12 Unique Puzzles to Challenge Growing Minds

kids puzzle

As people grow into adulthood, puzzles get categorized as a way to pass the time and are common during the holidays and on family vacations. However, for kids, puzzles are a great tool for learning and play no matter the time or place!

Puzzles offer an engaging way to help your child strengthen their fine motor skills as they manipulate and maneuver the pieces to fit together. Puzzles can also help children learn shapes, patterns and develop a strong sense of spatial awareness. Lastly, they're also about problem solving—establishing procedural approach, learning from trial and error and gaining a sense of accomplishment when the final product is achieved. 

The challenge for you is finding the right challenge for them. If the puzzle is too hard, they will at best give up and at worst develop a distaste for puzzles altogether. If you're not sure where to begin on selecting an age-appropriate puzzle for your kids, check out this how-to guide complete with tables and diagrams to help you pick the perfect puzzle to challenge your child's growing mind.

However, "puzzles" do not have to be limited to the traditional jigsaw. From gears and circuits to 3D globes, cubes or cities, you're sure to find something here that offers an age-appropriate challenge for the young learners in your family. 

The World of Eric Carle Block Puzzle

From Eric Carle's very famous "very" books, this nine piece puzzle comes together to form six different images—a mix of garden critters and friends including the "Very Hungry Caterpillar" and the "Very Busy Spider." The block shape and size of each piece makes this puzzle appropriate for even the youngest growing minds. The pieces can also be used for children to stack and build their own creations!

Fat Brain Toys Go Go Gears

This puzzle is dynamic! Complete with five double-sided cards, your child will be able to select an image they would like to complete, slide the card under the playboard and match the gears up to the image. A successful match results in a set of coordinated gears that they can manipulate and spin—a fun way to help them learn about forces, motion and simple machines!
Weather Dress-Up Puzzle

Developing fine motor skills often brings about a sense of autonomy and a strong I can do it myself attitude. While it can be harder to let go of the reins in some areas more than others, the "getting dressed myself" arena will vary on how well prepared you feel your child is for selecting outfits that aren't just their favorite in pattern, color or design but appropriately suited for the weather. Here's a puzzle that is all-in-one: a fine motor challenge with a lesson in wardrobe selection!

BeginAgain Animal Parade A to Z Puzzle

Just under 2 feet long, this puzzle brings creativity, imagination and learning the alphabet together with flexible and challenging puzzle play. Your child can use the animals to tell stories and learn each animal name. They can stack and place them into their own arrangements, or they can work to put them back into the box in alphabetical order and in an arrangement that allows them all to fit. BeginAgain also offers a space A to Z puzzle

Science Wiz Cool Circuits Puzzle Game

With eight curved pieces and 40 puzzle cards, this game offers levels of play that increase in difficulty. The goal is to unite the ends of the pieces so they make a complete circuit. When all eight pieces are successfully united, the board lights up and plays music! This puzzle game is perfect for helping your young learners develop their concentration while they work through the cycle of challenge and success at their own pace. 

3D Geography Puzzle and Magnetic US Map

This puzzle set is the perfect way to engage your young learner in a geography lesson about "their place in space!" You can purchase them separately or together. The globe offers large pieces that are easy for little ones to manipulate while the states are magnetic and great for a fridge or whiteboard space. Each puzzle is colorful with an appropriate level of detail for learners to consider as they put the pieces together, including animals and buildings famous to each continent or state. If you are looking to up the level of difficulty for older puzzlers with a similar topic, take a look at this 300 pc World Atlas Puzzle.

100 pc Rainforest Floor Puzzle

In the classic puzzle format, this offering is unique for its size and detail. The artist included the plant and animal life common to each layer of the rainforest—from the forest floor through the understory and canopy, ending with the top emergent layer. Along with lessons in rainforest structure and life, this 20 by 5-piece puzzle is the perfect way to introduce your child to the valuable skills and satisfaction that come with puzzling. 

Educational Insights Kanoodle

Here's a game that even you will find challenging and fun! Packed with over 200 puzzle cards, this on-the-go game offers endless engagement. Each card offers a different possibility for piece placement and design with only one correct arrangement. This puzzle requires strategy, patience and helps develop strong problem-solving skills. With increasing levels of difficulty, this puzzle is bound to be a favorite for years to come! 

500 pc Frontiers of Space Puzzle

As your child demonstrates an increased ability to spend more time concentrating on a puzzle, try upping the number of pieces to 500! This creatively illustrated puzzle adds a fun element of observation with its added "seek-and-find" poster. It's a perfect puzzle for any child interested in space exploration. Seeing your child complete their first 500-piece puzzle is sure to leave you both with a sense of pride in the accomplishment!

Gear Ball by Mefferts

A modern twist on the 1980s Rubik's cube, the gear ball offers hours of fabulously frustrating fun. A high level of concentration is required, however, nothing will offer your child a stronger sense of accomplishment than successfully completing a task so difficult! Just like the Rubik's cube, there's a pattern that can be followed to complete the challenge—the real growth comes from sticking to it and figuring it out. 

3D Puzzle New York

Recommended for ages 12 to 15, this puzzle is a challenge even for adults—making it a great project to do as a family if you have older kids! The sheer number of pieces can be overwhelming upon first glance, but working together and sticking to it will be as rewarding as ever. The foam-backed pieces make the puzzle easy to stand while constructing, and if your kids enjoy it, there are other city districts available to purchase. You can build nearly all of Manhattan—a study in human architectural accomplishment!

3D Wooden Brain Teaser Puzzle

Here's a fun one to have out on the table if you have older kids (beware of small pieces in families with young children who might still put things in their mouth)! Lie this wooden puzzle out and see how long it takes your crew to piece it all back together. A great mind-melding puzzle of pattern detection and problem solving that isn't a big messy distraction on a desk or table-top, but a rather subtle way to appeal to someone looking to take a break on a project and thoughtfully pass some time.

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