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This month Dr Amanda Gummer highlights the cognitive, physical and social developmental skills that games and puzzles help to build in children.

Good Toy Guide: Games and Puzzles

There is an enormous amount of versatile games and puzzles currently on the market that equip children with valuable skills.

Physical skills such as hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills are all developed as children flip, turn and move pieces around. These small specialised movements improve children’s handwriting and other tasks such as doing up buttons and zips, which all help build children’s enjoyment and confidence at school.

Cognitive skills such as problem solving and strategic thinking are attributes that help children succeed in school and are greatly valued by future employers. Children’s logical thinking and ability to problem solve is enhanced through playing strategy games. For example, in Kerplunk working out which stick is the right stick to pull out and calculating the number of marbles that will fall employs advanced logical thinking skills.

Social development is enhanced through gameplay as children learn about competition, turn-taking, sharing and fairness – all of which strengthen a child’s social skills and enhances the chances of forming mutually rewarding friendships with others.

Most games require two or more players, and while puzzles make great cooperative activities, they can also be done alone. Playing alone is an important part of a healthy play diet and gives children the freedom to try out actions without the fear of looking silly in front of their peers and parents.

Puzzles may be challenging which can make children feel frustrated, but perseverance is a valuable life skill. Encouraging children to set small goals first in order to complete the puzzle teaches children that an end goal is made up of smaller goals which helps motivation.

Strategies such as finding all the edge pieces first or sorting pieces into piles encourage colour and shape recognition and can help children complete the puzzle without too much frustration, positively reinforcing the desire to play again and thus embed the learning gained from the game or puzzle.

A wide range of games and puzzles are featured in the Good Toy Guide and consumers can use the find a toy search form to refine the search.

Millionaire Monopoly

A faster-paced version of the traditional game – first player to get a million pounds wins

  •  Develops an understanding about money
  •  Encourages strategic thinking and planning skills
  •  Reinforces social skills such as turn taking and sharing
  •  Provides friendly competition

My World – My Body Jigsaw Puzzles

Two puzzles in one box with fun facts about the body

  •  Promotes understanding of the body
  •  Develops confidence in talking about health and issues with the fun facts in the puzzles
  •  Increases vocabulary
  •  Develops fine motor skills – hand and finger

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