Are there benefits to puzzles and games in education?
No matter the stage of life your kids are in, whether it be a child who is just about to start primary education or a young adult who is entering university, puzzles are beneficial in most educational settings. To improve personal development, both children and adults can benefit from puzzles and games.
In many cultures, the simple act of playing is often seen as ‘child’s play’ and considered to offer no real value. Perceived to be a waste of time and not productive – parents in this environment will frown upon children playing games and push them to focus on ‘useful’ studies. We believe, correction – we know, differently. There are many benefits to be found in playing games, from socialization to learning strategy, solving challenges to improved patience and dexterity, as well as a myriad of other educational benefits. Here we will focus on some of the Educational Benefits.
The benefits of games and puzzles can include:
- supporting self-esteem,
- improved concentration,
- allowing development of creativity,
- improved mood and productivity
Working on these personal developments are important in an individual’s education as it can help them to reach their full potential. Building skills by doing puzzles that are transferable to their educational, and in fact, everyday life. Some of these skills include, lateral thinking, problem-solving, language and teamwork.
Here we look at some of these attributes and why they are beneficial to improve upon.
Lateral thinking is defined as ‘the solving of problems by an indirect and creative approach, typically through viewing the problem in a new and unusual light’. Dr Edward De Bono, who developed lateral thinking techniques, states it is a set of processes and a “systematic way of thinking creatively” which then innovatively results in thinking. Over the past years, lateral thinking has been used in the context of educational psychology (Shlomo Waks,1997). Education in primary and secondary can refer to activities and learning objectives in schools which can involve both lateral and logical thinking. Logical thinking finds a solution that follows steps, whereas lateral thinking finds a solution by creating new ideas and looking at problems from completely new perspectives. Both of these types of thinking are valuable in any educational setting and can also be associated with puzzles – in the case of lateral thinking, specifically, puzzles which don’t offer an ‘obvious’ pathway to a solution.
Problem solving skills
Puzzles prepare an individual from any age group by providing the right skills and mindset that is needed to achieve further learning goals. One of the key benefits of play is building the ability to solve problems. Playing games and doing puzzles, especially ones which require concentration and push the child to think harder to look for a solution, build skills required later in life when faced with a tough problem.
The self-esteem gained when successfully solving a particularly difficult challenge gives children the resilience required in later life to know that they can succeed when confronted with a problem and the confidence to have a go.
Self-esteem plays a vital role in education. Matt Ferkany (2008) suggests that self-esteem is associated with confidence and motivation, which is needed in children to achieve satisfactory educational goals. Solving a puzzle is not only fun but can give the satisfaction of achieving a goal that raises an individual’s self-esteem. By engaging in fun and stimulating puzzles, where there are challenges to solve, increases positive self-esteem which then prepares them for further challenges in life.
Self-esteem (whether from puzzles or education) can also improve mood and productivity that will enable a child, or any individual, to achieve any educational goals.
Other educational benefits that games can bring to an individual are improving their social skills. There are many activities and learning goals in primary, secondary and even tertiary education where teamwork is needed to achieve a learning objective. Playing a games or working together to solve a puzzle in a social environment and with multiple players can enhance an individual’s communication, language and team building skills.
Puzzles can encourage and bring together many children and teenagers in their classrooms or home, in a fun and engaging manner, helping build socialisation skills while also achieving many educational goals such as improving their use of language and vocabulary.
Some learning benefits of puzzles are hand-eye and fine motor skills and even cognitive skills. These skills can be as simple as an individual picking up and moving a puzzle piece to solving the entire puzzle. These moves involve fine motor skills as the movement requires small specialised movements of the hand, fingers and thumb. Fine motor skills are necessary especially in early education that involves various activities such as handwriting, painting, and even life activities such as dressing and feeding.
Here are some games that we think will help you and your children improve these skills:
- Basketball string puzzle – This puzzle is a lot harder than it looks. This requires lateral thinking and helps you work on your child’s patience. If they solve it, their self-esteem will be immeasurable.
- Star Interlock – 6 identical pieces that fit together neatly. The only small problem seems to be ‘how do you fit the last piece in’? Wrong, now think laterally to solve this. This builds patience as well as problem solving.
- Conway packaging problem – This puzzle defies normal logic and as such, builds patience, lateral thinking and problem solving skills. Can you fit an additional (9th) piece into a seemingly already full box?
- 3D XO – This takes Noughts and Crosses to a new level – now you have to try to win while learning to think in 3 Dimensions. Apart from the spatial awareness gained, this builds social skills as a 2 player game, dexterity in having to pick up and place the pieces on the sticks, and if you win, builds self-esteem.
- Black Sheep – With 47 different challenges, which go from VERY easy to extremely difficult, each puzzle solved builds confidence and self-esteem. Once a child (or indeed adult) reaches a challenge that seems impossible, the patience and lateral thinking required is developed naturally as the desire to ‘beat’ the level kicks in.
- Chinese Checkers – This is great for social play as there can be 2,3,4 or 6 players. Apart from the obvious socialization skills gained, there is a level of problem solving required not seen in many other games as the player has to find a way to build and follow through a path while watching what the numerous other players are trying to do.
There are many other puzzles and games, these are just a few in the range which help with some or all of the various educational and developmental benefits.