Puzzles are one of the best toys for kids, but which puzzles for kids top all the rest? This comprehensive gift guide breaks down the best puzzles for kids: from chunky puzzles to jigsaws to logic (puzzle) games. This toy list spans all ages of childhood and puzzle development.
What are the best puzzles for kids?
Puzzles happens to be one of my favorite gifts to give kids. It’s my favorite “kind of a toy, kind of not a toy” present.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m a huge fan of all toys – but I have long called puzzles the most perfect toy. Puzzles (and puzzle games) enrich our kids’ lives so much… I’ll happily surround them in all the puzzles we can find.
But often when we think of puzzles, we limit our thought to jigsaw or chunky puzzles. Puzzles are those, but they’re also brain teasers, logic games, mazes and more. These all fit under the umbrella category puzzles.
What do kids learn from puzzles?
Puzzles are invaluable. They support our children’s cognitive and fine motor develop in a truly special way. There’s so much learning goodness in just a little bitty box.
When a child is doing a puzzle, that child is:
- Using spatial awareness to rotate pieces
- Problem solving
- Improving visual discrimination by looking for details
- Concentration / independent work / Patience
- Fine motor skills to pick up small pieces
- Hand-eye coordination to turn the pieces
- Intrinsic motivation and the desire to accomplish a task for your own personal gratification
So yeah, puzzles are REALLY great for kids.
When can kids start working on puzzles?
Puzzles are an on going part of childhood and one that they will start naturally.
Around age one, I typically begin introducing puzzles because I want this to be a life long love – these are the most basic puzzles like a shape sorter or 3-5 piece chunky puzzle.
There was nothing I loved more as a teacher than watching a group of first graders work their behinds off trying to put together a 100 piece floor puzzle before the bell rang.
Start a puzzle collection for kids to grow with
I love having a variety of puzzles, and yes – some might be “young” for my older kids but they still love them, they still play with them, and the puzzles are still good for them.
I usually buy my kids a puzzle or a board game at every holiday/birthday to keep growing our collections of these. Sometimes I pair the puzzle with a non-toy gift or with a fun book to round out the gift in a theme.
Wire Puzzle Storage Rack
I would be lost without my puzzle racks as storage – I love this one so much, we have two of them. It’s perfect for storing chucky puzzles.
Zipper Storage Bags
The Bags. For storing jigsaw puzzles, I love using these zipper bags. It’s saved me a ton of storage space removing puzzles from boxes (gasp) but it’s meant we can own even more puzzles…
Busy Toddler’s List of the Best Puzzles for Kids
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NOTE: I have attempted to put this list in order of difficulty (from easiest to most challenging).
Color and Shape Wooden Block Sorter
It’s an oldie, it’s a goodie, it’s such a fantastic puzzle for tabies and toddlers. I have so many videos of my kids working on this puzzle.
Big Knob Puzzles
This is a classic and the first step in kids learning to do puzzles. I loved this one for my daughter – she’s been an animal loving kid since day 1 and this was her first “real” puzzle.
A two-sided fine motor puzzle which opens up extra possibilities for fun and learning. This was a well loved puzzle at our house for many years and through many kids. Such a sweet little toy.
This is a fantastic intro to logic puzzles for ages 2+. Kids use blocks to recreate images on photo cards. This helps with spatial awareness, visual discrimination, and early graphing skills. Don’t overlook this puzzle: it’s really something special.
Chunky Clock Puzzle
Shapes. Colors. Clock. Puzzle. This one literally check every box. It’s such a cute, sweet puzzle and can be used in many different ways (trust me).
Magnetic “Fishing” Puzzle
These are some of my favorite “kinds” – a magnetic fishing pole lifts the pieces in and out of the puzzle. It’s a little added challenge and my kids always loved that about it.
Transportation Chunky Puzzle
Bless and long live the chunky puzzle forever. We have this one saved in our “future grandparents” box because it was so beloved. These are a staple of toddlerhood and pair great with books for a beautiful gift.
Wooden Peg Puzzle
This peg puzzle has been a family favorite since 2015 – there’s something so soothing about this one with animals.
Instrument Sound Puzzle
I’m a huge hater of any toy that makes sounds but not this one. There’s something about it that doesn’t bother me, the kids love the tones of the instruments, it works.
Wooden Latches Board
It’s a puzzle with door twist and it’s just the absolute coolest. Kids will love the “hide and seek” element of this puzzle.
Wooden Alphabet Puzzle
This is a great first alphabet puzzle with chunky letters that make it easy for little ones to grab. We loved this puzzle for many years and only recently lent it to a toddler friend.
This is the sweetest little maze puzzle with the cute moving elements and sorting, too. It’s really a perfect little magnetic wand puzzle – we love owning this.
Long Floor Puzzle
This 2 in 1 puzzle set is awesome: it’s just challenging enough to make it really something special. My 7 year old and a 5 year old friend pull this puzzle set out on a regular basis.
See & Spell Learning Toy
A really really cool letter puzzle for kids working on reading. This is a staple puzzle in many classrooms, but I highly recommend it for home use.
This sweet magnetic maze is so perfect for ages 3+. It’s so sweet, even my “big kids” still play with this often and my preschool neighbor pulls it out whenever he comes to visit.
Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles
A wooden jigsaw puzzle in a frame is a great “next step” puzzle AFTER the chunky ones have been mastered. This 3-pack holds three of our favorites.
32 Piece Puzzle
What I like about this puzzle is the roof line. It makes it a touch easier on kids who are just learning how to do a puzzle without a frame. It’s more obvious an edge than the straight lines of traditional jigsaw puzzles. Plus, it’s adorable.
Solar System Floor Puzzles (48 pieces)
This was always a favorite puzzle in my kindergarten and first grade classrooms so no surprises it was also a favorite at home with my kids, too.
Animal Magic 100 Piece Puzzle
As kids age, large floor puzzles are where it’s at! This is one of our favorites. It’s so satisfying to build.
When my kids were newly 5 and 7, they fell in love with these 300 piece “adult” puzzles. They’re a great place to go after children have “mastered” all the kid-level puzzles.
Zoomi Maze Tower
This 5 sided maze tower is really fun to work on. It’s great for helping kids learn to manipulate a maze with their hands and work a ball from start to finish. My kids love this style of maze, and this has been a new-to-us hit.
My mom bought this for my then 6-year-old. She had so much fun “testing it,” that she bought herself one too. It’s really fun to work on!
Oh this is the best: an old fashioned labyrinth game. This has been a hit at our house from 5 year olds up to 65 year olds. I cannot believe how universally loved this has been.
IQ Twist (logic game)
This solo player puzzle game says 6 to adult on the package. That is 100% accurate. My husband LOVES sitting with this puzzle game.
My husband had this puzzle in the 1980s and my kids LOVE it at Grandma’s house. The box says 8+, but I put it more at 6+.
My favorite game. No joke. This is a unique puzzle game that can be played solo or head to head. There are over 60,000 puzzle combinations to solve (aka you aren’t going to run out of puzzle options). I tell friends this is “competitive Tetris for kids and adults.” I could play this all day long.
Labyrinth Balance Board
Balance board meets labyrinth: this is the coolest. We found this board last year during ski lessons (it’s a great way to promote balance) and gifted one to the kids for Christmas. It’s challenging, it’s hard, it’s great for ages 5+.
It’s not exactly a puzzle, but it’s all about spatial awareness, problem solving, and critical thinking. This ball maze is TOUGH – ages 8+ is what the box says. It’s been a 5+ here (and an equal obsession for my husband).
Anyone else remember this from childhood? Number slide puzzles are great for kids and adults – it’s a perfect mix of logic, math, and motor skills. My 8-year-old took to this and has spent all year working with it.
Rubik’s Cube Ball Maze
Talk about taking things up a notch: this is a combination Rubik’s cube and ball maze. You solve the Rubik’s cube as you solve the ball maze… I cannot begin to tell you how complicated this is but my kids love the challenge.
My then-9 year old fell in love with brain teasers much to the delight of his Dad. These two can sit and work on these brain teasers for hours together. It’s been a year since I gifted these and they still pull them out often to tinker and work. They’re hard!
Frequently Asked Question
Three years are very capable puzzle solver. I would start with the chunky puzzle and hang their for a while before moving to jigsaw and floor puzzles.
Whatever you believe is the right number. It’s the truth. You will have to decide this for your family based on your space, home, and interest levels.
That depends on the child. For elementary age, I would start with 100 piece puzzles and move on to jigsaw and floor puzzles now. My kids began 300 piece puzzles at age 5 and 7 years old.