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March 22, 2012

A Reminder to Myself to Encourage Independent Play

The girls' love of puzzles started around 18 months old. They loved the chunky wooden ones where you match the piece to the picture and wrangle it in the cut-out. Just after their second birthday, they graduated to alphabet and number cut-out puzzles. Those were definitely more challenging, but they soon grew to love them, too.

At some point last fall, after the girls turned 2 1/2, I bought their first cardboard puzzles. Each puzzle had 25 pieces and was marked "For Ages 3 - 7".

I'll admit I didn't give the girls free reign with those puzzles for a long time. In comparison to the nearly-indestructible wooden pieces they were accustomed to, the cardboard pieces seemed so fragile. I didn't want them to get bent...or worse yet, lost.

[Is now the time to admit I have slight OCD tendencies???]

[I partly justified my approach, since a kid is "supposed to be" at least three, and my girls hadn't yet had their third birthday...I couldn't expect them to play alone, right???]

Certainly at first, the girls needed a lot of help with those puzzles, too. It seemed that they needed help in identifying that an edge piece? And they also needed help in looking at the that part of the lion's mane?

It was a really interesting study to watch them look at the shape of the pieces, and the color of the pieces...what seemed like independently of each other.

For a long time, we always worked on the puzzles together...all three of us. The girls would usually take turns putting pieces in place, and a certain someone would always make sure she got to add the last piece. (Note: it was not me!)

One day, a month or so ago, the girls wanted to play puzzles. We probably started out together, but after a minute or so, one of them wandered off to something else, taking me with her.

And whaddaya know??? The lone puzzler completed that puzzle all by herself! And she didn't bend any pieces! No pieces were eaten! No pieces were lost forever into the air conditioning vent!

Within the next couple of days, both girls were doing puzzles by themselves, left and right. We made a special trip to the store just to buy some more.

I was so proud...and slightly ashamed, too. Who knows how long the girls possessed this skill.

It was a great reminder to challenge the girls...and to encourage more independent play.

Within the last couple of weeks, we've invested in several bigger puzzles, 48 and 60 pieces.

We often sit down with those together, but I encourage the girls to work on different scenes of the puzzle. (Baby A may take the fire truck, while B works on the farm.) It's an exercise in finding the pieces of each scene, and then it's fun to put A's quadrant together with what B has done.

Last weekend, Baby A asked to work on a 48-piece puzzle. It was "coffee / newspaper" time for Mommy and Daddy, and Baby B was involved in something else.

I could not believe my sweet girl spent close to 45 minutes on that puzzle...and completed it!!!

These girlies never cease to amaze me, especially when I challenge myself to give them room to grow.


IASoupMama said...

Good job, mama, for raising such smart little ones!

My oldest is/was/always will be a puzzle lover. He's darn fast with them, too. They are some of the best toys for kids EVER.

Thank you for reminding me that I need to get out our wooden puzzles for the twins now :)

Carrie said...

We love love love puzzles at this house too. The other day my husband was home with the girls and was shocked to see that Evie could do a 48 piece puzzle by herself. It's amazing how they only need direction a couple of times and then they can do it themselves. We have to pick up a new puzzle every time we are at the dollar store! We also have two giant floor puzzles that the girls love to do alone or together. I love watching them cooperate as they do it together. They always proudly proclaim that they used teamwork to get it done!

Julia said...

Wow! 48 pieces---that's awesome! And, I must say, I'm impressed at the commitment to staying on task and completing it! That sounds so much like my Hadley. She's a determined little one! :)

I had a similar experience earlier this week. We have the Melissa & Doug clock puzzle---each number is a different shape. It says 3 and up on the back, so I'd kept it back for them to play with when they were older. The other day, Brynne dumped all the pieces out, and promptly put it back together. I was floored (in a good way!). I didn't have any idea they could do that......

Now I find myself teaching them the word for each shape. Octagon, which they like to call octopus. Ah well :)

Marcia (123 blog) said...

This is why I love blogs - to tell me to stop babying my kids :)

I am such a stickler and haven't even taken out puzzles that don't say age 3 and up.

Connor could probably do more difficult ones - that boy has patience with puzzles. Is it a boy thing or a Connor thing? He certainly didn't get any of it from me as I lack patience big-time!

Barbara Manatee said...

Yeah!! With my 3, their dynamics are interesting...sometimes they play well, all 3...but other times just 2 wander off together (often in pairs of Jacob & Sarah or Jacob and Adam). thankfully Sarah and Adam are my two that do well on their own - finding something to do independently if everyone else is busy...or requesting some 1-on-1 attention :-)

Rebecca @ Unexplained X2 said...

This is so nice to read.

Puzzles are my go-to activity when things get a little nutty at casa de crazies. It calms them down, helps them concentrate, and really gives them a sense of accomplishment!