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Using Puzzles to Teach Kids About the World

Using puzzles to learn about the world

My kids and I really enjoy doing puzzles together. Puzzles are great for teaching kids to patiently solve a problem, as well as to look for patterns. They are also a fun activity to work on while listening to a book on tape or a story being read aloud by someone else. I started to look for ways to get even more out of puzzle building and I came up with the idea of using puzzles to teach kids about the world. My sister introduced me to GeoPuzzles*, and we have three of those that we build all the time. They are great for getting kids used to the shapes of different countries, and how those countries fit into continents. So far my kids do best if I build these puzzles with them – particularly for smaller countries (they are great at figuring out where Russia and China belong!)

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Using puzzles to learn about history and geography

I was really excited to find this 4D US History Time Puzzle*. My kids are interested in US geography from our cross-country road trip, and this puzzle teaches some history as well!

Puzzles teach kids problem solving and patience.

For the first layer, you build the country based on territorial expansion from 1783 to the 1900’s. This layer is incredibly complicated, and it takes a lot of patience and careful planning! There is color coding, but some of the colors are so close together that it is nearly impossible to tell them apart. I helped a lot with this layer, and the key is to use the words to build most of it (thankfully a range of fonts are used) and then add details in between.

Working together on a puzzle of the USA - collaboration and geography!

Five-year-old Lily was extremely proud to add the final piece to this puzzle after weeks of working on it! It does look really neat when it is all put together, and we spent a few days looking at it and learning about the different sections before adding the next layer.

History timeline USA puzzle

The foam states layer goes together really quickly! Parts of it are clearly not to scale – Alaska and Hawaii are nowhere near the same size. The landmarks are also not entirely accurately placed, but that is inevitable when you are covering so much geographic area with this level of detail in one small puzzle.

Adding states to our 4D puzzle - learning US geography

The kids spent a lot of time playing with our completed puzzle. I liked the landmarks feature, but I think I will enjoy it even more on one of this company’s city puzzles, where things don’t have to be scaled down so much. I have their Paris Time Puzzle on my wishlist – I think it would be  great way to teach my kids a little bit about this city that played a large role in my own childhood!

Learning US geography and history through a 4D puzzle

Eventually we took the puzzle apart (I hadn’t used the adhesives that are included to stick the layers together because I knew I would want to do it over with the kids when they are older). Mike was relieved to reclaim the third of our dining room table this puzzle had taken over (our dining room table is actually three of these tables* clamped together – works really well!)

Do you have a favorite puzzle to recommend?

MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

13 thoughts on “Using Puzzles to Teach Kids About the World”

  1. Natalie PlanetSmartyPants

    This looks gorgeous, but probably a bit too complex for my 8 year old who is still a bit reluctant to apply herself to puzzles. We do have one GeoPuzzle that we love, and we are about to get a globe. Just the other day I asked my daughter to find Germany on the globe in school, and was quite impressed that she found it in under a minute.

  2. Elisa | blissfulE

    I don’t enjoy puzzles, but my kids do… this reminds me that I should get some puzzles out for when we are listening to audio books or memorisation work!

    And what a terrific idea clamping three IKEA tables together for your dining room! You have just opened up a new world of home furnishings to me! Another blogger with a lot of kids in a small house said recently that the key is furnishing using lightweight portable furniture, and this solution fits resoundingly in that category. Brilliant!

  3. Wow that is such a unique puzzle! I don’t think we’ve done complex puzzles like that yet. I should probably add it to my list. I’ve been borrowing books and talking to my kids about geography, maps and world, and this would be a good accompaniment.

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