By Alex McIl – 27th Aug 2021
The objective of puzzle games (or jigsaw puzzles) are to help improve patterning activity. This type of activity (patterninging) is the same foundation of mathematics, reading and logical skills.
As a result, they improve and develop memory skills, as well as an ability to plan, test ideas out and encourage problem solving.
As puzzles can help develop the mind (and other areas of the body), they are often used on children during their developing stages. However, they aren’t limited to the young only, which we will cover a little later on.
Jigsaw Puzzles & Intelligence
When working on puzzles, both hemispheres of your brain are being engaged, which is like a good mental work out. The right side controls creativity, while the left works on logical thinking and things like analytics.
Since both sides of the brain are activated, you will be working on many aspects of the mind, such as improved concentration, memory, creativity, vocabulary and much more.
But Do Puzzles Make You Smarter?
As it stands, there’s conflicting information as to whether this actually boosts IQ (or intelligence). However, studies do show they can reduce cognitive decline during the aging process, which essentially means retaining your intelligence for longer.
Importance of Puzzles in Mathematics
This answer will depend on what age range we’re addressing. And for this particular question, we’ll be addressing children, and look at whether puzzles can help boost learning of important math-related skills.
The National Institutes of Health conducted a study [R] showing children playing with puzzles, help boost thier mathematical learning skills. Unfortunately, I could not find any data on whether puzzles can help adults with already developed brains.
Child Development Puzzle Age
So what exactly is the recommended age a child should be before starting with puzzles?
The University of East Anglia published this research paper [R] on what jigsaw puzzles tell us about child development. The study concluded that 3-year olds use trial and error to determine where the pieces fit, but 4-year olds use the information in the picture to “work out” where they need to go (cognitive ability starting to develop).
From this information, we can see it doesn’t take long for a child to go from “guessing” to “working out” where the pieces should go.
Therefore, we can conclude the best child development puzzle age would be between 4 and 5 years. This is the period when a child’s fine motor skills are developing and they have greater control over the handling of finer objects.
Now that we talked about how puzzles help children’s development, what about how they help the elder?
Benefits of Jigsaw Puzzles For Elderly
As we get older our cognitive abilities can decline. This isn’t the case for all elders as we can see many who are in their 90s are still as sharp as a whistle.
So we know it’s entirely possible to age and maintain great cognitive ability. However, is it a matter of luck, good genetics or maybe there’s something that can be done to prevent neurocognitive disorders?
Cognitive decline in aging can be classified as dementia or cognitive impairment, and discovering ways of preventing it is massive in the medical field.
A study by Frontiers In Aging Neuroscience [R] discovered that jigsaw puzzling can tap multiple cognitive abilities and can potentially protect against cognitive ageing.
Benefits of Playing Puzzles With Mental Health Illness?
There’s a serious problem with mental health and it appears to be worsening. Even though life seems to be getting easier, with technology advancing, food available at all times, reduced poverty, we still see mental health problems growing.
It’s almost like the digital age has put us in a state of information overload, with a feeling of nihilism lingering in our minds. We live less in the “real world” (which we are designed to do) and more in the digital world.
This could be the onslaught on why mental illnesses are growing tremendously throughout all age groups.
The objective of jigsaw puzzles here would be to reduce stress levels by engaging the mind on the tasks at hand, which in turn brings calm to the sufferer.
How Do Puzzles Help Physical Development
There’s not much evidence that jigsaw puzzle solving can help a person’s physical development, at least not directly.
However, with children, puzzles help develop hand-to-eye co-ordination, and as already mentioned, the fine motor skills. This improvement may indirectly assist of physical developments, such as with sports.
Puzzles aren’t going to improve your child’s physical abilities directly. But with a better hand-to-eye co-ordination, it may assist with reading the game better and positioning oneself in the right place at the right time.