What is the sensory importance of puzzles for intellectual wellness?
Intellectual wellness is being open to new ideas, thinking critically, and finding new ways to be creative. It’s a person’s ability to engage in mentally-stimulating activities in order to expand their knowledge.
Puzzles are a great way to challenge the brain and nurture intellectual wellness. They help to strengthen memory and form new connections. Puzzles teach organizational skills and reduce sensory overload, they stimulate your touch system and creative thinking.
Puzzles provide a lot of sensory and developmental skills to children especially in:
- Eye-hand coordination: The brain, eyes, and hands work together, they connect to find the piece, manipulate it and place it correctly.
- Gross motor skills: Could be achieved by large puzzle pieces and grabbing pieces from one end to the other.
- Fine motor skills: Achieved by trying to fit the pieces accurately together.
- Problem-solving: Puzzles teach individuals to use their own minds to find out how each piece fits; it stimulates logical thinking.
- Visual motor skills:
- Development and strengthening of oculomotor eye movement skills: such as smooth eye movement, pursuits, rapid eye movement, saccades, as well as fixations. The search and comparison between the image, the semi-formed and the scattered pieces, provides a good exercise for the eye movements’ muscles.
- Development and strengthening of vergences and zooming eye functions: while aiming and focusing near and far to pick up and put the puzzle pieces together.
- Many visual perceptual skills such as:
- It’s determined by psychologists that a child’s brain development is influenced when they act on or manipulate the world around them, changing the appearance and shape of puzzles, gives them just that and provides that opportunity.
- Visual attention and recognition: Puzzles are known to be shape matchers, each trial to match a shape with the puzzle image enhances the recognition skills.
- Visual search: Trials are made to find a certain detail of a piece to match it.
- Visual-spatial perception and awareness: Recognising where pieces of puzzle shapes are fitting and how they relate to each other in the formed picture.
- Visual discrimination: When we have to differentiate between similar puzzle pieces that are not the same.
- Visualization skills: As it enhances seeing and imagining the formed puzzle every time a trial is made to fit a piece in.
- Visual-closure: When we have to create a whole image out of small scattered pieces of that image.
- Visual memory: Playing with a puzzle exercises the memory during the process of searching and researching to find the right fit.
- Visual figure ground: As efforts are done to find one detail in a puzzle piece in the middle of the background noise of the other pieces.
- The goal of each individual puzzle provides its own benefit. For example:
- A landscape puzzle gives us an idea about how the colors blend and repeat and the field of vision in any view.
- It could also be a toy that aims to develop skills or knowledge in a certain area, for example:
- The animal habitat puzzle teaches children about the natural habitat of each animal.
- The emotions puzzle teaches the different situations that create each emotion and that helps children identify their own feelings, express them, and eventually being able to manage them.
- The magnetic zoo teaches visualization of animal body parts as geometric shapes, estimating shape sizes, and how combining two geometric shapes can result in a third one (for example, two triangles can result in a diamond and two squares can make a rectangle).
- Puzzles played in a team enforces team playing and teamwork skill and those played with family members are an opportunity for spending a fun time that strengthens family relationship bonding.
- While playing the puzzles we are using many of our senses: vision, touch, hearing as well as vestibular and proprioceptive senses while moving to fit the pieces. The sense of touch and hearing is exercised when the different material textures and shapes of the puzzle pieces are touched, and sounds of clicking of the fitting shapes are heard.
- The sense of achievement when finishing a challenging puzzle is very rewarding and uplifting to the player’s morale.
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