Play Attention improves the cognitive skills that lay the foundation for strong Executive Functioning, but many of our clients would like to know other activities they can do outside of their Play Attention sessions to improve cognitive skills even more. In the coming weeks, we'll be giving specific examples of such activities divided into age category. This week, let's continue with activities for toddlers and preschoolers:
Activity 3 for Toddlers and Preschoolers: Puzzles
Areas developed: Working Memory / Patience & Impulse Control / Spatial Memory
In our high tech world of iPads and X-boxes, sitting down with your child to put together a puzzle might seem antiquated. In reality, however, it is a tried and true method of strengthening cognitive skills necessary for good Executive Function, especially if you start early.
Modern manufacturers make puzzles appropriate for ages as young as 3, and starting early gives a child a strong foundation in negotiating low-stimuli activities before technology like cell phones or computers come into the picture. Once a child is exposed to things like off-the-shelf video games, which are intentionally high in stimulation, lower stimuli activities tend to feel tedious by comparison... and often academic tasks like homework or classwork fall into the latter category.
But if a child develops an affinity for low-stimuli tasks early on, that affinity tends to persist and carry over as the child ages. Plus, it gives you an excellent way to spend quality time with your child, where you can engage with them, yet still be working on the puzzle itself.
Most importantly, puzzles develop working memory and spatial memory, by which the child absorbs the shape, appearance, and positioning of various pieces, and uses that information to gradually construct a larger whole. Not to mention the sustained focus and patience it requires, which helps develop the ability to control impulsiveness.
Again, the key here is to start young. Modern puzzles for toddlers and preschoolers have anywhere from 4 to 8 pieces, and the pieces themselves are large with colorful images children find appealing: from dinosaurs to spaceships. Appropriate age categories are printed right on the box, so as your child's ability increases, you can try puzzles of greater and greater complexity.
Done early, and at the child's own pace, puzzles can be a fun and fruitful activity your family can enjoy for years on end.