My toddler absolutely ADORES puzzles. It’s fitting that one of the first “toys” she noticeably liked and sought out as a baby was a puzzle piece of a golden Labrador puppy (she also LOVES dogs). We have an entire bin full of puzzles and have spent many an hour putting them together. As a baby my toddler loved playing with simple animal puzzles (with sounds), and continues to play them with her baby sister, but she quickly graduated to more complex ones. Most of the ones listed below are for ages 3+ but my toddler has been playing with the puzzles since she turned 2. The only downside: stepping on puzzle pieces (ow!) and sorting/picking up after unsupervised play. I keep the puzzles in a bin out of reach and supervise play so we don’t lose pieces (missing puzzle pieces are no fun!). Puzzles are great for spatial reasoning and problem solving. Many children’s puzzles have additional learning activities, such as spelling, mathematics, letters, alphabet, or search and find. Here’s a selection of some of our favorite:
Meadow Kids Alphabet Floor Puzzle. It’s a great puzzle-bright colors and fun designs. There are two ways to learn with this puzzle: the letter pieces fit with their corresponding picture (apple starts with A) or you can connect all the pieces together to make an alphabet train. Cool puzzle!
Learning Journey Match It! We have Spelling and Mathematics. These are great puzzles! They have nice illustrations, are well-made, and offer multiple opportunities to learn. The math puzzle has counting, addition, and subtraction. The spelling puzzle is my favorite at the moment, given her age and interests. My toddler has mastered letter recognition but is still too young for spelling. This puzzle is great for that in-between period because my toddler forms the words by piecing together the pictures. Note: We also have Alphabet Memory by the same company. It teaches lowercase and uppercase letters, a nice bonus when playing the game.
J&C Pair It Numbers: These are three-piece pairs: pictures, numerical pieces, and then the number spelled out. For now, we work on counting the picture and finding its corresponding number. I’ve squirreled away the word pieces for when she starts to spell. The illustrations aren’t as nice as the previous two puzzles and there’s no advanced math, but the addition of the written numbers means the puzzle will be good for several more years as my toddler advances in her reading skills.
Melissa and Doug 4-12 Piece Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles in a Box. With four puzzles and a storage box with compartments, this is a compact box of fun. My daughter loves all things miniaturized so that alone has enticed her. I like that the box is sturdy-it keeps all the pieces compartimentalized and contained and can be used as a solid surface to put the puzzle together.
Melissa and Doug Fresh Start Chunky Puzzle. This is a great beginner’s puzzle. She can do it on her own for a great confidence booster. Baby also loves this one.
Melissa and Doug Beneath the Waves (Honorable Mention): This puzzle is massive. Once the puzzle is put together, there’s a great bonus activity where you can use the picture key and hunt for items (i.e. 10 star fish).
Melissa and Doug Farm Sound Blocks (The Clunker): The puzzle has two blocks with various animals on them. Line the two blocks up with the correct front and back of an animal and it makes the animal’s sound. I bought this puzzle so the toddler could do a puzzle with the baby. Very shortly after buying it (after only two short play sessions) the pictures started curling at the edges and my toddler couldn’t resist pulling the curled edges. This puzzle is not built to last, unfortunately.