This week we will focus on the various benefits of incorporating more puzzles into your Montessori classroom and school. Puzzles are an amazing work to add to the classroom because they teach problem solving and promote the development of shape recognition and improve fine motor movement.
When using a puzzle, the child must learn how to observe the shape of the piece in their hand and the shape of the open spot in the puzzle. For instance, a circular puzzle piece has no sides or corners. In a Montessori classroom, the teacher demonstrates this quality of the shape of a circle by sliding a finger around the entire puzzle piece. They then trace the outline of the circle on the puzzle board to show that the space is the same shape and size as the piece in their hand. This helps the child learn what to observe and what qualities to look for when completing a puzzle. This lesson is often introduced with the geometric cabinet and metal insets and can be practiced through additional shape puzzles that are added into the classroom.
While a child practices finding which puzzle piece fits into which space, they are developing their spatial awareness skills. Spatial awareness is the ability to recognize shapes and empty spaces and leads to the development of problem solving skills. As children practice various puzzle works in the classroom, they can begin to easily solve complex works on their own. Puzzles also teach children how to complete a work cycle and lengthen the period of time in which a child can focus.
Fine Motor Development
When using a puzzle, the child learns how to grasp the small knob on each piece with a pincer grasp. This pincer grasp aids in the movement of the puzzle piece while in turn strengthening the fine motor movements a child needs to hold a writing instrument later on. Strengthening the grasping motions of the hand and touching the puzzle shape outline give each child direct didactic practice that leads to a deeper understanding of shape and size in their environment.
When implementing puzzles into your classroom, having a variety of topics and skill levels is key. Classrooms should have a collection of puzzles that are made for all ages that can be switched out throughout the year. A polar bear puzzle, Renoir puzzle, or mathematical puzzle all aid in curriculum planning and the implementation of new topics in a classroom throughout the year. Meanwhile, it is also important to keep the Montessori puzzles, such as the parts of an animal, on the shelves year round so that children can learn these lessons when they are ready.
This week’s worksheet is a shape puzzle template that your children can color and cut out themselves. Allow your child to draw anything they wish to on the template and then invite them to cut out the geometric shapes on their own. If they are still learning how to properly use scissors, guide them while they cut.