There is an ongoing dilemma I have with myself, and have yet to reach a conclusion: You see I hate waste, hate throwing out things which still might be useful. Why throw out empty yogurt containers that can be used later on for an art project? Yet when faced with the frustrating dilemma of chucking a puzzle which is missing one piece or keeping it despite the fact, I’m really not sure what to do.
You spend precious minutes of your life focusing on manipulating tiny pieces into a complete picture only to have an incomplete picture stare back at you with one eye (because somehow the piece that’s missing is always from the center – where the eyes usually are- and not from one of the corners.) You feel your body temperature rising and you just want to yell out, “Arrrghhhh! I hate puzzles!!”
And then you remember you’re an OT and that puzzles are awesome and have lots of benefits. So you decide to keep it and draw and cut out a new piece from cardboard to complete the puzzle. But add that to your TO-DO list right under “sew hole in sock” and right before “glue cheap broken toy together with super glue” and you know that it will be on that list for eternity and that you might as well throw the whole thing and not have to deal with the frustration again… So, what would you do???
In the mean time if your puzzles are still new and intact you should sit down and play with your kids, because as mentioned before, puzzles are awesome and work on many different skills from: improving attention, eye-hand coordination and problem solving. And the following tips are good for kids with SPD who need extra sensory input in their daily schedule to achieve a calm and focused state:
* Hide puzzle pieces in a sensory bin, such as one filled with lentils, rice, kinetic sand. The added tactile input is important for sensory seekers.
* For younger children there are great sensory wooden puzzles: animal puzzles that have soft fur on them. Or vehicle puzzles that make a noise once you put the vehicle in the correct spot. (Check out Melissa and Doug puzzles.)
* One of my favorite activities as OT is to work on puzzles while working on sensory integration through obstacle courses that include heavy work and vestibular input. For example, the child has to complete the obstacle course of climbing through a tunnel, swinging, etc, and receives a puzzle pieces at the end. She repeats the obstacle course a number a number of times in order to get all the pieces to complete the puzzle.
* Puzzle floor mats- before a daily yoga routine or sensory activity have your child compete a floor mat puzzle to be used as a mat for the activity.
* Magnet puzzles are high quality puzzles that supply extra tactile feedback when they “click” together…in addition they can be completed on the fridge to improve shoulder girdle strength
And one additional point to remember that the age recommendation listed on the box is only that- a recommendation! It might say 4 years old on the box but your four year old is not able to complete a 50 piece puzzle yet, and it might say 3 years old but your 2 year old toddler is more than happy to give it their best. And who knows they might surprise you! Trust your kid’s instinct and have fun.
And don’t sweat the small stuff… if a piece gets lost you know what to do 🙂