Favorite Jigsaw Puzzles for Kids of All Ages & Tips for Getting Started

Kids doing jigsaw puzzles on the floor - best quiet time activity

Jigsaw puzzles are known as “brain toys” because they build critical thinking, visual discrimination, and problem solving skills. We love giving puzzles as gifts for kids, because they make a great quiet time activity and cultivate concentration, fine motor skills, and hand-eye coordination!

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Although my kids usually do puzzles independently, they’ve also been great opportunities for family bonding and collaborative brainstorming.

While we’ve made a lot of puzzles for Chinese learning in the past, this post focuses on general puzzles that your family can use with any language. If you and your kids are doing puzzles together, keep in mind that these are golden opportunities to boost vocabulary while describing the puzzle pieces and actions needed to complete the puzzle.

Related: 7 Natural Ways to Improve Communication Skills Through Play

Favorite Jigsaw Puzzles for Kids of All Ages

Our favorite puzzles have evolved as my kids have grown, and I’ll share tips for getting kids started on their first puzzles to where they are now. Due to the pandemic and wildfires, we’ve been doing puzzles more than ever and have tried a lot of different puzzle brands!

You can find most of these puzzles in my Amazon Shop here.

As with any activity, I would suggest choosing puzzles based on your child’s interests (eg, animals, vehicles, flowers).

I also don’t give specific age ranges, because kids learn at various paces; there isn’t a right or wrong age to try puzzles. Plus, in contrast to my kids, I don’t remember doing puzzles as a kid, and my husband is totally lost when it comes to puzzles. So please don’t worry about age!

More educational gifts for kids

How to make easy DIY beginner puzzles for kids

Beginner puzzles for kids: Easy DIY cardboard picture puzzle

The easiest way to introduce jigsaw puzzles to kids is by simply covering up part of a picture in books and seeing if your child can guess what it is. This is a great chance observe details carefully, such as color and texture similarities, parts of an animal or object, and identify what is missing.

You can also cut pictures or covers on boxes (eg, cereal, snacks) in half to see if your child can put them together.

When your child has mastered matching halves, cut the picture into quarters and eventually more pieces and shapes.

You can also print photographs from the internet and glue them onto cardboard for extra sturdiness. Cut and voila – a free jigsaw puzzle!

Bilingual Chinese English transportation knobbed puzzle for kids

Beginner puzzles for kids: knobbed puzzles

Wood knobbed puzzles are an excellent first puzzle for toddlers and preschoolers.

Knobs promote pincer grasp, which strengthens fine motor muscles that will later be used for handwriting.

These puzzles usually have the image as a whole, so the goal is to match the outline of the puzzle piece.

Since we are raising bilingual kids and encouraging them to speak Chinese consistently, I bought bilingual puzzles to remind me to use those terms.

The problem with the transportation puzzle above is that the Chinese characters are too colorful. With poor contrast against the busy background, they are difficult to read. Otherwise, my car-obsessed son LOVED this puzzle! Although he had outgrown it, he was a little sad when I donated it.

Favorite knobbed puzzles for babies and toddlers

Inspired by my friend, Sharon, I’ve also labeled puzzles with Chinese characters to remind me to speak Chinese to my kids. Since I didn’t want to write directly on the puzzle, I used these Avery removable white circle labels. For kids who are ready to read, this can be away to introduce word-matching activities!

Related: Create a Print-Rich Environment with Labels that Promote Literacy

Where to buy knobbed puzzles

Montessori Wood Puzzles - Plant and Animal Anatomy, Parts of a horse, parts of a leaf, parts of a flower, parts of a tree, parts of a turtle, parts of a frog

For Montessori fans, the wonderful parts of a plant or animal puzzles teach parts of living things.

Where to buy Montessori puzzles

Since these are pricey, you may want to look for them secondhand! Due to the thick wood, these puzzles tend to hold up well over years.

wooden fishing puzzle for toddlers

Fishing puzzle

This puzzle requires more eye-hand coordination, but it’s an exciting as it introduces magnetism! You can buy the Melissa and Doug Fishing Puzzle on Amazon and also Target.

Melissa and Doug wooden jigsaw puzzles - vehicles, farm animals, wild animals

Favorite Jigsaw puzzles for toddlers and preschoolers

We love sturdy puzzles for toddlers! Here are favorites that we’ve been gifted over the years.

60-piece dinosaur puzzle - Ravensburger
Ravensburger 60-piece dinosaur puzzle and matching pajamas 🙂

Puzzles for preschoolers and elementary school kids

We love the Ravensburger brand for preschoolers and elementary kids! Buffalo Games and Springbok are also a good puzzle brands.

From 60 to 500-piece puzzles, below are some of the designs that we’ve completed over the years. To save on cost, you can consider sharing these with another family who has kids of similar ages.

Ravenburger Solar System Jigsaw Puzzle
Ravensburger solar system puzzle & matching outfit styled by my daughter 🙂

3-dimensional puzzles

These 3-dimensional puzzles are unique and can be left out for decoration!

Ravensburger puzzle globe for kids and adults; fun decoration
Ravensburger puzzle globe for kids and adults; fun decoration

Related: Montessori Geography Printables and Hands-On Materials for Kids

Due to lack of space, we’re holding off on other 3-D puzzles for now. If your family has room and passion, here are some cool 3-D puzzles with high reviews on our wish list:

Puzzles for older kids and adults: 1000-piece puzzles!!

My 6-year-old completed her first four 1000-piece puzzles over the summer! Here are close-up photos of each puzzle with their links. I have yet to complete my first 500-piece puzzle independently, but here are her recommendations if you’re a puzzle aficionado like her!

Challenging 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle - cherry blossoms
1000-piece jigsaw puzzle – cherry blossoms

How to save unfinished puzzles

We have empty floor space in our living room where we let my daughter leave her work-in-progress during the week. However, if you need to move your puzzles out of the way, Buffalo games has various puzzle saver solutions in this link with good reviews.

6 tips for puzzle success

While these photos shows proudly completed puzzles, it’s important to know that there were incomplete puzzles before that gave temporary frustrations.

Children often have insight into what they are ready for – whether they can face a challenge independently, need us by their side, or just need to try some other time.

And when they do try, we celebrate the journey – the baby steps, the momentum that comes with persistence, the resilience from trial & error.

We let them know that we support them no matter the outcome, because whether or not we finish the whole puzzle, project, or plan, we’re learning & growing!

I asked my daughter to share what motivates her to tackle big puzzles. Her advice is as follows:

  1. Look at the big picture
  2. Find a comfortable space to work on the puzzle
  3. Turn pieces picture-side up and organize by color
  4. Focus on 1 step at a time (eg, assemble border)
  5. Patience, practice, and perseverance
  6. Take breaks
6 tips for puzzle success

Are you a family of puzzle lovers? Or are puzzles a new experience for your kids?

I’d love to hear your experiences and if your kids enjoyed any of these puzzles! Please feel free to leave a comment below.

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