42 thinking skills you can learn by solving puzzles
42 thinking skills you can learn by solving puzzles
Puzzles are a one stop cognitive development and character building activity. Few educational experiences have the potential to teach such a diverse set of thinking skills, as well as other useful skills such as patience and persistence. Learning these skills can benefit you at any stage of your life. For example, puzzles can teach you to:
- Problem Solving Strategies
- Project management skills
- Self-management skills
- Visual skills
- Cognitive skills
- Skills and Traits for Character Development
- Tactile skills
- Social skills
- Collaboration skills
Puzzles are cheap and easy to get, you only need a small space to make them and very little can go wrong as long as you don’t lose pieces or let the dog chew on them. If you are a parent or teacher, you can follow some simple steps to help your children or students gain confidence in a set of skills that will benefit them in many areas of their learning. The key to this is transferability. This article explains what it is and how you can use it.
The educational value of putting together a puzzle is twofold: first, by building a base of useful individual skills; second, by transferring these skills to other situations where they can be applied to solve new problems. Much research has been done on the transfer of learning from one situation to another. This is one of the main goals of all training. If you want to read in depth on the subject, go to Google and search for “transferable skills”.
So what is transferability? A simple example is learning how to drive a nail into a piece of wood. Imagine if you could only use one length of nail and one size of hammer to drive it into one type of material, such as wood. This wouldn’t be very useful to you because the skill doesn’t transfer to other situations. You will have to learn a new skill every time you want to use a hammer in a different situation. However, if you knew you could use any size hammer with any size nail and almost any type of material, it would be much more useful as a skill. Even better, knowing that you can use the skill on the ground, in the air, on a boat, or in hundreds of other places will be even more useful. This simple example demonstrates what transferability is: knowing how to apply a skill to new situations.
How do you transfer the skills you learn doing a puzzle to other situations? All you have to do is follow a three-step process. The skill you use must be:
b. Understood as a process and
° C. It applies to new situations.
But before you rush off to put together a puzzle in the hopes that you’ll become a super problem solver, there are a few tips to help make the experience more rewarding. As you put your puzzle together, you must be consciously aware of what you are doing and be able to articulate the process as you do it.
This means that while you are sorting the puzzle, you must be aware of your own conversation, ie. what do you say to yourself as you go about putting the puzzle together. An example of this might be: “I use my organizational skills to sort the puzzle pieces into straight edges and inside pieces.” This skill can be used later when doing laundry where you can say, “I use my organizational skills , to sort the laundry into dark and light colors.”
In this article, I have isolated 42 skills that can be developed through puzzle stacking, but there are probably many more. Email me if you find more and I’ll update the article. The beauty of puzzles is that they start at a very simple level and go up to devilishly difficult levels of challenge, like the Clementoni puzzles that have over 13,000 pieces. For those of you who are more adventurous, there are also 3-D puzzles and puzzles with other challenging features. Visit your local toy store to see the range of puzzle challenges that are available.
It’s helpful to set a reasonable goal, starting where you’re comfortable and working your way up to more challenging puzzles. As you stack the puzzle, don’t forget to note the skill you’re using. Developing this self-talk will help you apply or transfer the skill to new situations.
Here are the skills you can learn as you put your puzzle together, and the possible solo conversations that could go with them. Skills are listed alphabetically. The last part of this article contains suggestions for the kind of self-talk you could use to apply the skills you’ve learned to new situations.
Acknowledgment of small achievements, e.g. correct piece placement: “It feels great to have accomplished this goal.”
Analysis: “I have broken the puzzle into all its pieces and now I understand how it will fit together.”
Arrangement: “I arrange these parts in an order that will help me work more efficiently.”
Attention to detail: “This color is not the same as this one, so this piece needs to go somewhere else.”
Categorize: “I organized all these parts into their colors.”
Collaboration: “This area is very challenging, so we need to work together to solve it.”
Comparison: “This shape will fit in this space. This piece is too large to fit in this space.’
Comprehension: “I understand the picture, so I can do this section.”
Concentration: “I concentrate on the size, edges, shapes and colors of these pieces to see how they go together.”
Contrast: “Are these colors/shapes the same or different?”
Creativity (different ways to identify puzzle pieces): “This piece is too hard to identify by color, so I’ll compare the shapes of the edges.”
Decision making: “All these parts will form this part of the picture.”
Ever-increasing challenges (fewer pieces to many pieces): “Last time I did a 100-piece puzzle. This time I will choose a 200-piece puzzle.”
Hand-eye coordination (fine motor control): “These pieces are very small, so I have to be dexterous to manipulate them into their proper space.”
Flexibility (working on different areas): “I tried this area for a while without much success. I’ll try another area for a while.’
Asking questions: “How do these pieces fit together? Does this color match that color?”
Goal setting: “I will finish this puzzle in a week.”
Helpful (prompt person, don’t give answer): “Have you tried one of those pieces over there?” “Try that piece the other way around.”
Hypothesis: “This piece can’t go here, so it must go here. Let’s try here first.” “If this piece goes here, this piece must go there.”
Learning picture content for discussion and language development: “I see three green trees by a blue river.”
Memory Retention: “I’ve tried this piece on here before, so it won’t fit.”
Getting feedback on your decisions: “Now! Wrong choice. I can see that this does not fit.’
Organization: “All these pieces go in this zone and all these pieces go in this area.”
Overcoming distractions, increasing concentration: “It’s a bit noisy in here with the TV on, but I’ll concentrate harder to put the puzzle together.”
Patience: “I’ve only found one piece that fits in the last fifteen minutes. It doesn’t matter, I’ll keep trying.”
Persistence: “I’ll stay here until I finish this puzzle.”
Planning: “I’ll do this area first, then I’ll look for the corner pieces, then I’ll finish this area.”
Scheduling work sessions and breaks: “I feel tired, so I’ll work for half an hour, take a break, then do some more.”
Priority: “I’ll do this difficult area first, then I’ll do this area that’s a little easier.”
Problem Solving: “This whole puzzle is a problem I have to solve. Finding edges is a problem I can solve. Sorting the pieces into color groups is a problem I can solve.”
Procedures: “I can choose which order I prefer to work in. I can do this before I do that.”
Process of elimination: “I will try these parts in this area. If they fit, the puzzle will be much easier to solve from that point on.”
Reasoning, justifying your choice of shape or color: “These parts go here because the colors match, but these parts don’t go here. The colors are a little darker.”
Review: “So far I’ve completed this area and only have five more pieces to fit before moving on to the next area.”
Self-reflection (learning from mistakes): “I’m feeling a little irritated. Why is it taking me so long to complete this area?’
Sense of Adventure: “This puzzle might be too hard for me, but I’ll try anyway. What have I got to lose?’
Sequence: “It’s a logical order of business. I’ll do this area, then I’ll do this area. Then I’ll finish this end.”
Sharing behavior: “Let’s work together in this area. I’ll help you find your pieces if you help me find mine.’
Social interaction: I enjoy solving this puzzle with you. We’re a great team.”
Spatial Orientation Skills: “If I turn this around in my mind, I can see that it doesn’t fit here. It fits in there.”
Stop to enjoy, appreciate and admire the picture: “What a beautiful scene of a French vineyard”.
Trial and error process: “One of these nine pieces will fit here. I will try them all, although it will take a while.’
Now that you know a set of skills you can use, as well as examples of self-talk that will help you understand the process you’re using, it’s time to put together a puzzle. Print this article and keep it with you while you do it. Refer to it often to identify skills as well as practice self-talk patterns.
When you’ve used these skills and are familiar with them, you’ll be ready to transfer them to new problem-solving situations. When you’re faced with a problem-solving challenge at home or at work, step back for a moment and ask yourself:
· What skill I used in the puzzle can I use here?
Use the same self-talk patterns to apply the skill to the new situation. Let’s use the example of a flat tire on your car. Maybe you’ve never changed a tire before. What could you say to yourself?
“What skill I used in the puzzle can I use here?”
“What sequence of actions do I need to complete this task?”
“I need to concentrate to complete this task on time.”
Finally, one more thing needs to be said. You must provide motivation to learn the skills and apply them to new situations as part of your personal problem-solving strategy. If you don’t apply your skills to new situations, maybe the wash won’t happen or the tire won’t get changed. The application stage is the most important if you hope to become a better thinker.
Now you’re ready to try solving some real-life problems with these skills. Happy puzzling and happy problem solving.
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