Jigsaw Puzzles Round Up for a Three Year Old

Puzzles are an excellent tool to enhance your child’s cognitive as well as mental development, by stimulating intellectual/mental abilities such as thinking, reasoning and understanding through fine-motor manipulation.

  • As a child looks at various pieces and figures out where they fit, s/he is developing effective problem solving skills since a puzzle either works and fits or it doesn’t. So, puzzles teach a child to use his/her own mind to figure out how to solve problems and think in a logical way.
  • When children manipulate puzzle pieces, they are developing hand-eye coordination, as they are learning the connection between their hands and their eyes. First, child's brain envisions how the end puzzle needs to look, and then the eyes and hands look for a correct piece. Thus, the brain, eyes, and hands work together to find the piece, manipulate it accordingly, and fit it accurately into the puzzle.
  • Puzzles also provide the opportunity for children to develop fine motor skills which require small, specialized movements necessary for handwriting and other important achievements.
  • Jigsaw puzzles also help enhance child’s memory. For example, if a piece does not fit, the child would sets it aside, however, s/he would need to remember that piece when it is needed.
  • Lastly, as a child works on a puzzle, s/he develops strategic thinking on how to work the puzzle faster and more efficiently. Adrian, for example, starts with all the edge-pieces first, before filling in the middle. Julia, for instance, while working with large puzzles, would sort the pieces into piles according to color or shape, which she thinks will make up a part of the puzzle such as person/animal.  

Here is a round up of the best value puzzles Adrian has been enjoying since 40 months old.  


This Alphabet Train Jumbo Jigsaw Floor Puzzle (buy here) is amazing! 28 extra-thick cardboard pieces feature beautiful original artwork, where a train pulls familiar animals from A to Z. Ten feet long when assembled, this colorful puzzle reinforces letter identification, as well as first sound recognition when matching an animal to a letter. Even now, at 42 months, it takes a while for Adrian to assemble it. He does not refer to the control chart on the box, and it is such a delight to hear him humming "A, B, C, D, E, F, G .....  would you like to sing with me."

DSC_0011This puzzle even works Adrian's gross motor skills as he has to be getting up and down, building a ten foot long puzzle train.


Puzzles are good not only for child’s mind and cognitive development, but are also considered helpful to a child’s mental development since they provide a key opportunity for children to learn about the world around them. Psychologists have determined that child’s brain development is influenced significantly when a child acts on or manipulates the world around him/her. Here, Adrian is matching letters to animals, most of which he is familiar with. So, when working with this puzzle, he learns to work directly with his environment.


Adrian loves transportation and he is naturally loving this Going Places Vehicles 48 pcs Floor Puzzle (buy here). The set includes four puzzles in one: a Jet plane, a Dump truck, a Locomotive and a Cruise ship. Each vehicle-shaped puzzle has 12 pieces and is 18 inches long. The sturdy cardboard  jigsaw pieces are extra-thick, durable, and colorful. This puzzle might be challenging for a three year old, but a 3-and-a-half, it is a pure joy. This puzzle is the easiest of the three as there are not a lot of pieces in each vehicle-shaped puzzle and pieces themselves are large. Adrian first assembled this puzzle at 40 months, and he has been doing it over and over since then. 


DSC_0011Lastly, Busy Airport puzzle (buy here) provided some challenge to Adrian as the pieces are smaller, but offered great joy when completed. This puzzle is made in Germany, and it comes with 35 cardstock pieces.

Studies have found that when children work on jigsaw puzzles, they use both sides of their brain. Brain stimulation leads to improved memory, cognitive function and problem-solving skills. Puzzles also promote hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, association, and task completion. Most importantly, puzzles are fun, offering a child independent play, which is productive and constructive!

For more on the importance of puzzles read here a post  "National Puzzle Day - How we celebrate."

Fractions (Montessori Math Lesson)

Understanding fractions is an incredibly important concept as it forms a basis for later higher math, chemistry, physics, and many practical life activities. When Adrian turned two, we started talking about fractions in the kitchen while cutting an orange in halves, or cutting a pizza into quarters. Such real life models aid a child in visualization of a complex mathematical concept, such as fractions. Over time, once the terminology and visual modeling is mastered, you can move into simple fraction math and fraction reduction or simplification. Fraction exploration is best started with fractioning a circle, and tactile Montessori materials will help develop a firm understanding of fractions.

Today, we are learning fractions by using a beautiful hand-made fractions material (buy here), which is laser cut for precision and can be made to order from sustainable alder wood or maple. Each set is coated with an acrylic laquer for durability and wipe-clean use. Each fraction slice on one side is engraved with the value of the fraction. A frame allows a child to build a circle and then pop it up and build an equivalent fraction for comparison.

DSC_0018We pretend that the circle we are fractioning is a 🍕pizza pie. Place all fractions mixed up in a basket. After showing a child "one whole pizza” pick a ½ slice and say:

This says one- half or ½ or 1 cut into two. How many pieces do we need to make one whole pizza?" – “We need two pieces to make a whole - we need two one-halves.” Have the child find the other one-half.

DSC_0018Pick a 1/3 slice: “This says 1 cut into 3 pieces or one-third - 1/3." Have the child find the other two pieces that say 1/3. 


1 whole (top number/numerator) is "cut" into 3 pieces (bottom number/denominator which tells us how many pieces was the whole divided).

DSC_0018Have the child place the whole non-cut pizza/circle on top of any fractioned circle. 
DSC_0018Now we have four animal friends - we need four slices (one for each).

 "Let's find a piece that says 1 cut into 4 or 1/4 or a quarter. How many pieces do we need? The bottom number indicates the number of equal parts into which the unit/our pizza is divided." Have the child find all four quarters or 1/4.  "Is the pizza made out of quarters the same as a non-cut whole pizza?"  Have the child again place the whole pizza/circle on top of four-quartered pizza.

DSC_0018Now, we have five friends hungry for pizza. Adrian noticed that the larger the bottom number, the smaller the pizza slice each friend is getting.
DSC_0018You can also present a 3🅿️🌠 Three Period Lesson (see details here):

(P1) This is 1/3; (P2) Show me 1/3;  (P3) What is this? 


As an extension, ask the child to build a "whole" from different fraction combinations.

Using fraction models, while demonstrating the written form next to it, visually illustrates the meaning of numerator and denominator. For example “ 1 over X”  or 1/X:

                                            1 WHOLE (Pizza)/numerator

                                                        "over"/divide/cut pizza into…

                                            X BOTTOM Number (denominator) tell us how many pieces the pizza is divided

Also, it is important to explain that any shape can be fractioned, not just a circle. 

DSC_0018Besides pizza, fractioning a "chocolate bar" which can be a rectangle or a square.

This Montessori wooden Shape Fraction Sorter teaches a child shape, color and size recognition as well as early geometry by developing an understanding of geometric fractions.

Similar Montessori Wooden Shape Board/ Fraction Sorter (is available here), which fractions a circle, a triangle and a square. I also like this Geometric Puzzle, which introduces a child to shapes and fractions by having a written representation of fractions -whole, half and quarter - engraved onto the puzzle tray.

DSC_0057Fractions in a pentagon shape were tricky, as pieces had to be rotated exactly to fit in.

Fraction models (whether cards or Montessori materials) can be used as a visual and tactile aid as the child moves into comparing and ordering fractions, adding and subtracting, as well as multiplying and dividing fractions. Through concrete representations, preferably while utilizing familiar objects such as animals figurines, a child will perceive learning as desirable and enjoyable. This was a fun learning through play experience, as Adrian really enjoyed cutting a pizza and feeding his animal friends!