A puzzle is another classic toy with endless speech and language opportunities. There are so many puzzle options out there, but a few of my favorites are this one and this one (I have a love for all things Melissa and Doug – I have yet to find one of their toys that is not absolutely wonderful). Below, I have a few tips and tricks to maximize your puzzle time with your child and build language skills in the process.

1. Place the pieces in a large, clear, bag or box (food storage containers work great here). This will allow your child to see the pieces that he or she wants to play with, but he or she will not be able to access them without a communication attempt. When your child reaches, hands the box or bag to you, vocalizes, signs, or requests “more” and/or “open,” honor his or her request. This is a way to encourage continued communication and the building blocks for conversation!

2. When your child requests for you to open the box or bag, make sure that you remain in control of it. Give one piece at a time, so you can establish a routine of your child requesting and you responding and giving the puzzle piece.

3. Continue the process of your child requesting and you responding to the request until the puzzle is complete. Make sure you remain engaged throughout the play time! This is also a great opportunity for expanding on your child’s words.

Parent: “Open bag! (Child’s name) says it. Open!”
Child: “Open,”
Parent: “Open bag! Open bag.” (open the bag and hand a piece of the puzzle to your child, label the piece as you hand it to them i.e. “Dog! It’s a brown dog. Woof!”)
(Child places puzzle piece in puzzle)
Child: “More!”
Parent: “More puzzle! Great!” (hand another piece of the puzzle to your child, following the labeling instructions above)
(continue as needed until the puzzle is complete)

It is always tempting to fill each moment of silence while you are playing with your child, but make sure to pause and allow time for your child to verbalize and gesture throughout your playtime together. Enjoy puzzle time!

(photo courtesy of melissaanddoug.com)