Helen and I have a series of posts about how to use everyday toys to promote and work on language targets. I love finding new toys and thinking about how I can use them in therapy! You can read our other posts about how to use a ball, a box, a train, bubbles and a teddy.
You can get so many different jigsaw puzzles that they provide a very varied way to support vocabulary, language and a number of other skills. It might be a simple 3 piece peg board or a complicated 50+ piece puzzle, or anything in between! You can also find nearly any picture on a puzzle so if it really has to be ‘Frozen’ themed to get the child engaged – you can probably find one!
- When you child is just starting to talk, there are a great range of peg boards with simple vocabulary to support their understanding. You can show them the pieces (or just 2 or 3) and ask them to find the cow or ball etc and put it in. You could also ask them to find items by their function or what noise they make.
- You can use these same boards and encourage your child to name the items as they put them in the board. One young man I used to work with, just wanted to put the puzzle back in the bag – he wasn’t interested in the board – so I tipped the puzzle pieces out and he told me what they were and put them back in the bag! Whatever works! You can extend this and talk about what colour the items are or count them when you are finished. You can even work in basic prepositions by talking about where the pieces go – its under the cow or next to the house.
- Taking turns – “Whose turn is it?”. Simple puzzles are great for practising turn taking. You may need to cover the extra pieces so your child can’t cheat and have an extra turn initially, but they will get the idea with support!
- All puzzles are great for fine motor and manipulation skills. You may need to help at first. They also supports visual skills – can they see how the pieces fit together or follow the picture to get clues about what to do?
- Perseverance. This is a really important skills to support and encourage in children. Many children find puzzles hard and wouldn’t choose to do them. By supporting and prompting you can help your child achieve and complete the puzzle. Hopefully with the memory of a good experience, they are more likely to try it again. Just be careful not to do it for them!
- For older children you can talk about who is in the picture and what they are doing. You can also extend this and think about how the people are feeling or what they might do next.
- If you share out the pieces, you can create a situation where your child has to ask questions to get the next piece. For example “Do you have a red piece?” etc. Forming questions is hard, so you might need to model some first.
- If you can find the right picture you can also support speech work. I have a great Peppa Pig puzzle I used when working on the /p/ sound!
- If your child enjoys puzzles then you can use them as a motivator. So if they finish a task that you choose, they can pick a puzzle to play.
What else do you do with your jigsaw puzzles? Does your child have a favourite?