A recent study at the University of Chicago found that children who play with puzzles between the ages of 2 and 4 have better-developed spatial skills. These skills are an important predictor of whether kids will later excel at math and science.
Unfortunately, the study also showed that while playing puzzles with their kids, parents tend to use less spatial language around girls than boys, and that they give girls less difficult puzzles to solve.
The idea that I could unknowingly stifle my daughter’s learning in the areas of math and science is disturbing. But apparently, it can be done in the most innocent of ways.
In an article on Babble called “Overcoming Math Anxiety,” the author gives the example of a child going to his mother for help on math homework and the mother saying that she’s “never been very good at math, let’s wait to ask dad.” This automatically sends the message to your kid that math is more of a dad skill than a mom skill— and that it’s okay for girls not to be very good at it.
I can totally see this happening with me and my husband. Even though I actually was very good at math in school, it was not something I enjoyed and thus I relished the opportunity to turn over math related matters (calculating the check after dinner, doing our taxes, creating a budget) to my husband, who seems to actually like doing these things.
But as the article points out, math is more than multiplication tables. It is used in everything from traveling to cooking to home decor. It’s also used in all the parenting infographics I am so fond of creating for my blog.
In other words, I should not sell myself short.
The article suggests that instead of deferring math homework to dad, moms should make time to figure out the problem together with their child using a “we can do it” attitude.
But the best way to counteract the growing number of girls who lack confidence in math and science is to set them up with the skills they need from the very beginning. It is incredibly important to find toys that promote building, spatial skills, pattern recognition, and logic.
Puzzles seem to be one of the easiest (and earliest) ways to introduce these concepts to your child.
With that in mind, here are 20 puzzles beyond the traditional “jumbo knob puzzles” (from beautifully designed varieties to DIY options) to get your kids off on the right foot.