- Puzzles are considered educational when they satisfy four criteria: generality (explaining some universal math problem-solving principle), simplicity, “Eureka” factor, and entertainment factor. The younger your child is introduced to STEM puzzles and activities, the more likely they will be successful in school, professionally, and personally.
- Surprisingly, not all puzzles are considered educational. Which means, it’s important to find STEM-certified puzzles so that you’re not spending so much time reviewing every toy out there. There are various types of puzzles too. Some are riddles, matching puzzles, word problems, and board puzzles.
- One thing that stands out to me is that STEM puzzles are all about discovery and open-ended questions to stimulate in-depth thinking and discovering new concepts. According to the Toy Association report, there are many characteristics of STEM puzzles. A few key ones are: Puzzles should relate to the real world, trigger both sides of the brain to work together, fun, and allow your child to explore all areas of STEM.
The biggest misconception about STEM is that it’s for those who like robots, computers, and technology-based tools. However, this is farthest from the truth.
Generally speaking, it includes various independent and teamwork-based toys like STEM puzzles and matching games.
What’s the Difference Between STEM Puzzles and Puzzles?
Believe it or not, not all puzzles meet STEM criteria. In fact, puzzles may hold one or two, but it’s important to have a combination of four criteria.
According to “A Guide to Puzzle-Based Learning in STEM Subjects“, puzzles are considered educational when they “satisfy four criteria” generality (explaining some universal math problem-solving principle), simplicity, “Eureka” factor, and the entertainment factor.
STEM puzzles will have various characteristics that require a type of thinking called lateral thinking. This is a way of solving problems by by-passing typical ways of reaching a solution. Your child must think of a less obvious way to solve the problem.
By doing this, your child is learning how to problem-solve, think outside the box, and will experience that “Eureka” moment in-between the frustration that they work through, the determination of a challenge and the satisfaction at the end when they solve it.
A puzzle is something that requires discipline and struggles in a positive way to solve it independently or as a team.
A few(of many) positive takeaways for your child:
- Take personal responsibility
- Develop tenacity
- Practice recognition skills
- Make creative approaches and choices
- Practice and learn leadership skills and communication skills
- Develop emotional intelligence
STEM puzzles build well-rounded children because it combines various fields of study into one session without confusing them. It’s less overwhelming when children see how everything is connected for a deeper learning experience. It’s less about memorization and more about understanding entire concepts that build on each other to understand the entire picture.
Characteristics of a STEM puzzle
- Structured play, yet slightly open-ended in terms of creative ways to solving a problem.
- Aids in building critical thinking skills.
- Will combine math, engineering, science, and technology. In one sitting, they’re using all four subjects in order to build important skills like; logical thinking, critical thinking, spatial awareness, dexterity, emotional intelligence and so forth.
- Help maintain interest in children as most struggle with short attention spans.
- Reflect math content like ratio and proportion, logical reasoning, measurement, geometry, and problem-solving.
- Encourage exploration, investigation, creativity, and risk-taking.
- Offer opportunities to use tools to build, take apart, and measure.
I’m sure you’re probably thinking that these puzzles don’t involve technology and engineering, but there’s a lot involved in these two areas.
Engineering is about solving problems. It’s no longer limited to buildings and bridges. There are all different types of engineers too like chemical, civil, mechanical and electrical engineers.
Which brings me to another plus of STEM learning. Giving your child a variety of STEM puzzles and toys, they will learn more about what type of professions are out there and see what they’re interested in as they grow.
Engineering teaches kids to think deeply, make connections, and be a problem-solver. They learn to build and match numbers using puzzles like Stack-by-Numbers for example.
Plus, as they play with these puzzles children are manipulating the blocks at their own pace and learning through trial and error.
Lastly, your child has to count the blocks and see how each small piece fits together to create one solution. They’re learning multiple concepts at once.
It’s fun to see what grabs your child’s attention as you experiment yourself in finding STEM toys for your little one for the best probability of them enjoying STEM concepts as they grow.
Is STEM even important at a young age?
Do you know how pre-k is important for children in order for them to be ready for kindergarten? The next level is being ready for first grade. This study showed kindergartener’s general knowledge was the strongest predictor of their first-grade knowledge too.
That brings me to the second factor, their first-grade knowledge was a predictor of third to eighth grade too.
Lastly, to my point of the story, “Between fourth and eighth grade, the number of children reporting positive attitudes about math and science drops from about 71 percent to about 48 percent.”
The statistic shows a huge drop and this can happen for various reasons, of course. First, the opportunity to learn and have extra help at home is limited.
Second, most schools only teach a standard curriculum and it’s difficult to learn one way when there are three different styles of learning.
To get ahead of these common issues, including STEM puzzles in your child’s toy budget is something that should be a top priority. It’s an evergreen toy because they are STEM certified and they grow with your child.
You are giving your little one the ability to feel confident in tackling difficulties in school. They’re less likely to be apart of the statistics of dreading subjects like math and science.
There are so many benefits to STEM puzzles, these are just a few.
Across various publications and blogs that I’ve found, one thing is for certain, “early math skills are the strongest predictor of later school success. Simple activities like counting and playing with puzzles can build children’s STEM skills.” – theconversation.com
Another key point is that the earlier they start, the better off they will be.
This study showed that children between 26-46 months who played with puzzles had better spatial skills when re-assessed at 54 months as compared to those who didn’t.
STEM skills are extremely important for children to become well-rounded adults who can not only solve problems professionally but work as a team and develop skills to be productive and proactive in their personal lives.
In order for STEM to be successful, it has to be engaging. The more hands-on it is, the better it is as well.
Why is this something that should be pointed out?
Children thrive off of structure, productivity, and it builds confidence in all the right ways. Take action taking and support your little one with STEM puzzles and STEM activities at home.
You’re helping them develop good habits as they choose to “learn” over mindless distractions like TV and computer games.
Plus, we need children in STEM fields as our future depends on an environment that is cleaner and proactive rather than playing catch up to the damage we cause.
Types of Puzzles
There are all different types of puzzles.
In fact, puzzles can be word problems, riddles, and conundrums in advanced mathematics.
However, let’s leave the advanced mathematics to the mathematicians.
There are so many characteristics to a great STEM puzzle.
One thing that stands out to me is that STEM puzzles are all about discovery and open-ended questions to stimulate in-depth thinking and discovering new concepts.
Here are a few cool examples or explanations of each type of puzzle.
Word problems for Kindergarten:
- Fruit riddles – Kids learn how to use deductive reasoning in order to figure out an answer.
- A math riddle will usually be in the form of an ambiguous question that can be interpreted in two different ways. It also contains a clue that requires the student’s creativity and presence of mind to unlock the answer.
- Activity example: Using a puzzle, your child can connect two different colored puzzles that would make another color if combined. For example, “connect the two colored puzzles if mixed would give you pink”. They should connect the red and white puzzle piece together.
- This activity sharpens their problem-solving, logical reasoning and spatial relationship skills.
- I have wings but I am not a bird, I am small, colorful and beautiful, I live in Gardens and fields and forests, I used to be a caterpillar -Who am I ? – Cat.
- I am a very big animal and I like to eat Peanuts, banana, and hay. I have four legs, two big ears, and two long teeth – Who am I? – Elephant.
- You will buy me to eat but never eat me. What am I? – A plate.
- Why are ghosts bad at lying? – Because you can see right through them! HAAAA.
Okay, okay, I got a little carried away there. Who says these riddles can’t be funny?!
- Any type of block that your child plays with, you can add patterns and ask questions. For example, layout a red rectangle, yellow triangle, blue circle two times in a row, then have them guess what comes next.
- Using the Brickmates baseboard from any of the puzzles, take the number blocks and create a maze, then use marbles or a small round object and have your child try to complete the maze. You could have one child make the maze and the other solve it, then have them take turns.
What Puzzles are a STEM
Does it even matter? YES because it saves you time trying to figure out if it has all of these qualities listed below. Trust me there are a lot.
However, it’s just as important to know these details so you’re making an informed decision.
A STEM-certified badge indicates a toy:
- Integrate seamlessly into STEM program and classrooms credentialing
- Align to Science, Technology, Engineering, and/or Math standards
- Support the development of students 21st Century Skills
- Engage students through hands-on learning and collaboration
- Ensure an unbiased, third-party review and evaluation process
According to the Toy Association report, there are many characteristics that make a puzzle educational, they explained.
If STEM puzzles:
- Allow your child to explore all areas of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). It doesn’t have to be in a literal sense of using technology but encouraging your child to use the typical steps they would need to complete a project.
- Are these puzzles engaging and fun? Are they appropriate for your child’s age group?
- Trigger both sides of the brain. Children develop emotional reactions and habits when they are challenged, work through their frustration, and experience fun moments. These are examples of right-side brain activity. Whereas the left side stimulates STEM-related thought processes like analytical thinking.
- Do the STEM puzzles relate to the real world in some way?
- Trial and error are important. Children should know they will fail and that it’s okay to fail. It teaches them how to eliminate fear and work through it.
Here are some examples of STEM-puzzles:
Are you going to use some of these examples at home? Your little one will be so happy to do something stimulating and new.
Plus, you’ll love seeing your child discover and grow while they “play” with these fun at-home activities.
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