Developing Spatial Reasoning with Puzzles!

By: Beth Van Derslice

This week, we want to highlight how puzzles are an easy way to explore and, over time, develop spatial reasoning skills. So, what is spatial reasoning?

Spatial reasoning is what we do when we imagine three dimensional shapes in our mind and draw conclusions about those shapes. Engineers use this skill when they create the plans to build something like a roller coaster, skyscraper or a rocket. Scientists use it when they build images or structures of DNA. Interior designers use spatial reasoning when configuring where to place furniture and objects in order to maximize space, comfort and enjoyment in a space. Photographers use it every time they envision or take a photo.

How do children learn spatial reasoning?

Lots of ways (hint, rote memorization is not one of them.) Exploration, structured play and even incorporating “spatial talk” when appropriate (i.e. How many carrots will fit into your lunch container? Will Mommy’s foot fit into your shoe?) are all recommended ways to provide early exposure and continued development of these skills.

An easy start to developing spatial reasoning in a way that most children already enjoy is by doing age appropriate puzzles. Here are some good ones that our children like a lot.

0-2 Years

Whether your child is using the puzzle pieces as blocks, balls or even to complete the puzzle (if you can believe it!), the opportunities for learning and connecting logical dots are endless with these puzzle toys. Bonus: puzzles for the younger ages also aid in exploring colors, shapes and sizes.

Melissa & Doug Vehicles Wooden Peg Puzzle

Melissa & Doug Pets Wooden Chunky Puzzle

3-4 Years

This is the age where things get relatively more advanced. Depending on how much experience or desire your child has in sitting and completing a puzzle, you’ll definitely find something doable for the 3+ crowd. We recommend starting with the eeBoo 9 piece (voted Toy of the Year) puzzles.

eeBoo Life on Earth 9 Piece Puzzles

Life on Earth

Giant Panda Bear and Bamboo

Self Correcting Wooden Numbers Puzzles

5-6 Years

Our family has yet to go wrong with a Ravensburger puzzle purchase. These puzzles have interesting, colorful scenes and are well made. We’ve had fun helping our nearly 5-year old, animal-loving, Will, put “Wild Jungle” together and take it apart (and repeat).

Wild Jungle

7 Years and over

Again, the Ravensburger puzzles are great. Here are some 200 piece fan favorites:

Underwater Adventure

The Solar System

Woodland Friends

Realm of the Giants

If you would like to learn more about the what’s and why’s of spatial reasoning, here are a couple of articles to peruse when (if) you find a moment. Happy Playing!

Playing with Puzzles and Blocks May Build Childrens' Spatial Skills

Spatial Intelligence

Spatial Reasoning Test