By nature, young children are inquisitive souls. As they begin to discover the world – their world – they embrace learning as an exciting and rewarding experience, where every new skill or bit of information is another mystery solved. They revel in a sense of achievement and love to share what they know and what they can do.
Parents can take advantage of these natural tendencies by providing their youngsters with regular learning opportunities which are challenging and fun. Although there are plenty of online resources to choose from, one of the most effective and affordable ways to develop a child’s knowledge, literacy and numeracy is to offer them simple puzzle books.
Basic reading and writing skills can benefit from puzzles such as word finds, code crackers and crosswords. Word finds ask the young learner to locate a number of specific words which are hidden in a large square of letters. They teach the child to look closely at each letter and to recognize familiar patterns of letters. If the word find is on a particular theme, they will also help to build vocabulary.
Code cracker puzzles often use a simple letter/number substitution code, which assists with numeracy while allowing the child to spell out words correctly. A variation on this type of puzzle uses anagrams which the young reader needs to rearrange in order to find the correct answer. The limited number of available letters –which can be crossed out when used – will help to improve spelling of familiar words.
Crosswords are another terrific way of improving spelling, and they also help to develop a child’s vocabulary. The youngster already knows how many letters there are in the correct answer, and they may already have a couple of letters filled in to assist with the correct spelling, so the challenge is fun without being daunting.
Join-the-dots puzzles are a simple and creative way of building a child’s number recognition. Aside from the basic maths skills it helps to develop, a join-the-dots puzzle can seem like art to the youngster. Stick the finished picture on the fridge or a bedroom wall and they will be encouraged to try even more detailed challenges.
A puzzle which parents can create is the numbered jigsaw, in which the pieces are most easily fitted together when the sequence of numbers is correct. Similarly, mystery sentences can be made – such as “would you like some cake” – which use numbered cards and make sense to a young reader when they have placed the words in numerical order.
There are several advantages to using pen and paper puzzles, rather than activities found on a computer. To begin with, they will teach the child the value of books and pencils. Not everything they do at school will be created on a computer, after all. Secondly, they will develop invaluable handwriting skills. The fun that youngsters have while completing these puzzles will stand them in good stead for the more difficult challenges they will face at school in the years ahead.