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42 Thinking Skills You Can Learn From Doing Jigsaw Puzzles
Puzzles are a unique cognitive development and character building activity. There are few educational experiences that have the potential to teach such a diverse range of thinking skills, as well as other useful skills such as patience and perseverance. Learning these skills can be beneficial at any stage of your life. For example, puzzles can teach you:
Strategies for solving problems
Project management skills
Character development skills and characteristics
The puzzles are good and easy to get, you need a little space to do them and very little can go wrong, as long as you don’t lose pieces or let the dog chew. If you are a parent or a teacher, you can follow some simple steps to help your children or students gain confidence in a range of skills that will benefit them in many areas of their learning. The key to this is transferability. This article explains what it is and how you can use it.
The educational value of doing a puzzle is twofold: first, building a base of useful individual skills; second, transferring these skills to other situations where they can be applied to solve new problems. A lot of research has been done on the transfer of learning from one situation to another. This is one of the key goals of any learning. If you want to do some in-depth reading on the topic, go to Google and search for “transferable skills”.
So, what is transferability? A simple example is learning how to hammer a nail into a piece of wood. Imagine if you could only use a length of nail and a hammer of one size to hit one type of material, for example wood. This would not be very useful for you, because the skill is not transferable to other situations. You need to learn a new skill every time you want to use a hammer in a different situation. However, if you know that you can use any size hammer with any size nails and almost any type of material, it would be much more useful to you as a skill. Even better, if you knew you could use the skill on the ground, in the air or on a boat or a hundred other places, it would be even more useful. This simple example shows what transferability is: knowing how to apply a skill in new situations.
How do you transfer the skills you’re learning doing a puzzle to other situations? All you have to do is follow a three-step process. The skills you will use should be:
b. I understand as a process, and
c. Applied to new situations.
But, before you rush to do a puzzle in the hope that you will become a super problem-solver, there are a few tips that will help make the experience more beneficial. When you do your puzzle, you need to be aware of what you are doing and be able to articulate the process as you do it.
This means that while doing the puzzle, you need to be aware of your own speech, that is, what you say to yourself while you engage in doing the puzzle. An example of this might be: “I use my organizational skills to sort the puzzle pieces into straight edges and inside pieces.” This skill could be used later when doing your laundry, where you can say, “I use my organizational skills to sort the laundry into dark and light colors.” At a higher level, you might say, “I organize my staff into skill levels so that they can complete the project in the most efficient way.”
In this article I have isolated 42 skills that can be developed to do puzzles, but there are probably many more. Write me if you find some more and I will update the article. The beauty of puzzles is that they start at a very simple level and go up to devilishly difficult levels of challenge, like the Clementoni puzzles that have over 13000 pieces. For those of you who are more adventurous, there are also puzzles and 3-D puzzles with other challenging features. Visit your local toy shop to see the range of puzzle challenges that are available.
It is helpful to set a reasonable goal by starting where you are comfortable and progressing from there to more challenging puzzles. While doing the puzzle, remember to note the skill you are using. Developing this self-talk will help you apply or transfer the skill to new situations.
Here are the skills that you can learn as you do your puzzle, and you can also talk to yourself that you could go with them. Skills are listed in alphabetical order. The last part of this article has suggestions for the kind of self-talk you can use to apply the skills you’ve learned to new situations.
Affirmation for small achievements, for example, adapt a piece correctly: “I feel good that I have achieved that goal.”
Analysis: “I have broken the puzzle into all its parts and now I understand how it will fit together.”
Arranging: “I am arranging these pieces in an order that will help me work more efficiently.”
Attention to detail: “This color is not the same as that color, so this piece must go somewhere else.”
Categorizing: “I organized all these pieces in their colors.”
Collaboration: “This area is very challenging, so we need to work together to solve it.
Comparison: “This shape fits in this space. This piece is too big to fit in that space.”
Comprehension: “I understand the picture, so I can do this section.”
Concentration: “I’m concentrating on the size, edges, shapes and colors of these pieces to see how they go together.”
Contrast: “Are these colors/shapes the same or are they different?”
Creativity (different ways to identify puzzle pieces): “This piece is too difficult to identify by color, so I will compare the shapes of the edges.”
The decision: “All these pieces form that part of the picture.”
Ever increasing challenges (less pieces to many pieces): “I did a 100-piece puzzle last time. This time I’m going for a 200-piece puzzle.”
Hand-eye coordination (fine motor control): “These pieces are very small, so I have to be dexterous to manipulate them in their correct areas.”
Flexibility (working on different areas): “I tried this area for a while without much success. I will try another area for a while.”
Formulation of questions: “How do these pieces fit together? Does this color match that color?”
Goal setting: “I’ll finish this puzzle in a week.”
Helpful (send a person, don’t give the answer): “Have you tried one of these pieces here?” “Try that piece upside down.”
Hypothesizing: “This piece can’t go there, so it must go there. Let’s try there first.” “If that piece goes there, this piece must go there.”
Learn the content of the picture for discussion and language development: “I can see three green trees next to a blue river.”
Memory retention: “I’ve tried this piece here before, because it doesn’t fit.”
Get feedback on your decisions: “Oops! Wrong choice. I can see it’s not a good fit.”
Organization: “All these pieces go in that area, and all those pieces go in this area.”
Overcome distractions, strengthen concentration: “It’s a little noisy here with the television on, but I’ll concentrate harder to complete the puzzle.”
Patience: “I just found a piece that fits in the last fifteen minutes. It doesn’t matter, I’ll keep trying.”
Perseverance: “I want to stay here until I finish this puzzle.”
Planning: “I’ll do this area first, then look for the corner pieces, then complete that area.”
Planning work sessions and breaks: “I feel tired, so I’ll work for half an hour, take a break, then I’ll do more.”
Priority: “I’ll do this difficult area first, then I’ll do that area that’s a little easier.”
Problem Solving: “This whole puzzle is a problem I need to solve. Finding the edges is a problem I can solve. Sorting the pieces into color groups is a problem I can solve.”
Procedure: “I can choose the order I prefer to work in. I can do this before I do that.”
Process of elimination: “I’ll try these pieces in this area. If they fit, the puzzle will be much easier to solve from this point forward.”
Reasoning, justify your choices of shape or color: “These pieces go here because the colors match, but those pieces do not go here. The colors are a little darker.”
Review: “So far I’ve completed this area and I only have five more pieces to fit before I move on to the next area.”
Self-reflection (learn from mistakes): “I feel a little annoyed. Why did I take so long to complete this area?”
Sense of Adventure: “This puzzle might be too hard for me, but I’ll try anyway. What have I got to lose?”
Sequence: “This is a logical order of work. I will do this area, then I will do that area. After that, complete this tip.”
Sharing behavior: “We’ll work together on this space. I’ll help you find your pieces if you help me find mine.”
Social interaction: I like doing this puzzle with you. We are a great team.”
Spatial Orientation Skills: “If I rotate this in my mind, I can see that it doesn’t fit there. It fits there.”
Stop for pleasure, appreciate and admire the picture: “What a beautiful scene of a French vineyard”.
Trial and error process: “One of these nine pieces will fit here. I’ll try them all, even if it takes some time.”
Now that you know a range of skills you can use, as well as examples of self-talk that will help you understand the process you will use, it’s time to make a puzzle. Print this article and keep it with you while you do it. Refer back often to identify skills and practice the author’s patterns.
When you have used these skills and are familiar with them, you will be ready to move to new situations to solve problems. When faced with a problem-solving challenge at home or at work, take a moment to step back and ask yourself:
· What skills I used in the puzzle can I use here?
Use the same authoring patterns to apply the skill to the new situation. Let’s use the example of having a flat tire on your car. Maybe you’ve never changed a tire before. What could you say to yourself?
“What skill I used in the puzzle can I use here?”
“What sequence of actions do I need to accomplish this task?”
“I need concentration to complete this task in time.”
Finally, one extra thing needs to be said. You must provide the motivation to learn the skills and apply them to new situations as part of your own personal problem-solving strategy. If you do not apply your skills to new situations, maybe the washing will not be done or the tire will not be changed. The application stage is the most important if you hope to become a better thinker.
Now you are ready to try solving some real life problems with these skills. Happy puzzling and happy problem solving.
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