "IQ concept", and other IQ games. My questions are:

  1. Is it considered gifted?

  2. how can i explore his potential in this way?

  3. Is it good to let a young kid to play such a long, intensive mind game like 96 pieces puzzle?

A: Many gifted children have been known to solve puzzles at rather early stages. So it is one of the gifted traits a child may have, though the absence is not indication of non-giftedness.

It is quite hard to tell the ages and pieces of puzzles appropriate for children. A ball park figure for a three year old would be 48 pieces and that is usually a very large floor puzzle or lower at 30 pieces large puzzles with a distinct shape (e.g., an animal). To help the average child, there is a limit to the possible combinations of fitting the pieces together and the shapes usually provide enough clues to help children put the puzzle together. Puzzles with large, thick pieces are easier for younger children to work than puzzles with small piece due to their developing fine motor skills. This is based on the typical recommendations for puzzles by the manufacturers.

Your son appears to be very advanced in solving puzzles as many as 96 pieces though this may not be unusual for most gifted children at his age or even younger. This is an indication of giftedness, especially with his exceptional memory.

You can explore his potential by gradually increasing the level of difficulty of the puzzles. Gifted children love challenges so when the puzzles become too easy, they lose interest. Puzzles can be used to help his master other logical and reasoning skills in a variety of activities. Tangrams puzzles are a good way of occupying them. Tangram is an ancient Chinese puzzle. It is sometimes called “seven pieces of cleverness”. The object of the puzzle is to rearrange the pieces of a square (the puzzle pieces) to form figures (like a picture of a cat) using the tangram pieces. There are many levels of difficulties and you need to help determine which may be suitable. (Google “tangram” for a variety of worksheets/activities). You can also download a mosaic puzzle which children find most interesting.

However, as much as he enjoys it, too much of one thing can be detrimental and in this case the skills learnt are limited after some time. There is also a possibility of boredom after a while. Explore other activities that he may enjoy such as blocks that encourage creativity, music, sporting activities and activities that involve social interaction. Reading is also a good way to help develop his interests. My best wishes to you both!


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